From talks about the crack epidemic that plagued major cities like D.C. and NYC in the 80’s to the transition of a jazz/musician oriented culture to now a dominant hip-hop culture, hear all of what Braxton Cook had to say.
I Am The Industry: What made you begin to create music?
Braxton Cook: I grew up on soul and R&B Music. That music always made me feel good and makes me want to 2-step. So I’ve always wanted to create music that made people feel the same.
IATI: Ok what’s been the hardest thing about trying to pursue music as a career…your biggest challenge so far?
Braxton Cook: The hardest thing about pursing music as a career for me has been finding the balance between being a sideman and and being a band leader. Playing in other bands obviously helps you develop as an artist and pay bills, but also takes a tremendous amount of time away from your own individual projects. One of my biggest fears is waking up and being 30 something years old having never gone after my own dreams in music.
IATI: Right that would be a horrible regret. What’s your biggest regret so far if you have any? Music or personal?
Braxton Cook: I try my best to work on my music a little bit everyday no matter where in the world I am or who I am playing for. You have to be adamant about your dreams. I’ve found time is the most valuable asset out here
IATI: What’s your biggest life regret?
Braxton Cook: My biggest regret in music is not working on my singing voice more seriously when I was younger in choir and doing musical theatre.
IATI: Who’s the best singer right now to you?
Braxton Cook: Best male singer out now… I mean it’s probably John Legend to me. Obviously not of all time
IATI: So what do you think of singers now, notably mainstream artists?
Braxton Cook: My favorite RnB guys now are… Anderson Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid, Ro James, Miguel, and Frank Ocean. Those are my go to guys. I like the mainstream R&B guys, they are incorporating more elements of rap in their songwriting which I think is a cool.
IATI: So are you a musician or a singer?
Braxton Cook: I’m a musician first and foremost. My first instrument was piano, then saxophone. Alto sax is my main instrument.
IATI: Nice! Where are you from?
Braxton Cook: I’m from the DMV area, grew up in Prince George’s county, Maryland. Then moved to Montgomery County for high school. We call it DMV -DC Maryland and Virginia.
IATI: I know a lot of people from Baltimore. It’s pretty rough out there.
Braxton Cook: Lol yea it’s all the same vibe. Yea man Bmore is real.
IATI: What do you think the problem is?
Braxton Cook: Similar to Chicago its got a huge disparity between the rich and poor. I find in a lot of port cities you see a lot of crime because that’s where a lot drugs made it into the country
IATI: So you believe the government is the real criminal?
Braxton Cook: Bmore is still suffering from latent effects of the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s.
IATI: So you believe the government is the criminal or should those people take accountability?
Braxton Cook: Absolutely the government is responsible.
IATI: But the government isn’t physically selling the drugs. How is it their fault?
Braxton Cook: It’s obviously way more intricate than that and difficult to text… But yea the govt. is responsible for drugs getting into impoverished areas in our country. And Baltimore, New Orleans, New York, DC, Chicago suffered tremendously.
IATI: Do you know anybody personally affected by that?
Braxton Cook:I don’t want to call anyone out by name, but I’ve literally played with a few musicians that suffered from the crack epidemic in DC. They are incredible musicians and taught me a lot.
IATI: Wow! What’s one of the craziest stories they’ve told you?
Braxton Cook:Well one of these guys, only 50 something years old, I remember he took his denchers out and described to me what DC was like before 1990. It sounded like a nightmare. Just empty viles up and down the streets. Same with NYC too. These cities have been cleaned up since then and unfortunately that means that an inordinate amount of African American have been incarcerated for petty crimes during that period.
IATI: Do they talk about how music used to be better and things like that?
Braxton Cook: Yea absolutely.
IATI: Do you agree?
Braxton Cook:They always tell me how the music scene has become “soft” and “less passionate”
IATI: Right! I actually agree. Do you?
Braxton Cook:This is a result of music become more institutionalize do but also culturally jazz became more elite through the 90s and 2000s. Yea I think they are totally right. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing though. Hip-hop sort of took its place.
IATI: You’re one of the few musicians who feel like that because you guys are actually losing a lot of work because of beats and producers.
Braxton Cook: Jazz used to be the voice of the youth in the 20s-40s. Then rock and roll took that place then hip hop and now trap music.
IATI: Wow! Trap music.
Braxton Cook:Yea it’s crazy. It’s not really about the music content just the beat and the sound.
IATI: How do you feel when you know a lot of great musicians getting less work and some artists that seem less musically inclined doing great?
Braxton Cook: There was always dance music that contrasted the more nutritional music of the day. I truthfully feel like musician have to play the long game. This trap sound will eventually fade and some of these artists will get their 15 minutes of fame and money and move on. I don’t feel bad about it. I just hope they are saving their money because these things are fads and they will fade.
IATI: You might get attacked if we post that statement.
Braxton Cook: But it’s real. Yea but that’s how I feel. I’m not saying it’s bad music, I turn up to the same stuff everyone else does but I just don’t see it lasting more than 5 years. On the other side, I think musicians can learn something from popular music.