He make beats, he raps … he apparently even freestyles on the harmonica, a fun fact which I learned this afternoon during an impromptu performance while I prepared to learn all about the man behind the music. From where I’m sitting (in his studio, where all the magic happens) it seems as though there isn’t much that Cornell’s own Brody Ehrlich ’10, also known as “Brodyman,” can’t do…
Sun: So Brodyman, tell me about what you do.
Brody Ehrlich: Basically, what I do is music production, I make a lot of hip hop and R&B beats for a few different artists, the main one being my friend Mitch Raw from home who I grew up with.
Sun: How does that work?
B.E.: Well I use a lot of techniques … about half the stuff I compose myself and the rest is sampled, which is basically like taking an older song, finding certain pieces and sounds from it and cutting it up to make your own compilation.
Sun: So how did it all start?
B.E.: When I was younger I was having a hard time … in like, 10th grade I would write raps to instrumentals to get feelings off my chest or just for fun sometimes. When I came to Cornell a friend of mine was really into guitar and he got me interested in learning more about music, how to play keyboard and eventually playing my stuff for other people.
Sun: What about the more technical aspects of producing?
B.E.: I use a great program called Ableton Live 7, and last semester I took a course called Intro to Computer Music with Professor Earnst and that really bridged the gap between the things I had been teaching myself and what you’d learn from more formal instruction. It took me to a whole new level.
Sun: What do you love about hip hop?
B.E.: Everything. I have an appreciation for old school hip hop, like pre-1995 … I grew up in the era when Biggie got big, when Tupac got big, just that whole late-90’s period in general. I’ve always loved music. I liked to write my own stuff when I was younger … I figured out my voice isn’t that good for rap but I could still be involved by doing production.
Sun: What about hip hop today?
B.E.: A lot of new music is stereotypical; just repeating the same lines over and over and I’m not really into that. I’m more into lyricists like Jadakiss, Cassidy and Fabulous.
Sun: What artists’ music would you compare yours to?
B.E.: The beat structure is similar to a Kanye West feel, pre-808’s and Heartbreaks, but the lyrics are always different depending on whatever artist is on the track. I like to let them do their own thing.
Sun: Why “Brodyman?”
B.E.: You know the movie Mallrats? The main character is Brody but Jay calls him “Brodyman.” A couple of friends used to call me that in the “Jay voice” when we were younger.
Sun: You still sometimes rap yourself on songs like “Falling” and “Untouchable.”
B.E.: “Falling” is a song I actually wrote myself … I was experimenting with a beat one time and I had just learned to use audio software, you know, to make my voice sound like T-Pain. The first verse was a freestyle that I showed to a friend of mine and he was like, “Dude, you gotta continue this. Write a whole story.”
Sun: About this guy’s wife walking out on him …
B.E.: It’s not based on anything that really happened.
Sun: I wouldn’t say your voice isn’t good for rap.
B.E.: Yeah, well it’s amazing what audio software can do.
Sun: What else do you rap about?
B.E.: I try to stay away from saying things that are exaggerated or fake … obviously “Falling” isn’t true but it is realistic. The feelings I put into a story like “Falling” come from things I’ve felt about ex-girlfriends … love. I rapped the second verse of the song “Untouchable” and that’s more about bragging in the tradition of hip hop.
Sun: What about the rappers who rap over your beats?
B.E.: The guys on my tracks have some more legitimate connections to the hood … I’m in no way hood or gangster so when I write my own raps I try to stay away from making any references that way.
Sun: There’s a song on your Myspace called “He Could Fight,” that sounds like a hood reference.
B.E.: Actually that song is completely based in fact; it’s a story about a couple of my friends getting stabbed in a bar fight.
B.E.: They’re ok now. What I was trying to do with that song is emphasize the irony of the situation … a bunch of big guys going out at night get into a group mentality and think they can take anyone, but the point is no matter how big you are, you can’t block a knife.
Sun: Do you ever freestyle over your beats?
B.E.: Well I’m no professional but …
Sun: Well, you must think pretty quickly on your feet. I actually have some rapid-fire questions for you … Who is your favorite President and why?
B.E.: Obama is our generation’s Kennedy. I was actually an Obama supporter since before there was even an inkling that he had any chance … when Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner, we were talking about Obama. To see him come all this way is pretty intense.
Sun: If you could describe your music in one word, what would it be?
Sun: Can you quickly freestyle a description of your day?
B.E.: I don’t know if I wanna print that.
Sun: Take your time.
B.E.: Okay …
I woke up in the morning and it’s first things first,
Some water and I popped an
Advil cause you know my throat hurts,
Smoked a little too much last night,
Happened too many times I know I’ll be alright,
What’s next it’s the shower cause it wakes me up,
When you smoke before you sleep getting up it’s a little rough,
Next step hitting class and the books
Still half asleep, don’t matter how I look
[friend enters the room and adds “yo yo yo I’m Brodyman … ”]
Sun: So is it all about the money?
B.E.: Definitely not. I’m a finance major, I’m not a music major … I do this for fun. If I had the chance to pursue this as a career, I’d jump at it but right now I’m focusing on the finance thing.
Sun: Is it all about the fame?
B.E.: I think I’d probably enjoy the fame but I just like making the music.
Sun: What advice would you give to other young hip-hop enthusiasts who want to get in the game?
B.E.: Do it. If you love it, do it. If you don’t, don’t waste your time trying to get famous just to get famous ’cause it’s a hard steep road that I haven’t even gotten to the top of. If you enjoy it do it for the love of the game, as cheesy as it sounds, cause for 99 percent of all artists that’s all you’re gonna have.
To check out Brodyman’s beats, you can (and should!) visit his myspace at www.myspace.com/brodymanmusic. Watch out for his newest song, “Party in Here” feat. Supreme Black, Sadat and Money Mars and other beats featuring Mitch Raw and Tragiq.