Q&A: Deezie Brown On Paying Tribute To DJ Screw, Working With Chris Bosh & Creating His Own Sound
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
The South still got something to say. This year, Houston rap has been revisited after George Floyd's connection to the Screwed Up Click was examined and a young TikTok user was criticized for claiming chopped and screwed music was really "slowed and reverbed" invented by modern electronic deejays, not the legendary DJ Screw.
In the midst of these waves, two Bastrop County artists — Deezie Brown and EC Mayne — combined forces to drop "Candy Blue Like Screw," a syrupy smooth LP paying tribute to their roots while sharing their personal stories of struggle and conquer. This is the same area that Robert Earl Davis Jr., EC's cousin, called home before moving to the big city and building his legacy as the leader of the Screwed Up Click.
Brown crafted the production and skeleton of "Candy Blue Like Screw" for EC Mayne for when his partner-in-rhyme was released from jail. They have a unique working relationship that allows them to pay homage to their hometown and DJ Screw in an authentic way. Brown himself is carving his own lane in music, blending Southern grit with East Coast flair.
Among the nine tracks on the album is "Miss Katie," a tribute to EC Mayne's late grandmother that's produced by former NBA great Chris Bosh. The 11-time All-Star hadn't played a game since battling physical ailments in 2016 and officially retired in 2019. In an interview with Sports Illustrated about stepping away from the game, he discussed how music helped him have a new life after basketball.
"I’ve made many friends, I’ve had a lot of conversations, I’ve had some great moments making music with people, learning about music," he shared. "Putting records together, working with artists, that has brought me a lot of joy. And I’m glad that I’m in a place where I can really, really put myself into that and learn the craft. It’s been four years now. I’m getting better and more savvy in the space. I’m super happy that I have music. That was another thing, when I asked myself, what am I going to do? I had a guitar in my hand, and the next thing you know I was producing music."
Bosh connected with Brown in the most simple way, via DMing him on Instagram. They've since created a strong working partnership, which has taught the rising star some life lessons about the true meaning of success.
We spoke to Deezie Brown about "Candy Blue Like Screw," working with Chris Bosh and his own musical legacy.
How did the concept of "Candy Blue Like Screw" come about?
Deezie Brown: That project itself was one I was working on for a while. I think the original idea came from [EC Mayne and myself] being so close to DJ Screw. We’re from the same county. So we wanted to really try to pay homage and continue his success in the most positive way. In my head, I knew that they were working on a movie based on his life and I wanted to make sure that the people back home [get their recognition]. The biggest thing that people think is that he’s from Houston, which is totally fine. We love Houston. I always say in all of my interviews, I went to school in Houston, that’s my second home, I love it there.
But I was just more focused on the people back home where he was from. I wanted those people to have a voice whenever that movie did come out or if it was coming out or anything like that. My goal was for the county to have a voice in that. Knowing EC and knowing him being from Smithville, which is the same place as Screw — I’m from Bastrop, Bastrop and Smithville’s in the same county, Bastrop County — EC’s actually from Smithville, which is where Screw was born.
I felt that it was only right. I had been doing music with him since I was a kid, like seven years old. I felt it was right, he had just gotten out of jail and I knew he had a lot of stories to tell from being in there and then kinda just coming up and then being so close in relation to Screw. I was like this is perfect. I basically told him, "Hey look, I’ll make the beats, I’ll write out all the tracks, all the track titles, all you gotta do is the lyrics and you got an album." He took that and he got it done within a month and we just ran with it. Of course the word "candy blue" comes from Screw’s Impala, his ’96 Impala. So we kinda ran with that as a reference and paid some homage and yeah, just looking forward to it doing what it does.
It’s definitely such a cohesive project and a statement of the South.
Deezie Brown: In my head, I was worried because I made it more on a sensitive type of Texas. A lot of people were used to just the slow loud and banging and the loud in the trunk and "I'ma go down" and that type of thing, which is totally cool. But I was working to go on more of a "Queen & Slim" vibe because those are the actual stories that are being told from the county like where we’re from. That’s the difference from Houston and Smithville, just different stories and I just wanted to make sure both were told.
In general, hip-hop can be more materialistic, but to hear those stories is so powerful.
