Next Up: Brian Brown

Nashville rapper Brian Brown is one of the three artists playing WNXP’s first Next Up series at Brooklyn Bowl on April 26 alongside Elke and VEAUX. Brown recently celebrated the three-year anniversary of his debut full-length Journey and continues to solidify himself as one of the most talented artists in Nashville’s emerging hip hop scene with his new four-track EPTwo Minute Drill.

He recently played in our Sonic Cathedral and after the performance, we spoke about his decision to stay in Nashville, his dream collaboration and what success looks like for him.

Marquis Munson: I’m going to go back to a show at Brooklyn Bowl, you had the opportunity to open for the legendary Scarface. I remember when the show was over, everybody was still kicking it and you were by the merch stand. And you had a chance to just hang out with Scarface. Growing up in the South, he’s a legend. Being able to share a stage with him and being able to talk to him afterwards, how surreal was that moment for you?

Brian Brown: Interestingly enough, when I was back there, I was actually talking to his merch guy. I can’t remember his name to save my life, but I was trying to get any game and intel I could from him about ways to sell merch, what’s going to grab their attention, just little tidbits, and information I can get from that. Funny enough, I told Causey when the show it got announced like ‘Bro, we have to find a way to open that.’ I’m sure we did some reaching out, but Brooklyn Bowl reached back out to us. It was beautiful. He’s a jokester, I was surprised at how good he was at DJing, but he’s a terrible bowler. It was monumental because we are talking about one of the pillars of not only Southern hip hop, but just hip hop in general. What he was doing back in his day being honest about his world and his surroundings and where he was coming from, I got to do that in my hometown. In front of a crowd that was probably a lot of Nashville folk, but probably hadn’t necessarily gone back into Nashville hip hop. But just to bridge that gap for one night, was very nice.

MM: You’ve also opened for Girl Talk and Freddie Gibbs. But recently you did a show Drkmttr celebrating the three-year anniversary of your album Journey, which is your life story and experiences growing up here in Nashville. What was that moment like for you celebrating this debut project that meant a lot to you?

BB: It was nerve wrecking because the weather just came out of nowhere, it got cold, mystifying, and dangerous for a lot of folks. So, I’m thinking, ‘Okay, I got to pay these artists, I got to pay these instrumentalists, don’t do me like this.’ We still wound up situated. Unfortunately, when I should be thinking about the artistry because I am independent and been doing it like this for almost ten years now, I can’t help but think about logistics. I still really haven’t had time to relish in it. Shout out to us live streaming it I’ve watched it a few times since, but I still haven’t had the time to think about like, Journey dropped, COVID 2020 happens, everything’s just been on go ever since. For a good little moment when I was in the performance aspect of it, to stop and see a couple of people knowing songs from Journey and even prior to word for word. I’m just honored to be gifted and blessed like I am, but it’s also a privilege to know that certain moments like that allows you to understand that you’re doing the right thing. Regardless of how doubtful you may get about it or unsure, despite ups, downs, and challenges. That night was special, it really was. Despite all the tomfoolery with the weather and everything leading up to it, assembling a band two or three weeks prior to it, it was a lot. But it just showed me a lot and learned a lot. Now I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s a room of 150, let’s see how we can do it with a room 350, 550, 750, and so on.’

MM: We’re here in Nashville and when you get to genres outside of country music, a lot of artists feel like they must leave in order to find their success. Everybody has a different journey; everybody has a different story. But for you being from here and still champion being here and being a part of the local music scene. What has inspired you to stay to night in Nashville instead doing what some other hip hop artists do and try a city like Atlanta?

