The Bay Area is home to so many talented musicians, and Bobby Brackins is one. Born in Berkeley but raised in East Oakland where he spent his entire life before coming to Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter achieved much success early on with his hit single “143″ featuring Ray J — which took over radio airwaves, clubs, and functions all across the States. Now one decade later, the song finally officially becomes certified Gold.
Since then, Brackins has lent his strong pen game to numerous recording artists, working with elites such as Justin Beiber on “I’m The One,” Tinashe on “2 On,” and Chris Brown on “Loyal.” In 2016, he unleashed his standout EP To Live For, spearheaded by standout hits “Hot Box” featuring Mila J and G-Eazy and “My Jam” featuring Zendaya and Jeremih.
Bobby describes himself as “a unicorn, I’m a plethora of things. I could be a weirdo, I could be cool, I could be chill, I could be wild, I could be spontaneous. I could be outgoing. In a nutshell, random because you never really know what you’re going to get. [laughs]” Regardless, his entire life is dedicated to music, whether he’s songwriting or formulating his own records as a recording artist.
Now residing in Los Angeles, 2020 welcomes Bobby’s new collaborative project titled Lata Harbor between Bobby and his closest friends and collaborators.
Flaunt premieres the official music video to “Drug of Choice” featuring Chloe Angelides and Eric Bellinger, which follows the first single “Wash My Hands” with August 08 and Marc E. Bassy. Read below as we discuss how Bobby got his start in the Bay, songwriting credits, the meaning behind Lata Harbor, writing his first film, and more!
You actually started in a group called Go Dav in high school, bring us back to those days in Oakland.
We had some success, we’re getting played on the radio. Oakland taught me how to hustle and how to connect the dots. My stepdad told me “you can either live in Oakland your whole life or figure out how to have options.” I always held onto that. I love Oakland, went to the protests up there. It’s always big energy, always a community vibe. Everybody knows everybody. If you go out and be social, you’ll see a lot of the same people. I appreciate being from Oakland because it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things as far as diversity and culture. The whole swag and style of the Bay is quite unique.
How was your time at San Jose State?
I was at San Jose State for one year right after high school, then I got my first song on MTV Jams. Shout out to Tuma killing it over at YouTube now, he showed me love. Tuma gave me a break playing my first solo release, “Skinny Jeans,” way back in 2009. School was a full-time job, I thought “if I have a shot of breaking through, now’s my time.” I was fully down to go to school for 4 years, but life takes you in different courses. I’m glad I went for a year, met a lot of cool people. Connections I still have till this day. I had a window then: I could keep going to school and this could pass, or I could really push hard.
Is that when you realized you could do music for a living?
Yes, I told my mom I had a real chance with this music. She supported me, it was on and poppin’. I moved to LA, Nic Nac the producer I still work a lot with moved to LA. I had managers in LA, things started happening pretty fast. Everybody knew I was doing my thing but in LA, I was a smaller fish in a way bigger pond. It took a second to be like “okay, I have to build a little traction. Get a little momentum out here.” It started slowly unfolding. I started throwing my own parties, throwing my own shows. I was proactive, wasn’t waiting around for nobody. My friend and his roommate went to LMU, I was 19. They’d take me to all the LMU parties, I developed a little fanbase with all the LMU kids. Eventually I wrote “143” and things got really real.
Bring us back to getting Ray J on “143,” that song was the shit.
I wrote the whole song, my manager had a connect with Ray and his manager. Ray’s super poppin’ at the time. Ray’s wild, he’s definitely settled down. He’s a family man with a kid so definitely don’t see him out like back in the day. Ray had the show For the Love of Ray J that was killing it. His song with the New Boyz, “Tie Me Down” came out right before “143.” Ray was on fire. My manager knew him and he was independent, so we didn’t have to go through any clearances or bullshit to get the song done. Ray came through the studio and hopped on the song, we shot the video.
