Category Archives: R ‘n’ B

Music Producer Follows Homeless Kid Off Subway; Records His Demo for Free


Go to the profile of April Greene

In December 2013, my dance music producer friend Andrew was riding the New York City subway when a homeless teenage guy stepped into his train car and started singing R&B. The soulful Christmas mashup so moved Andrew that at the next stop, he followed the singer off the train and offered to record him a demo for free. The kid bit, and the two became fast friends.

I thought this was one of the cooler things I’d ever heard, so I asked if I could buy them coffee and hear more about it. In our interview, Andrew and Julian discuss their chance meeting, unlikely similarities, and musical futures.

Andrew and Julian in Manhattan last winter

Julian Brannon (the teenage guy): Well, my goal is to be the best, so let’s just get that out there. There’s no one in the industry that looks like me or sounds like me right now, and I think they need me.

Andrew Toews (the producer): You are unflappable!

Me: Wow, quite an intro! Could we back up for a sec? How did you guys meet?

AT: Sure. It was just before Christmas last year. I was on the train, and Julian got on and introduced himself and started singing sort of a holiday medley, in an R&B, soul style. I think it was: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and…

JB: And “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

AT: You can tell when someone has something to pitch you on the train and you’re like, “Dude. Seriously. Don’t.” But I liked this guy, I liked his energy. There was this spark. I actually thought, “I want to hang out with this guy!” He was making my day a better day.

JB: You know, I relate to that. I know I’m there making money, practicing, getting over stage fright. But at the end of the day, I want to make people feel better. I want them to call their mother after I sing Boyz II Men “A Song for Mama.” I know I can do that for people.

AT: So I thought about it for a second and chased him off the train. I thought he might think I was a sexual predator, or otherwise a weirdo; there was definitely fear of rejection in the air. But this was a case where my talents were uniquely suited to you — you’re not a guy with a trap kit who I liked listening to but wouldn’t know what do with in the studio. You’re a singer. So I gave him my email address. I didn’t think he’d bite.

JB: Well, most people don’t respond to me! Guess it goes both ways. I thought, “I don’t know what kind of experience this guy has, but it’s practice.”

AT: It was practice for me, too. Better than spending the afternoon drinking beers, if you ask me.

JB: It was my very first time being in a studio. By the way, your studio was small! I was thinking, “This is not Cadillac Records!” But hey, this is where I’m at. I just knew I should sing into the mic. Andrew told me to just try some a cappella covers, so I did some Mario, some Adele, Guy Sebastian, and The Fray. I put it all on the Internet and it’s gotten me a couple gigs. It’s made me money! It’s badass.

AT: I didn’t want to overcommit to a bunch of studio work; didn’t want to have to tune things later. We’re selling his voice, after all, so we just went for it straight up. We kept the imperfections.

JB: I wanted to keep the personality in it as well. I put some new runs in the songs, which were great, I thought.

AT: I liked when I asked you who you listen to and the first person you said was Adele. She’s one of the only people on the radio now who doesn’t have Auto-Tune on her voice.

JB: Yeah, her and Beyonce: who won seven Grammys and who won six? Know what I’m saying? At the end of the day, raw talent will always win out over good looks.

Me: Can you rewind a bit, Julian, and tell me your backstory?

JB: Sure. I’m from Houston. I used to weigh 300 pounds. I came to New York to sing. I’m a good singer and I can easily act, but I didn’t want to do Broadway. I wanted to be a real artist, go solo. My friends would do talent shows, and I’d say, “Okay, that’s cool — you do you, but I’ma do me.” Don’t get me wrong — musical theater moves people, too. But every note is perfect; there’s no life, no meat. That’s why I like R&B, soul… That music knows how to make people feel things.

I also wanted to get a better education, be with like-minded people, live at a fast pace, not have a car… And when I came here, I sure got all of that! But I also experienced what I would call… a graceful fall.

