Twenty-six years ago, the Philadelphia Tribune named Gordon Brown Jr. the youngest gospel music promoter in Philadelphia. As minister, label executive, producer and award-winning songwriter, G. Brown (his stage name), is rebranding himself for a new role in the music industry.
Brown will release the single “Love is Coming Back” on iTunes on August 1.This urban gospel song is remake of the classic McFadden and Whitehead song “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.”
Described as a mixture of traditional gospel, a pitch of rhythm and blues and a tossing of what Brown said is God’s anointing, the track is geared to youth and urban communities.
“It’s kind of like Kirk Franklin, that’s the demographic that I’m looking to gravitate to, but my style is more like Hawkins, Smallwood with a little bit of Donny and Boys II Men blended all in together,” Brown said.
Along with the single, Brown has written 48 songs — about three CDs worth of music — that he plans to release as an artist until 2018.
Helping to produce the single with Brown are his nephew, Antonie McRae and producer and keyboardist Christopher Weatherbe. He has worked with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jill Scott, Vivian Green, Floetry, Jaguar Wright and Kindred.
“Whatever his vision is, I just want to bring it to life. I don’t have any self-ambition. He wants to give an inspirational song out with a message about love,” Weatherbe said.
Learning through experience
The South Philadelphia native began his music career as a teenager deeply rooted in gospel music. As a student at Vare Edwin H. Middle School, Brown’s physical education teacher was Gabriel Hardeman — leader of Gabriel Hardeman Delegation whose record, “Feels Like Fire” gave them fame. Several weeks into the school year, Brown attended his aunt’s wedding. Hardeman was one of the ushers and the groom was the drummer for the Hardeman Delegation.
After this interaction, Brown persisted to get involve with the band. In 1982, Brown became the band’s stagehand. Through the mentorship of Hardeman and his wife Annette, Brown learned how to write songs that later won Brown five American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards.
At 16, Brown created a group, The Gordon Brown Singers, and was a music promoter for the Wynne Plaza. There, he was responsible for booking gospel acts at the Wynnefield venue. Brown then worked for Tony Beck, owner and president of MeeSiah Records — an independent gospel label. Also, Brown was an executive assistant for music producer, Nick Martinelli, and served as Martinelli’s manager for a brief period. In 1991, he received more industry experience under gospel legend, Dr. Edwin Hawkins.
Despite the mentorship and success he was receiving, Brown’s career was interrupted.
In 1998, Brown was imprisoned. While serving a 14-year sentence, he earned a doctorate in theology. Six months ago Brown was released, and he plans to continue to his career.
“Instead of being bitter, I feel blessed. I got great vision from God,” Brown said. “When you spend 14 years in prison you get a lot of ideas that God has time to give you great vision.”
Bringing a rebirth to Philadelphia
Using vision and revelation, Brown also works as the creative director for Philly Style Studio.
“It’s in the community. You don’t know it’s a studio, and you’re not abandoning the community. Every community has a local rapper or local singer and they can come right here and get a nice demo,” Brown said.
Located on 18th and Morris streets, Brown said he wants Philly Style Studios to create resurgence in Philadelphia.
“I just love Philly, but we have nothing going on musically in the city. In the beginning it was Motown, then Philadelphia International,” Brown said. “We have Jill, Musiq and Tye Tribbett, but I just want to bring that attention and that draw back to the city. Basically putting Philly back in its place.”
And with help of PSS owner, Henry “Bubby” Nicholas, Brown’s vision is beginning to come to fruition. Currently, Nicolas is gathering talent for The Entourage — a collective of musicians, dancers, R&B singers and rappers.
“He’s got so much energy. He’s my favorite,” Nicholas said.
“When I came on board here, his vision with the studio and the Entourage verse my vision on a creative level and an artist level was just a perfect fit,” Brown said. “It’s kind of like what Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff did in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s kind of what he and I are trying to do now.”
In mid-August, PSS and Zoah Music Group Worldwide (Brown’s music label) will have an Internet talent search of gospel, R&B and hip hop artists.
“It’s basically going to be American Idol online, but for those genres,” Brown said.
Fifty submissions will be chosen to participate. With the public’s help, 25 acts will be chosen. Of those, 15 will be eliminated and the remaining 10 will face off for the final phase of the competition judged by PSS and ZMGW.
First prize will be a recording contract with ZMGW, second prize will be a recording contract for a single with ZMGW and third prize will be a production video at PSS.
Philadelphia native Vikter Duplaix has woven global culture, independent thought, fine arts and progressive music into a purely golden lifestyle. The Grammy-nominated singer, producer, DJ and lifestyle event curator is currently co-starring on the BET reality DJ competition series “Smirnoff’s Master of the Mix” and is hard at work on his third studio album, “LOVEmachine,” set for release in 2013. Duplaix, who is also a Philly 360 Ambassador, honed his craft on the streets of Philadelphia along with turntable legends DJs Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money.
