Darien Brockington: Out The Pocket

In every Hip-Hop family, there’s a need for melody just as much as bars and hooks. While Nate Dogg was the crooner for Death Row, Vinia Mojica provided sonic soul for Native Tongues and Reflection Eternal. Within Little Brother’s burgeoning movement in North Carolina, Darien Brockington has stepped up to became a go-to guy for three years, and is now about to get his own break.

Backed by California’s ABB Records, The Feeling is Brockington’s solo arrival. The Raleigh-based artist discusses his intentions with the album, Hip-Hop’s look at love, and why major label exposure doesn’t equate with a dedicated cult following.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’re associated with Little Brother and the Justus League, both Hip-Hop outfits. Somebody to Love seems to have a Hip-Hop backbone. How important was keeping that sensibility in there?

Darien Brockington: I think the reason why it’s important to be there is ‘cause 15-20 years ago, it was something that people didn’t think would be around long. Now, Hip-Hop is most definitely a part, a dominant part, of our music culture. So I think it’s important that we embrace all forms of music, including Hip-Hop. It wouldn’t be right to not have that element in my music.

AHHA: Well, you’ve got “Think It Over,” which channels in some “Rock the Bells” and “I Got What You Want” freaks the same sample as Big L’s “Flamboyant.” Were these things you actively discussed with your producers?

Darien: I don’t think it was necessarily intentional. It was really about feeling, as far as the producers that were part of it – whatever they felt when they did it. For me, it was whatever grabbed my ear. It just so happened that those elements are there. It wasn’t something that we thought through. It just worked out that way, and worked out really well. It wasn’t a contrived idea.

AHHA: Everything on this album is cohesive. Is it all non-fiction, or based off of your life?

Darien: Absolutely. It’s my life, everything that I’ve experienced over the last couple years. It’s a reflection. I wrote 85% of the album. So 85% of it is my life, and the rest of it, I most definitely can relate to.

AHHA: My favorite single song on The Minstrel Show was “All For You.” It was so evocative, and I think you’re largely to thank for that. What doors did that open up for you?

Darien: That’s a record that doesn’t get spoken of much. I remember though, that it moved me a lot. The things that [Phonte] and Pooh were talking about were things that I’d experienced in my own life. I think it was one of those kind of songs where the sentiment was there. It almost felt like it was something that was bigger than all of us. I think, us as black men, you’ll find that our stories are gonna be the same. So I think it was easy for me on that, to hear what they were talkin’ ‘bout, and put myself in that situation. I don’t have any kids or anything, but I can most definitely relate to cycles that you go through, based on what you went through as a child – growin’ up and tryin’ to be a man yourself.

[The song] put me out there even more. With [Little Brother] being signed to Atlantic, it put them even more. With me being all over that album, [I benefited too]. I think the things that have gotten me out there the most though, are the things I’d done prior to The Minstrel Show, the mixtapes, the Pete Rock album, being on Foreign Exchange, or Big Pooh’s Sleepers solo project, I think those did as much as The Minstrel Show. If anything, I would say that album just kept the buzz going.

AHHA: You mention the shared experiences of Black males. Do you think that Black men, or urban men have issues when it comes to talking about love?

Darien: Yeah, that’s everywhere, period – especially in this community too. There’s certain things that people expect you to say, and there’s a certain persona that you need to have. Often times, the things that you wanna talk about, you probably think is best not to talk about. Especially for MCs, with the exception of LL [Cool J]. When you think about an MC, he or she wants to bring it – not talk about all that mushy stuff. I think that, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be true to what’s real in your life – whether you’re a singer, MC, or whatever. I don’t let the community hinder what it is I’m feelin’. I think the more people that step up with what’s goin’ on in their world, the more it’ll reach the community. I think the community will embrace things it can relate to, whether it’s matters of the matter of the heart or just life in general. You just gotta take that chance.

AHHA: As an executive producer, what advice did Phonte offer you in this project?

Darien: It’s not even necessarily the advice, it was just watchin’ him. I’ve been observing him from the time I stepped on the scene with him. From a creative aspect to a business aspect, how he approaches everything, I just learned that you’ve got to keep yourself balanced. You’ve got to feel good about what you’re putting out at the end of the day. ‘Tay taught me a lot without sayin’ a lot.

AHHA: In the early ‘90s, Mary J. Blige was working with Biggie, Grand Puba, Smif-N-Wessun. Then you had Nate Dogg and Kokane going with Dre, Snoop, and Dogg Pound. With your own album, is it different than that utility role?

Darien: It’s real different. With your own album, you’re playing your part. When you’re assisting, you stay in the pocket. It’s not the time or the place for all that extra stuff – you’re assisting. So when you finally get a chance to spread your wings on a solo project, that’s the time you get. You get to flex a lil’ bit. When I was doing a lot of stuff with Little Brother, the family knew what I could do, but what I could do wasn’t always necessary. Now it is necessary. Now it’s time to stand in front of the masses and pull out all the stops.

AHHA: ABB Records has moved mountains with The Listening as well as in their early days with Dilated Peoples. However, do you think that you’ll be limited in the sense that their reach, at best, probably only takes you to fans who are familiar with your name off the LB catalog?

Darien: I feel very confident that it’s going to be very effective and very successful because even though there are a lot of people who still don’t know who Little Brother is, I feel that that album is gonna speak for itself. I don’t think that the album will be dependent on that whole idea of being as successful as Little Brother. The album is just a strong album. My prayer is that between Hall of Justus and ABB, we should strategize about it, and it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do. I think it’s gonna connect with a whole lot of people. I’m not really worried about it in that aspect.

AHHA: Critics talk about seasons in relation to records. Omarion’s “Entourage” definitely had a summertime feel. John Legend feels more like wintertime music. Dropping in October, do you think you fall into any of this?

Darien: In terms of the album, I tried to make sure I covered all my bases, sonically. By the time the album does come out, it will be more into the fall. When it was done, I just wanted to create somethin’ that you dance a lil’ bit, you chill a lil’ bit, and you reflect a lil’ bit. I wanted to bring all those elements to the table. I wasn’t thinking in terms of a seasonal album as much as just giving you a strong, dope album.

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