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.
As Mint Condition perseveres in its noble efforts to preserve the legacy of true R&B, the group has released "Music @ the Speed of Life," now available in stores and online outlets.
The self-contained band, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011 with the critically acclaimed album titled "7," lives up to its usual high standard on its new 13-track disc, and Stokley's recognizable lead vocals are as clear and compelling as ever.
"In the Moment," the opening track, is reminiscent of the R&B/Rock fusion that became so popular with true audiophiles in the 70s through artists such as the Chambers Brothers, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone and Buddy Miles.
Mint Condition is comprised of superb instrumentalists, and their material is quite sophisticated musically. Unfortunately, such excellence is not routinely awarded in today's cloned, auto-tuned musical landscape, and I applaud their adventurous spirit as far as employing the captivating instrumental grooves and rhythms heard in "Blessed" and "Girl of My Life," although their tracks are missing the strong hooks present in their captivating hits, "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" and "What Kind of Man Would I Be," which demanded radio airplay and seduced you into singing along.
Even so Mint Condition never disappoints, and you can hear live renditions of the new material from "Music @ the Speed of Life" when the band comes to the Keswick Theatre, for one show only, on October 7 at 7:30 p.m. Their special guest will be singer/songwriter Vivian Green.
Of their latest collection, the band says, "Life was our inspiration; fast-paced, multi-faceted, adventurous and ever-changing. Our music is drawn from various sources, and the lyrics speak to the hard knocks as well as the triumphs of life."
"In the Moment"
"Be Where You Are"
Longtime fans of singer-songwriter Vivian Green won't be disappointed with her new album "The Green Room" (eOne) as she returns with a more R&B sound on a record that oozes growth and creativity.
Stepping away from heartbreak ballads such as her 2002 hit single "Emotional Rollercoaster" and the pop sound of her previous album "Beautiful," it seems the Philadelphia-born Green has made a conscious effort to focus on the happier side of love. That's a decision sure to satisfy fans.
"Anything Out There" is the first single and Green gets straight to the point professing her love for her man. It's a smooth, contemporary vibe and she sounds mature showing off a classy, sultry side.
"Remedy" is a sweet, uplifting song about love making everything better and "Still Here," featuring Brian Culbertson, captures a perfect match between his smooth jazz and her soulful melody.
Fans wanting to hear more upbeat sounds will relish Green's collaboration with guest rapper Freeway on "X." ''I'm Not Prepared" offers a groovy start, but becomes one of the album's few disappointments when the track somehow fails to take off completely and turns tame.
This record demonstrates a positive response to critics of her last album. Green shows she's listened to and answered any doubts regarding her ability.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Showcasing her unforgettable vocals, Green bares her soul on the expressive "Free As A Bird." — (AP)