Long story short, I enrolled in Pace University in 2012, and the classes were easy enough — except algebra; I’ve never been a math whiz — and I was able to network a lot there. But I had to leave prematurely when I couldn’t get enough loans. I even dressed up in a suit one day and canvassed Wall Street to ask people for loans — nothing!

So I needed something, and I got this crazy pyramid scheme direct marketing job right away. I became the number one sales rep in no time. I was on fire, I had no choice. I have many talents besides singing — I’m good at sales, drawing, art. If I tapped into any art, I could master it, but music is what I care about.

Am I talking too fast? No? Okay.

So when I got kicked out of the dorm, I got into a cab and went to a hostel. I told FEMA my house got blown away in a storm so they’d pay me! Then I moved into an apartment in Harlem, where I was suddenly partying with adults, people age 25 to 45, and some of them were very wealthy. Then my company wanted me to open their new office in Texas, so I moved back there to do that. But there was some shadiness, some managerial shadiness, and suddenly my paychecks were much smaller.

So I moved back to New York again to get away from all that, but I was super broke. I stayed with friends for a few months, but wound up in a shelter. It’s a shelter right in the middle of NYC, though! And it keeps me not feeling homeless. It’s not an apartment; it’s a shared room and bathroom. And I’m choosy about who I associate with there — it is a shelter, mind you. If I get signed or put into a financial place where I can afford it, sure, I’ll move out. But other than that, it’s fine; it works.

Anyway, I found I could make more money singing on the train than working at Bill’s Burger. $50 an hour! Your minimum wage for a day is what I can make in an hour! So I was doing that a lot toward the end of last year, and I got a lot of attention from people on the train — producers, etc. I was auditioning for showcases and all that. I’m actually going to an audition right after this, and I’m doing Amateur Night At the Apollo this coming week.

I surround myself with people who are going to help me get where I need to get. It’s all about progressing. We know it will take hard work to live a privileged life, and we can be an inspiration to each other.

But here’s the thing: when you hit rock bottom — when no one’s answering your calls, when no one will let you sleep on their couch — you realize what you still have to offer. When I was singing on the train, I was thinking, “This is all I have.” But that was a good thing. That’s when I realized that’s what I really have to give in this life.

Plus, when I get rejected, it’s a positive thing, because when I get big, that’s one more person who’s going to be like, “Damn! I missed that one.”

Me: Does your family worry about you?

JB: Family? My mother, yes, it stresses her out. She’s stressed out to the max.

AT: I can imagine!

JB: But I tell her that I’m a survivor, and that I survive with dignity. It’s a struggle. But I try to do it with dignity — ask don’t steal.

AT: Reminds me of conversations I had with my mom when I was around your age — 18 or 20. I moved to L.A. with no plan. I got kicked out of a warehouse squat; was sleeping on roofs… My mom was living overseas and I called her and said, “Okay, I’m sleeping on rooftops, but I have a job, I have a car. Sure, I’m spending a lot of time in McDonald’s bathrooms scrubbing my armpits, but I’m not a scumbag and I’m not on drugs. I could do something different, but this is what I’m doing right now. I’m keeping it together.”

JB: One time my mom got a call from the police because someone found my wallet. She thought I had been killed, murdered, stabbed… But I was just at work. At the end of the day, my mother is my best friend, she supports me.

I’ve never been in love, or anything like that. I’ve been alone all my life. Not that I haven’t been close to people or they haven’t showed me love, but not intimately.

Me: Wow. Drew, would you record another singer like this?

AT: Yeah. Not right now because I’m super busy and I don’t have a studio outside my house anymore, but in theory sure. Then, if I had the time and the opportunity showed itself.

I tend to be a fearful guy. I always make myself do stuff, but it never comes easy. So this was good practice presenting to people. You don’t have to be the best in the world. I don’t want to say, “If I’m not going to be Beyonce, I’ll just quit.” That’s not the attitude I want to have.

