Having finally been granted interview time with this incredulous Hip Hop producer for a long overdue interview ( in my world anyway), when we eventually connected via phone between Maryland USA and Sydney, Australia I felt like I had conversed with a long lost friend. Kev Brown , he who has a passion and love of ALL music genres ,not just Hip Hop, but that creates Hip Hop beats so raw and pure that he eases quite effortlessly in the laneways walked by fellow greats Pete Rock, 9th Wonder and the late and legendary Jay Dilla.
He is unassuming in his description of what it takes to produce real hip hop today, often shying away from comparison or undiluted praise of mastering a craft that is, as may be the case today where authenticity in hip hop is greatly lacking at times, Kev Brown has managed to bottle the ingredients of what organic hip hop is made of. He is a conversationalist, not just answering the question but talking about it, traversing on paths leading to other conversation points of interest or leading to a question not even thought to be asked at times. A blessing for a music journalist who is hell bent of unearthing the inner workings of what makes an artist / producer / creative type do what they do. It’s quite simple really for the Landover Maryland native – he just does what he does without much thought to it really. It feels good to make feel good music so he creates it. Interesting that his background wasn’t solely crafted on the hip hop junket, but more so from the musical musings and inspirations sought through his older brother, Brown began to cultivate a hunger for all things soul, funk, hip hop and rock in the big musical blender that was his childhood. Cultivating his skill through his high school years, Brown soon caught the eyes and ears of production heavyweight Pete Rock, who had heard his track with Grap Luva called “What Ruling Means”. Playing it for Hip Hop legend Marley Marl, he was impressed with Kev’s style that he placed that very song on his album “Re-Entry” that same year and the door of opportunity was well and truly kicked open for Brown. Going on to work with the likes of De La Soul and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Brown officially released his debut album I Do What I Do in 2005 after years of collaboration and mixtape success.
He has close to 15 years in the game, but he aint counting. Counting his blessings and passion without a doubt, but everything else Kev takes with his own blend of calm, ease and humility. Fresh off his first Australian and New Zealand tour back in September this year, it was exciting to recap his favourite moments from the tour Down Under and also great to hear that his love of our country, its people and interestingly enough its architecture sees him keen to revisit us before too long. What I hope for being a diehard fan of the Kev Brown sound is for as new collection of works to come out of this celebrated yet direly underrated producers lab, finding the beats and lyrics he fuses together to be restorative in a time when all mainstream hip hop seems to provide is ego and delusion. Whatever Kev Brown is cooking up in his studio will emerge in due course, striking when the time is right for his fans, his critics and hip hop to receive him. In the meanwhile we wait patiently, knowing that the ingredients for all that raw and true is silently brewing in the hands of this master beat- maker at work!
So great to finally talk to you Kev – we’ve been trying to link up for a few months but with travel and tour commitments couldn’t. I’m sad to have missed your show in Sydney – I heard great things …..how did you enjoy your time touring in Australia?
It was a great time , the shows were really good and I met a lot of really nice people. Australia and New Zealand have some beautiful cities man with some awesome buildings and architecture. I thought the theatre in Perth was just amazing, I couldn’t believe how crazy the buildings were over there. People talk a lot about New York and LA and their city layouts but Australia has a really unique beauty. I loved my time out there and from the reception I received from my shows out there I look forward to coming back again really soon and seeing more of the country and doing some shows around Australia if possible. Shout out to Sam Dutch of Grindin for making it happen man!
You represent the State of Maryland and bring a whole new dimension to Hip Hop. I like to think of your sound as organic Hip Hop, as there is a sense of purity to it I don’t hear anywhere else ….. how would you best describe the Kev Brown sound and why that works for you?
Wow…… I mean I guess the Kev Brown sound is just like a combination of what I grew up listening to and all of my influences musically over the years you know. Along with some god given talent in there you know, I can’t really take too much credit for it. My music is all about how you listen to it I guess. You know I grew up listening to a lot of music, not just hip hop, but an incredible range of old school rnb, soul, funk, rock at times, jazz. I have also listened to or been drawn to the music of our parents’ generation, their old records always appealed to me way before hip hop was even introduced to me. I was a young kid that wasn’t born into hip hop, my parents didn’t listen to hip hop in our household. Whereas now hip hop is what it is and people couldn’t imagine it not being around, you know you could be a baby listening to hip hop now. For me, I had a rich culture of music feeding me daily, most of it came from my big brother’s collection, he was into everything from James Taylor, Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee, so as a young kid I was listening to all of this stuff.
As I grew up and went through high school my music influences reflected those of the era and when I really got into Hip Hop it was though the likes of Pete Rock, one of my biggest influence, J, Dilla, Hi-Tek, Premier. This is what I grew up on and what has shaped me into who I am so it really doesn’t make sense for me to make whack beats you know ( laughs) with all this great history and influence I got behind me I always have to come correct you feel me. ( laughs)
One of my favourite albums of yours is “I Do What I Do” and favourite track off that album is ‘Albany’ ……I play it on repeat to this day. What is the process like for you when you are in creating mode and does it differ from album to album?
I just kinda zone out , I don’t know I can’t really explain it, it’s just something happens and I start creating I guess. Now I don’t produce music every day, but I am always doing something with music. I have to really be inspired to produce you know, like when I wake up in the morning if I get a feeling that I can make something then that’s when I head to the studio. It’s just like a little voice inside saying hey you gotta work on some music today, I don’t know if that explains it ( laughs).
