According to his Genius page, AL-X The Great self-dubbed himself “just another rapper.” But take a closer look and listen, and you’ll see Alexander Brown, a 20-year-old rapper and second year financial mathematics and statistics major at UCSB specializing in trip hop music, a subgenre of hip hop that experimentally draws from styles like funk, electronic, and R&B.
Raised in Santa Barbara, Brown first gained an affinity for music in high school when his water polo friend invited him to write over a beat he created.
“I wrote over it and I heard his part and my part, and I didn’t really like his part,” Brown admitted to The Bottom Line. “I’ve always liked music and singing, and this came pretty naturally, so we just started from there.”
Since then, Brown has made a splash in the trip hop world, meshing lo-fi sounds, smooth vocals, and personal elements of pop, trap, and EDM. His personal favorite track, “Rocketman,” was featured on Spotify’s Discover Weekly, amassing over 500,000 streams and securing him the blue check mark, the demarcation of a verified artist.
This created a lane for AL-X to open for the likes of Marc E. Bassy, Maxo Kream, and Bobby Brackins.
“My first concert performance was with Marc E. Bassy. I was thinking ‘oh shit, they sold out [Velvet Jones] and the line was out the door.’ But I walked in there and figured if I’m having fun and go wild, then other people will,” Brown said. “It was really cool; I got to meet a ton of people. I signed the first thing I ever signed: a poster for the tour.”
Then, on Jan. 25, AL-X took it one step further in The Hub by opening for Smino in front of a crowd of around 700, the largest crowd he has ever played for. During his solo performance, AL-X acted as a Swiss-army knife of music — rapping, singing, and even mixing since his DJ couldn’t perform on stage due to a legal technicality.
With such increased exposure, the young rapper is quickly gaining what every struggling artist yearns for: recognition. However, Brown admitted he wants to remain humble and even confessed that he was surprised when people in The Hub were singing along to his music.
“The craziest shit that ever happened to me was at LAX,” Brown said. “So I’m standing there with my bag, waiting for my Uber with my Rocketman hat on and all of a sudden I hear ‘Alex! Alex! Alex!’ I thought it was my friend but I see this dude out the window throwing up deuces yelling ‘ROCKETMAN!’”
After that anecdote, Brown shifted the interview into more of an impromptu jam session, showing me his talents of producing, mixing, sampling, rapping, and singing. He even gave a live performance of his very relatable trap infused track “Vista Isla,” a song that is meant to “flex.” (“New Crib in Isla Vista, I do not have the time bruh, No sleep at all last night huh.”)
Brown’s passion for his craft and his simple joy for having fun was apparent. After showcasing various playlists and unreleased tracks, he also began a freestyling session with a phrase of my liking. I picked “Campbell Hall.” (“9 AM, midterm at the hall. I aint done shit yet I aint tryna ball. Do it like it’s hotter, Taking midterms probably wearing only Prada.”)
To round out his discography, Brown released an EP on SoundCloud in 2016 titled “Sunscreen,” produced and wrote a variety of singles, and even started a merchandise line for his hit single “Rocket Man.” His new music comes out this upcoming month on SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music.