At the age of 14 Albert Jason Brown III aka Al B. Sure! learned that he had the Quincy Jones bug, which is a calling to all aspects of music—performing, composing and producing.
“I started out doing my thing on the music side, but as a professional I also produced my music and other artists. My camp at that time consisted of K-Ci, DeVante and JoJo of Jodeci, Faith Evans, Dave Hollister, Case and others. Uptown Records was in full effect at the time and it was a rotating pool of young talented people who all ended up working together and we became family.
AL B. SURE!
“When Benny Medina called me regarding producing music for Tevin Campbell, I wanted to make sure that I was creating something especially for him. I noticed that a lot of producers would take on a project and just write and submit songs that they came up with instead of taking the time to focus on that artist. Even though our production team, Kyle West and Al B. Sure! focused on what was best for the artist, we still kept our signature sound. It’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel, but if you have a sound that feels good and people like, we would keep that flow going,” said Al.
The Urban Kontent Brand and the Gift of Music presents “Al B. Sure! Live at the Shadow Lounge” located in East Liberty, Oct. 23 for two shows. The first show is from 8-10 p.m. and the second show is from 11 p.m.–1 a.m.
William Daulton, president of the Gift of Music, is excited about this event and looks forward to bringing many more artists to the Pittsburgh area in the future.
“I recently became interested in promoting artists when coming back to Pittsburgh in ’08 and seeing a lack in the live concerts scene that was being produced here. I love all styles of music and intend to expose Pittsburgh to a wide genre of modern artists. I intend to bring national R&B, jazz, gospel and hip-hop acts in town throughout 2011-2012,” Daulton said.
Justin Strong, owner of the Shadow Lounge, is also excited about the event.
“In the short time that I was introduced to William Daulton of the Gift of Music, we started talking about getting artists from the West Coast to perform at the Shadow Lounge. He’s a musician and has connections and he made a phone call and now we have Al B. Sure! performing. Everyone should be on the lookout for a lot of artists coming through to perform. You can visit the Shadow Lounge at www.ShadowLounge.net for information on upcoming events and to book your own events.
“Pittsburgh has always been an amazing spot to come to where you have the grown and sexy population that appreciates good soul music,” Sure said. “They are hungry for it and can’t wait to hear the old songs again. It’s going to be an amazing event because we are going to embrace each other. The ladies and the fellas are going to travel down memory lane and go over the whole catalogue and get it in. They’re also going to enjoy hearing every sound just like the record from back in the day. Bring everyone to the show because it will be like a family reunion with everyone enjoying the old classics and new music, too. It will be a great atmosphere of everyone going down memory lane.”
When talking about today’s artists, Al is a fan of some of the music, but not all.
“Without knocking anyone else’s hustle, technology has allowed a group of individuals into the music industry that wouldn’t be there before. At the same time, I like the creativity and you can’t stop technology. When you hear the new versions of what was creativity through the new technology, I find it quite interesting. I don’t love it all because I am still a student of Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Johnny Mathis. I have to listen to that to refresh my memory of what real music should sound like. If you are ever looking for anything trendy from Al B. Sure!, you are never going to get it because you are only going to get real organic soul music,” he said. Al worked hard early on to achieve his goals and dreams in the music industry, but it was a contest that launched him to fame and fortune.
“There was a contest called “Sony Innovators” from back in 1987 or 1988. I submitted my cassette and about 300 people submitted their cassettes for a nationwide contest in search for new innovative R&B signed and unsigned artist. The final judges were Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Herbie Hancock chose a guy by the name of Terrance Blanchard who was a brilliant jazz musician and Quincy Jones chose Al B. Sure!. It was an incredible blessing because from there we developed a relationship and I was able to hone in on my skills. I was able to become a well-rounded person as a producer and an artist. It also allowed me the opportunity to understand the industry and I thank God for that because I’m still here 25 years later,” he said.
There was always a question from the public whether the voice you heard on Al’s recordings was his voice or not. The voice you hear on all of his recordings is definitely his voice. Back in the day he would use a vocorder as a feature because it was a great sound.
