I think I’m similar because I rep my city. You know, I rep Frisco to the fullest and 40 reps Vallejo and the Bay to the fullest, and Jack reps the Bay and, you know, Quinn reps the city; and you know, so forth and so forth. We’re similar in that aspect. I dunno, I just got a different vibe. I was incarcerated for eight long years, you know. When I left the Bay, it was still a lot of people talkin’ about social issues and things of that nature. I came home to a new Bay, you know? It was hyphy, it was wild, you know? It was real different and that kinda threw me for a loop. You know, at first when I first came home I tried to get along with the Joneses just to get on, but that’s not me. The style that I actually have, I been workin’ on for years.
GW: What makes you different and similar from other artists in the Bay area? Specifically commercial artists like E-40?
CARL B: I think I’m similar because I rep my city. You know, I rep Frisco to the fullest and 40 reps Vallejo and the Bay to the fullest, and Jack reps the Bay and, you know, Quinn reps the city; and you know, so forth and so forth. We’re similar in that aspect. I dunno, I just got a different vibe. I was incarcerated for eight long years, you know. When I left the Bay, it was still a lot of people talkin’ about social issues and things of that nature. I came home to a new Bay, you know? It was hyphy, it was wild, you know? It was real different and that kinda threw me for a loop. You know, at first when I first came home I tried to get along with the Joneses just to get on, but that’s not me. The style that I actually have, I been workin’ on for years. I love R&B also. I love the soul. I grew up on Sam Cooke and Al Green, all those records. I grew up with all of that. My mom played that all day: jazz, Al Jarreau and things of that nature. I want to keep the soul in everything that I do, ‘cause I feel, somewhat, that’s what’s missin’ from the game.
GW: You have a book out?
Carl B: I got a book comin’ out, it’s comin’ out in September. It’s called 2 Sides of a Penny and it’s world related. I’m not gon say street related, ‘cause there’s things goin’ on in the richest parts of the world too.
GW: You have a soundtrack to go along with that?
CARL B: Yeah. We knocked out a soundtrack. The soundtrack is bangin’. Basically, it’s me and a couple members from my crew and we put together a real soulful soundtrack, man. I got a lotta R&B in it. It’s just real dope, man, real dope.
GW: How old, or young are you?
CARL B: Ooooh, I can’t tell you that! No, I’m playing. (Chuckles) I’m gon pull a Rick Ross right quick and tell you I’m 24. (Chuckles again) Na, I’m actually 29.
GW: Just touchin’ 30! How do you feel about that?
CARL B: Oooooh! You know what? We all wanna be young, but I just feel like 30 is just a number, man. Actually, I was always told by a lotta OGs that you start really livin’ at 30. When you’re goin’ through your 20s, we’re doin’ wild shit: partyin’, your not really bein’ responsible, you know, your credit get all fucked up. (Laughs) When you hit 30, man, everything starts to make sense. I guess that’s where I’m at right now, things are just makin’ sense.
GW: You mentioned your incarceration. When did you go in?
CARL B: Oh man, I went in in ’97. I had just turned 18.
GW: What exactly happened?
CARL B: You know, it’s just pharmaceuticals. Me and my crew dealt heavily in pharmaceuticals and arms and nothin’ lasts forever, especially when you start to get a little bit too greedy in the game. They always watchin’. I actually have a song on my EP called “Q&A.” I really don’t talk about it too much. It’s the past, it doesn’t justify who I am today.
GW: It might have changed where you were headed. You came out with a new appreciation for life?
