By Dan Barry
2:50 PM EDT, June 21, 2011
Brash's Mind Flex CD Release Party
w/ Joey Batts, Crooked Mindz, Heddshotts, Pacewon, and Mr. Green; $10 entry includes CD, June 24, Sully's Pub, 2071 Park St., Hartford, (860) 231-8881, sullyspub.com
For an MC who readily admits that he has a negative attitude, Brash is oddly charismatic. “I don't know if this happens to you,” he tells me on the phone, “but I go through periods of self-loathing and fast food. And I'm at Burger King putting burgers into my fat face, and I feel someone staring at me, and it's not very comfortable.”
“Hi, are you Brash?” the staring dude finally asked.
“Yes I am,” Brash replied.
“And that,” the New Britain rapper recounts, “was kind of the end of the exchange. He just walked away like, yeah, eat your hamburger. He looked at me like ‘I don't know what to say now that I have that confirmation.' I don't know if that's what fame is, but it was weird. I didn't feel like it was an accomplishment. If that's what fame is, you shouldn't want that. It didn't feel good.”
This weekend marks the release of Brash's debut album, Mind Flex. The album is three years in the making — well, more like two, with the album sitting on the shelf this past year. “I was building my personal life,” he explains. “I got a house, and a wife. And she's about to pop — she's about to give birth to my son next month. Oh, and I graduated college too.”
In fact, his college education was critical to his development as a rapper. Brash's lyrical content is more topical than the average MC's. Whether he's storytelling, getting introspective, or talking about his past, his raps don't waver from their target. “Anybody can make rhymes that have no subject matter, but sound cool. I learned how to make something substantial happen from a professor at Central [Connecticut State University] named Ravi Shankar. He's a poet. And he was like, Don't waste people's time. If someone's gonna give you four minutes of their time …”
The results are songs like “On That,” a post-“Kick, Push” skateboarding homage that replaces Lupe Fiasco's romance with reminiscences of Brash's drug-addled youth. “On That” (which Brash notes he “recorded literally in my underwear”) became so popular on music industry networking site OurStage.com that it won the site's $1,000 Grand Prize for March 2011.
While Brash may have had a rough and wild past, he has no tolerance for gun violence in rap lyrics. It wasn't always that way, though. “In the '90s going into the last decade, dude, gun talk was so cool to me, it was so fucking cool!” But in early 2008, Brash's hype man was murdered in a double homicide while working in Cromwell. “I don't think a lot of rappers who rap that way have lost someone to gun violence. If that's your life, then fucking live it and say what's true to you, but a lot of time I see through that shit. Guns aren't cool, man. Not to sound like some over-liberal, Democratic, ‘save the children, man!' type. I just want people to know no one's getting shot. I had a song called ‘Lock and Loaded' that I don't perform anymore. It was supposed to be making fun of all that. And people would come up to me when I got off stage and say ‘You tough.'” Clearly the song wasn't having the desired effect.
Brash considers himself a disciple of Kurt Vonnegut (Mind Flex features a song titled “So It Goes,” after Vonnegut's refrain from Slaughterhouse-Five), so his decision to stop glorifying guns is as rooted in humanist philosophy as it is in personal loss. The same sentiment can be found in his track “The World Ain't Round,” in which a character uses money to absolve himself of personal responsibility. “Money shouldn't get you out of stuff. That just creates a human stupidity vortex,” says Brash. “It would be awesome if two things happened from my album: if people said, ‘Yeah, that shouldn't happen,' and then they don't let it, if they have the power to; and then they read a Kurt Vonnegut novel.”
Brash's recent accomplishments are fueling the record label he founded in 2009, Aeon Audio. Aeon's current roster includes Blak Philosophy, Crooked Mindz, I.N.F. (short for I'm Not Famous), and Joey Batts, as well as Brash himself. “Joey Batts is [one of the reasons] I got on stage,” says Brash. “Him and Matt Zigs at Sully's amazed the shit out of me. They were electric. I still look up to Joey. It's weird because he's the same age as me.” Joey Batts and Crooked Mindz are both featured on Friday's record release bill.
Hey, if you're looking for something to do the night before Brash's record release, you can drop by Sully's on Thursday for the kickoff party to this year's Grand Band Slam. We start raging at 5 p.m., and there'll be music by Benn Grim and Metalheart, PK Ripper and Dirty D, Columbia Fields, and DJ Breakadawn. The whole shindig is free. And if you can't make it, be sure to vote for your favorite bands — watch our website for the ballot.