Deezie Brown: As far as mainstream goes, it’s just like what’s being shown on the screens? What’s the content that’s being shown as in ok, this is what success is? That’s cool. It took me meeting Chris Bosh to actually see both sides of it. That’s cool, I just wanted to be able to showcase the people that can’t speak for themselves, the people that may not have music or sports, but actually do want something to say. So that was my whole reasoning behind it pretty much on the real.
What were those lessons that you learned from Chris Bosh?
Deezie Brown: From my perspective being local all my life, I really lost interest in the “celebrity” word. I lost interest in the word “famous” and all that stuff from being an artist and going into my 30s and not seeing anything out of it. I was like alright, I don’t wanna be famous. That’s something I don’t want anymore. But when I met Chris, I learned there’s a lot of different things and a lot of different levels of success. It doesn’t have to be a “famous” thing, but you still can be so high up that you’re still going be perceived as that, just because of the success and the work you’ve put in. So he’s always telling me, "I know you don’t want these things, but still shoot for the stars and then you’ll figure out everything else when you get there." And that’s a pretty cool approach to take. It keeps me busy and it allows me to do underground music, it allows me to do mainstream music, it allows me to just expand my horizons. So it’s all about learning, the learning curve.
That makes sense. If somebody wants “fame” that can be perceived as “selfish,” but sometimes it’s about wanting to be a positive influence or wanting to be the best at your craft. Naturally, the other stuff comes with it.
Deezie Brown: Yeah, because a lot of people don’t understand. It’s like ok, I don’t want to be famous. But the job I’m asking for, coincidentally, probably is someone that’s probably famous. It’s just a way of thinking about what you want out of your craft. Do you want to be famous? Or do you want your craft to be fun? And you wake up every day and you’re doing something that’s fun that HAPPENS to make you money? I feel like if an artist can get to that level, just like for a vibe, if you can get there and say hey, this is fun to me, and I so happen to make money off of it, then you are ultimately at the spot you need to be at. There’s no such thing as fame and all that stuff, when you can say that, then you’re good to go.
How did you initially meet Chris Bosh?
Deezie Brown: I met Chris, he hit me up on Instagram. It’s a crazy story I always tell. But a short version, he hit me up on Instagram, he had checked me out in like a Texas monthly magazine that I was in. His wife had found an article in there. Instagram is a powerful tool. He hit me up on Instagram, he was like, “Your music’s dope.” And I kinda just reached back at him and said, “Hey, let’s link up,” kinda just shooting my shot. He said, “Yeah, let’s link up in a few days.” So we linked up, talked music, talked basketball. He said that he was wanting to get into music. He’s entering a life after basketball. He wanted to try some new things and figured he’d start with a local artist. That was like two years ago.
Then to today, we have some stuff we’re working on like an album and another EP as well. It’s a story that’s basically you just never know. You never know who’s watching. That’s another thing with the whole famous thing, an 11-time NBA All-Star, 2-time NBA Champion just randomly hit me in my DM. It’s not a thing of a flex, it’s more of a thing of like yo, just keep working, just keep going and we’ll figure it out. It’s been cool knowing Chris and I’m looking forward and so excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on.
And he produced "Miss Katie" on "Candy Blue Like Screw?"
Deezie Brown: Yeah, he did produce "Miss Katie." Chris is actually growing by the day as a producer from the first time I met him. He actually produced “Miss My Woe” for Gucci Mane. He produced that one as well, which was pretty dope. But yeah, he produced "Miss Katie." My boy Dillon played some guitars underneath it, but other than that, yeah, that was pretty much all CB.
It definitely has a cool, groovy bass line and there’s distinct elements to it that are very cool that not just any producer would think of.
Deezie Brown: It reminded me of a beat for a record that like Z-Ro or Tre [Tha Truth] would choose in the 2000s and that’s why it touched me so much and I knew that once I added those guitars underneath it, that it gave me like a UGK feel. So yeah, a very interesting record. Then the content of the record, of course, is one of those that you can’t really go away from. It’s really telling a story and I think with everything going on these days, music is going to get back to that storytelling vibe. So yeah, a pretty dope record.
For you putting together that production and crafting what you had already built, how were you able to weave in that song sonically into the overall vibe?
