When the Raleigh rapper Malcolm Brown, also known as theDeeepEnd, was a child, he’d often sneak off to listen to New Orleans native Juvenile or Jay-Z. He found himself drawn to the music—his church-going mother, not so much.
Born in New York City, Brown and his mother transplanted to Charlotte, North Carolina, when he was six years old. This move was accompanied by a new relationship with religion for the family.
“The first year in Charlotte, my mom randomly takes me to church on a Wednesday night,” he says. “You know when they do the altar call? I don’t know why, but God picks me. He was like, ‘Yo, tell your mom, let’s go down there.’ She wasn’t gonna go [down to the altar], but I grabbed her hand and was like, ‘Mom, let’s go get saved.’ So we went down and got saved. And you know, it’s a good thing, but at the same time, I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for.”
Despite the rigid expectations of religion, beginning when he was seven, Brown found himself scribbling raps in his notebook during church services.
“I literally spent my childhood cast off from hip-hop, listening to Radio Disney and Christian music,” Brown recalls.
By middle school, he made the conscious decision to listen to rap, despite his mother’s wishes. His love for Kanye inspired him to not only consume the music, but also to embody it, performing in his seventh-grade talent show.
“The day of the talent show, my homie misses school,” Brown says. “So we’re doing the talent show, and it’s my turn to go. I go up there; I spit my verse. Everybody loves it, so I’m feeling myself, and because I’m feeling myself, when his verse comes on, instead of just ending the performance early, I try to freestyle and I have nothing! I choke. Everybody laughs at me.”
It took some time for him to get over the embarrassment, but by college, the thriving hip-hop culture embedded in North Carolina State University’s campus, alongside his love of writing poetry, helped him find his way back. In 2013, during his senior year at NC State, he dropped his first project, 13 Feet Deep. It was well-received on campus, and he branched out and began performing shows throughout the Triangle, eventually getting the opportunity to open for Big K.R.I.T. and local superstars Kooley High. Since then, he’s landed prime performance slots at Packapalooza, Hopscotch, and Beats n Bars Festival.
Throughout all this, Brown credits God for placing the right people in his life at the right time. Whether it was receiving a used MacBook or beat machine from an old roommate, or networking with a novice videographer interested in creating free visuals for him, making music has always come together in a kinetic, authentic way for Brown.
Since his first release, Brown has put out a steady stream of projects: Think Good Thoughts (2017), Calm (2018), Verano (2019), and northern.lights (2020). His newest project, In My Head, was released in early December as a Bandcamp exclusive. The album has since become available on other platforms.
With each release, Brown offers listeners a new conceptual theme, ranging from introspective and reflective to uptempo and celebratory. A true Scorpio, he sees music as the tool he’s most comfortable using to self-reflect. And his stage moniker captures the essence of where he resides, at his core: on “the deeep end.”
When describing In My Head, he notes that the project is on a frequency similar to Think Good Thoughts, but “times 1000.”
The pandemic quickly shifted our collective understandings of normalcy; for Brown, it forced him into isolation and triggered a series of self-reflective conversations about life. These are all documented on In My Head.
With each successive release, Brown has also become more intentional about marketing his projects, often by showcasing his skills as an emcee or producer. This includes his decision to release In My Head through Bandcamp—over, say Spotify or Tidal—as it’s a platform that centers artists and aims to create a more sustainable music economy. The album’s rollout was also impressive: Brown provided his audience with visuals, including short two-to-three-minute “episodes” featuring the creatives who contributed to the project.
“My music is too good to not be heard,” Brown says. “It’s not a sense of entitlement, like, ‘People have to hear me,’ but it’s kind of just like, I should be doing everything I can to maximize [every project’s] visibility. One way I’ve grown is I now read and study marketing. I utilize my resources. Also, I’m super focused on the artistry side, because you could do all this marketing stuff, but you also have to have a good project.”
Mastering this skill—one most indie artists struggle with—has paid off and allowed him to make more revenue off of In My Head than previous efforts. The project also recently landed on Bandcamp’s “Top 50 Best Selling Hip-Hop Albums” rolling weekly list, an accomplishment worth celebrating.
And Brown isn’t letting up, either. He has a clear understanding of where he needs to go.
“I’m trying to continue to learn the business,” he says. “This includes figuring out more creative content to post, building my team out, and learning from others. I feel like I’m getting close to my 10,000 hours as a rapper. I just need to make sure my business is correct.”
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