July 21, 2020
Tune-In Tuesdays #79: Brand New on “Be High”
Hip-hop artist Brand New perches on rocks in a natural settingSource: Brandon Moss
Down to earth with a smile you can hear through the phone, California-based hip-hop artist Brand New (Brandon Moss) is here to spread insight and inspire others with his truth.
Following the release of his single “Be High,” which touches upon the chaos of the pandemic and social injustices this year, we spoke to Moss via telephone to dive deeper into the single.
Tell me a little about yourself and your music
I’m from out here in Cali, I was born in Tustin in Orange Hospital. I’ve moved around a lot.
I come from a life of poverty – foster care, homelessness. I’ve been through it all. I’ve done well to get my family out of the same type of cycle: I own my own home, got my own car.
I’m doing well now and I just wanted to make sure I broke the cycle for my kids so they had a stable support system to where they could be anything they want to be. I had to scratch and kick for everything that came my way.
As far as my music, I grew up in the church. I went to Calvary Baptist Church just over in Tustin. I have gospel elements, I say west coast street with a backpack twist. I would call it a street-conscious.
What sparked your interest in music? Was it your upbringing in church or was there another factor that influenced you?
There’s actually a lot of influences! But I’ll try to summarize it.
Definitely church, right? ‘Cause I was in the church choir. I used to listen to hip-hop back in the day, my mom would play it at the house and stuff.
There’s this really funny story she tells at like every barbeque. I’m a young kid and I’m listening to Eazy-E. I’ve got my pants sagging and a bubblegum beeper on my hip singing, “Dope man, dope man,” [laughs].
It’s funny ’cause I’m singing the lyrics and I have no idea what it means. She always tells that story and makes fun.
But it’s what I grew up around. We were in the ‘hood, so I didn’t have anything myself, but I saw all these drug dealers walking around me. They’ve got nice cars, shoes, jewelry, stuff like that.
I was like, “Man, what do they do? That’s what I want to do!” Then I found out what they actually do. My mom ended up becoming hooked on drugs, so that was something I wanted no parts of.
My mom moved and my friend Josh’s aunt, her name is Lil’ Mama, she used to babysit for KK and D from 2nd II None. They were signed under the DJ Quik’s label.
So KK would come around us and he had all the things I was looking at and hypnotized by. Y’know, I’m sitting there with one pair of socks, one pair of shoes, and washing my socks out in the sink. And I see him walking up with all those things.
So I was like, “What does he do? He’s a drug dealer, right?” I made an assumption. They were like, “No, he does music!”
KK ended up taking us to the studio and I just fell in love with hip-hop. I’ve always listened to Tupac, Ice Cube, DJ Quik, Sugar Free, the west coast scene.
Later on in life, I expanded my horizons to Kanye West’s first album, “College Dropout.” J. Cole, Kendrick. Just somebody who speaks truth in their music and tries to teach you something to elevate yourself. That’s some of the things I like and want to put out there.
Who are some of your biggest personal and musical inspirations to this day?
To this day? Let’s go through the list.
I like Tupac, Ice Cube, Sugar Free, Kurupt. I also like Kendrick, J. Cole, Kanye — old Kanye, not new Kanye [laughs].
When I lay out that list, it kind of seems like I like gangster rap, but I like the woke consciousness of some of their songs. In particular, Tupac’s “Keep Your Head Up,” “Dear Mama.” Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day.” DJ Quik’s “Youz a Gangsta.”
Kanye’s whole “College Dropout” album, that was so woke. The songs that really stood out for me were “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” “Hey Mama.”
Kendrick Lamar, I like “Money Trees,” “Alright.” J. Cole, I like “Lost Ones” and “Kevin’s Heart.”
I just love the truth they told in those songs. They weren’t scared to discuss topics like insecurities and how it’s “uncool” if you rap about God, J. Cole discussing abortion, Tupac discussing growing up with a single mother who used drugs.
I love how they told their story and I was able to learn some things from it.
Give us a behind the scenes glimpse of what your songwriting, recording, and producing process looks like.
I write everything in my phone using the Notes app, but I only write when I get this sensation over me.
I have my own home studio, I’m self taught on everything that I do. I engineer and mix myself. I use Pro Tools and Garage Band to record my music. I love the Waves plugin when I record. It’s really good, it makes the recording process a lot simpler for me.
Would you say that flow of inspiration has been stronger since stay at home orders have given you had more time to reflect? Or do you find it’s put a damper on your inspiration and motivation?
I try to be a positive influence on my kids, so before the coronavirus, I was coaching my son’s basketball team, but all that’s shut down. Now we’re in the house more and I’m in the studio a lot more.
I had stopped writing for a while because my sister Tasha passed away. She drowned on her birthday.
It was really tough. Her, her daughter, and her fiancé were on a boat, and her fiancé proposed to her that day. The boat sank, it failed.
She was able to get him — ’cause he couldn’t swim — and her daughter off the boat, but her leg ended up getting tied in a rope, so it pulled down and sunk her.
They tried to save her, they tried cut the rope, but they couldn’t get it off. She ended up dying on her birthday.
That had a great impact on me for a while. I had a writer’s block, I couldn’t write anything.
When the quarantine happened, I sat down and wrote this song called “Smile” for my sister because she had the same kind of personality as me.
No matter what situation was going on, she would come into the room and light you up and make you smile.
So I wrote that song for her and ever since then it took the block I had away. Stuff’s just been popping out left and right.
It’s really beautiful that you were able to honor your sister, and I’m glad you’ve been able to write more. So tell me a little about your single, “Be High.” What was your mindset like when you wrote and recorded it?
“Be High” is unintentionally funny, but sometimes you find humor in things you can relate to. I wanted to touch on the everyday things I was dealing with and I felt like other people were dealing with; COVID-19 and all these social injustices.