Deezie Brown: I think that record actually came from a beat pack I had from Chris. EC had just got out and I was like, "Yo man, I’m kicking it with Chris Bosh." And he was like, "Yo, play me some beats, see if anything work." So I sent him like four beats and of course I had already had everything picked out for the album and he wrote that record, he’s like, "Yo man, look, I know you already got everything planned out, but I wrote this song about my grandma." I was like, "Alright, come over, record it, let me hear it." I was like yeah, that’s going on the album. So that was one of those things, EC as an artist stepped up and was just like, "Yo, I believe in this song and I wanna put it on the album." I kinda just went with it and I trusted him. And we got it done.
What is your working process with EC like? Especially working with someone for so long, what’s it like to have that trust?
Deezie Brown: It’s always good having that in your corner. It’s almost like having a secret weapon in your back pocket. Like I said, we’ve been knowing each other since we were kids. And then as we started to grow, our styles in music started to change, so we were a little distant from each other for a couple years. Then this latest time when he had gotten out of jail, I knew the route that needed to be taken, but I couldn’t take back when we were friends earlier because I just didn’t know the people, I didn’t have the resources, I didn’t have the platform, I didn’t have any information. So when he got out this time, I was like, "Yo, I think I have everything I need this time to help this kid out." It’s always cool having especially someone from back home that can go toe to toe with you like that on an album.
Even just in general Houston music and DJ Screw has been in the headlines with George Floyd being part of Screwed Up Click and the whole Chopped and Screwed ordeal on TikTok, what does it mean to you to be a part of that, especially with more eyes on that right now?
Deezie Brown: You know, for me, I really have to go back and think of that myself. We are the kids from the county that are up next. I just feel in my heart, if he was alive and he were to come back home, we are the kids that are there, that have conquered the entire county musically. So I just feel like in my heart, it’s my duty, it’s my duty to continue the legacy in whatever way I can. Not in a disrespectful way, not even saying I’m a part of Screwed Up Click, or I’m a part of anything. I’m not saying that in that way. I’m saying it’s in my duty as a musician, as a creator to continue this legacy in whatever way I can. So us being from the same county, yeah, it means a lot to me and it puts a lot of weight on my shoulders, but it puts me in positions to where I can challenge myself as an artist and just continue to grow. So yeah, super exciting.
You’ve created your very own distinct sound. Your "Judith" album had a lot of Kanye West, GOOD Music, luxury rap weaved into your own voice. How have you been able to craft your own music?
Deezie Brown: My dad’s music selection really help me mold myself as an artist. When we were younger, I listened to a lot of UGK and a lot of Jay Z coming up. So I had a lot of East Coast, but I had a lot of Southern vibes as well. So I think growing up with UGK continuing to put out albums and Jay Z continuing to put out albums, I was just so into East Coast and Southern music together, there wasn’t a day I wasn’t listening to UGK and wasn’t listening to Jay Z. I was so hip to both cultures that I never chose a side. I just always blended it.
Then when I started to grow as an artist, I knew that I was different. When people like Andre 3000 were surfacing and pushing towards what they believed in and creativity, I knew that Outkast would definitely be a group that I’d have to blend in there as well. So I think for me, it was just growth and then becoming brave enough with myself and with my voice and then just looking up to the guys that came before me as references. Put all that stuff in a cup, mix it with a little Travis Scott and you got Deezie Brown.
As an artist, I think you have to be brave enough to know hey, man, we’ve got to take these influences from somewhere. It’s not copying, it’s not biting, you’re just learning as you go. I feel like "Judith" was definitely an album where I was just really trying to test myself as an artist. I wanted to see what autotune really did. I wanted to rap about things that I didn’t have, just because I wanted to tell this cool story about what was going on in my imagination. So yeah, it was a creative trip I guess is what you can call it. It’s been a journey. I guess that’s how I’ve found my sound, just growing.
Is "Big Pimpin" like your favorite song then? UGK AND Jay Z.
Deezie Brown: Ahh, it’s definitely a record that if it comes on in the car, I’m turning it up to like 30. So yeah, it’s one of those songs.
That was such a moment in hip-hop.
Deezie Brown: Yeah it was and just reading the backstory on it is cool. Just knowing how Pimp [C] was a little skeptical on it. It showed how authentic he was willing to keep it and his willingness to protect the South at any cost. That was everything for me. Even seeing how successful Jay Z’s career panned out, it makes the story even more better knowing that it was like alright ok, go ahead and bridge this, let’s do it, let’s get it done. We’ve got to do more stuff like that these days. We’ve got to do more Southern-East, East-West. Let’s just get it back where it was.
