Pen master Bobby Brackins’ first introduction to the music biz started where most careers began: MySpace. Before breaking the Internet was weekly routine for massive celebrities, the West Coast songwriter had a track called “Ride Or Die Chick” with his group, Go Dav, that “went super viral before going viral was even going viral.”
Taking advantage of the exposure on the World Wide Web early has positioned Brackins as one of the top songwriters in the industry now, having written hits for Chris Brown (“Loyal”, “Came To Do”), and Tinashe (“2 On”). Although Brackins has found success at the top of the charts for other artists’ records, it’s his time to shine.
For VIBE’s latest installment of Views From The Studio, Brackins highlights the success of “2 On” and “Loyal,” songwriters getting the credit they deserve and making music to last for generations.
VIBE: How old were you when you wrote your first song?
Bobby Brackins: I was writing songs when I was in elementary school. If I had a journal, I would write songs in it and I wouldn’t even record them. I would write raps in it just for fun. When I recorded my first song, I was probably 16, and then with a bunch of friends, we just wanted to start making music. It was called “Guns And Bitches.” It was hella out of pocket, but we were having fun. That’s the first song we actually made.
What inspires you to write a song?
It normally just comes to me. The best songs, I don’t think about too much. I like to make my music from scratch with the producer there so I’m able to tell him noises to take out, sounds to add in. I’m heavily involved with the beat-making process because I can’t write a dope song if I’m not in love with the beat. Once I’m in love with the beat, it just comes to me.
When did you know songwriting would be your career?
I didn’t. I’ve always been an artist that didn’t have people do hooks on my songs. I would always write them for the other artists. Eventually people were like, ‘You’re dope at writing these hooks. Can you write me a whole song?’ I ended up writing people’s whole records for them. It’s cool being an artist and songwriter because I’m able to a lot of swapping. I’ll be able to write your song, but I’m going to need you to do a hook for me, or come out and perform it with me. It’s a leveraging to it honestly because I’m one of the best at what I do and people are starting to know that. All of the bigger names are starting to make music with me because they know they’ll be able to get a lot from me in return.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block?
I did for a period of time where I was just writing a bunch of songs aimlessly and I wasn’t in love with them. That was about six years ago. There was a six-month period where I was just not able to write anything that I loved. I eventually got my mojo back.
You wrote Ray J’s “I Hit It First.” How did the conversation to do the track play out?
I think it was [meant] to be a song for anybody who has an ex and you see them move on. You should probably still have some type of feelings for them but you have an upper-hand on the person they’re with because you’ve been with that person first. Ray J’s life is really public and people took it for different things. Even if we did “Loyal” for Ray J, people would’ve assumed Ray J is talking about certain people. I wanted it to be just a universal song that anyone could relate to.
Were you prepared for the attention the song received immediately after it was released?
It was crazy. He called me the second it came out and he was like, ‘Whoa! I don’t know what’s going to happen with this song, but people are definitely paying attention to it.’ We checked online and literally every blog that I can imagine posted the song. It’s a great record, and it had a lot of controversy tied to it, but even if it didn’t, it would still be a fun song. The controversy outweighed the impact of people being able to listen to the song. Instead of the song having a universal feel like, ‘This song could be about my ex,’ people just considered it a Ray J controversy song. It’s cool, it got a lot of attention at first but it didn’t stick around as long as it could’ve if it didn’t have that much controversy around it.
You also wrote two of 2014’s biggest songs, Tinashe’s “2 On” and Chris Brown’s “Loyal.” How did you link with them to create those tracks?
I wrote Tinashe this song called “Chainless” and then she had another song called “Boss.” They both did really good virally and she signed with RCA. She was signed for like a year-and-a-half, but she didn’t put out any music so I called her to the studio myself. I was like, ‘Come to the studio and let’s work on some music.’ She said she was still working on her album [and asked] if we can keep this song [“2 On”] for herself. I was like, ‘Sure,’ and we made the song. Her label loved it. It got her an album release date and all these tours. As far as Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” my friends Ty Dolla $ign and Nic Nac laid the groundwork of what it became. We laid the format and the foundation of what the song is. Me and Ty were going to use it for my next single, but I’m happy at the end of the day, we gave it to Chris because he killed it and he took it the top.
Do you think songwriters may not get the credit or recognition they deserve?
Yeah, for sure. Normally a lot of producers get shout outs, but a lot of artists are intimidated to shout out the songwriter because they don’t want to give credibility away, or take away from their artistry. I don’t think that’s a problem at all because I’m a songwriter and if someone comes in and helps me write a song, I would give them credit for it. We all contributed to that together, but a lot of artists with egos don’t really want to shout out who was behind the songwriting aspect of the song because they want people to think they did it. They have no problem shouting out the producer of the song because people aren’t expecting them to produce the beat. Songwriters kind of get a little caught up in the background and it’s all good. That’s why I like working on my own music so that people can know where the sound is coming from and that I’m talented. I’m writing a song from somebody else and for myself, which is just good music.
Walk us through the process of creating your current singles “Hot Box” with Mila J and G-Eazy, and “My Jam” with Zendaya and Jeremih.
I wrote Zendaya’s first song when she came out at 12 and it was a song called “Swag It Out.” That’s my little homegirl. I’ve been really cool with Jeremih too, and we have a song called “180” that came out five years ago. We’ve just been supporting each other. As far as G-Eazy, he’s from Oakland too, which is Bay love, and he knew about the group I was in, Go Dav. He works with me just because he grew up to the same stuff I was listening to. We’re pretty much the same age, but when I was in high school, I had one of the most popular songs that came out of the Bay area. He knew about me already and I got hip to him. He’s super dope, talented and humble. It was a great connection. As far as Mila J, me and her went on tour together with Ty Dolla $ign and we became friends. It’s all organic connections, basically establishing relationships and taking it from there.
We still listen to songs from the ’80s or ’90s as if they just dropped yesterday. What do you think is the recipe to writing a song that has that type of longevity?
It’s a song that can transcend generations when it comes out, like a song that a 12-year-old can hear and love, and a song that a 40-year-old can hear and love it. Songs that can transcend age gaps when they first come out normally are the songs that are going to be able to last and people are still going to love them 40 years from now. Good music doesn’t die. Motown, for instance. That’s some of the best music ever made. When the songs came out, everybody knew it was a new wave. That’s what I do with my music. I want it to have longevity. I don’t want to make music people are going to like for a couple of years. I want to make real records that can be considered classics because they’re being played 30, 40 years from now.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself hopefully with some Grammys, MTV, iHeart, and BMI Awards with a couple of my artists under my belt who are killing it. In 10 years, I want to have a cool life, maybe a kid, and being able to support a lot of my friends and family’s interests and endeavors they want to do. I’m just trying to work so I can be comfortable, happy and healthy. That’s what I’m doing now, but I want to keep pushing it to the limit.
Photo Credit: Audible Treats