CARL B: It definitely did. I will say, my incarceration was the best and the worst time of my life. It was the best because, you know, us in regular world, livin’ daily life, it’s one thing we don’t have: time. You know what I’m sayin’? Especially if you’re workin’ toward somethin’. I’m sure you’re a very busy woman and I’m a very busy man. Right now, I don’t have the same time that I had back then to really just completely delve into myself, ‘cause everything is go, go, go, go, go. You know what I mean? So, that’s the one thing that was a blessing. I feel like the State of California actually fucked up, ‘cause that’s one thing you never give an ambitious person is time. I got all the time that I needed and I sat back and came up with my plan, you know, worked on my flow daily. I got boxes of raps, I’ve never used one yet since I been home. That was a different part of my life. Nobody wants to hear, “I’m in this cell and these punk-ass COs,” you know what I’m sayin’? I try to keep my music to what I’m goin’ through in my life. Right now, I’m a happy person. It’s my job, my responsibility because I been through certain things and have certain knowledge, to let the public know and let the fans know, the people know about certain aspects they might not have looked at before. The ‘hood experience is really not scary to people no more. (Laughs)I seen a little white lady walkin’ a little Paris Hilton dog through West Oakland the other day. It’s been put out there so much, “I’m hard, we got guns all day nigga, and whoopdy-whoopdy-whoo.” It’s been put out there for decades now. A lotta people don’t wanna hear that anymore. They wanna hear somethin’ that they can vibe off of, that they can learn from. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s a different time in music now. I say all that to say that yeah, it really did humble me and made me who I am today.
GW: Where were you when you were locked up?
CARL B: I was at High Desert State Prison first then I spent a lot of my time in Tracy.
GW: You tell artists to get out of the Bay area. You’re still in the Bay area?
CARL B: I still live in the Bay area. There’s a difference. I’m always outta town. My flyer miles are ridiculous right now. I’m always networking with people in different regions. They love it. It’s hard for anybody that starts out [to get] that love at first from where you’re at. Sometimes, with the Bay, a person has to leave for people to recognize who he was at home, you know? After goin’ somewhere else and becomin’ great then, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, he was great! I remember him! CB, yeah I knew that nigga was gon be the shit!” You didn’t know nothin’, nigga. You just seen the mothafucker on BET and now you all of a sudden dick ridin’. But, you know, you want people to hear you globally, man. You want people to feel your music, you don’t wanna just get a home standpoint. I got fans in France right now, UK and shit. I never thought that imaginable. I got people really spinnin’ my shit overseas and everything. That’s where the love is, you know?
GW: Who’s influenced you in the rap game?
CARL B: Oh, man, so many. What made me wanna start rappin’ was two people. LL Cool J when I first seen him, when the nigga had the Kangols and tight whatevers, sittin there, “Nobody could rock quite like I can,” you know? You was feelin’ it. LL was my first influence. When I seen that, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a rapper. Along the time, as I started growin’ up a little more, Quinn, San Quinn actually influenced me a lot ‘cause we the same age. I think he’s a year or two older than me, but whatever. He was a young nigga, spittin’ from my area. It was just ill, I loved the way he used to spit and everything too. He was an influence. 40, of course; Short; you know I’m just givin’ you how it was for me at first before I started reachin’ out to a global scale. 2Pac, Digital Underground, even fuckin’ MC Hammer. You know what I’m sayin’? Mufuckas is frontin’ like they didn’t listen to Hammer. Niggas know they couldn’t touch this. (Laughs) That’s how it was for me in the Bay, once I started reachin’ out to a global aspect: Scarface, off top; Andre 3000; Common; “Jigga” Jay-Z; Nas; Meth and Red, I love them niggas; The Duck Down crew, I used to listen to they shit a lot too; Goodie Mob; Ice Cube; Snoop, Snoop is my nigga. America loves Snoop. That nigga is hilarious. You know what I’m sayin’? He makes good music still and his personality and swag is just all Snoop. It’s not created by anybody else. That’s Snoop right there. That nigga is like that whether you sittin’ back in the studio smokin’ a fat ass blunt with him or whether the nigga is on TV. He is like that all day long. You know? I could really respect that.
GW: Do you see yourself as having that kind of swag? That “this is Carlton B.” swag?
CARL B: Oh yeah, without a doubt. My swag is not contrived. It’s not based on anybody else. I’m Carl B 24/7 man. If you was sittin’ here we’d be eatin’ eggs, watchin’ the game, talkin’ the same shit. (Chuckles) You know what I’m sayin’? That’s who I am, man, all day. You know how some niggas is gangsta for about eight hours out of the day and then they go home like, “Hi Darling, I would like some steak…” (Chuckles) The shit just isn’t real. Who I am is who I am all day long.
GW: Tell me about a typical day in the life of Carlton Brown?
CARL B: You know what? Ya’ll gon make me switch my name to just Carlton Brown instead of Carl B., ‘cause my government be gettin’ thrown around so much. (Laughs) I been doin’ a lotta shows lately too, ‘cause people be goin’ to my Reverb site or just word-of-mouth, they be like, “Yeah, Carlton Brown!” I’m like, “Fuck, man! Look it’s Carl B., but OK, fuck it.” But, typical day: I’m getting’ up very early; crack of dawn; try to get in some gym; pray off top. If I don’t have any interviews or things of that nature goin’ [it’s] emails all day, blastin’ out music, man, and connectin’ with different people across the globe. I was actually supposed to be workin’ on a mixtape with Stretch Money out of New York. But other than that, it’s studio all day, you know, I’m writin’; actually startin’ a video team now too. I might have to write treatments all day. But, majority of the time, I’m in the lab, man. I have over 100 somethin’ songs recorded. That’s just for daily grind, I love the studio. If I could be a artist where I didn’t have to do club walkthroughs, be over here doin’ this, makin’ appearances, you know, tryin’ to build this buzz up like crazy, if I could just be a fuckin’ artist that sits in the studio all day and makes music and other people do the work, oh man, I would love to be that type of artist. For real, ‘cause I’m a studio junkie. Either studios or makin’ videos, ‘cause that’s kinda like my new flame right now. I’m really diggin’ videos.
GW: I saw the “Rainstorm” video.
CARL B: That was just a little somethin’ to show so the people can see me. Before I started doin’ my videos I was in a position where I wanted to build a relationship with the director. Not just, I’ll cash you out to do my videos; I wanted to build a relationship where somebody could understand my visions. I write all the treatments for my videos. I just want somebody who could understand my vision and bring that vision to life and also be a humble, cool person. A lotta people in this industry are very, very Hollywood, “One nigga bought my CD. Aw, nigga I am the shit!” (Laughs) You know what I’m sayin’? A lotta people just can’t wait to let they head explode. I wanted to find somebody real humble and I did with Gino Rocks. He’s a great director, a good person, really humble dude. He taught me a few things and I got the video buzz now. Now, me and my team have equipment and shit, and we actually gotta go finish shootin’ this joint tomorrow.
GW: Which video is that?
CARL B: I’m doin’ “All Around the World” now. That’s my lead single.
GW: Who’s the singer for that?
CARL B: That is my sis, Monica Murphy, aka LadySoul out here in the Bay Area. I think she just gon’ roll with Monica Murphy right now, though. Me and her, man, we recorded so much music together, I’m on a lotta her joints too. Me and her should just release a fuckin’ album, shit. We got hella music together. She’s a great person, man, very humble. She’s funny as hell, too. She’ll have you dyin’. She needs to be a comedian, damn near. Any artists, ya’ll need to listen to her voice, get at me. She accepts the work all day long.
GW: You’ve also connected with Luncacie from Dark & Lyht. Is he a producer for “I’m Fly Baby?”
CARL B: No, he didn’t produce that one but he’s on the hooks, though.
GW: You both opened up for T.I. and Lil’ Wayne. How was that?
CARL B: That was big, man. That was like one of the best experiences I’ve had. Since then, I’ve opened up for a lot of other people. That was like the first time doin’ somethin’ on that scale, you know, with two artists of that level. It was a packed house and we had a ball, man. I learned a lot watchin’ those dudes’ stage performances. It was real dope and we had the people rockin’ too. It wasn’t just like they was waitin’ there on T.I. or anything, they was rockin’ with us.
GW: Where was it?
CARL B: It was in Rochester, New York. We had a whole crew of mufuckas get in a redeye flight real quick and we was out there.
GW: Earlier, you called yourself a “studio junkie.” Did that experience make you want to perform live more?
CARL B: Um…yeah, definitely. The thing about performing live is a live show can make or break you in front of an audience that doesn’t know who you are. I think a lotta artists need to recognize that, ‘cause it’s not about just gettin’ up there and lettin’ the music come on and just walkin’ back and forth. It’s like, if they don’t know who you are they just gon stand there and watch you, you know what I’m sayin’? I tell everybody, man, crowd participation is everything. Make them people get off they feet, “Ya’ll in this mufucka, say ‘Yeah!’,” whatever, you know what I’m sayin’? It may seem corny but shit, man, you gotta make people react, let ‘em know you’re fuckin’ there. Like Bernie Mac said, “I’m not scared of you mufuckas.” I love performin’ live. It gets me goin’. Yeah, it made me wanna get down a lot more. Since then, I have.
GW: How did you cultivate your skills and your hustle?
CARL B: Above all else, before I’m an emcee, before I’m anything, I’m a writer. So, you know, eventually if you sittin’ down writin’ all day, if you start just sayin “A, B, C D, E, F, G…” eventually you gon get up to z. By time you get to Z, you gon be sayin’ Z a whole different way. You gon have a lotta swag added onto that Z. So, that’s how the skills came. As far as the hustle, the business will teach you that. I tell everybody, man, “All you cats sittin’ back, waitin’ for a major deal, if you’re waitin’, you’re gonna keep waitin’.” It’s not like fuckin’ Cadillac Records days or when Puffy found Biggie or shit like that. It’s not like that no more. There’s no more artist development. There’s no more puttin’ hella time and energy into creatin’ an image for artists or anything. Yo, you gotta come in as a full package and that full package also includes business. It doesn’t include you just bein’ in the lab makin’ hot joints or whatever like that. They wanna see a businessman, they wanna see somebody charismatic, you know, people wanna see an image already packaged up and ready to go; only thing they gotta do is throw a little dough behind it, you know what I’m sayin’? The hustle came from that and knowin’ that I’m a hardheaded-ass dude that don’t wanna bow down to, “Yo, Carl B., this is how we’re gonna make you: you’re gonna be this type of guy, you’re gonna sell out crazy records, and lick your lips and flex your pecks a little bit.” I’m not that type of nigga, you know what I’m sayin’? You might get a couple licked lips (Laughs), but I’m not that type of dude. The hustle just came in by makin’ people respect me. I make me and so far people have been diggin’ that. They dig the Carl B. brand, who Carl B. is, you know? Everybody needs to get out and create themselves. Get your own fans, make a buzz for yourself, create relationships, network with people. Networking is the number one key to this game. After networking, it’s knowing that, nigga ain’t nothin’ for free. Real talk, though, nothin’ is for free in this game, man. If you don’t have your money right, Pac told niggas a long time ago, “You can’t go to war if your money ain’t right.” You gotta have your ends right. You gotta be prepared for it. I know mufuckas might be like, “That’s all bad, I shouldn’t have to pay for this shit.” Well shit, man, they ain’t doin’ videos just for free. We start with a passion but we end up a business at the end of the day and artists need to recognize that. That’s my Hustle 101. (Chuckles) Take notes.
GW: What is the best networking connection you’ve made so far in the game?
CARL B: My main producer Poetiq Beatz. Since I first stepped out the pen and was like, “It’s time to get on these bars, get on this mic,” that’s been the best connection I’ve made in the game.
GW: You call him P-O also, right? How did you meet him?
CARL B: Right.This was years ago. My mans was actually was dealin’ with my god sister. She was like, “Yeah, he be rappin’ and got a whole bunch of this goin’ on,” and I’m like, “OK.” So we start fuckin’ with each other for a minute. He’s like, “Yeah, I’m finna go over here to meet this dude, go to the studio. We gon shoot a DVD and shit. You wanna come?” I’m like, “Yeah, OK, cool.” So we get over there and it’s actually P-O’s house. P-O is just sittin’ there playin’ crazy tracks and dude is feelin’ none of ‘em. These were the illest fuckin’ joints I heard in hella long! It had that soulfulness, that vibe that I like. You know, so they shoot they little DVD part and like, “Yo, Ima get up outta here, man,” and I’m sittin’ there vibin with P-O, I’m like, “You mind if I stay?” He’s like, “Yeah, it’s good.” So, I ended up stayin’ and the rest is history.
GW: In what kind of ways are you a leader outside of music, in your community?
CARL B: I’m gon be honest, I’m on Carl B. status right now. I’m just worried about tryin to get this music out, man, and become a staple out here in the Bay area. That’s the main thing but other than that, it’s just a lotta stuff goin’ on. The hardest thing about bein’ a leader is tryin’ to get people to understand your vision and get a room full of people on one accord. As far as community-wise, I havn’t put a lotta effort into it. I’ve mentioned before, we need to start doin’ some nonprofit shows and tryin’ to get locally big name artists to dudes from nonprofit things to donate to some of these causes. You know, everything is finicky, ‘cause some of these causes you might donate the money and nothin’ ever gets done, but whoever runnin’ that cause has a brand new whip. So, as far as right now, I try to do it through the music, man. I try to give some type of message and try to give some words of wisdom through some of the music, man and hopefully people latch onto it. In the Bay area, it’s a lotta stuff goin’ on right now that’s hurtin’ the people. I want people to understand that when I say “the people” I’m not meanin’ just Black people, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m meanin’ all people in general. Whether you Black, White, Mexican, Indian, whatever. I wouldn’t give a fuck if you landed on the planet yesterday, (Chuckles) if you strugglin’ I’m talkin’ to you too. I would hope that after this interview, my phone would ring off the hook with other leaders who do wanna make some sort of change, man, that would at least try to contribute to a cause of makin’ somethin’ better. It’s fuckin’ off the hook out here right now. It makes me wanna not even watch the news, but you have to.
GW: You mentioned you’re doin’ Carl B. right now. Does that include any kids or a wife, or girlfriend?
CARL B: Naw, naw, naw, naw, naw, naw. (Laughs) I just checked my stats the other day and it’s crazy, ‘bout 90% of my fans are all women. That fuckin’ tripped me out! I was like, “What? OK. Aight.” You know, I don’t participate in groupie love and all that no more. I used to but I don’t get down like that no more and just to keep it all the way official, I do have a fiancée. We tryin’ to make history over here. She wants a baby but I don’t know if I’m ready for all that yet.
GW: A quote you use often is something along the lines of, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say nothin’.” Tell your fans something good.
CARL B: I love ya’ll. I feel like love, at the end of the day, man, is the strongest word ever. It can mean so many things. I don’t love ya’ll on no sappy-ass, “Oh, Ima cry,” and all that shit, but I do this for ya’ll. I’m not a greedy-ass person, man. I don’t do this shit for all the money in the world. I do this ‘cause I want ya’ll to love the music, man. I want ya’ll to feel inspired and feel that ya’ll could become anything that you want, regardless of whatever your economic standpoint is in life. You could do what the fuck you wanna do. Don’t let nobody tell you what you can’t do and if they tell you [that]you can’t do it, man, work 110% to prove it to yourself first, then to them, throw it in their face that, “Muthafucka, I could do what I want.” That’s the best thing I could tell ‘em. Ya’ll be ready for In the Beginning EP. It’s just a little something I’m droppin’ just for ya’ll to get a vibe and get a taste of what’s to come. Then, The Exquisite is gonna be the album. In the Beginning is gonna be out in July. Ya’ll look forward to it. I’m lookin’ at July 25 right now. Ya’ll log onto my Reverbnation, man: www.reverbnation.com/carltonbrown. I got some joints up there, man, free downloads. You know, got videos on there and the whole nine; a lotta shows comin’ up. All of that’ll be on my Reverbnation page. Ya’ll check it out.