Brasco: The Infiltration

The 18th floor seems like the sort of place where deals are brokered and big checks are cut, especially in today’s skyscraper world of industrious artist/execs. Although that might be Brasco’s reality today at his office in Geffen Records, the Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper names his forthcoming album The 18th Floor as a reminder of his […]

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The 18th floor seems like the sort of place where deals are brokered and big checks are cut, especially in today’s skyscraper world of industrious artist/execs. Although that might be Brasco’s reality today at his office in Geffen Records, the Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper names his forthcoming album The 18th Floor as a reminder of his stash house days as a hustler in the projects. This meeting of worlds has been what Hip-Hop has been about in the mainstream in the last five years, but does Brasco have the lyrics to appease the elevated minds that buy music?

The artist certainly has the charm, and a knowledge of his predecessors. Although Brasco is quick to state his distinction from local heroes M.O.P. and Boot Camp Click, he pays respect. Instead of Timberland and box-cutter music, Brasco offers expensive sounding tracks that incorporate melody in ways intended to involve other markets. With his Carnegee Kingz team behind him, Brasco aims to monopolize the game. Unlike the company’s namesake, the rapper welcomes unions – as he’s working with Mysonne, Bishop Lamont, and Jae Millz. Though his name is new on the scene, Jimmy Iovine, who’s provided the resources to make unknowns into households, believes this Brasco can infiltrate your CD collection. You just got a big deal with Geffen, but you’re a fresh name and face to many. Where would people have heard you?

Brasco: I was in a group that was on Arista called Brooklyn. It was me and singer; it was a best of both worlds. L.A. Reid signed us, and that’s how I learned how to make music. Shakir Stewart, the A&R to Young Jeezy and Rick Ross, he was our A&R. The deal fell through when L.A. got released [from Arista]. It was actually a good thing, ‘cause I wouldn’t be here now. I just started to grind. A lot of producers wanted to mess with me. They thought I should be by myself. When the group was dismantled, 7 Aurelius, Kwame, and Sanchez [Holmes], started working with me. The buzz sorta leaked internally, in the industry. Tai Brown gave the CD to Jay-Z. The whole Atlantic situation [showed interest too]. But Jimmy Iovine said, “What do you want?” When everything was going crazy, he just gave me what I wanted. I think Jimmy cuts checks that change peoples’ lives. How long was the process from the deal breaking at Arista to signing with Geffen?

Brasco: It was like a couple of months – say, like nine months. I went through it for them. I was just trying to get my style together and get real music out. I never killed nobody. I was a hustler, a fly dude that all the girls liked, you know? With that, I really feel like music has characters. With characters [bring] great selling albums. When you’ve got too many people doing the same thing, we get into the slump that we’re in now.

Back in the days, you had Jay, you had Mase, [and] you had DMX. You would go to Mase for what Mase brings, and you’d go to DMX [for something else]. They would share crowds, and sold more records. I really feel music is timeless. If you ain’t gonna make music that’s gonna stand the test of time, you’re not gonna win. Being from Brownsville, that’s Hip-Hop royalty —

Brasco: Exactly. And I remember when Jay first met me, and I told him where I was from, he was like, “Wow. You’re from…you’re from…Brownsville?” That’s the heart. When you say you’re from Brownsville, it’s got a stigma. Girls are scared, they ain’t [visiting you] over there. You think of M.O.P. when you think of Brownsville. You think of grimy n***as that’s gonna rob you, girls who gonna slice your face. All you think of is projects when you think of Brownsville. Out of that, me and my friends grew up under hustlers. We saw hustlers gettin’ money, driving nice cars, lookin’ fly when they come around, so we wanted to be like that. That’s the first the first sign of success. Even with a pastor, you’re like, “Dog, I want to be down,” ‘cause you see him in a Benz. You’re a young kid from the ghetto, you just want a way out.

My pops died when I was 13, and my moms was a church woman. My brother was a choir director, and I started to goin’ to church for the simple fact that my moms didn’t want to me to get involved with everything that was going on. Then I met my best friend, who introduced me to a whole other world – hustling.

That’s the way to get girls. When I was 18, I was driving a [Lexus] SC 400. My life changed from this way to another way, but it all changed for the better for the simple fact that it made me the man I am today. The tracks I heard “Pimpin’” and “Push” were more Southern-sounding. Do you think Brownsville will get behind you, given that sound – as compared to the records that put Brownsville on the map?