JB: You learn certain things in life. I believe in the law of averages. No matter what you try to do, it will happen — it’s just a matter of time. If you shop yourself to 1,000 people, one of them will like you. Life is a numbers game. I’m just waiting for the date. I’m trying to set up a foundation to build upon. I want to go a record label and say, “This is what I got; what can you do for me?”

AT: It’s a big world, and it does take a certain brashness. Fear of failure is rampant, so to see someone who’s willing to rock a crowd is really good. I became a producer in part because I can be a part of that balls-out performance experience while still having a measure of control.

JB: I want to open up my own studio one day. Then I want to be a pastor in my later years. I can relate to a lot of people, I can elevate them.

AT: You grew up singing in church, right?

JB: A little bit. But my mother didn’t take me to church that much.

[I zoned out for a minute here and stopped taking notes.]

JB: Yeah, drinking. The struggle is so real; we all have to cope. But I try not to drink too much. I mean, I smoke weed. But at the end of the day, I do what I do because it’s artistically helpful.

AT: Oh man — you burn? We could have burned!

JB: We could have burned?? If we could have burned, we would have been burnin’!

AT: We need to do a follow-up session.

I asked Andrew and Julian what they’ve been doing since our interview last winter. Here’s what they said:

Andrew: “Drew has been keeping the disco fires burning at his new home studio in Bed-Stuy. He stays DJing dance parties, producing original material for a handful of artists, cranking out edits and remixes, and building a small sound design and production business. He’s also offering private music production lessons, with an emphasis on Ableton Live techniques and workflow.” Get at him via fakemoneynyc.com or drewjoy.com.

Julian: “I’ve been working in music. Planning to work with a close friend to produce our first project for my EP. Also starting a wedding singing group to support the financial aspect of producing an EP and a potential album come this time next year. I’m still living in Hell’s Kitchen saving up to move. I am currently working as a barista at FIKA in Chelsea. Great filler job while I focus on my real dream.”



Introducing Luca Brassy



For the past 13 years, Luca Brassy, born and raised in Upstate NY, has been building a reputation in the Tri-State area as one of the hottest emcees in the region.  His journey really started in entertainment through professional wrestling at age 13.  By the time he turned 16, Luca was running his own professional wrestling training center (24/7 Wrestling Productions LLC) in Upstate NY.

Due to things out of his own control, 24/7 closed its doors in the summer of 2003.  From there, Brassy had a hard time finding himself again until he discovered his love for writing and music in 2004.  In October 2004, he met Jgreen Moneytalkz who has been producing his music ever since.

Luca Brassy has performed at numerous cities and states including Schenectady, Albany, Glens Falls, Syracuse, Amsterdam, Rochester, Pittsfield, Pittsburgh, Massachusetts, Buffalo, Newport Rhode Island, Brooklyn, Bronx NY, Manhattan, Staten Island, Ardmore PA, Uniontown Alabama, Birmingham, Atlanta GA, Marshall NC, and Memphis TN among others and has been building a name for himself based on his politically and socially oriented music.

Among other great accolades, he has opened for several well known emcees such as Rakim and Lil Kim.  Brassy is now moving in a new direction with his music and putting his old school lyrical mentality to use with his club vibe which has brought him a whole new fan base as well as a different kind of recognition.

Brassy’s first mixtape was released in 2006 titled “The Project: Stereotyped”, and his first full length album “The Narration: The Heart of a Champion” in 2010.  A remake of that album was released Through Tate Music Group in 2014 titled simply “The Heart of a Champion.”   Luca was recently signed to Sony RED where he released 2 singles “Like That” and “3000” (produced by Younglord).

With this, he continues to be active around his own community as well as others.  He continues to grind and make new contacts in radio, magazine, film, blogs, etc.  He most recently was signed to CNY Mode modeling agency based in Syracuse NY!  In music, his newest single “Lose Your Mind” was recorded in Los Angeles with the music video being shot in ATL.  Brassy stays on the grind and is always active in his music and all business endeavors.  Stay tuned for the latest on Luca Brassy!  POW!!!