I kind of wanted to be serious but make light to break the tension.
Break down a few lines from “Be High.” Which do you feel have the most impact and why?
I can’t express what has the most impact on somebody else, but I can tell you what did from my point of view when I was making it.
So the title “Be High” is actually funny ’cause I don’t smoke weed. I went to WalMart to get Tylenol and they were sold out, right? I went to Walgreens, Rite Aid, and I’m like, “Man, I can’t get no Tylenol nowhere,” and I had this killer headache.
So I went to my boy’s house, he was like, “Come over, I’ve got some Aspirin.” I shook the bottle thinking, “Okay, there’s some Aspirin in here,” but nothing. It was just one of those moisture packets and it was empty.
I was like, “Man, I’ve been everywhere but I can’t find any Aspirin. I can’t get anything to get rid of this headache.”
And my boy goes, “Well y’know I’ve got my weed prescription right here… Weed takes away headaches and stuff.”
I said, “Nah man, I’m good, I pass. I really don’t really want to get into all that” — ’cause of scars and stuff from my mother, and weed’s the gateway drug, so I try to stay away from all drugs.
But I had this killer headache, so I thought about it. When I want to say “I wanna be high,” I’m like, “I’m just trying to get rid of this headache.” It’s kinda funny.
Also the line:
“Corny ass couponers out here winnin’,
She got a toilet paper castle up in the kitchen,
Careful with those people out here sinnin’,– “Be High” by Brand New
I guess we wipin’ with those coupons in the kitchen.”
So I’m scrolling on Instagram after an unsuccessful trip to the grocery store to get some toilet paper, and I see one of my wife’s friends on Instagram with this mountain of toilet paper just stacked up in her kitchen.
It kinda missed me, I was kinda mad ’cause I had just gone to the store! People were buyin’ up everything and I ain’t got nothing! So I made a little funny comment under her post, “Are you gonna share some of that?” [Laughs].
That’s where I ended up getting my toilet paper from, but those were a couple lines in particular that stuck out to me and had some pretty cool stories behind them.
What else were you pulling from and reflecting on while you were working on the song?
While we’re going through this whole COVID-19 stuff, I’m watching YouTube videos and I see what happens to George Floyd.
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I’ve never had a criminal record, let me put that out there first. But I would be walking to the grocery store to go get some snacks or something, whatever it was I was going for, and I’d get pulled over, harassed.
I mean, they tried to put me on a gang file one time ’cause I was walking down the street in a red shirt from a high school that I went to. The colors happened to be red, it’s a high school shirt, y’know?
I’ve been slammed on hoods, they made me sit on the curb in the rain while the water was flooding. I’ve had some bad instances and it woke all that stuff up.
I hope this is something that my kids never have to deal with. It’s just sad and I’m tired.
I’ve since made a song going into that part more. The reason why it was so subtly touched on was it had just happened and I hadn’t had time to articulate my words how I wanted to yet.
It is a lot to process, especially when everything first started coming out. But it’s still done in a way that recognizes everything that was going on and everything flows like a stream of consciousness… Did you sit down and pour it all out in one go?
I poured it all out in one go. Like I said, I only write when I get this sensation of word vomit. It’s like something that I can’t stop and it doesn’t matter where I am, I’ll stop and pull my phone out to write.
I’ll stop and pull over on the side of the road to write. If I’m at the store, I’ll take a second to write out that whole song. I’ll write a whole song in 20 minutes.
[“Be High”] was literally just 20 minutes of me venting.
How has creating “Be High” helped you process and cope with everything going on?
It was therapeutic for me, it helped get a weight off of my shoulders that had been just sitting there.
After I wrote the song “Smile,” “Be High” was right after that. It helped me continue to tell my truth.
When I was younger, some of my music was hollow and full of cap. I realize now it’s not about all those shiny things. If you make a song and it changes one person’s, that song had its intended purpose. It doesn’t matter if it touched a million.
Overall, what impact do you hope to have on your listeners?
I just want to tell my truth. I hope they enjoy the stories and that I inspire someone out here in this world.
Tupac has a song where he says he might not change the world, but he might spark the mind of the person that changes the world. If that’s something I can do, that would be great.
What’s next for you, Brandon? I know you write when inspiration hits, but do you plan on releasing everything together in an EP or album someday?
Yes! I’m actually working on my album. I’m trying to summarize my growth, the difference of young me vs. old me.
In hip-hop nowadays, it seems like they make it cool to be politically uncorrect and inappropriate. I want to try down the path of making it cool to be appropriate and politically correct.
It’s funny ’cause in high school, I had this English teacher and he was one of the big influences on why I rap, too. He got me really into English.
I said a cuss word in his class one time and he made me write on the board 5,000 times — I still remember this phrase — “Profanity is a sign of a conversational cripple and will not be accepted in West Valley High School.”
So every time I say a cuss word or something like that, he’s in the back of my head [laughs]. If I’m going to use one, it needs to really express an emotion, not just for no reason. Not just ’cause it sounded cool.
Before we wrap things up, do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
First off, let me thank you. I appreciate you spending the time to talk to me and anybody who helps me spread my message. I’m much appreciative to them ’cause you never know where your support comes from.
They have the power to put the right candidate in office and change the world. These young people have brilliant minds. I watch Tik Tok now and these people can teach you something in a one minute video that probably should take you a lot longer to learn.
These young people are geniuses and I feel very good about the direction we’re going with all these young, intelligent, woke young people that are out there. I think that America has a very bright future once we get through all this turmoil.
It gives me hope for my children that they can deliver that in a better world.
Give Brand New’s “Be High” a listen now on Spotify!
Be sure to follow Brand New on Instagram and SoundCloud to keep up with his latest releases.
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