The “I Do What I Do” album was my debut album and I was much younger back then (2005) so my mindset was very different to how it is now you know. It was my first record deal, I was new to the game and was like “ Yo, you know I got my crew ( Low Budget Crew) and they were all featured on that album, but nobody knew who they were at the time, but that was my way of introducing my crew to everyone. It was like my version of Pete Rock’s “Soul Survivor” and I got on there and rhymed on the album, which for me was a trip.
‘Albany’ has gotten so much attention all over the world. Everyone that I played the song to was like “ Man this is a really special song, you need to let people hear it”! Literally that song was made it was made in a day, from verse to beat and I didn’t realise how personal it was until people came up to me telling me how ‘Albany’ made them feel. Its crazy cause when I do that song in my shows people lose they minds I swear, guys and girls be into it, cheering like they at a MOP concert for my lovey dovey song.( laughs)
With an abundance of albums and mixtapes to your name Kev, how have you managed to stay consistent in a music genre and industry that can at times prove so fickle?
I just don’t really pay attention to anything else at the moment to be honest you know. I am not really a fan of the hip hop right now so I don’t pay attention to it, you now how the radio is, so I don’t listen to radio and I guess that’s what keeps me from assimilating to whatever is happening right now. There is a lot of whack underground music coming out right now as well, you know people blame the mainstream but its wack in the underground scene as well. I just can’t get involved in it creatively so I stay away from it period. I listen to Pandora radio, old vinyl records and I get inspired from stuff back in the day, progressive rock, Steely Dan …. I just stay away from too much of the current stuff. I feel kinda weird when people ask me who am I into these days and I’m like, shoot I don’t know I was just listening to Aretha Franklin ( laughs) … I don’t know!
What does Hip Hop mean to you Kev?
Oh boy ….. Hip Hop is like making the best outta what you have you know. It’s like making the best outta what you have, just to have a party, make the best out of a bad situation, getting communities together and just getting the best out of life. Hip Hop is progressive, and always has been. It’s gone from making it happen to making it work to now, it’s in overdrive you know.
I read somewhere that you fell in love with Hip Hop when you played your brother’s copy of Run DMC’s album Raising Hell back in 1986. What was it about that album that got you hooked and now some 30 years later how would you say that Hip Hop has changed from its pioneer years to now?
That was an early memory for me but that album (Run DMC) was not the first moment I’d heard hip hop. As I mentioned early on in the piece I have had a varied influence with music so yeah that’s not 100% correct, over the years when I’ve spoken about my early life most journalists would just catch onto the Run DMC album mention and write that that was when I found hip hop but it’s not true. Yes that album, which was introduced to me by my older brother , did impact me but it wasn’t my aha hip hop moment at all ( laughs). Man I have grown up on so much music that it could be safe to say no one music type defines me, I love hip hop, but I realise you gotta feed yourself other music in order to appreciate being a producer period.
How has Hip Hop changed over the years? Wow that’s a huge question. I guess for me hip hop has evolved in all aspects of its genre, the sound, the beat, the lyrics and especially the artists. It had to change as that’s a part of life right and music as a whole is indicative of the change that life in general goes through. I look at Hip Hop like how Rock n Roll was back in the day, or even Jazz you now, Hip Hop is the youngest music genre and it’s the only type of music that literally borrows from every other type of music you know, hip hop wouldn’t be hip hop if it didn’t have all the other elements in it you know what I mean, it samples from everything. From a mainstream level, I am not feeling a lot and from the underground level there doesn’t seem to be much of anything with real substance so my thing is you can talk about whatever but you still gotta bring some sort of class or respectfulness at the end of the day and that’s how I think hip hop has kinda changed today. I think there should be sub-genres to Hip Hop now, we are not all doing the same thing and nor do we all sound the same. You do a search on the internet or ITunes under Rap and there you find me next to Lil Wayne or Waka Flacka and we don’t do the same thing musically at all yo (laughs). We need to have more balance to hip hop than what we are getting right now seriously.
If you could take 5 albums to the afterlife with you, which ones would they be and why?
Whoa!! Jeez how do I even answer that one ( laughs) – Marvin Gaye’s already there so he will just sing for me and we can chill ……man this one is hard, I think im’ma have to pass on this one Ms Hennessey – you got me on that one (laughs)
What new Kev Brown music can we expect from you and will you be looking to return back to Australia in the future?
I’m going to keep some things under wraps for now and not talk too much about them as in the past when I’ve told everybody I got new joints coming out and things fall through, people be like, yo what happened to your new joints etc. So I’ve learnt to not talk too much about things until I am about to drop them ….let’s just say I am working all the time on new music and I got some things up my sleeve ( laughs. Right now though I got the ‘Brazil Dedication’ album that’s out, yeah , I went to Brazil for a few months last year and just immersed myself in the culture and music over there, man what an experience. I took my drum machine and MPC with me and I was producing tracks and working on a lot of instrumentals so that’s where my creative head is at for now.
What is your blueprint / motto in life?
Okay, I feel like I’m on Oprah right now ( laughs) …..life lessons okay. I try not to be too deep with stuff you know, I don’t really have a motto as such, I guess I will just say that it’s like my first album’s title “ I do what I do” , it’s that simple. My motto is my music really, I don’t feel like I’m the most inspirational person when it comes to words but I feel my music is my blueprint in life so I guess it would be my motto too!
For more information on Kev Brown and his music visit: http://kevbrown.bandcamp.com/
Always Hip Hop