Its a great opportunity as an independent artist to be exposed to a new audience and Im also very grateful to Streeters who gave me my first chances to perform a few years ago, he says.
When most other 15-year-olds were playing video games or hanging out with their friends, Brandon Jenkins was writing song verses and turning them into raps. At 16, he was spending every weekend and vacations at the recording studio of Saginaw-based rapper/producer Astray, whom he impressed with an original rap when he met him at a local mall.
It was a lot of time away, and my parents made it clear I had to keep up with school if I wanted to pursue this dream, Jenkins said. They got a lot of negativity at first from people who thought rap was a bad environment for me to be in so young, but I became more determined than ever to keep at it.
In May 2006, while still a sophomore at Benzie Central High School, he released his first single Do It Like Me, which was followed two months later by his first album, Right Where I Want To Be, which sold over 2,000 copies statewide and launched him into local stardom. At just 17, Jenkins began playing at nightclubs downstate, where he quickly got a close-up view of the pitfalls of that lifestyle.
There were people all around me losing their lives and dreams to drugs and alcohol and I made the realization then that I wasnt going to let that happen to me, he said.
Jenkins began performing at Streeters in Traverse City with his mom in the audience due to him being underage, which gave him the chance to perform with the likes of The Ying-Yang Twins, Bizarre, MC Breed and Paul Wall.
In February 2007, Jenkins producer Astray was picked up by Web entertainment the same label that launched Eminems career. Eminem is my all time favorite and having access to the Shady Records studio in Detroit was like a dream come true for me.
It was also his senior year in high school and Jenkins knew he had to get that part of his life done so he could focus on his music career full-time. He graduated early with a B average, admitting he missed out on a lot of his high school years.
I never bonded with my senior class, and I know I missed a lot of school functions. It was a weird feeling sometimes to be working 14-hour days at the studio and be thinking that everyone else was sitting in class. But I learned to deal with it and made the realization that this is what it was going to take to do what I wanted.
Having a producer working in a major label environment fueled the fire for him to begin working on his second album Talk of the City, due out in Spring 09.
Jenkins also decided to contact an old friend from Onekama who had produced music videos, Keith Zielinski of 5830 Productions. They combined their talents to create a video that would help launch their careers into mainstream media. Zielinski organized the video and Jenkins put everything in to creating a hit single.
Jenkins then turned to Astray, who produced and is featured on the song Make A Flick, along with reggae star King Jazzy. Make A Flick is a catchy ringtone-friendly song about camera phones and the hip-hop scene. It debuted on Sirius Satellite Radios Shade 45 and the video will be premiering on MTV-U, BET and Youtube.com within the coming weeks. The single is also available for purchase on digital download sites such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster and E-music.
At 19, Jenkins is beginning to see the benefits of his years of hard work and can now support himself from his music. I come from very humble beginnings, he said, and I dont take anything for granted. I worked hard for everything I have accomplished today, and I try to tackle each project like its my first time at bat. I am amazed at how far I am today and excited about how much there is ahead of me. Music is my life, I would rather be at the studio than anywhere else, and I know all this hard work will pay off.
B. Jenkins performs with Marz, Critical Bill, Maniacal and Paul Wall at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 16 at Streeters Ground Zero. You can check out his music, up-coming shows or send him an email at: myspace.com/thebjenkins.