“It was something that was in my blood from day one,” said Duplaix from his Venice Beach, Calif., home. “Everything in my life has been associated with music — including my mother being a music teacher. It’s something that doesn’t need a lot of thought from me; it’s a part of what I am and what I do and it will always be that way to some degree: either making it, talking about it or just admiring it, you know. I am very strongly connected to the Black lineage of music creator in this country because of my experience growing up in Philadelphia and being tutored by the legends like Gamble and Huff and DJ Jazzy Jeff and those that were before me. That’s my perspective.”
Duplaix describes himself as a “producer, singer, programmer” and uses drum machines to create basic grooves, and then he collaborates with “other great musicians,” including multi-Grammy-winning songwriter, musician and multi-platinum producer James Poysner. “Most throughout my career I’ve worked with James Poysner, and we have a very great understanding of how to enhance each others creativity.”
Being raised in both Philadelphia and Augusta, Ga., and singing in church choirs, Duplaix has the traditional soul singer’s assessment of the ebb and flow of music tastes. “I ultimately believe it’s got to go back to music that feels good,” notes Duplaix. “We’ve been in a 10-year run where everything sounds good — it’s modern and bright and technology has made it sound better and more clear and have more bass then ever before — but I think that we need to get back to musicianship (and not necessary horn sections and strings like Gamble and Huff), but it still needs to have the humanity in the music so we can connect to it a little better, combined with how modern technology has enhanced the listening experience.”
In Thefuture.fm mix series called “The Modern Textures Vol. 1,” Duplaix gives a visually rhythmic and melodic experience. The unique Internet radio platform is the first of its kind to automate the process of legally tracking mixed audio, opening access for music fans to legally and easily find, share and enjoy mixtapes, while removing the liability for DJs and advertisers who want to monetize the mixtape on the Web or at live events. The platform allows consumers to search, discover, follow, purchase tracks and stream whole mixes from over 5,000 DJs across any style or genre.
“It’s something that is very progressive because this give you an opportunity to click on what you like and get it at that moment, instead of you scratching your head wondering or forget about it later,” explained Duplaix. “Essentially, it’s about sounds that move you and take you places. This particular mix begins with a deep house music flow then it breaks down into an atmospheric beat generation/mid-tempo futuristic groove. This mix will hopefully give you enough of each song to enjoy the creativity of each track and wet your palette for more.”
For more information, visit www.Thefuture.fm.
For the second consecutive year, The Roots, Philadelphia’s Grammy-winning hip-hop heavyweights, will host the annual Fourth of July concert on Ben Franklin Parkway, with iconic drummer/DJ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serving as musical director.
This year’s diverse lineup will feature Grammy-winning rapper/actress Queen Latifah, hit-maker Daryl Hall of the top-selling duo Hall & Oates, hip-hop artist/actor Common, and pop sensation Joe Jonas.
“We are excited to help put together such a great show! Philly’s a natural fit for the Fourth of July Concert,” says Questlove. “The Fourth of July on the Parkway should be what New Year’s Eve in Times Square is to New York.”
Once again, 6abc will broadcast the Independence Day festivities live, beginning at 10 a.m. with the “Celebration of Freedom Ceremony.” Taking place on the steps of Independence Hall, this “patriotic and inspiring” morning featuring music, speeches and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, will pay tribute to the history of our great nation.
At 11 a.m., the station will begin live coverage of the “Philadelphia Independence Day Parade” as it travels through historic Philadelphia. With marching bands, floats and more than 5,000 participants, this year’s parade features a “Heroes Salute” honoring the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 – The United States Military, veterans, firefighters and police officers.
The evening’s festivities, airing live on 6abc from the Ben Franklin Parkway, begin at 7 p.m. with “A Special July 4th Edition of FYI Philly,” hosted by Karen Rogers and Adam Joseph. The highly anticipated “4th of July Jam” starring The Roots begins at 7:30.
The Roots, who regularly add their funky flavor as the “house band” for NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” threw an awesome party in 2011, hosting Earth, Wind & Fire, Estelle, Michael McDonald, Sarah Bareilles and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
This year’s musical celebration, which concludes with the traditional Grand Finale Fireworks, will also feature performances by surprise guest artists, and last summer Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eddie Levert of the O’Jays stopped by to join the party.
“We know that what really makes it magical are the acts that we didn’t announce yet, so we have about three or four surprise artists that we’re not even going to advertise,” says “Questlove” Thompson. “So when you see them there, it’s going to be that much more magical.”
“Wawa Welcome America! will offer you and your family high-quality, free and most importantly, fun entertainment to celebrate America’s birthday with us,” says Mayor Michael Nutter. For complete information on Wawa Welcome America! visit www.welcomeamerica.com.