But yes, "Judith" was such a cool project. It was so unique, but so relevant. Because sometimes when things are unique, they’re random, but it was so relevant.
Deezie Brown: It’s that and then I had just had a kid at the time, too, so I really had to swing hard. I was like alright, I gotta take some punches because I gotta get out of here. And then it was more of like an audition tape for Kanye. I didn’t make it for people to understand because I knew if Kanye heard it, he would understand it. It was a weird place to be in like as an artist, this was 2017, it was a weird place to be in. But I don’t know, creatively, it just drove me to like make music in the coolest way. So it worked for me at the time. It was a process, looking back. Woo!
How has fatherhood changed you or put things in perspective for you?
Deezie Brown: I think what fatherhood has done for me is it showed me what motherhood was. That was really the most important thing for me. I didn’t really understand, well I understood it, but I just didn’t see it firsthand on how important the female race is. Having my first kid, it showed me a lot about what I need to be doing as a man and as a father because of the amount that the woman has already done. That alone before the kid even gets here put me in a whole different perspective.
Then when my daughter got here, it allowed me to really face my anxiety head on without anything else. Just head on meditation, breathing. Because you want to go through all of those steps without any help so you know the real pain of what your child is going through and you don’t really know that if you’re taking pills or doing whatever. Not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, I just really wanted to go through the mental cycles of anxiety correctly. With this virus going on and with the rioting and stuff, it got really bad. But I’d say with her growing, she’s four now and just with how my career has panned out, with Chris Bosh it’s nothing but clear proof that I’m headed in the right direction. Fatherhood has saved me, I will say that.
In general with the coronavirus pandemic and then we have racial tensions going on and the sports world sat out their games. There’s a lot going on.
Deezie Brown: Yeah, that was amazing to see because I felt like that was just the first time the players were like ok, this is enough. Ok, this is enough. We’re not playing. We are standing up. That and then for once, people could understand what Colin [Kaepernick] was going through. I seen all those things saying that we need to apologize to him and people like Kyrie Irving. I was glad that those guys took a stand. Even Kenny Smith walking off air, that’s huge because what’s going on in the world is not right. I can’t say that I have a solution, but I am here to say that I’m honestly here to help in whatever way I can to push the envelope and get us moving forward. If stopping NBA games and protesting is the route, then sign me up.
At the end of the day, I was sitting there like that one day is going to be in the history books. We were just sitting in history.
Deezie Brown: I feel like we’ve been sitting in history all year. This is one of those years. But like Chris tells me all the time is we just didn’t know how good we had it. I’m not saying that this purposely happened or this is some kind of myth or biblical thing, but more on a mental stage, it’s like yeah, we didn’t know how good we had it. Before this happened, I wasn’t going on walks. I didn’t know how valuable walks were. Now, if I miss a walk, I feel like I’m missing something in my day like a meal. It’s like being able to enjoy the beautiful things that were created on this earth besides the materialistic things that we see, which has been great. So I think yeah, it’s been a record year, but on a learning perspective, I think as a whole, we know which direction to walk in now and that’s great.
Anything else that you wanted to discuss or share?
Deezie Brown: I’m working on new music. I can’t talk a lot about it because I want to keep it a surprise a little bit, but I am working on music, some new stuff, it’s like a new-sounding Texas type of thing. I’ve been listening to Kanye West, but then I’ve been listening to UGK at the same time. Then I’ve been listening to a little bit of Outkast, but then I’ve been mixing the Outkast with my Jay Z vibes. So I think for the first time, I’m able to put out an album that sounds like an East Coast-Southern album. It almost sounds like — and this is me tooting my own horn just because I want to right now — it almost sounds like Andre 3000 and Kanye West getting together and producing this album for this kid in Bastrop, Texas. I honestly made it in that perspective. If my OGs were here Ye, Andre, Pimp, Bun [B], we’re all in this room and we’re gonna make an album, what’s it gonna sound like? This is it. I’m excited to show that stuff off.
This story is a collaboration with Kick The Concrete. Read EC Mayne's story here.
Listen to "Candy Blue Like Screw" below: