leepy Browns got roots. The son of lead singer and saxophonist Jimmy Brown of 70s Funk band, Brick, the producer/singer has managed to pave his own way in music.
As one-third of production team, Organized Noize, Sleepy and partners Rico Wade and Ray Murray formed a talented ATL collective known as The Dungeon Family. The Grammy-Award-winning production team achieved commercial success with TLCs Waterfalls. Their introduction of OutKast and Cee-Lo alone has changed the face of Hip-Hop, pushing the music envelope while simultaneously contributing to the cultures worldwide recognition and acceptance.
Like Dr. Dre entering The Chronic or Q-Tip on Amplified, Sleepy Brown brings a weighty resume to the table as he crafts his own debut, Mr. Brown. The producers vocals channel as many eras as his kicks and snares, and in conversation, Sleepy Brown can tackle any topic. As all get ready for the October release, gain some definition on start-up music from a man who makes it.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Did the fact that your father was a musician and vocalist have any affect on why you chose music as your career?
Sleepy Brown: Oh yeah – one hundred percent. I grew up backstage, so watching him, you know that’s my hero, I seen him rock it, so I wanted to do the same thing.
AHHA: And was your father very supportive of your decision to go into the business?
Sleepy: Well, not at first, but he’s very proud now.
AHHA: How did you hook up with Rico and Ray?
Sleepy: We just knew about each other back in Atlanta, around ’89, ’90. They actually saw how serious I was about doing music. I was walking around with a little four-track machine, and a little bit of keyboard, do these little beats, and for some reason they liked me. They took me serious and they was like, Well, ya know we looking to do something with this. So we just kind of all got together, and started going to the studio and working.
AHHA: You were born and raised in Atlanta?
Sleepy: Well I was born in Savannah but I was raised in Atlanta.
AHHA: How did you come across Andre and Big Boi?
Sleepy: Actually my manager, Ramone, and Rico used to work at this place called Movie Town and [there was] a beauty shop called LaMonte’s right in the middle of East Point. This girl that used to work over there, she actually knew OutKast she went to school with them and brought them up to our place one day and they freestyled for us, and we fell in love with them.
AHHA: OutKast was never your average Hip-Hop group, and that’s pretty obvious to everyone today. But back then, when you were in the studio recording Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, did you have any idea the scope of what Organized Noize was creating – not just with OutKast, but also for the music scene in Atlanta?
Sleepy: We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how it was going to end up being. We just wanted to represent Atlanta and show a different side of Atlanta. You had Jermaine Dupri and you had Dallas [Austin]; I’ve always respected them and always knew they represented Atlanta, but the groups they were doing were more New York. So for us, OutKast was like,…we wanted to call out spots of Atlanta; we wanted to show people Atlanta was hot like any other city.
AHHA: There’s a lot of rumors going on about the breakup of OutKast that’s been circulating for years. Truth? Or just talk.
Sleepy: Well I can’t really answer that. All I can say is that right now Dre is really into his acting thing right now. So I don’t know what the outcome of that is gonna be. I’m hoping they won’t break up. Even if they did, it’s still all good. If it’s something Dre don’t wanna do anymore, then you can’t force it. So it’s cool.
AHHA: Sometimes you just grow out of it, I guess.
Sleepy: Yeah, sometimes you grow out of it. You branch off to other things. I don’t blame him.
AHHA: Now as a producer, you’ve had the opportunity to work with some music legends like Earth, Wind & Fire. What was that experience like?
Sleepy: Well, with Earth, Wind & Fire, that was really like amazing because they officially made me a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, so I got my bell-bottom pants, my tight shirt, I’ve been practicing my steps, so you know, it’s a great thing. That was something else because I got a chance to perform with them on the Grammy’s.
AHHA: Now was that the first time that you met?
Sleepy: The studio. We were working on some stuff and then end up doing the Grammy’s. That was something – that was wild.
AHHA: Have you always had aspirations of being in front of the mic as opposed to being behind the console?
Sleepy: No, not at first. I was good at the producing and writing. I always looked at my singing career as a hobby, but I’m really taking it more serious now, trying to really show people that it’s something that I truly can do.
AHHA: What would you say is more challenging to you: being a producer, or being an artist?
Sleepy: Being an artist.
Sleepy: Because so many things are so demanding of you – you have to do things. As a producer, you don’t really have to do too many interviews, every once in a while. You don’t have to do this or do that but as an artist, you have to. You gotta be seen, you gotta go out there and shake hands and kiss babies, and you really gotta talk to people. So I think as an artist, it’s really more of a challenge. But this is cool. I love doing this.
AHHA: Organized Noize has such a signature sound that 70s feel, that permed and pimped out, real funky feel – which makes sense with your musical lineage. Who were some of the musical influences that helped shape you as a musician and contributed to this particular sound.
Sleepy: Earth, Wind & Fire, my father and them Brick, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Johnny Guitar Watson, wow, some of everybody.
AHHA: In your opinion, who would you say is the most talented producer in the Dungeon Family.
Sleepy: Wow. That’s a hard one. [pauses]. I can’t really say because everybody is so dope. Cee-Lo. Dre Dre is incredible. Big Boi.
AHHA: What about outside the collective?
Sleepy: Right now, Pharrell. I’m gonna say Pharrell.
AHHA: Do you play any musical instruments?
Sleepy: I play a little keyboard. Drums. A little tiny bass [too].
AHHA: When it comes to making music, what is the creative process for you? How do you go about making it happen?
Sleepy: Well we’ll get some trees and some Hennessey, and we just vibe.
AHHA: [Laughs]. Sounds very easy.
Sleepy: That’s the formula. Kids, don’t do that. Grown folks, do what you want.
AHHA: Tell us about your new album? What can people expect with this project?
Sleepy: It’s really like a celebration of being grown and a celebration of live instrumentation. It’s a celebration to women – how much we love women. It’s the kind of album you can throw on when you’re at a cookout, cleaning up the house, or your girl’s getting ready for a party, or a dude’s getting ready for a party – it’s that start-up record.
AHHA: You have a song on your new album, Til (Your Legs Start Shaking). Care to elaborate on that?
Sleepy: Yeeeeeeeah! That’s what I do. I make the ladies legs start – shaking. [laughs]. Yeah! That’s all I wanna say on that one.
AHHA: You’ve been through a few label situations, and even had an album shelved because of a label that folded. Now you’re down with Big Boi [Purple Ribbon Records], and you and Big Boi have history. Do you feel more confident about the future of your project? What are the advantages, or even disadvantages, of keeping it in the family?
Sleepy: It’s really a great thing because I really do feel more confident about this album because I know he has my back. I don’t really have to worry about if anything is gonna go wrong. Even if it does, I know Big Boi won’t turn his back on me. So I really do feel confident, I feel like it’s a great thing that’s going down. Plus with the team that I’m with it’s ridiculous.
AHHA: You’ve achieved so much in this business so the bar is pretty high for you. Have you set any more goals for yourself? Is there anything else you would like to achieve?
Sleepy: As a solo artist, I would like to sell a lot of records, then eventually get into films; I have an idea for a kids show I got a lot of ideas going on, so there’s a lot of things you’re gonna see from Sleepy Brown.
AHHA: One day the music will stop. What kind of mark would you like to leave on this industry?
Sleepy: I just want everybody to say that’s one bad ass soul brotha. That dude there was wildin’. His music was real. It was love. It was everything. I feel like how Marvin Gaye left his legacy, or Barry White. When you think of Barry White, what you think of – that voice. And love [imitating Barrys voice]. [laughs] That was dope.