After “floating” for eight years in a nonproductive, antimusic fog, Brandon Van Ekelenburg found his new creative calling in 2010.
The former frontman of a Grossmont High metal band called Hostile Intentions (think: Slayer), Van Ekelenburg found rap. He took the stage name of Van Brando and started rapping with passion about real-life struggles.
“I had a guy I worked with at Petco who made rap beats. He said I had a voice for rap and he said I should try it. I laughed my ass off. I said ‘Fuck, no.’ But he convinced me to make some tracks on his piece-of-shit computer.”
Van Brando started playing live at a 2010 Halloween house party. He then hooked up with producer/recording-studio owner Greg Garrison, who convinced him to start recording at his El Cajon–based Multi-Player Productions. Garrison plays all the instrumental tracks, which span rock, punk, and metal.
The result is 20-plus tracks of Van Brando’s “real-life shit” — lyrics that tap into his struggles and his rage over his dad who “fucked over my whole family...I went to jail over my anger a couple times when I was 19 and 20. I never stole from anyone. I was charged with assaulting a cop. What he did was unlawful. He kicked me. But I looked at it as karma. I wasn’t doing right things. I was cheating on females. There was other stuff. I was a very angry kid.”
By 2018, Brando was part of a collective called Cult Muzic, including three different rappers, a comic, a lively stage show, and a producer who creates genre hopping instrumental tracks.