Luca Brassy
Visit lucabreassy.com

 

Luca Brassy



Introducing Gospel Singer – Darryn Zewalk


Darryn Zewalk is a Gospel/Pop/Soul/ Singer/Songwriter and Arranger. His music is best described as Cross over Gospel which is a style that cross musical genres.

Check out Darryn’s work on Soundcloud and Reverbnation.




Dirty D War-Dell – 2 Raw Records



The artist known as Dirty “D” began his career as D.J. Dell with the group “Men of the Hour,” who signed a national recording contract with “On Top Records,” out of Miami, FL. Unfortunately the group did not stay together. Later deciding to pursue a solo career, Dirty released his first underground tape titled, “The Intro” which he sold out of the trunk of his 98.

 After “The Intro” he stepped back from the spotlight to develop his other needed talents such as becoming an accomplished musical producer and engineer. During the interim, he engineered and rapped on three other local albums that received national exposure: (1) Memphis Underground Hustlaz and (2) Criminal E & Underground Sam (both distributed by Select-O-Hits) along with (3) Arele (distributed by Free Toes /J.M.L. Records).

After completing the “Tha Intro” album project in 92, Dirty “D” began developing his second album “Dirty Playa.” After extensive distribution pursuits panned out with no agreed results, Dirty took it back to the streets and sold the CD “Dirty Playa” out of the trunk; with the proceeds, he started his own production studio where he produced, mixed and recorded his first single called “Here I Come!”, naming his studio “2 Raw Production”. Dirty “D” was one of the artists selected to perform in the New York City International Music Festival held in Miami, FL.

As one of the winners from the Miami showcase, the outstanding entertainer was invited to Los Angeles, CA and featured in the NOHO- LA magazine (for article CLICK HERE) during the festival. This 2 Raw Playa representing North Memphis, Tennessee is still making music today, surviving in the underworld of Memphis music, displaying his own innovative rap style and produces other artists which are featured on his new songs titled “Hustle Tight” and “Still” (Down with L.D.N.); these songs will be released on new mix C.D. titled DIRTY “D” WAR-DELL presents “THA PRODUCT” (Volume 1) featuring the Memphis Player single “Handlin Yo Bizzness”.

        

THA PRODUCT” (Volume 1) was released on March 22, 2014. At 2:40 am Dirty was admitted to Methodist hospital with the blood pressure 240 over 140, then seven days later he recorded and mixed the song “Bounce Back”.

Got to ‘2 Raw Records’



Introducing Eva & The Perrin Fontanas


Born in a notebook and shared with the world. Eva & The Perrin Fontanas are an uplifting mix of soul, singer songwriter and funk deeply rooted in lyricism. Designed to make you feel good and engage your mind.





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My 39 Favorite Albums Of 2017 – Hanif Abdurraqib






Go to the profile of Hanif Abdurraqib

 

Much like last year, I have decided on a somewhat random number of albums. I do appreciate how the list format can be equal parts exciting and somewhat exhausting during this time of year. But for me, it’s a good place to mention a lot of albums that I loved but didn’t always get to write about or talk about a lot this year. In 2017, I went from (arguably) writing too much about music to not having nearly as much time to write about music as I wanted to. I hope to strike a balance in 2018. In the meantime, here are my 39 favorite albums of the year. Like last year, if there was good writing on the artist or album, I’ll link that as well.

39. Big K.R.I.T. — 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time

This track-by-track breakdown is really cool.

38. Wiki — No Mountains In Manhattan

37. Migos — Culture

You’ve probably read enough about Migos this year. Here’s a gif I like of Offset adjusting his cuff links in preparation for a potential physical altercation.

36. Paramore — After Laughter

This one really came and went for a lot of folks! This NYT profile was good.This Fader piece was also good. And though I try not to share my own stuff when I do these, I also enjoyed dissecting the album.

