FLINT, Michigan—Akeem Brown grew up watching his older brother create beats and music and wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“When I got to use his computer, I just started trying stuff out, and I made my first beat when I was 11 years old,” Brown said.
When neighborhood kids were playing outside when Sam Doan was growing up, he was in the house.
“I had two small radios with two cassette players, and I’d be playing on the piano, making beats and recording on the cassette and switching tapes back and forth,” Doan said. “I was recording before I even knew what recording was.”
Now, as adults, Brown, 32, and Doan, 38, have combined those passions for music to create Superior Outlet (1705 S. Saginaw St.), a professional music production and engineering studio. The studio opened in November and offers a full range of production services for artists, including songwriting, creating beats, mixing and mastering, and more. They work with a variety of genres as well, including hip hop, R&B, pop, trap, soul, gospel, rock, blues, and more.
“We have a little bit of everybody, different genres, cultures, radio-promoted events have been recorded here,” Doan said.
Collectively, Doan and Brown have more than 20 years of experience in music. Both have previously owned studios, both have collaborated with a range of artists, Brown is a DJ (DJ Fat Jordan), Doan plays piano, drums, and bass guitar. They connected because their passions for music along with their work ethics were a match.
“We met, I saw his grind and he saw my grind and we linked up quick,” said Doan, who grew up in Flint’s Civic Park area.
Along with wanting to turn their love for music into a business, both are also passionate about giving back to young musicians and artists in Flint. In fact, beginning in October and running through the end of 2019, they’re offering free recording time to anyone in Flint between the ages of 10 and 17.
“I'm amazed every day at the talent of the kids who come in here,” said Brown, who grew up in Beecher. “Growing up, it was hard being young and trying to go ask for help. I’ve gone from almost having to pay people to just listen to me when I was growing up to now getting paid to work with other artists. I want to be able to create opportunities and give back.”
Brown has worked with a who’s who of up-and-coming Flint musicians, including Louie Ray, YN Jaylein, Presidential P, Richyy, and more.
“Six or seven years ago, there wasn’t that many rappers around in Flint,” Brown said. “Now, everyone making some noise is recording with me. It feels good to go in a club and out of all the local music, if you hear 20 songs, at least 10 were either produced by me or recorded by me. It feels really good to see the progress.”
The studio is allowing those emerging artists the space to grow and collaborate.
“We just had one of our best sessions recently, there were about 30-40 of us in the studio,” Brown said. “It was one of the most powerful sessions I've had with so many artists, producers, and engineers working together at once. I’d been working with all of them individually, but to be able to get them all in there at once, it was amazing, non-stop working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”
Brown and Doan are hoping the studio becomes a successful business in Flint’s growing downtown and a creative outlet for the city’s artists, but they’re also hoping it plays a role in helping artists take the next step in their careers.
“We want to get an artist a deal,” Doan said. “We want to connect Flint to the music industry directly. We want someone to really wear Flint’s name and put Flint in the forefront, and I believe it’s gonna happen really soon.”
Doan and Brown also make sure to share knowledge and history of Flint’s music scene with young people they’re working with.
“They don’t really know the history here. There aren’t too many people who can break down the history of Flint music,” Brown said. “Big respect to the Dayton Family. I grew up to them because of my older brothers. All we did was listen to Flint music — but back then, I didn’t even know it was Flint music. I just wanted to be like my brothers, so I knew all the songs and all the words, but didn’t know who it was until I was older. Now, I can sit here and show the kids and pay homage to the OGs who showed us the way. I try to keep the history alive.”
Future plans for Superior Outlet include connecting with grant writers to get additional instruments and equipment that young people can borrow and take home to work on their music outside of the studio. Currently, the space is available to musicians for $30 an hour and hours are flexible -- “Even if someone works second shift and needs a session at 4 a.m., I try to make that work to keep the customers as happy can be,” Brown says.
The studio allows Brown and Doan the opportunity to combine their passions with their careers. Running a business and providing a creative outlet for Flint artists and young people are priorities, but the bar for success for Superior Outlet can be summed up even more simply.
“When I can take care of my mom and let her do what she wanna do, that’s how I know we did something,” Brown said.
For more information, call (810) 471-8704 or check out Superior Outlet on Facebook