Bionik Brown
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Bionik Brown


Band Hip Hop R&B


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"A more intelligent brand of hip-hop"

'A more intelligent brand of hip hop'
Friday, February 25, 2005

Nathan Woods is wearing spotless black shoes, sensible blue jeans and a collared shirt with a sweater wrapped around his neck. As he sits in a fashionable Magazine Street coffee shop reading his newspaper, he looks like an average young professional.

But at night, Woods exchanges the clean-cut look for baggy jeans, a tank-top and a towel draped over his head, and a transformation is made: Nathan Woods, education outreach coordinator for the National D-Day Museum, becomes Bionik Brown, underground emcee.

Born into a poor household in New Orleans' Third Ward, Woods, 27, said he was raised by a loving and well-educated family and was always taught to appreciate the value of words. He received his bachelor's degree in English from Loyola University.

When Woods was introduced to hip-hop in the late 1980s, he found himself drawn to rappers he felt more accurately spoke to his life.

He said he never made a conscious choice to move away from the gangster rap popularized in the early 1990s but was simply more attracted to artists with whom he more closely identified.

"Part of it was that I had this high, squeaky voice," Woods said. "None of the thugs and the gangster rappers really sounded like me. But Q-Tip sounded like me, and Souls of Mischief sounded like me, and Pharcyde and people like that. And they were speaking a more intelligent brand of hip-hop."

When Woods began rapping, he built on the examples of the artists who inspired him. Now, as he continues to gain popularity as one of the premier underground emcees in the city, he feels the only way to stay true to his music and fans is to stay true to himself.

"I sat around for a lot of years like, 'what is my gimmick going to be?' " Woods said. "I didn't want to copy."

In the end, Woods gave up on the idea of maintaining a gimmick.

"I wouldn't want to be lumped in a category," he said. "Once you do that, people don't want to hear anything else."

Instead, Woods said, he prefers the freedom of hovering between categories, choosing to relate his inner city upbringing while at the same time speaking about social and cultural issues. But most of all, Woods said, he just wants to entertain.

After winning a number of freestyle battles in 2000 and 2001, Woods went on to show his song-crafting abilities on such CDs as "The Darkness and the Light," "The Cold Gumbo EP" and "The Lucky Stiffs Mix Tape." He is working on his latest solo effort with various local deejays.

"People are just ready to hear some substance," Woods said. "But they want to hear it from somebody that can make a catchy song. That's been my whole goal."
- Times-Picayune

"The Burgeoning Local Scene"

Rap session
In the underground hip-hop scene, gangsta rap is out and keeping it real is in
Friday, February 25, 2005
By Nick Pope
Contributing writer
The lights are dim. On a sparse stage the deejay is spinning records. The emcee grabs the microphone. All around young people in baggy clothes are sipping drinks and nodding their heads to the beat. All right, you think, it's time to get thugged out.

And then the emcee, Bionik Brown, opens his mouth and starts rapping about not getting a record deal: "I had to get free cause it just wasn't me/I wouldn't change to get my single played on Q93."

And that's when you realize that this is something different -- an emerging music scene that's beginning to make noise in New Orleans and across the nation.

This is underground hip-hop.

Such homegrown commercial rap stars as Juvenile, Lil' Wayne and Master P have sold millions of records by either focusing on booty-shaking "bounce" party anthems or "gangsta" tales of ghetto life and bling-bling fantasy. But underground hip-hop is gaining popularity among urban and suburban youth as a more realistic, down-to-earth alternative to the violent and misogynistic elements prevalent in commercial rap.

"Content-wise we move away from the bling and the thug," said Nathan "Bionik Brown" Woods, a rising star in New Orleans. "We just talk about what we have. We talk about our real lives as opposed to fantasy."

Born in Bronx

Hip-hop was spawned in the Bronx, N.Y., in the late '70s as deejays brought friends on stage during parties to work the crowd. These were the original rappers, who started out warming up the audience, but soon began rhyming to the beat. From these parties a genre emerged that would bubble over the next decade from a block party staple into a worldwide phenomenon.

From the start, rap music has carried out two objectives: to entertain and to tell real-life stories. Throughout the 1980s, the genre was explored by a variety of artists who created a similarly wide variety of music.

Though the gangster element was present in what is now known as "old school rap," the biggest stars of the era were a far cry from the artists of today. Run DMC admired their Adidas, the Beastie Boys fought for their right to party, and Public Enemy declined invitations to join the armed services.

In the 1980s it seemed there was room for all voices and perspectives.

But by the end of the decade, and into the early 1990s, the sound of hip-hop began to change. With the surprise success of the unapologetically crude and graphic group N.W.A., a new standard was set, and gangster rap took hold of the industry.