35. Syd — Fin

34. Gas — Narkopop

33. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings — Soul Of A Woman

This piece on the making of the album after the death of Sharon Jones is heartbreaking and good.

32. Sabrina Claudio — About Time

31. Julien Baker — Turn Out The Lights

A lot of good writing on Julien Baker this year — I most enjoyed thisthis, and this.

30. DJ Quik & Problem — Rosecrans

29. Bell Witch — Mirror Reaper

This Bandcamp piece about the album’s making and process is good.

28. Jonwayne — Rap Album 2

Jonwayne is not too big on interviews, but The Guardian did a solid one.

27. Idles — Brutalism

A good profile was done here.

26. Vince Staples — Big Fish Theory




Mychal Denzel Smith on Vince Staples was one of my favorite things to read this year.

25. Sleigh Bells — Kid Kruschev

24. Harry Styles — Harry Styles

Anne Donahue wrote many things on Styles this year, this was among my favorites.

23. Slowdive — Slowdive

Lots of cool stuff written on Slowdive’s return this year. I most enjoyed This Noisey profile and this NYT Piece on Shoegaze.

22. Converge — The Dusk In Us

It’s quite long, but this exhaustive history of Converge is very good.

21. Stormzy — Gang Signs And Prayer

There’s not enough good writing on Stormzy, I think. But I did enjoy this British GQ profile.

20. Chelsea Wolfe — Hiss Spun

19. Kendrick Lamar — Damn

A lot has been written about Kendrick and that’s fine but instead of any of those things, here’s 2 Chainz freestyling over the DNA instrumental — which was my favorite freestyle of the year until like three weeks ago.

18. Kelela — Take Me Apart

Loved this piece in The Fader.




17. Protomartyr — Relatives In Descent

All Songs Considered broke down the album well.

16. Rapsody — Laila’s Wisdom

15. Grizzly Bear — Painted Ruins

I enjoyed reading this GQ piece.

14. L.A. Witch — L.A. Witch

13. Power Trip — Nightmare Logic

A couple good interviews with Power Trip Here and Here.

12. Oddisee — The Iceberg

This profile was good.

11. Kelly Clarkson — The Meaning Of Life

There should be more in-depth writing on this era of Clarkson IMO, but this piece was a good one.

10. Daymé Arocena — Cubafonía

Short, but a good piece on the artist for those potentially unfamiliar.

9. 2 Chainz — Pretty Girls Like Trap Music

I wrote this pretty weird thing about 2 Chains and bowling.

8. LCD Soundsystem — American Dream

7. Jlin — Black Origami

Great feature on Jlin here.

6. Lorde — Melodrama

A lot has been written on Lorde this year, but I got some joy out of revisiting this Rolling Stone article from 2013, and then reading this one from 2017.

5. Thundercat — Drunk

Good profile here.

4. Open Mike Eagle — Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

3. Kehlani — SweetSexySavage

2. Richard Dawson — Peasant

1. Sza — CTRL

Here and Here and Here.

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Album sales up as streaming soars






UK music fans streamed more music than ever before in 2017 – an astonishing total of 68.1 billion songs.

That’s the equivalent of everyone in the country playing 1,036 tracks, or almost three continuous days of music, on sites like Apple Music and Spotify.

Most of those songs were apparently by Ed Sheeran – who had four of the Top 10 biggest-selling singles of the year.

Trade body the BPI says streaming now accounts for more than half (50.4%) of all music consumption in the UK.

The figure is up from 36.4% last year – with a record 1.5 billion streams served in one week last December.

To put that in context, we are now streaming more songs in a single week than we did in the first six months of 2012.

If anything, though, the BPI is actually underplaying the success of streaming, as it relies on data from the Official Charts Company, which does not currently count music played on YouTube towards its figures.

It has been estimated that if YouTube was included, the number of streams accessed by music fans in the UK would double.

