Brownís unconventional style has garnered him attention from a fledgling Roc-A-Fella Records, helped him establish a name amongst Detroitís loaded Hip Hop scene, and have one of the most memorable spots on the posthumously-released J Dilla album, Jay Stay Paid. His Nick Speed-produced album Hot Soup made its rounds on high profile blogs and web sites last year, but Brown plans for his current work in progress, The Hybrid, to turn even more heads. He talked with DXnext about his career highlights, paying an ode to Detroit music, and making himself stand out from his fellow Motor City emcees.
On Working With Roc-A-Fella: "Back in í03, I had the group Reservoir Dogs, and we had released a local album. We took a couple of CDs out to New York, and it got the attention of a Roc-A-Fella A&R, Travis Cummings. He heard the shit, we hooked up and talked about doing some shit, but nothing really worked out. Then about a year later, I still had his number, and I just hit him up. Heís like, 'What you got for me?' I took him a demo CD of some solo stuff that I had, and he liked it. But he was a new A&R, so I donít think he had the pull where he could just walk an artist in. But he was working on peoplesí projects, so I was able to get studio time here and there on other peoplesí budget. We would go and record these songs here and there, and thatís how you got the Detroit State of Mind mixtapes.
It was humbling in some sense, because these niggas are prime time. These are official niggas. I remember when Joe Budden [click to read] first got signed, going to his listening party and shit like that. I went to the Fade To Black movie premier, and I was just some bum ass nigga from Detroit. I was able to see what was going on, but niggas wasnít really looking at me. Niggas didnít really understand what the fuck I was all about. I had a country accent to them, and south shit was popping at the time, but I was all about J Dilla and backpack shit. They didnít know how to take me: they just knew that I knew how to rap."
On His Breakthrough Album, the Nick Speed-produced Hot Soup: "What inspired Hot Soup was Detroit. And I can also say [Nas'] Illmaticónot music-wise, but mentality-wise. When I listen to Illmatic, being a seventh grader in my room listening to a fuckiní tape every night, he used to put me in Queensbridge projects. What I wanted to do with Hot Soup is put you in Detroit the exact same way. Music-wise, I was just trying to make shit that makes m'fuckas dance. Still be underground, and still be Hip Hop, but still have that bop to it. And I was trying to add all the elements of Detroit music at the same time. A song like 'Whutupdoe,' thatís my Techno shit. then you take a song like '10 Gís A Week,' thatís me giving props to MC Breed. The song 'Dance' is from some indie label in Detroit that Nick Speed knew that he just got a 45 from, and we just looped their record. 'Sittiní So High' is Eminem-influenced to me. 'Swagger To The Max' and 'Head' were real J Dilla and Marvin Gaye-influenced. 'Squeeze Precisely,' 'Gun In Yo Mouf,' and 'Reservoir Dogs' bring the open mic element to the shit of where we come from. 'Letís Go' was giving props to (slain Detroit rapper) Blade Icewood. And the last two songs, 'Two Steps Back' and 'Work Song' are just lettiní niggas know how I feel about situations."
On Standing Out In Detroitís Prolific Hip Hop Scene: "I took a different route, and did shows that other people wouldnít normally do. A lot of people here only do Hip Hop shit, and thatís it. But I figured out what my lane was. I did a lot of shows with Rock bands, Funk nightsóother shit that didnít have anything to do with Hip Hop. I was able to gain a lot of suburban fans, and people that wouldnít have even heard about Danny Brownís music. Ö Thatís something thatís kind of missing from Detroit Hip Hop, [those fans] get kind of alienated. But think, weíre Michigan: Detroit is only one place with black people, everywhere else is white people. Thatís what my whole market was; not saying that my music is made toward them, but I reached out to them and did shows with them and made myself visible to them to say, 'I fuck with yíall niggas. And itís cool to fuck with my shit, too.'"
On Getting On J Dillaís Jay Stay Paid album on the song ďDilla Vs. HybridĒ: "I had opened up for BluMainframe, Johnson & Jonson [click to read], in Gillsburg, Illinois. I rocked that shit, and they were like, 'If youíre ever out in Cali, we should hook up.' We exchanged AIM, and Mainframe is like, 'Hey, Iím working o and n Jay Stay Paid [click to read], you should hop on that shit.' Iím like, 'Cool.' So I hollaíd at (manager) hexmurda] [click to read], and hex is like, 'Nah, donít fuck with no Dilla shit.' He told me not to fuck with it. [Laughs] Then I had a show in San Diego that Sweeney hooked up, then I had a show at Fat Beats in LA that House Shoes hooked up. So when I was in LA, I hit Mainframe up, like, 'Yo, Iím out here.' And heís like, 'I really want to get you on this Jay Stay Paid, man. Weíre in the studio right now, you should come through.' And I was thinking, 'How can I turn down this shit? Who am I to tell Dilla no? Obviously, this is coming to me for a reason. God wants me to do this.'
I recorded a song, but itís not the one you heard. It was a good song, it was two verses on some street, hustler shit. The people at Nature Sounds were like, 'That shitís sweet, but if he could do something else, itíd be all good.' I heard Black Thoughtís joint ["Reality Check"] [click to listen], and I was like, 'Heís doing an all the way through freestyle joint, with no hook?' I thought you had to do whole songs. So once I saw that, Iím like, 'Fuck that. Iíma just go in.' [The] only thing I was thinking was, 'Iím not supposed to be doing this shit, so it better be good.' And, 'Iíve got to go in. Theyíve got DOOM [click to read] on this shit, Blu, all these niggas are on this shit.' Iím pretty much the only no-name nigga on this shit. I was actually trying to show people up. They have situations, I donít. Ö I ainít trying to be on no other shit, but I think that Jay Stay Paid is one of the best albums of the year, and Iíve got the best song on that bitch. And thatís great bragging rights."