Mr. Brady | Solidifying My Legacy | An Interview by NathanAnthony
In hip hop, as with any oral tradition, our history is passed from one storyteller to the next. Sometimes stories are told with hands and turntables, other times they are told with spray cans and fat caps, still other stories are told with one’s entire body, and, often, hip hop’s story is told through voice. This collective story, this legacy, is comprised of the individual legacies of members of hip hop’s dynamic, ever progressing culture. Each member of the culture seeks, in some way or another, to leave his/her mark; essentially he/she seeks to validate his/her place or role as a participant and contributor to one or more of the elements. Purists stress the importance of using the narrative that has been passed down as the foundation for all “new” stories being told, no matter how progressive an individual artist may be – loyalty to the heritage is what ties all real hip hop heads together.
San Diego’s Mr. Brady (bboy/emcee/producer) is most definitely a purist, but his laid back demeanor and focus on his craft prohibits elitism. Being one of underground hip hop’s renaissance men, breaking, producing, emceeing, and mixing tracks, seems to be treating Brady well. With three completed projects already this year, he is on par to compete for Murs’ self-given title as the “hardest working man in the underground game”. It is mind bogglingly refreshing to see the rate at which Mr. Brady is releasing new material, while not becoming dry and monotonous. As Mr. Brady seeks to solidify his niche in hip hop, you can feel the legacy of Rakim, KRS and Nas in his lyrics and that of J.Dilla and DJ Premier in his production, yet his music maintains a unique character.
While a typical, warm, sunny Wednesday afternoon becomes a beautiful evening in Long Beach, a unique character with the moniker Mr. Brady effortlessly strolls up the three steps onto our stoop and into our dimly lit dining area. We share a couple of Blue Moon Belgian White Ales and engage in the telling, nay, retelling of the the story that has been told for thirty plus years, but narrated in a way unique to Brandon “Mr. Brady” Crowel.
Mr. Brady, you do it all. You are one of underground’s renaissance men. Can you sum up who Mr. Brady is in a few sentences as we get things under way?
Mr. Brady: I kind of breathe and live music and hip hop every day. I’m the type of person, that, if I don’t do music every day I started to notice now, when I don’t do music, I start to feel down, depressed. When I am doing music all the time, that’s when I know I’m exactly where I need to be. It’s a weird feeling, I never knew that when I felt like I’m not complete, it’s when I take a few days off… I’m a work horse, [this] is all I do every day… pretty much my whole life is just music.
NA: So now we have an understanding of the man here and now. Can you take the readers back a little bit, to when you first got into hip hop?
Mr. Brady: In the early 80’s I had aunties (pronounced un-tees) that danced and uncles that used to sing; my auntie used to dance on Soul Train, they used to enter a lot of competitions and things like that. The meeting point was my grandma’s house. It’d be like every day, everybody would be there: [from] cousins, to aunties, to uncles, you know, [they] don’t have those family values any more, but back then, that’s how it was. Everybody would meet up at grandma’s house [and] uncles would be singing, aunties would be teaching us dances, playing records – funk records, soul records, you know. So they got me into that; I was heavily into dancing. Music was always around me. It was always music and sports. I thought I was either gonna do music, or become a professional baseball player. I got looked at by a few pro teams back in the day, but music kinda took over.
NA: Was there a turning point? Was there a reason you chose the music over the sports?
Mr. Brady: A defining point for me was when my mom took me to Warehouse Records back in the day and I picked my first record, Planet Rock – that was huge for me. And I would come home every day from school and set up her record player and put my speakers on the porch of our apartment in east Daygo and I used to break every day – cardboard and everything, breaking outside. And also when I saw Beat Street for the first time. I went to go see it after school one day, [on my own], and it, um, blew me away. I was sitting in the theater and after the movie the credits ran and everybody rushed the stage and started breaking right there while the credits were running. I was kinda intimidated; I was a popper and a breaker then, but I had never seen anything like that, ya know. That was pretty much a big, defining moment for me.
NA: Hip Hop, at that time, was really just beginning to grow and evolve and now everyone has something to say about where the culture has gone; what is your perspective on what the pulse of the culture is right now?
Mr. Brady: Depends where you’re looking. There’s a lot of pop-ish stuff out right now… and I don’t like a lot of it… because it dumbs you down, but at the same time, I’m not completely upset with them, because the music is straying away from the violence, though [that has its place too]. The only thing I do hate about it is that these kids are growing up a little faster, so they’re getting into things a little earlier, like the drug scene and popping pills and all that. That’s one side I don’t like about it. But also, there is a real big scene of a lot of producers now; there’s a lot of really good producers right now in the game. There’s a lot of good emcees in the game too, but you just gotta find it – there’s a lot of dope young cats out there. [Right now] Elaquent is one of my favorite producers.
NA: What does your music have to contribute to the game right now?
Mr. Brady: I always look at myself as evolving. I try to never stay the same. I progress with the music. I see a lot of people my age, the “Golden Era” age, and they stay in that sound and they get left behind. I tend to keep [the foundation] with me, but I move with the times, you know what I’m sayin’. I know how to reinvent myself; I have reinvented myself so many times in my career: from before Battle Axe, to Battle Axe, to DeepRooted, to now – so many reinventions of myself I have to do to stay relevant in the game.
NA: Okay, as you grow and reinvent, do you find yourself able to best express yourself as a producer or an emcee?
Mr. Brady: Hmmm. I love producing a lot, but there’s nothing like expressing yourself on a mic. Depends where I’m at [though], I make moody music, so whatever mood I’m in…
NA: You are from SD, and have relocated to Long Beach – why the move?
