In every Hip-Hop family, theres 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 Brothers 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 Californias ABB Records, The Feeling is Brockingtons solo arrival. The Raleigh-based artist discusses his intentions with the album, Hip-Hops look at love, and why major label exposure doesnt equate with a dedicated cult following.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Youre 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 its important to be there is cause 15-20 years ago, it was something that people didnt think would be around long. Now, Hip-Hop is most definitely a part, a dominant part, of our music culture. So I think its important that we embrace all forms of music, including Hip-Hop. It wouldnt be right to not have that element in my music.
AHHA: Well, youve got Think It Over, which channels in some Rock the Bells and I Got What You Want freaks the same sample as Big Ls Flamboyant. Were these things you actively discussed with your producers?
Darien: I dont 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 wasnt something that we thought through. It just worked out that way, and worked out really well. It wasnt a contrived idea.
AHHA: Everything on this album is cohesive. Is it all non-fiction, or based off of your life?
Darien: Absolutely. Its my life, everything that Ive experienced over the last couple years. Its 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 youre largely to thank for that. What doors did that open up for you?
Darien: Thats a record that doesnt 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 Id 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, youll 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 dont 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 Id done prior to The Minstrel Show, the mixtapes, the Pete Rock album, being on Foreign Exchange, or Big Poohs 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, thats everywhere, period especially in this community too. Theres certain things that people expect you to say, and theres 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, youve got to be true to whats real in your life whether youre a singer, MC, or whatever. I dont let the community hinder what it is Im feelin. I think the more people that step up with whats goin on in their world, the more itll reach the community. I think the community will embrace things it can relate to, whether its 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: Its not even necessarily the advice, it was just watchin him. Ive 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 youve got to keep yourself balanced. Youve got to feel good about what youre 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: Its real different. With your own album, youre playing your part. When youre assisting, you stay in the pocket. Its not the time or the place for all that extra stuff youre assisting. So when you finally get a chance to spread your wings on a solo project, thats 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 wasnt always necessary. Now it is necessary. Now its 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 youll 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 its going to be very effective and very successful because even though there are a lot of people who still dont know who Little Brother is, I feel that that album is gonna speak for itself. I dont 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 its gonna do what its gonna do. I think its gonna connect with a whole lot of people. Im not really worried about it in that aspect.
AHHA: Critics talk about seasons in relation to records. Omarions 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 wasnt thinking in terms of a seasonal album as much as just giving you a strong, dope album.