Homegrown garden-variety beats

The Overdub meets up-and-coming rapper Joash Brian at his home in London.

By Gianluca Pezzuti


In the London borough of Harrow, behind an unassuming house, people are making music – and they’re making it in a tool shed. The back garden shack looks like the type of sturdy lean-to where someone might hang their shovels or stash Christmas decorations, but beyond the shabby wooden walls is a laboratory of hip hop beats. This is Joash Brian’s second home. His actual home is five meters away.

“My brother and I built it ourselves about a year ago,” says Joash. He points to a square outline of bricks that surround the studio and says that they had originally built it much bigger but the borough had them it take down because of building regulations.

In the cramped darkness of the studio, Joash pens lyrics to a new song while his brother/producer, Herman, expertly spins and twists knobs on a sound board creating massive beats with deep warbling basslines that drown out the death rattle of the ancient space heater in the corner. They bob their heads in unison as Joash scribbles in a tiny notebook, his black braids hanging like a curtain obscuring his face. The brothers work together fluidly, talking in half-finished thoughts that the other understands.

“Having my brother in the studio, well, that’s someone who really gets me… it’s good to work with him because the feedback between me and him is really good. We don’t hold back anything.”

Soon producers and musicians arrive, filing into the already confined hut. Though hours go by, nobody leaves, and the studio begins to feel like a warm, thumping clown car. These musical creative types seem to gravitate to Joash’s studio. Along with a professional set up, he has the enviable quality of radiating capability and is somewhat of a Swiss Army knife when it comes to production skills.

“When I’m not writing or recording, I’m directing videos or editing video, so it’s pretty much constant, constant production. I’m always around the music, that’s all I do really. I go to sleep at five in the morning and wake up at eleven, back on the scene. It’s music, music, music.”

Joash’s multi-skill set comes from the winding road he’s taken to get to this point. Though he studied to be a cartoon animator, he found himself at the United Nations in Rome editing videos about agriculture. He says he owes his path so far to his multi-nationality.

“Being so multi-national is crazy. I’ve been in radio stations is Kenya. I’ve been in radio stations in Italy. I’ve been in radio stations in the UK. I’ve had different music for each country, something that appealed to that market, but I’ve been in living in the UK for a long time and that’s why my music and expressions are in English. But my Italian side really puts the emotion in the music, and the Kenya side is like finding my roots.

In a world filled with tens of thousands of aspiring wanna-be rappers, Joash maybe be the only Italian speaking British Kenyan. Even his dreams are cross cultural.

“I keep dreaming that I’m in Italy at my aunt’s restaurant,” says Joash. “But every time I dream of this place, it changes. Like, I know that I’m in the same place but the hotel is always different. I kind of find that hilarious.”

It’s reasonable to chalk up his strange dislocated dreams to jet lag, having just returned from Dubai where he shot a video for his newest song. Now he can add music videos on two different continents to his list of what sets him apart. The video is for a single that will appear on his upcoming project.

“Right now we have the Wonderland mixtape coming out. It’s really almost done and I’m finally happy about that… We’ve got a lot of features and collaborations, so you will be seeing a lot of me this year.”

Check out Joash Brian on facebook here.

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