Mr. Brady: I didn’t feel I was progressing, and I always said I was gonna make the move to [Long Beach], the Bay or New York. I always wanted to make that move, but it’s hard to do it… you know… it’s sorta like you’re never [fully] ready… like having a kid. You just have to do it some times and I did it. It’s been great for me; I don’t know as many people up here and there aren’t as many distractions for me up here.
NA: So, what are some of the similarities an differences between San Diego hip hop and LA/Long Beach hip hop?
I’ve noticed that they go a lot harder up here; they take it a lot more serious up here. It’s not a game and you can hear it in their passion and their voices. It’s just a different feeling; you can feel it in the air, when you go to shows, there’s just a little more passion. Not to take away from San Diego… since I’ve left I am really seeing San Diego thriving right now – there’s a lot of dope cats in San Diego right now. Everybody’s still a little cut throat right now though. People are not as -pauses- they move a little slower in SD. Nowadays, you have to keep moving to stay relevant – I put out a lot of music, I stay busy every day.
NA: As you were saying, you are putting out a lot of music right now – why the sense of urgency?
I am kind of on a mission this year. LMNO definitely put that push in me. That’s like my brother right there. That’s pretty much my Long Beach best friend. Me, LMNO, and Moka [Only], we’re like work horses, you know, that’s all we do… I’m trying to put out at least 8 albums this year, okay; I’m trying to solidify my legacy this year. I’m trying to make people say -pauses- what can you say, I’m putting out quality music, I’m putting out an abundance of it, my work ethic is strong – I’m trying to solidify my future and my legacy this year.
NA: While we are talking about LMNO and Moka Only, you have done countless collaborations. What have been some of your favorite collabs as a producer or as an emcee?
Mr. Brady: The me and LMNO project, Banger Management, was a great, effortless project. The me and ABJO [Welcome to the City] project was effortless as well. Um, recording the Second Coming album [DeepRooted] was an epic time. The me and Elaquent album too; we are actually working on another one.
NA: Let’s delve into you a little more now. San Diego is so laid back, does that play a huge role in your laid back demeanor as a producer and as an emcee?
Mr. Brady: I think it does… your environment makes you who you are. This is me, I’m a pretty laid back dude. You know, I can make some more ra-ra shit if I want to, but I don’t want to force anything, if it comes then it comes.
NA: Our readers have gotten a feel for the interpersonal influences in your music, but what about other artists – who has inspired/influenced you artistically?
Mr. Brady: De La Soul – their originality. Things like NWA back in the day. Um, Tribe [Called Quest], Rakim, Nas, Prodigy – a whole bunch of cats really. The Red Alert mixtapes back in the day. Marley Marl back in the day. And I grew up near Kutfather – he was a big influence. A lot of people from the Golden Era. When I think back, it’s a trip you know. I think back and hip hop has been, music has been a part of my life forever, you know. I tell my mom that too, you know, this is who I am, and they have started to accept me for who I am.
NA: Often experiences like traveling will influence the music as well. You have just returned from Jamaica, right? Did the trip inspire you at all musically?
Mr. Brady: Yeah. One thing I really enjoy over there is how nice everybody is, how real everybody is. Nobody sugar coats it, but everyone’s very [welcoming]. Everybody’s hustle is so strong though, it’s almost overbearing. I say its equivalent to how TJ is, walking down the street and getting offered everything… I was buggin’; It made me appreciate things more. It’s weird… I haven’t even worked on much music since I’ve been back, it’s like, I’m absorbing what I felt there. I’m not really feeling how we are here; though we have more, we’re a little colder out here. It made me take a step back a little bit before I even do anything.
NA: Your answer nicely moves us to the next question. Your music FEELS very spiritual to me, do you think that there is a spiritual element to your music?
Mr. Brady: I think I have a lot of energy. Some people show it more overtly, but mine I think, it’s weird. Yeah, I feel it too. It’s very weird. When I am on stage sometimes I get a feeling when I connect with the crowd. Like when I was overseas, um, I never had a feeling like that before, where the crowd was yelling so loud when I was performing that I just stopped and put the mic down and just looked at ‘em and almost had a tear in my eye. It’s crazy, but they don’t do that in the states like they do it over there. But, I think my music is a little spiritual, it’s a connection. I’m always trying to connect with people. I think I have a heightened sense of connection with people.
NA: In connecting with people through music, how important is it to have a message/meaning/purpose?
I think that whatever you are saying IS a message, no matter what kind of music it is. I don’t sit down to write and say “I’m gonna change this or that”, it just sorta happens. I’m glad you told me that because I’m not sure how my music comes across to people. Now, is [having a message or purpose] important? I think that there’s a time and a place for everything. You don’t want to be preached to; I’m not the preachy type. I just speak for myself from experiences and where I’ve been and where I’m at, and I think that’s why it comes off [as spiritual], ‘cause I speak from my soul.
NA: As you take this collection of experiences, such as traveling, working with a wide range of other artists and branching out from your home town and blend them into your music, how important is it to represent San Diego?
Mr. Brady: ALWAYS. I always rock my Daygo fitteds and everybody knows where I’m from, everywhere I go. That’s where I’m from. I appreciate where I’m at and I rep them as well, but Daygo is always home for me.
NA: Any last thoughts for the readers at GoodVibeSD?
Mr. Brady: Just support! Don’t be afraid to get behind things like what I’m doing. Don’t be afraid to show me love. I still need that push. The longer you’ve been in the game, the more difficult it is to stay relevant. I want my city behind me. Acknowledge what I’m doing right now. I’m telling everyone, I’m securing my legacy right now. I just want to flood the people with quality music right now. I need my city when I come home and everybody’s with me, you know.
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