If you were listening to the radio yesterday morning, you know that the rush hour commute was an especially deadly one. "4 motorists killed in crashes on area roads," reads the headline in today's Rocky Mountain News. The brief goes on to list Nathan Woods as being among the fatalities, noting that a section of East Colfax near Harrison Street was closed for over three hours as a result of the head-on collision he was involved in. What the item didn't mention, however, is that the 32 year old Woods was also known to many in the local hip-hop community as Bionik Brown, a respected up-and-coming rapper with a pretty compelling backstory.
For those unfamiliar with Bionik, he came to Denver from New Orleans in search of a new beginning after surviving Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after he moved here, he reached out to me and shared his story, which landed him on my list of artists I'd intended on profiling. Rather than attempting to recount his past in this context, here's Bionik's story, in his words, taken from a note he sent me last year:
Basically I am from New Orleans, Louisiana but lived in Denver briefly as a kid. I was making major noise in the hip hop scene in the South prior to the Hurricane. I had won numerous battles and had a great buzz relating to my recorded works and stage shows. I'd toured with GALACTIC and played shows with Talib Kweli, Common, The Roots and many others. I was working on an album which was going to be released nationally and things were ideal...
Then, Katrina blew through the City. My wife and I evacuated to Alabama and were there for 6 weeks until we were let back into the City. We came home to a City in ruin and our home was still standing but pretty well damaged. We didn't even have electricity so we packed up the dog and some clothes and drove right back to Alabama. When we arrived we knew that we had to leave the City. We were debating where to go and considered Houston, Atlanta, L.A. etc.
For some reason, Denver popped in my head at random. I'd had fond memories as a kid and so we got plane tickets to visit the City. We flew out to Denver, checked in the Hotel and at 3 am the morning after arriving hours before I got word that my Father had died of a heart attack...so we rushed back home for the funeral.
We were confused about what to do but came back to Denver and tried to rebuild our lives. The first few months were hard and I was sick of living, sick of music and sick of everything. I gave up music and really just stepped back from everything. I took 6 months to just heal and in that time I found a few old beat c.d.'s.
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Those beats would go on to become what would form my latest album Platinum Thoughts, Aluminum Budget, which was recorded at Studio Lodo here in Denver. The album wasn't intended for release. It was meant to be a healing album, a labor of love of sorts. It wound up being the album that opened the floodgates for me in touring and performing.
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I've since traveled extensively and my temporarily stay in Denver has been stretched. Denver is now my second home and the music scene out here has been so welcoming to me that I have to stay longer. This is now my home base for the time being. I credit Denver with revitalizing my musical sensibilities.
I guess that's me in a big nutshell.
Judging from the number of profile pics and profile names on MySpace that have been altered to memorialize Brown, he will be greatly missed in his second home. (In an eery coincidence, an inscription his personal MySpace page reads, "Bionik Brown: R.I.P. Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes.") -- Dave Herrera