Brasco: I just think we’re using a different approach. I got a song with Akon called “O.K.” that’s more New York. “Push” is just me spittin’, lyrically, talking about the hood. It’s a different day, and I feel like you can’t be scared to do different things and explore different areas. The music that we’re used to in Brownsville is not probably workin’ right now, nahmean? I’m not excluding nobody, but it’s a different era. I’m 25, growing up with younger dudes. We heard Jay-Z, Biggie, M.O.P., Mase, so you take a liking to these type of guys, and you can’t help where your music goes. It’s fly, it’s hustle, and it’s about the grind and gettin’ money. You gotta hear “B-Hop” and “O.K.,” ‘cause you gotta hear stuff like that. “Push” and “Pimpin’” aren’t even goin’ on my album. That’s just something I did. I’m from Pittsburgh originally, which is a city that Andrew Carnegie helped shape. He’s remembered as a brilliant entrepreneur, but also somebody who treated those beneath him with no regard. That said, why name the company after him? What does he mean to you?

Brasco: This man came from nothing. He told people what he was gonna do, and they laughed at him. My moms always told me, “If people don’t laugh at your dreams, that means you’re not dreaming big enough.” With that said, Carnegee Kingz is the bridge, and after you cross the bridge, you’re a king – my moms always told me was a king. That grew with me and mold my self-esteem. Carnegee, I look at it like this man went through a lot; he sacrificed a lot. A lot of people don’t like him for how his tactics were, or how he did, but at the end result, he was victorious. When you signed with Geffen, what let you know that you’d come out on time? So many new New York rappers are shelved right now…

Brasco: Exactly. We made my image clear. We made it clear for the label. I have a great management team that knows about marketing and strategizing, making your lane clear. We knew we had to stay clear of the 50s, because if 50s coming out of the same label money as you, [the label’s] not gonna pay attention to you, because he’s their money-maker. We just tried to make the best music we can make. I really feel like all the music we made in this – I call it “gumbo,” we made a great album. I call my music ’99, 2000, when New York rap was really potent, really hittin’. I’m bringin’ that void. You got a MIMS, where the music is leanin’ towards the South. I really think that New York hasn’t gone nowhere, I just think the people that’s leading New York, or bringing New York music, ain’t bringing real New York music. We still here. We need to make music from the heart, who we are. We gotta be fly again. The South makes music that makes people feel good; we can’t be afraid to dance. People go to clubs nowadays and just look at you and grill you all night. I came to chill with pretty women; I really like pretty women. I’m not lookin’ at guys, I’m not lookin’ at y’all. I make music that makes me feel me good. It seems like you’ve got a multi-million dollar budget. To get the ’99-’00 feel you mentioned, where are you spending your money? How are you taking it there?

Brasco: Producers, we got Akon, Polow Da Don, Just Blaze, Kwame – we got a bunch of people that’s givin’ us heat. We got Trey Songz on the album, Lloyd, Rick Ross, but a not a lot. We just tryin’ to make a great, album. I wanna do like a 100-day promotional tour. People don’t do that no more. I wanna grind! I wanna be a politician and campaign. If they ain’t see you, they ain’t gonna know who you are, and they ain’t gonna vote for you.

Jay-Z and 50 can’t walk on the street. I wanna be a mega-star. I don’t wanna be able to walk on the street, I’m sorry. I wanna be that person, that when you see, it’s pandemonium, a frenzy. We’re talking in the morning. Most rappers don’t do press while the sun’s out, unless it’s a press day. You don’t have an album out; you’re at Geffen right now, what are you doing?

Brasco: I’m working. I got offices here. I’m the chief in command. My days start at seven a.m., I’m a workaholic. A man don’t work, a man don’t eat. When I was hustlin’, I was up right now. I was goin’ in the crib at seven, go to sleep for an hour, gettin’ back up just to make that rush at nine-thirty ‘cause there was fiends outside. You had a rush. There was a seven o’clock rush, then you had a nine-thirty, then a twelve thirty. I graduated to sellin’ dope. If you’re sellin’ dope, there’s a rush. You have to be there or you gonna miss your money, and can’t get your bundles off. I told myself that if I can be up all night and hit the block, I can do this. I treat like the block. I got a song called “It Started from the Block.” I’m young, so I’m gonna ride with rims on my car. I’m gonna be flashy, wear earrings, wear chains. Brownsville’s not the same Brownsville anymore. It’s a new day.