Interview by Barbara Bohr
Glamorous she is not. If you take Nicki Minaj as benchmark for a successful female emcee, Atlanta-based Boog Brown is in comparison a soulful, down-to-earth rapper. Her debut album, The Brown Story (together with Apollo Brown), gave her critical recognition in specialized hip-hop blogs, but sales numbers show that she is still one of hip-hop’s best-kept secrets. Starting out as a writer she turned to rap almost 5 years ago. In the meantime, her poetry has been providing her with a solid repertoire of personal lyrics. Born Elsie Swan and a native of Detroit, Boog Brown has been named as one of the 10 Hip-Hop Artists to Watch in 2011. Let’s see if she feels prepared for the next steps in her career.
How did you get into hip-hop and how did you build the connections to become part of the community?
I was fortunate enough to know, when I lived in Detroit, some really dope musicians. They already had access to a studio. When I first decided to do rap, I was able to make a CD called „Extended Play“. I could record it and put it out. When I actually decided to get more involved with music, it kind of came in my path. I had really good friends who were musicians and I could lean on. I was just blessed to have them.
You grew up in Detroit, one of the hottest hip-hop communities in the US. What were the reasons you left for Atlanta?
I love Detroit, but, at the time, I couldn’t find a job. I had just graduated from college two years prior and it didn’t seem promising to me. So when I left Detroit I didn’t do so in order to pursue music. I left to find something better for myself. I didn’t think about making a living out of music when I came here. The hip-hop community in Atlanta is very rich. There is so much more than all the things that people already know about the Atlanta scene. It’s crazy. Still, I didn’t come here for that.
How do you select the musicians you cooperate with?
On a more strategic layer, can you tell us something about your long-term business plans?
All the monies that I get from sales go back into funding the next productions. Every cent that I get out of the music, goes back into the music. What I can say, is that I really like music and I really like to make good music. That will define me, that will steady my pace, that will solidify my place, that’s my angle, that’s my only marketing tool that I share with you today. Whenever I get serious about doing things, my will is working like a magnet for the things to achieve. Even if it is sometimes slow, it is coming. I am working on the branding and marketing side together with my manager. I still need a 9-to-5 to pay my bills, though. I make sandwiches. It’s a low-paid job, but I get the food for free so I don’t have to worry about my eating (laughing). You just can’t sit down and just wait for things to happen.
Have you ever thought about participating in a casting show to accelerate your career?
They had Miss Rap Supreme on VH1 a couple of years again. It would have been a dope venture, but what I see is that in shows like these, the winners fall into obscurity very quickly. I don’t want my career to take this path because it’s not lasting.
Who are important people in your life that inspire you to pursue a career in such a competitive field? Any mentors? Are there any role models that you have? Henry Adaso compared you to Lauryn Hill.
Well, I don’t like comparisons. It’s okay as a point of reference for my fans. Of course, being compared to Lauryn is incredible, but I want to establish myself as my own artist. I admire my sister Christie Swann who is very successful as a mezzo-soprano. In general, I get a lot of moral support and inspiration from my family, the man that I am dating and my friends in Atlanta. The last months have been a lesson in humility to build up industry relationships and maintaining them. I also think that having this support system helps you to be prepared when you get into the limelight.
If your best friend and your mom would be asked what qualified you most to be successful in the business, what would they say?
Oh, that’s a good one. (Thinking) My best friend would say that I am honest. I think my mom, oh, I don’t know, probably resilient, she would say.
You just turned 29 last month. If there was one thing you could change if you could live your life again. What would that be?
Honestly, I can’t say, I wouldn’t be here if anything changed. For the future, I simply wish, I’d have more money in the bank, but no stress, no stress.
Even if there is no stress. Let us know what your specific plans for 2011 are?
I have a couple of upcoming projects. One is called „In my headphones“. It’s a strictly digital one. Another one will be released late in 2011 and is called „Dope Girl Magic“. I’ll work on this second project with the producer Illustrate. I would also love to tour. Some appearances are planned in some Southeastern cities of the US. I am very encouraged because of my growing international fan base. It always kills me when I get to see the statistics about downloads and clicks from Europe or South Africa. This is truly encouraging.