The second time I caught up with Brian Brown was by pure happenstance. As we crossed paths on a sidewalk in Nashville’s Midtown, the 26 year old’s demeanor was one of confident stride. Sure enough, Brown was clutching a backpack and had his earbuds locked in each ear. Despite the bustle of Vanderbilt students and slow tourists in his path, Brown’s unbothered spirit was palpable – he knew these streets like the back of his hand. While this is a funny anecdote post release of Journey, it also was an early reminder that Nashville is ingrained in every fiber of Brown’s spirit.
“A Cashville Story” – “Headphones in, backpack on – as I roam around the city I call home.”
Since releasing his last project, the 7:22 EP, Brian Brown has quite literally journeyed across the country in pursuit of music, education or work opportunities. From Western Kentucky University to Chattanooga, Atlanta and back to Nashville – the path has been happily worn by Brown.
Stops in Chattanooga cemented a lasting legacy with one, if not the premiere Hip-Hop collective in Tennessee, The House. Broad in its past affiliated ‘members,’ the group is more a community of talented friends than an official label. Talented individuals like Isaiah Rashad, YGTUT, Kembe X, Free P, Rikki Blu, and Michael Da Vinci – amongst many more – have all lended their creative talent to The House.
Towards the end of Brown’s time living outside the confines of Nashville, the yearning to balance out brought him back to the 615. Things had changed in a significant manner, not just in Brown’s circle, but the place he called home. While changes are the norm around Nashville’s metro area, the construction wasn’t nearly as rampant as it is currently. Any given week, you’re sure to see 50+ cranes illuminating the skyline. “Nashville wasn’t always under construction like this,” he reminds me. “The city changed so much man. A lot of my childhood, Nashville was in the top ten murder rate for cities across the country. N****s have lost hella people out here.”
Despite tumultuous growth of Nashville’s population, violent crimes have receded. Now outside of the wealthy Nashville bubble, a community is suffering through a different tribulation – gentrification. An accelerated cycle of gentrification in some of Nashville’s historic communities is forcing families – predominantly people of color – out of homes they’ve owned for decades. In return, these individuals are being displaced for boutiques or overpriced apartments.
“Flava” – “Condos just keep coming up and generations going down
But look around, yo hood might be next”
Thematic coherence is well above par throughout the entirety of Journey. Alongside an articulate breakdown of Nashville’s societal issues, Brown’s vulnerability and tales of maturity attain a level of relatability that foster deep rooted emotion. Growing from tough situations has allotted a sense of new found confidence and one of the best projects Hip-Hop has seen this year.
The timeline of Journey is one that spanned at least 3-4 years. As the road changed for Brown, so did the music and its significance. At the beginning of the trek, Brown first recorded “Steely Dan.” Describing the situation in a moment of clarity amidst blunt smoke, Brown explained how the recording that would be Journey’s last track.
“So the first song I wrote for Journey was Steely Dan. I wrote that in August or July of 2017. It’s crazy to look back and really see how much this tape was about growing up. Shit, I’m still growing. I’m just blessed to even be here now. I don’t know how it will be received, but this shit is starting to feel like I thought it could be.”
The humble bravado of the Tennessee artist isn’t a surprise to those whom have had the pleasure of interacting with Brown. Throughout the album, Brown makes sure to give nods to those who have aided him in his trying times. One of those individuals mentioned is Jet Springetti – the engineer and sound guru who helped finalize Brown’s album. On the intro of “The Release Pt. 2” featuring AyyWillè, the banter that preludes the introspective beat from Free P & Cassic, gives unfettered access into the creative process of Brown and his inner circle.
Tapping into his closest confidants for his official debut album, Brown appeared to be at ease coming into the final days prior to release. As we continued to chop it up over Nashville’s famous Bolton’s Chicken, Brown reiterated the significance of finding out who is allies were leading up to the release of Journey.
“Now that I got a good idea of who’s going to be around for this, I just look at it differently. Who is willing to celebrate, who is willing to get on my nerves? I’m just trying to do my best to appreciate that shit as much as possible. That is the hardest part, but also the easiest part .. if you just sit down the fuck down and do it,” Brown explained.
When asked about his favorite part about Journey and its release, the air seemed to dissipate from the room. A few seconds of contemplation gave a world of knowledge into the creative spirit of the Nashville native. “Looking back on the album, first off – I can’t believe it’s finally out. Absorbing the love from across the country has been an honor,” Brown reiterates. “In terms of a single aspect I appreciate the most, it would be the execution of hooks [on Journey].
This response came after running back “Flava” for the 300th time in my car. One of my favorites off the album.
Moving forward, Brown is focused on progression in the midst of Journey’s early success. If one things for sure, it’s that the Nashville emcee is determined to carve his name in the eternal scrapbook of Hip-Hop. It’s safe to say Journey is an incredible foundation to an already blossoming career. Listen to Journey below, and let us know what you think!