By now, Daniel Breland (MSB ’17) is a more-than-familiar face on campus. In August, Breland signed a songwriting contract with independent record label Water Music, bolstering his endeavors as a hip hop artist. This winter, Breland is gearing up to the release of the first installment of an ambitious series of seasonal releases, starting with a five-track EP titled “Stop Everything.”
Breland envisions the EP to be a blend of hip-hop, soul and electronic music modeled after the fall weather.
“Fall starts off warm and gets colder,” Breland said. “I wanted the production, lyrics and melodies to all match that idea of getting progressively darker.”
The record, produced entirely by Breland’s longtime friend and collaborator Nathan Anthony, boasts a fusion of traditional and modern sounds that Breland said was partially influenced by Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
“I was listening to … the way he’s tackling social issues while also paying homage to the different traditionally black genres of music like jazz, soul and funk,” Breland said. “I’m trying to incorporate all of that into this sonic experience that represents the time we’re in right now.”
“Stop Everything” is Breland’s first release since “Open Season,” the 12-track album he released during his freshman year. Breland said this new EP is a mark of his artistic improvement.
“I don’t want [“Open Season”] to be the last thing that people can look me up by,” Breland said. “It was good at the time but … I want something that’s more representative of my current headspace and where I’m at musically.”
Breland recorded and engineered the entire EP in his Village A apartment-turned-recording-studio. Still, most of his time is spent writing songs for other artists under the Water Music label.
“Over the course of this semester I’ve written 40 or 50 songs, [but] there are maybe only 10 of those I would do myself,” Breland said. “The other 35 or 45 are songs that I’m trying to push to major label artists.”
The songs on “Stop Everything” address a wide range of social issues including race, identity and police brutality. Breland said the record is a message intended to grab the attention of his generation.
“It’s a wake-up call to things we can improve on as a culture,” Breland said. “I want people to ‘stop everything’ and listen, but [the EP] is also talking about things we can stop or improve upon.”
While the record touches on sobering topics, Breland made a point to craft songs that are as enjoyable and listenable as they are complex. He cited “Used,” a commentary on modern relationships, as an example of this duality.
“That song is really catchy, so unless you’re really listening to the lyrics you might not realize it’s a bit heavier,” Breland said. “I want people to be able to have both experiences: something you can dive into, but also something you can just put on in the background.”
Breland stressed the importance of putting out an easily accessible record that invites a variety of responses.
“I don’t want people to always have to have their headphones on alone in a room, or have a pen and pad out,” Breland said. “They can just listen to it and take it in … but if they want to go in and look at the lyrics, wordplay and overall message of the songs, it can be more reflective.”
Breland hopes to follow up “Stop Everything” with a slower, more somber winter release in mid-February and a spring record sometime in April. The seasonal EPs will conclude with a summer release, which Breland says will feature upbeat pop and EDM tracks.
“When it comes together you’ll have 20 to 22 songs,” Breland said. “If you listen to them it will take you through the whole year.”
Since August, Water Music has helped connect Breland with artists, producers and songwriters across the country.
“My label has been super helpful in keeping me on my game and keeping my pen hot,” Breland said. “Music is a collaborative thing. Even if I were producing, writing and singing everything on my own, I would still need to have people help me promote the music.”
In addition to his songwriting work with Water Music, Breland is involved in the on-campus music scene.
“It’s a very small group, but it’s a talented crop,” Breland said. “Of the people who are trying to put out their own work as musical artists, I know most of them.”
Breland is featured on an upcoming mixtape by Benjamin Brooks (SFS ’16), whose stage name is Deuce B (see interview on B3). He is also high school friends with Dave Spadaccini (COL ’17), the bassist for the band Faces for Radio.
Reagan Lawn (COL ’16), who is a member of the Georgetown Phantoms with Breland, said she is proud of his accomplishments.
“He is probably one of the most talented singers and musicians I know, so it’s no surprise that he would be eventually successful,” Lawn said. “It’s so cool to see someone with the talent that he has really going forward with it.”
Breland said he wants to inspire all up-and-coming bands, rappers, singers and producers on the Hilltop.
“I want to be at the forefront and show people that [music] is something you can pursue and be passionate about,” he said. “I never want to give up on the artistry. My goal is to create really dope art in whatever way I can.”
“Stop Everything” will be available on Soundcloud and Datpiff.
For other artist profiles and features, click here.