At the listening session for his artist Mateo’s upcoming mixtape “Love & Stadiums”, I had a chance to catch up with producer Kerry “Krucial” Brothers and we discussed how he got into producing, originally meeting Alicia Keys, his first production placement, his new record label, working with Mateo, and more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk to me about how you got into producing early on in your life and what made you want to pursue a career in it, and how that turned into a career.
Kerry “Krucial” Brothers: What basically got me into producing was my love for hip hop. The first time I heard a rap record I was nine years old and I wanted to be an MC and from that point on I was in little groups and stuff and at 14 I had a friend doing beats and stuff. After a while, it was hard to find him to do beats so I started getting my own equipment and making my beats, just rap beats for myself. People used to say they liked my beats and asked me to make one for them, so I just started making beats for other people. Even when I was working to do beats for other people I would give my input on the song and at that time I didn’t realize it was producing. So it kinda happened gradually and naturally just from trying to make the music sound the way I wanted it to.
YKIGS: What was your first major placement?
Krucial: My first major placement was basically “Fallin” and that whole album.
YKIGS: Everyone knows you for the work you’ve done with Alicia Keys, but how did that springboard you into opportunities with other artists?
Krucial: Basically when that album came out, it came out big, it was a big surprise. I basically met her in the early 90’s in the Washington Square Park area because at that time in New York you could see anybody outside freestyling or doing ciphers. So I would keep in touch with a few of the people I had met and she was one of those people. So I had got a SB1200 and a four-track and a keyboard and I used to have that in my crib and invite people back that I liked or felt a vibe with just playing little jam sessions or ciphers. So she would come around and we would just mess around and make stuff to vibe on, just recording on cassettes at the time, this was before CDs and all of that. Eventually time went by and years went by and she finally got her first contract and she approached me and was like “They’ve got me working with this producer and that producer, but I don’t like what I’m doing with them, I like what I’m doing with you.” So she asked me to work on her album and I agreed because I believed in her. As far as experience as far as being a real producer, I never really looked at myself as a real producer so I was intimidated. So I told her, “You believe in me, I believe in you, let’s give it a shot.” That’s pretty much how it all started. From there, “Fallin” came out and it was number one and the album was number one. I remember someone calling me at the time to tell me “Fallin” was number one and I thought they were joking! I was so blown away, and after that I was looked at as a genuine producer. From there, I worked with Keyshia Cole, I worked with Nas, Rakim, Christina Aguilera; I was real picky and choosy. That’s the thing about now which is good is I’m finally taking on my own artists like Mateo, I have another artist by the name of Andra, she’s from South Africa and she’s a French South African. With her I’m doing a different style than anybody would expect. So even though it’s been ten years since that first major placement, I still feel like I’m just getting started.
YKIGS: Talk to me more about what you’re doing with the label. You’re working with Mateo now, how did you originally meet him and what did you see in him that made you want to work with him?
Krucial: Basically I met Mateo through Quaddus and he had brought me a record by the name of “Complicated” that Mateo had done while he was on MySpace Records. So they basically came to me and told me they had this record that was pretty good and produced very well, but they wanted me to add a few things and take it to the next level. So we got in the studio and I just heard this guy’s voice with this incredible aspect of writing because he had wrote the song. That’s what I’m really into, I’m into singer/songwriters because that’s what inspires me. So it was a no brainer, he’s a very talented guy, he has lyrics you can feel and easy to work with in the studio. So we kept in touch as the years went by and when I found out that his MySpace deal was almost over, I approached him and asked him to come and be a part of my family. I told him I wanted to start my own label and have my own artists, so let’s do this.
YKGIS: Take me through some of the artists you currently have on your label?
Krucial: Basically right now I have 2 artists and I’m in talks with 4 other people. I like to take my time with projects and do artist development which is pretty much unheard of now. And it’s a young girl I have by the name of Andra, her story is phenomenal. She grew up in Zimbabwe and had a scholarship at the age 15 to go the University of Stanford. She is brilliant and I discovered her on MySpace at the time as well. She always hit me up like “I like your music, I like your music” and never really asked me to listen to her music. So one day I just clicked on the music and heard the song called “Revenge On Me” and I was blown away by it. It was low quality with just a little tiny keyboard and her voice, but I loved the way she sounded and the lyrics of what she was saying. I heard that and asked if she wrote songs and if she had more songs, so she sent me a few more songs. I’m into great voices and songwriting, and she had both, so I flew out to LA and started working with her and this was a few years ago. She’ll be coming out this year, maybe April or May.
YKIGS: Looking back at your production career, who has been a favorite working with?
Krucial: Rakim, Nas, Keyshia. I mean, I’ve been pretty fortunate, like everyone I’ve worked with, everything worked well. I haven’t had any disaster stories. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but pretty much everybody has been fun. But it is a pleasure working with someone you grew up admiring like Rakim, so that was the one.
YKIGS: What is your favorite Alicia Keys that you helped her create?
KruciaI: I mean, I can’t really even answer that. My favorite becomes the last one. *laughs* It all depends on the mood. Now when I just listen to the stuff, it’s just the body of work all together and to have it. Like I said, it’s been 10 years since the first album and I can still play it now, and I might be bias but it still sounds relevant today. That’s pretty much the goal I’ve always set and that’s make timeless music. All the music I like is the oldies from the 60s, 70s and even the 80s and listening to a lot of records that I like, it still sounds great today. I can play it for my kids and they’ll be like “What’s that?” And that’s the goal.