Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, Alicia Keys' longtime songwriting and production partner, is ready to break out on his own with a hip-hop debut, the EP Take Da Hood Back, set for February release.
Although part of a duo responsible for nearly twenty million albums sold worldwide, the New York native needed to branch out. "I felt the only way I could have the power is to stay independent," says Krucial.
Krucial met Keys in the late Nineties, both part of the fertile creative scene centered around the East Village's Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the two began working together in 1996. Keys released her breakthrough debut, the multiple Grammy-winning Songs in A Minor, five years later.
Krucial and the R&B star also co-own a production company together, the New York-based KrucialKeys. Two of Krucial's new tracks -- "Take Da Hood Back" and "They Don't Understand," featuring his hip-hop protege Illz -- can be streamed from the company's official site, krucialkeys.com. Their sound, says Krucial, comes as much from his knowledge of R&B as his love of hip-hop.
"The first music that I ever claimed as my own was hip-hop. Yet the music we were sampling was those old soul records," says Krucial, who's also produced tracks for Nas, Christina Aguilera and Mario. "Knowing how to make those sounds that I like from those old records just makes me more dangerous."
While at work on his own music, Krucial is also at work with the man who inspired him most as a teen, Rakim. "It's an honor," he says. "To me, he's the epitome."
The legendary MC has been largely silent since 1999's The Master, and his tenure on Dr. Dre's Aftermath label ended when the two hip-hop giants couldn't see eye to eye on an album that was never released. Krucial met Rakim two years ago during the recording of "Streets of New York," a song off Keys' second album. "He reached out to me," says Krucial, "and we had hours of conversation." When the pair agreed to collaborate on a track, he adds with a laugh, "we come to find out most of our conversation became the rhyme. And I was like, OK, this works!"
Meanwhile, Krucial and Keys will probably begin working seriously on her third studio album in the latter half of 2006. "We're always working on things. I'm one of those workaholic cats," he says. "But that's better than sitting at home imagining and hoping."