Most-streamed artists of 2017
1) Ed Sheeran
2) Drake
3) Little Mix
4) Eminem
5) The Weeknd
6) Calvin Harris
7) Coldplay
8) Kendrick Lamar
9) Stormzy
10) Post Malone

Overall, sales of music generated £1.2 billion for the UK economy last year, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association.

At the opposite end of the technological scale, sales of vinyl continued to grow, with 4.1 million LPs purchased in 2017.

Again, Ed Sheeran was the most popular artist on the format – closely followed by Liam Gallagher and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, which featured in the top five vinyl albums for the third year in a row.

CD sales down

However, vinyl only accounts for 3% of the overall music market, and its success is in stark contrast to the decline in CDs and downloads.




CD sales, which peaked at 162.4 million in 2004, now languish at 41.6 million.

Digital downloads are also on the way out, with just 13.8 million albums bought on stores like iTunes and Amazon last year, a drop of 23%.

Overall, music consumption was up by 8.7% – the fastest rise since 1998.

Sales and streams contributed £1.2 billion to the UK economy, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).

Chart showing music consumption in the UK

Apart from Sheeran, the UK’s biggest artists included Rag N Bone Man, whose album Human shifted more than 885,000 copies by the end of the year.

Little Mix’s Glory Days continued to sell well, while Pink and Drake were the best-selling international artists.

It was also a better year for new artists after a dismal 2016, where only one British debut album (Bradley Walsh’s Chasing Dreams) went gold.

2017 saw the likes of Dua Lipa, Stormzy, Harry Styles and J Hus achieve the 100,000 sales milestone.

Rag 'N' Bone Man
Top 10 albums of 2017 (combined sales and streams)
Artist Title
1) Ed Sheeran ÷
2) Rag ‘N’ Bone Man (pictured) Human
3) Sam Smith The Thrill Of It All
4) Little Mix Glory Days
5) Pink Beautiful Trauma
6) Ed Sheeran x
7) Michael Ball & Alfie Boe Together Again
8) Drake More Life
9) Liam Gallagher As You Were
10) Stormzy Gang Signs & Prayer
Zara Larsson
Top 10 singles of 2017
Artist Title
1) Ed Sheeran Shape Of You
2) Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft Justin Bieber Despacito (Remix)
3) Ed Sheeran Castle On The Hill
4) French Montana ft Swae Lee Unforgettable
5) Ed Sheeran Galway Girl
6) Ed Sheeran Perfect
7) Clean Bandit ft Zara Larsson (pictured) Symphony
8) Rag ‘N’ Bone Man Human
9) Chainsmokers & Coldplay Something Just Like This
10) Jax Jones ft Raye You Don’t Know Me
Amy WinehouseImage copyrightPA
Top 10 vinyl albums of 2017
Artist Title
1) Ed Sheeran ÷
2) Liam Gallagher As You Were
3) Fleetwood Mac Rumours
4) Various Artists Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix 1
5) Amy Winehouse (pictured) Back To Black
6) Rag ‘N’ Bone Man Human
7) Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon
8) The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
9) Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory
10) David Bowie Legacy

Overall, the entertainment industry enjoyed a bumper year in 2017, with sales of video games, films, TV programmes, and music all recording growth for the fifth consecutive year.

Disney had the two biggest-selling film titles of the year – with the live action remake of Beauty And The Beast and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story collectively selling more than 2.9 million copies.

DVDs and Blu-Rays both saw a double-digit decline in sales, but revenues from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon grew by 22.2%, and now account for more than 70% of the video market.

According to ERA, the entertainment market as a whole reached a “new all-time-high”, generating £7.24 billion last year.

CEO Kim Bayley called it “an historic result” driven by new technology and innovation.

“New digital services are bringing ever increasing numbers of the UK population back to entertainment with 24/7 access to the music, video and games they want,” she said.

We are really ambitious for our members and in 2018 we want to offer scholarships, bursaries and financial assistance to aspiring musicians.

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