BB: Well, funny enough, I left for like a tad bit. I dropped my first EP, 7:22, which won Nashville Scene’s Best Mixtape of the Year in 2014. Around that time, I’m not going to lie I was feeling myself. At that moment, I felt like the local hometown circuit of shows that meant a lot, I had already knocked out in the accomplished. I was wanting to branch out and work with new producers amongst the town. But for some reason at that time, it just felt like the camaraderie and the way that we should have been gelling just wasn’t happening that way. So that’s when I moved to Chattanooga and just wanted to expand on my sound and get new producers, new challenges, and people that take me out of my element. Within that time from Chattanooga probably about 2015 to Fall 2016. From there, I moved to Atlanta from 2016 to Summer 2017. What happened was I’m realizing that Chattanooga is in the early stages of gentrification. So all that stuff I learned in high school was starting to make sense now. I see Chattanooga. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is Nashville, let’s say, since the recession hit up until that point.’ And when I was in Atlanta. It was like, ‘Oh, this is where Nashville is headed.’ So, when I moved back, it gave me a perfect sense of like, ‘Okay, this is where I’m from, Chattanooga, two hours away is what the place used to feel like, and Atlanta is where we’re headed.’

Around the time and up until I finished Journey, it allowed me to look at Nashville around me, but like, okay, this is what happening and this is what is going on. I want to talk about it, but how do I talk about it?’ Those experiences, everything in between and then coming back it was like, ‘Okay, it makes sense now.’ To be back here and still be proud about it, you see how the city changing every single day. I hate that whole unicorn term about Nashville natives or residents. But hell, if we got the magic to keep the hope alive and show what this town is really about, then hell I got to do what I got to do. I’ve appreciated every step and every moment of the way, despite circumstances and situations that more times than not would deter somebody from even keeping going.

MM: What does success look like for you?

BB: To be able to do these types of things 24/7, 365. If I leave here, instead of me worried about clocking in, I need to go clock into the studio. If I’m leaving here, who else are we meeting with, where is the collaborative efforts with certain brands and partnerships. Slowly, but surely my life is becoming. I just landed a placement with “Better Days” for the CW TV series All American. Everything is starting to make sense and it happening in a way that I’ve always wanted it to. I just needed to happen more consistently so that I can sit back, recline and be the creative, the artist, the motivational speaker, be whatever I like to be. But also, when I need to be present in these rooms, when I need to do these type of moments and situation, my mind is clear enough and I’m focused enough. I won’t say separate the two, but like we’re in interview mode, when I get out of here, it might be business meeting or let’s get to recording mode. You always have to be prepared for any and all situations. Slowly, but surely, I’m getting comfortable with understanding that I am more than just an artist. I am a business, an entity and with that, applying whatever lessons I’ve learned past, present and even now in this moment, to make sure that I’m always on my toes and ready to go.

MM: Dream collaboration?

BB: Alchemist. I just need like eight. We can work on as many as we need to, but I just need like eight of those. Alchemist, I don’t want to say you don’t rock with folks from the South. But, if you happen to get a hold of this, I got something for you.

MM: You just dropped the EP, Two Minute Drill. You released your song “Better Days,” which you talked about featured on the TV series All American. What does the rest of 2023 look like for you?

BB: Carmine Prophets and I are collectively working on a project as we speak. Me and Bandplay are tapped in, so if you hear some Brian Brown and Bandplay joints over the summer, don’t be surprised. There’s this kid Por Vida out of Texas. He produced “ICY,” and he produced “RIP Limelight” from my Vanity Pack EP. We’re working on a collaborative project. Whoever is willing to work. Me and Topper Atwood been in the studio like crazy. That’s another thing that’s so cool about who I’ve been working with. Besides Por Vida, all the producers and people I’ve been working with, they are from Tennessee or even Nashville of some sorts. So unintentionally yet intensely, I do my best and make sure that they understand we have a sound here. I’m just doing my best to expand and collaborate with people that either wouldn’t expect it or they’re giving me a soundscape and a canvas that they like, ‘No way Brown could paint a beautiful picture over that,’ but it’s like, ‘That’s where you thought wrong.’ I’m only getting started with expanding on colors, ideas, and visions. A lot on the way. I am calling this year my vengeance tour, I need it back, I won’t say in blood, I just need it all back.