But there was a backlash. By the mid-1990s the underground emerged as an alternative outlet for artists and listeners whodidn't identify with the gangster message.

While the big-time rap and hip-hop scene was and still is dominated by a few dozen celebrities, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, performing in small clubs and recording on independent labels across the country. From this early underground scene have come artists like Eminem, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, Jurassic 5 and Kanye West, the 27-year-old Chicago-raised producer/rapper who this month won three Grammy Awards, including best rap album of the ear for "College Dropout."

West, known for relating everyday experiences coupled with positive lessons -- such as warning young people not to succumb to the temptations of quick money through drug dealing -- grew out of the vibrant Chicago underground. Many underground artists now look to West as an example of the possibility of making it big without compromising values.

"Anytime the national spotlight goes up on a national artist and it's something different, that's a beautiful thing, because that's how hip-hop started," said Yusuf Bastet, a local underground hip-hop concert organizer.

Keeping their day jobs

The local Cash Money and No Limit rap empires deal in millions of dollars. The lavishly appointed English Turn home of Cash Money Records co-founder Bryan "Baby" Williams and No Limit founder Percy "Master P" Miller's enormous Baton Rouge mansion have been featured on "MTV Cribs," a show that celebrates mainstream hip-hop's consumer excess.

While a handful of underground artists have made it big, the majority remain unknown outside of high school and college campuses and club scenes. For that reason most of them work day jobs and rap late at night and into the morning.

And they are unlikely to turn up on "MTV Cribs" any time soon. Uptown emcee Bionik Brown spends his days as the education outreach coordinator for the National D-Day Museum. Jeff "Jules" Chambless, 25, the owner of the independent label Media Darling Records, works at a PJ's Coffee; Media Darling emcee Roan "Know-One" Smith, 26, is his boss. The entire budget for the recent Media Darling compilation CD "The Humid Sounds of Media Darling Records" likely wouldn't match the ca - The Times-Picayune


"Bionik Brown and Deejay Quickie Mart Present: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Reunion Mixtape" -(2008)

"Platinum Thoughts, Aluminum Budget"-(2007)

"The Cold Gumbo LP"-(2005)

"The Renaissance Records Compilation"-(2001)

The Mental Metropolis album-(2000)

"The Darkness and the Light"-debut solo album (2001)

"New Era Starring the Young Lions"-(2003)

"The Humid Sounds of Media Darling Records"- RAP ALBUM OF THE YEAR-Offbeat Magazine



Bionik Brown is the ultimate DIY artist. Not many others have been able to tour nationally and internationally and move thousands of cd's without major label push. Bionik is the artist, the CEO and the street team (all in one incredibly handsome, talented...and humble package).

Bionik's recently returned from a European tour where he opened for legendary hip hop pioneers the Beastie Boys. He also toured Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and throughout the States in 2006/2007. Those travels are just the tip of the iceberg. There's much more to come for this Road Warrior as evidenced by his triumphant pillaging of the stage at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

After surviving Hurricane Katrina he's still reppin' New Orleans in a major way. Whether rocking with a band, the D.J., or both; Bionik's unique lyrical abilities and charisma translate perfectly to any venue and audience. Some say the show is a mixture of music and comedy. Even when the music pauses the jokes are still flowing!

Bionik's show is profanity-free and refreshingly devoid of negative themes. The positive approach is not a gimmick however. This approach doesn't take away from the impact or edge of the music but it actually enhances it. This English writing major knows words and wields them well.

Bionik Brown's music has been compared to many of the musical greats he's worked with including Common, The Roots, Andre 3000 of Outkast and Talib Kweli just to name a few. About his development, Bionik says, "I am influenced by life and good music regardless of genre. My City, and the South as a whole, have an amazing musical legacy and I feel privileged to be carrying the torch."

Now residing in Denver, Colorado (as a result of the Hurricane), Bionik is keeping the spirit of New Orleans music alive and well. He's a consistent critical darling and his presence on the landscape of contemporary music will undoubtedly be felt.

If you are ready for real live genre-defying music devoid of filler...look no further than the People's favorite underground lyrical Champ, BIONIK BROWN.

*Herman's Hideaway: Denver, CO June and July, 2007

*Plunge Music Festival: Telluride, CO 2006 and 2007

*Opener for:
-the Grammy-winning Roots crew from Philly
-The Beastie Boys
-Snoop Dogg
-Slick Rick
-Galactic (2005 Midwest Tour Opener)
-Mr. Lif
-De La Soul
-Cannibal OX

-Performer: GALACTIC's Coup De Gras at the Fillmore Auditorium 2006

-New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: 2005, 2008

*Rap Artist of the Year Nominee-2005 BIG EASY AWARDS

-Favorite Rap Artist Winner-Where Y'At Magazine Readers Poll