Sleepy Brown                                                                          By Luke Davis
 

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After a decade in the shadows, the man behind numerous Outkast classics is stepping into the limelight for himself. The Situation got talking to Sleepy Brown as he readies the release of his debut album.
Watch the video 'Margarita'

Sleepy BrownThat bald guy with the bug-eye dark glasses you see standing next to Big Boi in those Outkast videos isn’t just one of his tag-along mates. He’s actually the production talent behind stellar smashes such as TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’, En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go (Hold On)’ and countless Outkast cuts from way back in the early nineties to the present. Not content with just producing platinum hits, the Atlanta native is now about to release his own debut solo album.

As a member of the Organized Noize production team, the Dungeon Family collective and now an artist in his own right, he’s clearly a busy man. Yet, generously he was able to find some time to answer a few questions for The Situation…

You have the new album coming out soon (‘Mr. Brown’). Having worked with a lot of artists with a lot of different styles such as TLC, En Vogue and obviously Outkast, what kind of style are you aiming for as a solo artist?
I am, and you can quote me on this, I am one soul mutherf*cker! (Laughs) One soul-ass mutherf*cker!

What’s prompted you to release solo material? It seems that no one at the moment is content to just be a producer.
Music is in my blood man; I grew up on the stage. My father was in a band called Brick in the ‘70’s and I just always wanted to do that. So from that I think being an artist was always in my blood. But I started producing because Organized Noize was the production team that I was with, and that’s how we started, because we were just mainly into hip hop and our favourite production team at the time was The Bomb Squad. So, that’s what made me kind of start production first. Originally, I wanted to be an artist, but I guess it was all about timing.

And how are you finding doing all of the promotional work and performances that you now have to do?
Performance is easy because I love to do it and interviews are cool. But I mean, it is an easy job, but it’s a job. Producing is way more easy ‘cos you can get up on your own time and you got your own hours, do you know what I mean? But as an artist you’re more in demand to do stuff, you know, you got to do interviews, you got to take pictures… I’m enjoying myself no doubt, you know what I’m saying? It’s better than just sitting in the house!

I’ve also noticed that a lot of artists at the moment are no longer dressing in the style associated with hip hop. Kanye and Jay-Z are wearing chinos, Andre 3000 has his own style, as do you. What’s going on with that?
I’d kind of say my style is mainly, truthfully ‘70’s man, like I always wanted to be a ‘70’s crooner. I always thought that they were the coolest, from Marvin Gaye, to Barry White to Isaac Hayes. The 70’s was really sexy, really clean.

I can see a bit of a resemblance to a young Isaac Hayes actually…
Well yeah, everyone says that’s who I look like.

And the name, Sleepy Brown, can you tell me where that came from?
Being a fan of Big Daddy Kane back in the day, all the girls used to be like ‘Yo, he looks sleepy’, like his eyes were half-closed. So, I kind of took that idea and was like, hmm, what would be cooler than Big Daddy Kane?

The Neptunes produced your debut single, ‘Margarita’. As a producer yourself, how hard is it to take direction from someone else?
You see, it really wasn’t that hard because we were fans of each other’s and it was just kind of like the easiest thing to do in the world. And you know, it’s like when Pharrell was doing the record, he had the beat done already so it was really easy for me; it was very simple. All I had to do was go in there and write the verses. It was a duet, but really it was done man, it was a little more easy on me.

Who are your main vocal and production influences?
Influences are Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, my father’s band Brick, erm… Barry White. Shoot, really everyone man! I mean, I’m such a 70’s fan, I’m really a 70’s baby, so Jackson 5 when they were doing ‘Dancing Machine’. I like this stuff, you know what I mean?

At the moment not everyone knows all the different production credits that you have. Do you ever find it irritating when people recognise you just as ‘that guy out of the Outkast video’?
Oh no, 'cos that’s the way that it looks like. I don’t worry about it because, if I worry about it… you know, they’re going to know about it eventually, do you know what I mean? Because, once I do blow up as an artist, they’re just going to be like, ‘Well you know he did this, and you know he did that’, and they’ll be like ‘What?’ you know, so people are going to get educated anyway. So, it don’t bother me man. It’s all good, I mean, shoot, I’ve been places and they say, ‘Who’s that?’, ‘That’s that dude in Outkast’, ‘That’s that boy who sang The Way You Move’, you know? I mean, it’s cool. But now, they just started saying my name right. I’ve been places and they’ve called me Smokey Brown, Snoopy Brown, Sleepy something. I been called all kind of names and just about right now, everyone’s getting my name right. It’s cool; I ain’t trippin’.

You’ve produced and featured on a lot of seminal Southern hip hop since right back in the day in the early Nineties. What’s your opinion of the route that Southern hip hop has taken recently?
It’s great, man. It’s a trip to see, because I remember that style of music back in Atlanta when we were doing Outkast’s first album. To me, crunk started, really truthfully, the whole style of Atlanta kind of started in Miami, first with Luke, you know what I’m saying? Luke had booty music! It moved to Atlanta and he had MCs like Raheem and like Shi-D and all these dudes from Atlanta that were doing that and then it went from there. ‘Cos, literally, crunk music is really like back in the day Miami music, just slowed down. So, I’m happy for Atlanta because I’m happy to be a part of that thing that everybody is crazy about in Atlanta now. It’s something nice to see because we really been running for a good little minute; I’m very proud to be a part of it.

Outside of your immediate musical family of Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family, who do you rate in hip hop at the moment?
Of course T.I., Jay-Z, Rick Ross… It’s kind of funny because it’s almost like I don’t like nothing now. I’m trying to think!

And out of all the artists that you’ve worked with, whose talent has most impressed you?
Truthfully, I’m going to have to say working with Pharrell on my record. He really impressed me, because when he goes to work in the studio, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ This boy’s like… he’s dope, man! You know, I got to give him credit man because he’s really a genius. The way he worked, we worked similar, but he’s a lot quicker; he’s a whole lot quicker. It just freaked me out, I’m like, ‘Hey, it would have taken me a little while longer to do that.’ But, you know, he’s like real quick on it, so I got to say that I was very impressed with him.

Andre and Big Boi are currently using the Outkast name but creating music independently of each other. Honestly, whose music do you think is better?
Man, what you going to ask me a question like that? Are you crazy?! (Laughs) Nah, I can’t answer that! Both of their music. Come on now, you gon’ get me in trouble dawg! You going to get me cussed off by somebody, man!

Sorry about that!
It’s all good, it’s all good.

You’re going to appear in the film ‘Idlewild’ with Outkast. Do you think hip hop artists appearing in films is becoming a cliché?
Yeah, I think hip hop films are. I mean, because hip hop is on top right now; hip hop is into everything, so you know of course they’re going to be in films. But this movie is going to be incredible. I think it’s going to be like the new, because it’s a musical too, I really feel like ‘The Wiz’ [African-American adaptation of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson] was for me when I was little. That’s how I think ‘Idlewild’ is going to be.

What does the future hold for you after your film and your current album?
Oh man, I really want to be an artist like, you know, how Marvin was, and you know, people looking to do album, after album, after album. It’s like, I think I’m going to be more into my music than anything else. If acting comes along then that’s cool, but I’ve been on a movie set and I really find that very boring. I do one scene all day long, and say the same line over and over again. But I do love my music and I think that’s my first love more than anything, so I’m going to make sure I stay on that.


Sleepy Brown’s debut album, ‘Mr. Brown’ is out on October 2nd on Virgin Records. For more information, visit www.sleepybrown.com.

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