I remember I sent the song to HotNewHipHop, my whole team got hella mad because they put songs out for free download. They’re like “we spent money on a Ray J feature and video, you want to put this song out for free download?” This is how people consumed music at the time. Honestly, it only helped. I asked DJ ill Will to put his tag on it. His tag was all over it so if people wanted the version without his tag, they still had to go pay for it on iTunes. Funny thing is my old manager had hit up Universal Republic not too long ago, “143” went Gold this year. That’s another one on the wall. I remember it’s always so close to going Gold. 2 years after it came out, it sold 444K copies so it literally needed 60K more copies to be sold. Finally over slow time, it went Gold.
What are your fondest memories from that era?
Honestly when you’re going through the rollercoaster in music, it’s all a blur. You feel it like “damn, I’m busy every day. I had 3 shows today.” Once you’re so busy, you can’t really enjoy it. It’s always something to do. To enjoy something, you have to sit back. I got to travel all over off that song. I was so turnt at all the shows, everything’s a blur from that era. It was fun, it was a good launching pad to long-lasting friends.
“143” came out in 2010, me, Ty$, and YG went on our first first tour together. Me and Ty$ became hella cool off of that Young and Hungover Tour. Ty and I are still making music together, I helped him write his “Saved” song that went Platinum. We wrote “Loyal” for Chris Brown together. I actually got a plaque for this EDM song I wrote with Yellow Claw called “In My Room,” Ty’s singing it and Mustard made the beat. Ty’s on one of my next songs on my Lata Harbor project. I met Jeremih doing all those shows. Ty and YG were doing “Toot It And Boot It,” I was performing “143,” Jeremih had the song with 50 Cent big at the time. Me and Jeremih are still hella cool, working on a bunch of songs together. When the song blows up and you start doing tour circuits with everyone, you make some long-lasting friends.
Do you ever get sick of performing “143”?
If people want to hear it, I don’t mind. People still love it, it’s a moment. One of those songs you remember right when it came out. I’ve evolved from that song. I probably won’t make a song like that ever again, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Even on my wedding day, I might perform it for my wife. Who knows, people liked it for a reason. [chuckles]
How did you get to write on Tinashe’s “2 On”?
Tinashe and I are long-lasting friends. I met her back when “143” came out, she was in a group called The Stunners at the time, that were signed to the same label. We stayed in touch. I wrote her this song called “Chainless” actually, that and “Boss” went viral. She got her solo deal with RCA. I called her over one day like “let’s make a song, we can work on your stuff. I know Zendaya’s working on her album, we can work on her album.” She said “I want to work on my album, let’s do something cool.”
We ended up making “2 On,” her first big single at RCA as a solo artist. It’s cool to be a part of that. I wrote “Party Favors” with Young Thug, also did “Ride of Your Life” where Metro Boomim did the beat. We still have some cool moments coming. We worked on a new song right before Corona hit, she likes it. We’re still connected, that’s my homegirl. She’s talented.
Do you feel like songwriting takes away from your artistry at all?
It only builds honestly, songwriting is artistry. Some people don’t even know I write songs for people, I can do it all. I compare it to writing and directing a movie. If you’re directing or acting in the movie, you’re the artist. If you wrote the movie, you’re more of a songwriter. You need all of it to build the cake. A lot of artists are hella thirsty: “I need to be popular, I need attention. I need to be seen and talked about.” If I can keep the lights on and make money off doing what I love, I’m happy. A lot of artists feel if they’re not getting hella attention, it’s the end of the world. That’s never been me, I’m perfectly fine taking the backseat. I love getting my credit but if I’m going out and hear a song I wrote, I see people’s reaction and they’re loving it, then that’s great. Notoriety’s cool, but that’s not what I do it for.
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“Drug Of Choice” – we made this song right before Covid struck. It’s a vibe to enjoy and ease your mind through these uncertain times we are living in. Let love be your drug of choice for whatever you believe in, and whatever inspires you. w/@chloeangelides @ericbellinger & @letmeseeyou @lataharbor. vibe curator @bigwyman. God bless 🖤.
How did the idea for your new collaborative project, Lata Harbor, come about?
