Tommy Brown wants to rewrite the music industry rulebook. The super producer, who has supplied marquee artists like Ariana Grande, T.I. and Chris Brown with boundary-shifting tracks, spent the past few years surveying the scene and witnessed how difficult it can be for up-and-comers to connect with more notable writers and producers.
"They say everybody has the same opportunities, but I don't think so...Some people are so creative they don't even know how to get it down. I'm somebody that you could bring your ideas to and we'll take it to the limits, to a place you never thought it could go. We want to expand the limitation of your lifestyle."
Brown knows a few things about the hardships of coming up as an underdog. A Pittsburgh, PA native, he spent his teen years soaking up the sounds of the era — Kanye West, Timbaland, The Neptunes — while developing his skills as a drummer at his local church. After saving up from work at a grocery store, he purchased his first drum machine, an MPC, and spent the next few years honing his sound. At 18, he decided to go for it — "I don't believe in a plan B," he says — and packed up his studio equipment to move to Atlanta and engrain himself in the local scene, known for its thriving music community and ability to dictate trends.
In ATL, Brown soaked up the sounds of the city, attending open mic events where he forged connections with fellow upstarts and sold beat CDs tagged with a sample of Notorious B.I.G. saying "Crack King" to prevent artists from stealing his material. The tag became his short-lived stage name and, as Crack King, he started producing tracks for Gorilla Zoe, Yung Joc, and 2 Chainz, then known as Tity Boi. But it was his next move that set his career into motion. In 2008, Brown signed with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, producer behind some of contemporary pop's greatest hits.
Under Jerkins, he worked on songs for Jennifer Lopez and Wyclef Jean, but it wasn't until 2012 that he felt confident enough to embark on his own path and break from Jerkins' purview. "Every bird has to leave the nest sometime"— a recurring theme for Brown, no stranger to taking chances — "and you don't want to do it too early or too late." In 2012, he signed with BMI, which in turn led to an independent production deal with Sony ATV. Since then, he's become one of the hottest producers across genres, helming T.I.'s "New National Anthem, "G.O.O.D. Music's "Sin City ," and four songs on Ariana Grande's chart-topping sophomore album "My Everything".
Brown is developing artists and songwriters under his Viatome imprint— all just part of his masterplan to set the new standard. "I see the business model. I don't know if that's going to be around too much longer, "he says. "I want to make it easier to push artists through technology as opposed to just labels and radio —and try to make artists feel good."