FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq — The next Kanye West or Pharrell Williams could be planning a sneak attack onto America’s music scene from the confines of the U.S. Army.
Even Jimi Hendrix was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division before he exploded into the psychedelic haze of the late 1960s with his famous rock guitar style and bluesy lyrical phrasing.
If Hendrix could make it big pursuing his dream of making music, then why can’t artilleryman Sgt. Brian Smith?
“I’m trying to chase my dream,” he said during an interview last week, gold fronts shining from his mouth. “I’ll get there.”
Time will tell, because Smith is currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Cavalry’s 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. He has $15,000 worth of mixing and recording equipment crammed into his small room at FOB Q-West, where he works training Iraqi noncommissioned officers in marksmanship, leadership, protocol, etc.
“It’s real ghetto right now, but it gets the job done, and people come here to record when they pass through Q-West,” said Smith, aka “Mr. Floss,” describing the mattresses and patchwork foam that line the homemade wooden recording booth in his room.
The walls of his room are lined with various materials to try to make it soundproof, but some of his neighbors can hear the skipping break beats and heavy bass emanating from his recording “studio.”
They don’t seem to mind.
Smith, 26, on his second tour in Iraq, is a native of Dallas, but his wife of nine years and son are in El Paso, where the 1st Cavalry is based, sending him positive vibes for a safe return and the chance to chase that dream down.
His musical partner — Sgt. David Hernandez, 31, from San Antonio — is on his third tour in Iraq and has a fiancee and two children waiting on him back in Texas also.
Hernandez is the video brains behind their joint venture. They’ve both invested their own money into the outfit, with Smith heading up the production company — dubbed “So Throwed,” which is a kind of Texas street slang for someone who is ready for anything, and maybe a little risky to be around.
And their music? It’s as good as anything out there, they say.
“The versatility is endless,” Hernandez said. “Floss does everything — he can make a little of people sound really good. … And his music is good too.”
During an interview, they sampled everything from snap-beat hip-hop to light George Benson-esque R&B and even some gospel. They don’t want to be pinned down, and Smith isn’t trying to pursue a career in just rap, he stressed.
They just want to make music and videos.
“The thought process — everything — it’s done right here,” he said. “There have been times that I have stayed up all night mixing and re-mixing till I get it right, and then I put on my uniform and go to work.”
Smith has recorded with the likes of Three 6 Mafia, who won an Academy Award as part of the soundtrack in the film “Hustle & Flow.” Often employing a “chop and screw” technique when making his own music, Smith has built up a loyal fan base that is largely grassroots and underground.
His previous band, Stash House, also performed with Big Tuck back in Texas.
Smith has made two CDs: Screw You Down, volumes one and two. Volume one sold nearly 8,000 copies on the street back in Texas, while Volume two, known as the “Q-West Edition,” was recently released.