Emo and hardcore bands like Times Like These and The B List dominate Long Island’s music market. But then there’s Kenny Brown, a man you wouldn’t hear at your local Zumiez, who currently stands at the forefront of producing and performing some of the more diverse and experimental music on the Long Island music scene.
Since 2015, Brown has been running a small independent label called For Prophet Records that he says aims to bring independent, DIY musicians together under one banner, while also creating a sense of emotional growth within music.
“I wanted to show music as something that can be a helpful tool,” Brown said, regarding his motivation for starting this project. “Let’s try to do something different, and grow. Let’s water the seeds. Everybody has love inside of them. At first, it was just me for a while, now it’s starting to come together more and more. The idea is to have a collective of artists who work together and separately as well.”
His music takes influence from two different places: the sounds and aesthetics of Native Americans and the blues of the early 20th century. This is evident in songs such as “Exodus.” The deep, depressed, yet determined vocals create an epic sound to the simplistic, heavily string-based instrumentals that play behind it. The instrumentals are complemented by harmonicas, snare drums, even a delicate horn section. There are many references to nature: mountains, the forest, and the higher powers that be.
Part of that indigenous influence comes from Brown’s interest in Native American spiritual rituals. A few years ago, a friend took Brown to a small meditative ceremony. After it, he felt rejuvenated and more spiritually free. He believes the experience allowed him to create a more personal connection with both himself and his audience. “I try not to let the mind get in the way of the soul. Because if it’s coming from the soul, then it’s automatically flawless. That’s already perfect.”
On Brown’s upbringing, he grew up in a typical, average American family with his mother and father in the Long Island suburbs.
“For a while, I had a really strong church background that I’ve definitely noticed the influence of that into adulthood,” Brown said. “I got really caught up in that and then in high school I just completely rejected that.”
Despite this, his religious side still speaks through his mentality when writing his music. “I read the Bible until I was 12, so I have the seeds of those truths embedded in my brain.”
His music radiates with a passion-driven emotional energy, and religious, spiritual intuition. It is something that you can hear within the meditative guitar rhythms. Even with his music videos, he creates this atmosphere of spirituality. The latest video for his song “Exodus” features him letting the energy of nature consume him. He seems to be letting all control of his body dissolve as he lets the powers that be guide him through the woods. Brown and an actress eventually let loose and freely dance around the dense woods, navigating its twists and turns, intercut with images of meditation and singing near campfires.
Brown had a strong background in spoken word and freestyling. But following high school, he dropped out of Suffolk County Community College because of an epiphany to pursue his passion for music.
Brown hit an impasse in September 2014. “I was going to stay with a friend from Oslo, Norway. And they welcomed me to come stay with them for as long as I wanted. I had a mandolin, and figured I’d just play in the streets, find some open mics, maybe record an album while I’m there.”
Later on, Brown ended up stumbling upon someone who he describes as “way more official than [Brown] was.” His name was Ragnarok, and according to Brown, he was a pro at DIY street performances. He had all the equipment and bravado that Brown lacked at the moment. The two, seemingly out of nowhere, began performing together for a short period that day.
During their multiple visits to Norway, the two crashed on various couches and in hotels while performing for little to no money. The two performed at parties, open mics and in the streets of Norway. It was an experience that, while technically proved to be unsuccessful, inspired Brown to move forward and push harder to make content and to find himself spiritually.
The experiences that he had over the past few months had opened his mind to the harsh realities of performance life and society. However, they had also inspired him to channel the personal struggles he faced and infuse them into his lyrics, while also is playing a sense of hope and promoting perseverance.
Since returning to Long Island, Brown has been working in construction to support himself as he pursues his music and running his independent label on the side. Brown seeks to learn how to find the line between artistic indulgence and broad relatability with his music. He hopes to resonate with people with his music, and with his art in general. His most recent album, “Tobaccocao,” is currently available on Bandcamp.com.