Patrick "Sleepy" Brown Biography
Formed Organized Noize Production Group, Performed on OutKast Releases, Sported Sunglasses, Selected discography
Vocalist, songwriter, producer
When Patrick "Sleepy" Brown contributed the "I love the way you move" refrain to rap duo OutKast's 2004 hit "The Way You Move," it was only the latest in a series of irresistible hooks, steeped in classic Southern soul, that he had added to the recordings of rappers at work in the fertile music scene of Atlanta, Georgia. Many listeners assumed that such hooks had been sampled from the 1970s works of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, or other classic soul vocalists, when in fact Brown had composed them from scratch. As part of the Organized Noize production team and of the looser creative collective known as the Dungeon Family, Brown was one of the hidden forces behind the success of Atlanta-based urban musicians in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He made several attempts to break out as a solo artist on his own and, after several hit singles, seemed ready to emerge with the release of his For the Grown and Sexy album in 2005.
Born in 1970, Brown told an Africana Web site interviewer that he, like OutKast's Big Boi (Antwan Patton), had grown up in Savannah, Georgia. The two planned an album together called the West Savannah Project. His father, saxophonist and vocalist Jimmy Brown, played in the 1970s band Dazz, and Brown absorbed the desire to perform from him. Brown was old enough to remember 1970s vocalists like Gaye and Barry White, but as a teenager in the early days of rap he had another favorite. "I was a big fan of Big Daddy Kane, and he always looked like he was asleep," Brown told USA Today. "So I was like, 'What could be cooler than that?' So I decided to call myself Sleepy because that stood for the coolest of the cool for me."
Formed Organized Noize
Brown moved to Fayetteville, Georgia, near Atlanta, where Big Boi had also taken up residence. In the early 1990s, both gravitated toward Atlanta, where a creative arts and music scene was beginning to blossom around the city's Little Five Points neighborhood, among other places. Brown, who played keyboards and wrote songs, caught the attention of Atlantan Wade, who brought Ray Murray on board, and the trio began billing themselves as Organized Noize, giving production help to other Atlanta artists and sometimes performing as backup musicians or vocalists.
By 1995 Brown and his comrades in Organized Noize had scored several triumphs. They produced the hit song "Waterfalls" by the all-female group TLC, earning a Grammy nomination for record of the year the following spring. Another Organized Noize production was Goodie Mob's "Cell Therapy," which topped rap charts in the fall of 1995. Brown's personal breakthrough was a section of OutKast's "Player's Ball," from the duo's hit album of the same name. Brown's contribution, which he both wrote and sang, sounded as though it had been sampled from a recording by the philosophical 1970s soul singer Curtis Mayfield.
All these recordings had serious ideas and diverged from the violent themes popular among urban music audiences in the mid-1990s, which was much to Brown's liking. "To me, music from the heart is better than music from the pocket," he explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just sampling something and throwing somebody on the track works for some people. Yeah, you get rich. Get paid. Get your cars. Get your crib. But music from the heart always stays with you. Through the years."
Performed on OutKast Releases
Brown led a group of musicians who played on OutKast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album, and that group took the name Society of Soul and in 1996 released an album, Brainchild. One song from the album, "E.M.B.R.A.C.E.." got some radio airplay, but Brainchild failed to break out from the crowd of Atlanta releases vying for national attention. A solo Sleepy Brown release, 1998's Vinyl Room, met the same fate despite positive write-ups in music publications. Organized Noize formed a label and released albums by such acts as Kilo, Cool Breeze, and Witchdoctor, finding only moderate success despite distribution backing from the large Interscope label. The production crew continued to work with OutKast on their Stankonia album and found success in the soundtrack field, providing music from the 2000 remake of the 1970s hit Shaft.
By 2001 Organized Noize, OutKast, and Goodie Mob had become known as the Dungeon Family, and Brown had become credited more often for the hooks he added to others' recordings. Those included the 2001 single "Crazy" by child star turned teen rapper Lil' Bow Wow. But things really began to turn around in the fall of 2003 with the release of "The Way You Move" as the first single from OutKast's double Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, an innovative collection of diverse material that brought Atlanta hip-hop to a new commercial level. The song juxtaposed unusual rapped rhymes with Brown's classic soul hook, and it rose to the top chart levels in early 2004.
"Big Boi was actually going to give me that song for my album," Brown told USA Today. "But once (then-Arista president) Antonio 'L.A.' Reid heard the song, everything changed." Brown did not have a label deal at the time, but the hit raised his profile and he was soon signed to the DreamWorks label, which in turn was absorbed by his former distribution partner Interscope. Brown had another hit with "I Can't Wait," included on the soundtrack of the film Barbershop 2 and featuring OutKast in a guest role for a change. The romantic song was complemented by a video that depicted Brown as a fashionably dressed robber.
Indeed, Brown toned down the baggy pants and flamboyant jewelry known as "bling bling" favored by other hip-hop stars; his tailored look (accessorized by carefully chosen sunglasses) as well as his music recalled the soul music figures of the 1970s. "Everybody is getting older and things are getting more sophisticated," Brown told USA Today. "It's no longer all about the jerseys. Brothers are keeping it hip-hop with suit jackets and nice shirts." Brown built his popularity further with a featured guest appearance on "Blueberry Yum-Yum" by the chart-topping rapper Ludacris.
With a fresh image and several years spent building a familiar yet new sound, Brown seemed ready for stardom as his album For the Grown and Sexy received the finishing touches in early 2005. The album had originally been titled Phunk-O-Naut, but was restocked with more mainstream material after the success of "I Can't Wait" and given a new title, reflecting the same duality between experimental and mainstream instincts visible in OutKast's music. Regardless of the album's eventual fortunes, Brown had already had a big part in shaping one of contemporary hip-hop's most vital scenes, and he planned to continue his work as a producer. "I was just waiting for my time to come," he told USA Today. "Now the window has come, I'm climbing through it."
(With Society of Soul) Brainchild, 1996.
Vinyl Room, 1998.
For the Grown and Sexy, DreamWorks, 2005.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 14, 1005, p. D1; January 5, 1996, p. P5; December 28, 2001, p. P3; August 1, 2004, p. MS6.
Billboard, August 23, 2003, p. 37.
USA Today, March 8, 2004.
"The Africana QA: Sleepy Brown," www.africana.com/articles/qa/mu20040525sleepy.asp (January 17, 2005).
"Organized Noize," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (January 17, 2005).
—James M. Manheim
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