“On my debut album “In Effect Mode,” Al B. Sure! used a vocorder, which an electric device used to alter the voice. Some musicians in the industry have used the vocorder to enhance their singing. We only used it on some tracks as a feature because it sounded really cool, but artists today are using auto-tune to sing through their lead vocals to keep them on pitch as opposed to just using it as a feature like we did back in the day with the vocorder. When I worked on Jodeci’s debut album, I made it a point to not to use a vocorder. They are phenomenal singers, but even when they would slightly go off pitch, I would not change a thing. It’s called nature and it still sounded great. Auto-tune is a little different than a vocorder. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune. While its main purpose is to slightly bend sung pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament), auto-tune can be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised or lowered significantly,” he said.
Al B. Sure! has worked with a lot of artists over his career and you could always tell which record he wrote or produced because he has a signature sound that is unmatched by other producers.
“Working with Tevin Campbell was a great experience, too. Producer Kyle West and I produced his album called “T.E.V.I.N. Campbell” which was well received. If you listen to the album, you’ll hear me, Ki-C and JoJo singing the background. They also did the reference vocals for Tevin. What that means is we did the songs first. Ki-C, JoJo and myself sang the lead vocals and gave the songs to Tevin to study and then we went into the studio so Tevin could duplicate what we did on record and it blew up like crazy,” he said.
He has many musical influences, but he talks about Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Teddy Riley.
ichael Jackson is an artist that is gone much too soon. I give nothing but peace and blessings to his family and his mother Katherine Jackson. I actually do a tribute to Michael Jackson on my latest CD. I did a remake of “Lady In My Life” which was released the day before he passed away. There is so much influence in my music from Michael Jackson. When you are touring and doing songs, everything is spiritual. It’s not a performance or something that is contrived, it’s truly spiritual. When I’m in the studio and I’m channeling Michael Jackson and you have Quincy Jones sitting across from you, it’s hard not to have Michael’s influence in your music. When we did “Secret Garden” a lot of people have told me that I sound like Michael Jackson in that song. Teddy Riley was a big influence on my career. I was sitting in the living room when we lived in the projects and Teddy mentored at that time. The blessings in terms of my musical life has been the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to be tutored by the likes of such people as Quincy Jones and Teddy Riley. Quincy Jones was polished and the avant garde musical cat and so was Teddy Riley, but he was street with his musical style. Teddy Riley was gritty and it was hip-hop. He was like Quincy Jones in the ghetto. Teddy Riley was so brilliant because I had the opportunity to sit in the studio while he was working with Keith Sweat. It was incredible watching him making the equipment dance. We would sit there in amazement and watch him put songs together. You would sit there and wonder how is Teddy Riley going to make this work in a song, and he would find a way to make it work,” he said.
He said his mother was sick this year with cancer so he took off work after wrapping up the Donald Trump show. He helped nurse her back to health, and now he’s back on the road again.
“If you want to get into the music industry, please go into your parents’ and grandparents’ collection of music. If they have vinyl records and there is a record player around, try and discover the sound of real soul music. If you can’t find a record player, then go to iTunes and look up soul music from the 1960s and 1970s and get the feel of what real soul music is all about.”
TV-ONE is an amazing network with positive African-American executives who are trying to make a difference and bring positive images to the screen, he said. Sure had his 21st birthday on Trump’s yacht. They have a great relationship that goes way back. Trump created a show called “The Ultimate Merger” where 12 individuals from different walks of life were placed together to see who would end up with Omarosa.
“I was cool with doing the show because I had already been friends with Omarosa for a number of years anyway. We would always see each other at different functions and were supportive of each other so I thought it would be very interesting.
“Currently, I’m in negotiations with Bentley Evans and Kyle Upshaw, who are the creators of the “Jamie Foxx Show” and the “Martin Lawrence Show,” to produce our own scripted and unscripted programming. The latest CD I have out is called “Honey, I’m Home” and it’s very simple. We are definitely keeping true R&B with this record. There is nothing really trendy about this record. We have real songs and real music on this record.”
(The Al B. Sure! official website is www.AlBSure.net.)