The music I’m making now is a lot different from “143.” It’s bigger, more instrumental, more lyrical. “143” was a fun song, I was a kid when I wrote that shit. I was 19. I’m not trying to only be Bobby Brackins “143” or the songwriter. Lata Harbor is a new entity for me to put music out that’s not in a box. I’m evolving as an artist, as a songwriter, as a person. I want to have a new outlet that wasn’t boxed in or prejudged. I can put out anything under the Lata Harbor umbrella right now, it’s so new and fresh that people will say “okay, what the fuck is this?” I want to put out good music.
What’s the significance in the name?
I love the name. My house is called the Lata Oasis, it’s literally a vibe. What’s a Gnarls Barkley? I just like it. [laughs] My grandpa had a boat, I always loved being at sea and by the ocean. I always loved calm, tranquil vibes. It’s a harbor that’s anchored. I want to be anchored, I want to be grounded. It means so much to me that words will take a long time to describe. All my next music under Lata Harbor will be collaborations. I always thought what if Kurt Cobain and Tupac made a song? I want to make songs with indie bands, alternative bands. I want to put them on a song with an R&B singer, then put them on a song with a trap rapper. I want to do the unheard of collaborations that can be timeless. Back in the day when RUN DMC and Aerosmith did their collaboration, it’s super unheard of but made sense.
I want to bridge gaps because I listen to all music. I love indie, alternative rock, R&B, rap. If it’s a good song, it’s a good song. Bobby puts a dope country artist on the song with a trap rapper, that’d never happen if I didn’t bridge those gaps. I want Lata Harbor to be a bunch of different bridges of different worlds. Take my experience, my world and my connections to make those songs. I want to roll Lata Harbor to the point where I could take the Arctic Monkey singer and put him on a song with Ty Dolla $ign, do stuff that hasn’t been done before. That’s the vibe I’m feeling. I want lata harbor to be different worlds colliding and seeing what happens
What’d it mean to get Chloe Angellides & Eric Bellinger on “Drug of Choice”?
Chloe’s super dope, mainly in the pop world. Written a lot of songs for Selena Gomez, wrote Kygo’s last single. Eric Bellinger’s super R&B roots to the core. They probably wouldn’t have made a song together unless I bridged those 2 worlds together, we made a really cool song. A bridge of everything we all like, everything we do. It’s super soulful. We made the song right before Corona, upstairs in the studio. Some of the lyrics I write are pretty modern, but the feel of the song sounds like it could’ve come out in the 80’s. It had a classic, timeless vibe to it.
How do you create a vibe in the studio?
I like to have a drink, always have a movie with cool visuals in the background with no volume. Pulp Fiction, American Honey, Léon: The Professional, movies with cool imagery.
I see that in the Lata Harbor visuals, it has a certain aesthetic.
Honestly, I wrote my first script last year that got picked up. I’m getting into the film world. My first feature film, the goal is to shoot in September. It’s called My Nina about a girl in LA, a loss of innocence story. Now, we’re attaching the director. I’m doing all the music, picking my songs and my friends’ songs. Have it be super personal to me. My first script I wrote got picked up, it’s a blessing.
Is writing super easy? Does it just flow out of you?
I’d say I’m gifted. I’ve been blessed. I can’t even read fast. Something my friends could read in 20 minutes, it’d take me an hour. I’m good at getting thoughts and ideas out.
What goals do you have for yourself at this point of your career?
One of my goals is the movie, that’ll be amazing once it’s out. I’m going to be very proud of myself. I signed my first female producer from London Layla, she’s brand new. Pulse is my publisher as a songwriter, they’re super supportive. Me and Ashley partnered and signed her. We’ve been building her catalog, getting demos and songs cut. My goal is seeing her career take off. Another goal is having these Lata Harbor songs, this new entity and vibe to translate and people want more of it. Those are my 3 seeds I’d love to see grow and blossom.
Do you have a timeline on when the Lata Harbor project is dropping?
I have most of the songs done, I want to put it out post Rona. I want people to be able to drive around with their friends listening to it, go to a party and vibe. The world’s never going back to normal. Offices are realizing we don’t need people to come to work every day, they’re wasting hours commuting when people can be efficient from home. Whenever Corona isn’t a threat anymore for people to hang out is when I’d like to drop it, but who knows when that may be.