FLINT, Michigan — Sitting in a bedroom that could barely fit the bed, Brandon Corder rested a keyboard across his lap and did what he’s always done. He made music. He was 24 years old, a graduate of Flint Southwestern Academy who found himself in and out of college, floating through life knowing there was something more but not quite seeming to find it.
He lived with his mom in their home on Santa Barbara Drive, a three-block row of houses almost all less than 1,000 square feet and built in 1956 near Clio Road and Stewart Avenue. Introverted and soft-spoken by nature, music is and always has been his preferred form of expression.
Corder finalized the track and didn’t really like it much, but stored it away in the HP computer he and his friend split the cost of to buy for $150 at a Black Friday sale.
Little did Corder know, he was on the brink of a life-changing shift that would launch his music career.
Today, he’s known best as B. Corder.
He is the event specialist and promoter behind Beats x Beers, the guy who brought Wale to the Capitol Theatre, and the man planning a community festival for Kettering University’s centennial.
He’s still soft spoken and a bit introverted, but unabashedly honest about where he’s been and where he hopes to go.
“I do see more Flint shows,” Corder says sitting in a black suit jacket paired with a white T-shirt. “There is a culture that has to be built. It can’t just be one show. I did that in hopes that it would spark something else, something more.
“My whole vision is to stimulate the economy. In order to do that, I have to attract outside attention.”
It used to be that Corder would make music and never let anyone listen to it. He got his first keyboard when he was 12 or 13, then a new one basically every Christmas since. He spent hours at his keyboard, but it was years — and not until he graduated from high school — before anyone else heard his beats.
Then he started taking it seriously. He, like most of his friends, went to college. His mother and brother both earned college degrees and went on to earn master’s degrees. He felt he was expected to do the same.
He went to college but jumped from school to school: Lansing Community College, Mott Community College, Saginaw Valley State University, Baker College.
“I didn’t want to disappoint,” Corder says. It was a filler, a way to answer the inevitable question: What are you doing with your life?
He always studied business, picking up some important lessons that would become the backbone of the marketing finesse that launched Beats x Beers.
He would take every refund check and invest it in his music, eventually buying enough equipment to start a production company with his best friend. Together the duo would create Foreign Allegiance.
“I had this whole creative thing inside of me,” Corder says.
He started with producing for other local artists, people he knew, friends who also brought big dreams to their craft. Then, he started making his own music and he networked endlessly, reaching out to artists and building relationships over social media. Then came that first big break.
The phone rang. It was a friend telling him that his music was going to be used in a recording featuring New Orleans-based rapper Curren$y. Then came the Tweet from Trademark Da Skydiver, confirming that Corder’s music was going to be used and that “Ova n Out” was being released the next day.
“That was my first step into working outside of local artists that I knew. That was when I felt recognized. That was the first time that I recognized there is a bigger world and I can actually do this,” Corder says.
From there and since then, life’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Corder. He moved to Brooklyn living with $5 a day left for food and not really making it but not wanting to come back to Flint until he made something of his career. He met the program artist at PNC Radio in New York, continued to use Twitter to introduce himself and his music to other artists, met and built a relationship with O’Shea Jackson Jr. (son of legendary artist Ice Cube), did a lot of work for free for a lot of different artists, and eventually found himself connected to rising stars near and far.
Over the years, he also moved back to Flint, married, had a daughter, Paityn, who is now 5, divorced, and moved to Los Angeles and back again. Foreign Allegiance released its first album called “Beats x Beers,” they won a national contest through Vibe magazine and McDonalds to collaborate with rapper Big KRIT, attended the BET Awards twice and once hosted an award week party.
Foreign Allegiance eventually disbanded and Corder began thinking more and more about the opportunity within the Beats x Beers name. He saw its potential as a festival. That first year, the show was so successful that police shut it down, Corder says now with a laugh.
Five years ago, a bit on a fluke, he acknowledges now, Corder put together an impromptu Beats x Beers festival in Austin to coincide with South By Southwest. It’s grown every year and last year was named by Travel Magazine as one of the best festivals in Texas.
The brand — or, as it claims, “curators of the culture” — now hosts festivals in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston and other locales nationwide. It’s returning to Austin for its fifth year with an outdoor festival Friday featuring hip hop artist Just Blaze (known for working with Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Cam’ron) on DJ.
“Overall we are trying to create these unique experiences. I try to put people on stage that wouldn’t normally be on stage together,” says Corder, who is back living in Flint and juggles interviews between a litany of other meetings with everyone from community folks to the Chamber of Commerce.
He expects to begin making announcements about the Kettering Community Festival in about a month. He’s happy to be back home and, he hopes, making a difference here. The Wale show was a first of its kind and the significance isn’t lost on Corder.
“It did what it was supposed to do and it opened a bunch of eyes,” he says. “I just want to overall bridge that gap. As small as the city is, it’s segregated and a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me. That I feel like is my duty — to bridge that gap.”