An interview with Hannah Bratton, aka Breezy, hip-hop artist and Catalyst Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumna.
“Is it tragic that I’m magic / but nobody can know / Brains explode, no box to check / for magical mulatto / Slightest bit of melanin / and congrats! you win! / Your Black-In-America card / take her for a spin.”
Don’t be deceived by the honey texture of Breezy’s melodies, by smooth basslines or twinkling sound effects; this hip hop artist’s bars are explosively charged. At once rapper, singer and producer, Breezy – real name Hanna Bratton – honed her musical talent studying Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering at Catalyst.
This September, two years after graduating, she released her debut EP, Tragic Mulatto EP. Exploring themes of racial tension in her native USA, its unconventional format alternates her own dynamic tracks with iconic sound bites from the likes of Nina Simone and James Baldwin. You need only scan the tracklist to know that this is a project with a clear motive and message – and you’d better fuhhhing sit down and listen.
We caught up with Breezy to learn about the creative process behind the outstanding EP.
Describe your sound in five words.
Bluesy, harmonic, catchy, soulful, hip hop.
What were the inspirations behind the EP?
The project is entitled Tragic Mulatto EP. “Tragic mulatto” is a trope from 19th century American literature. It represented a person with one White parent and one Black parent as being sad because they would never completely fit into either parent’s world. America is still very deeply divided by race. Since I have one Black parent and one White parent, and I’m so affected by the state of race in America, I decided to lean into the stereotype.
The EP was inspired by a few documentary films: Lacey Schwarz’s The Loving Generation, Liz Garbus’ What Happened, Miss Simone? and James Baldwin’s Take This Hammer. Old soul and motown artists like The Temptations, Isaac Hayes and Nina Simone were influential. Aretha Franklin died as I was writing the lyrics, which is evident in my ‘Queens’ track. I also drew inspiration from some recent albums: SZA’s Ctrl, J. Cole’s KOD, JAY-Z’s 4:44, Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy, XXXTentacion’s 17 and Kelela’s Take Me Apart.
Tell us about your creative journey.
After earning my Creative Audio Production and Sound Engineering qualification at Catalyst in 2016, I was eager to get settled back in Los Angeles and begin working on music. I struggled to find a decent living situation. After a year of moving from place to place, I moved in with my parents, who live in a homogeneous, conservative town in Massachusetts. I was hoping to produce an EP of cover songs by the end of the summer to practice my production skills, but what came out was the Tragic Mulatto EP. I came to Berlin this September and finished the project about a week later. This city is incredibly supportive of independent artists. I’m relieved to have reached this part of the journey where I return to share my music in the city where I learned how to make it.
“It’s the most vulnerable track on the EP. The ideas flowed straight from my heart and soul out onto paper and then up into the mic.”
You’ve got one chance to impress your idol – dead or alive. Which track would you play them from the EP and why?
This is always hard because I idolise so many, both dead and alive. Today I will say Tupac and I would play ‘Low Power Mode‘ for him. It’s the most vulnerable track on the EP. The ideas flowed straight from my heart and soul out onto paper and then up into the mic. That’s how he seemed to write his lyrics. Even though it’s not the track that bumps the hardest, I think he would appreciate the emotion it captures.
How did your Catalyst study help you in the creative process?
Catalyst was instrumental (pun absolutely intended) in enabling me to make music. It literally gave me the instruments, the skills, the gear, the tools, and the confidence with music technology that I needed to attempt the hefty endeavour of building an entire music project from scratch. From listening and deconstructing elements of a track, to recreating those elements in a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation], to proper recording and mixing techniques, I’ve been using everything I learned at Catalyst to create.
Get to know more music alumni: Electro duo Lalume on creating their first album.