Brotherman is a young musician whose up-bringing was split between the Caribbean and London’s borough of Hackney. He’s got a lot on his plate and a hugh amount of enthusiasm. Having been tutored under the wing of Jehst Nikhil Sharma caught up with Brotherman to find out more. Read on.
How long have you been involved with Hip-Hop and how did you get involved?
Brotherman: I've been into hip-hop since I was fourteen, but I started writing at fifteen. My dad always listened to blues and jazz when I was a kid so I grew up with a love for breaks and made the jump to hip hop when I started rapping with a friend in my bedroom. He went on to become Prof Green and I Brotherman.
How do you incorporate the sounds of the Caribbean and Hackney into your music?
Brotherman: I don't really have to incorporate these sounds as they are part of me, in essence they incorporate themselves. However I guess hackney provided the gritty backdrop to much of my social narrative and the Caribbean would serve to provide the laid back attitude and occasional reggae melody.
Being an artist from the UK what do you think about the Hip-Hop industry at the moment?
Brotherman: I have mixed feelings really, I feel like the UK industry is in need of a kick start. The more commercial artists are coming through that aren't a fair representation of the hip hop movement over here. There is POP being referred to as rap and flying the flag for a culture that frankly has much more to offer. On the other hand there are so many talented singers, rappers and producers in the UK that I feel we are on the verge of something special, as if our time is almost at hand.
How would you describe your sound?
Brotherman: I like to think of it as boom-bap. I guess I'd describe it as laid back culturally conscious hip-hop. I try to create music that slows the listener to sit back and chill while soaking up the messages laid throughout the track.
What was the idea behind the track "Hoody With A Heart"?
Brotherman: Hoody with a Heart was a response to the 'hoody' label that was being used a lot around the time I wrote the track. Hip hop being a culture where the hoody is common apparel, I wanted to make a distinction between the stereotypical 'yobs' in the headlines and the more casual wearer as well as hit back at those who used the term too loosely.
If you weren't involved with Hip-Hop what would you be doing now?
Brotherman: Well I did my degree in film studies and am currently producing a short film to be put forward for film festivals, film is a love of mine. I am also part way through my first work as an author so I guess I would be writing or directing.
In terms of talent, do you think Hip-Hop artists here have a chance to compete with artists in the US?
Brotherman: In a word, definitely. I feel that talent wise the artists here equal our US counterparts. There is however a push from the industry for the more commercially viable artist over here and sadly the conscious artist seems to be kept underground while the labels back a plethora of diluted dumbed down quote unquote 'rappers'. It seems to be harder to breakthrough in the UK if you actually have something to say. However there are a handful of acts that I truly believe are set to change that.
Where did the name Brotherman come from?
Brotherman: The name Brotherman originated from a common greeting I would receive from the rastas I grew up around in the Caribbean and met in the UK. I liked the natural feel of it and it just seemed to stick.
Where did the inspiration for "Heart Of Dem" come from? It's a pretty strong track, where did the sample come from?
Brotherman: The inspiration came from simply looking out my window and wanting to describe what I saw going on outside. The sample is a William Bell track from Stax records and the beat was produced by Chemo who is still one of my favourite beat makers in the UK. I think the strength of the track is down to its across the board appeal, there is something for everyone. It was really well received on its release and has been one of my most requested tracks since then.
Do you think Hip-Hop, especially the "Gangsta" side influences the gang culture in the UK?
Brotherman: Yes and no, I think that there are definitely elements of the music that glorify violence and as the gang culture builds in this country we will not only hear more raps about that lifestyle, but also correlations between the music and the actuality. Hip hop is a music that many of the youngsters in poorer areas turn to as it fights their cause and speaks out on their behalf, with many of today’s prominent artists coming from similar backgrounds. It is after all an urban genre and one where people are quick to stereotype. In some ways the two go hand in hand but in other ways they are poles apart.
What have you got planned for the future?
Brotherman: Too much to say, the future is bright. I have a new album on the way called 'Too Late The Hero', a novel called 'Pedestrian' and a short film called 'Quickly Going Nowhere', so there is a lot to look out for and a lot to look forward to.
Listening to your stuff, I have to say I’m impressed with the lyricism, the beats, the methods in which you lay down verses, does it come naturally to the Brotherman?
Brotherman: I've spent the last twelve years working hard to make it sound as natural as possible. My aim was to deliver a well constructed, thought out product but to in effect hide the workings thus making it easier to sit back and enjoy. I have always been a fan of the written word and studied poetry and English, topping the class from primary school through to uni and so writing for me is not the hard part. The test is whether you can marry all the elements resulting in something that is emotive yet easy to digest.
"One I" is a strong track where do these messages or themes come from? It sounds a bit different in terms of sounding a bit more Indie.
Brotherman: Again the themes are from life, there are many topics I feel strongly about and I think these feelings are reflected in the strength of the track in turn. The mood of the track is set by the beat which lends itself well to singing. It was one of a few tracks where I tried to toy with melody and structure to try and shift away from the more standardized style of track that I was writing at the time. As for sounding more indie, I guess that would be the indie kid in me trying to break out, I used to listen to a lot of indie back when I was a skater.
Do you have any shows coming up soon in London, can I get tickets and VIP passes? Lol.
Brotherman: I host a monthly music jam down at Hootanany in Brixton on the third Wednesday of every month, that would be the best place to see me next. It's run by DJ Snuff and I love doing it, we get loads of talented musicians down and I get to perform with a live band. I've just been sponsored by Dephect clothing as well so I'm sure I'll be playing a Dephect night soon. Other than that I'm mainly writing at the moment so once the albums ready I won't be leaving the stage for longer than a trip to the bar.
Are there any undergound artists that you would like to work with?
Brotherman: God yes! There are some really talented people out there at the moment, I work closely with Jehst who has been my idol since like fifteen and who's album 'Dragon Of An Ordinary Family' is out now, he has been mentoring me somewhat for the past few years. The YnR stable has the likes of Jeager and Michal Parkinson who I'd like to work with, then there are singers like Eva Lazarus and bands like Dry The River who I see myself collaborating with. There will be more from my brother Stranger next year and our sister Sarah James has a feature also. I'd love to do a collab with Chasing Pluto as well they are this tres cool electro POP duo from London and I like their sound. Hopefully there is a wealth of collaborations in the pipeline so you won't have to wait long to see who I would like to work with and what it would sound like.
Finally, what does the future hold for Brotherman?
Brotherman: The future? A hell of a lot of hip-hop, an album or six, a few novels, a line of tee shirts in partnership with the national literacy trust, my record label King And Country, peace, love and safety.