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The King of Pop’s nephew, Austin Brown, talks Q-Tip, OneRepublic collaborations

The King of Pop’s nephew, Austin Brown, talks Q-Tip, OneRepublic collaborations (photo)

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Austin Brown is the next generation of American pop music’s first family, The Jacksons. The son of Rebbie, the oldest musical member of the more famous troupe that includes Janet and Michael, the 25-year-old Brown was purposefully raised outside of the public sphere by his parents. But now he’s ready for his own shot at fame, with a debut EP slated for release later this summer and a full-length album in the works for early next year.

“We’ve been working on the music for the last three years for my album, 85,” Brown said by phone last week after nearly a month in New York with producer Rodney Jerkins, picking songs for the forthcoming preview. “The important thing for me about the EP is to really give people the dynamics of what we can do musically–where we can go, where we want to go, and where we want to experiment.”

Speaking of exploration, Brown will soon put the finishing touches on two collaborations–a track with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and another with A Tribe Called Quest maestro Q-Tip. Both pairings, he says, grew out of mutual friends and collaborators. The work with Tedder came after a DJ at Los Angeles’ KISS FM 102.7 suggested they meet because they seemed to think about music in the same way. A series of e-mails and record suggestions eventually led to a writing session in L.A.

“We have such similar writing styles in how we approach melodic structures that it felt so organic to me,” says Brown. Tedder is his contemporary, but he says Q-Tip is an idol. Even after being mentored by the entire Jackson family and Prince and after joining uncle Michael onstage at Wembley more than a decade ago, Brown seems genuinely stunned that he was able to work alongside the rapper.

“I grew up on that,” he says. “I’m one of those backpack kids, growing up loving that hip-hop vibe and era. We finally got into the room to meet and talk about music, and it went great. We said, ‘Let’s do something.'”

Despite the easy access to the entertainment industry his pedigree provides, Brown actually started his own label, The Royal Factory, to release his music. Michael taught him the importance of owning his own material and controlling how it’s used. Something else he must have learned from Michael is the power of a good video, or the ability to bring a song closer to the audience by giving it a visual context. Indeed, he offered the first look at his new album via a four-minute trailer that gives glimpses at his family, finds him walking among the stars and playing the role of a svelte, smooth-singing seducer. The trailer was directed by Tom DeSanto, the producer of X-Men and Transformers.

“I’m from the MTV generation, so music videos were everything to me. Those were my bedtime stories. That’s what I wanted to get back to with the video,” says Brown. Despite the multimedia debut, Brown says he doesn’t yet have aspirations or abilities to be a cross-platform star with fame in movies and music. “No way am I putting myself on that level.”

Brown’s humility also applies to future collaborations with members of his own family. He’s just getting his start, he says, and his skills aren’t quite ready to pair with those of a longtime mentor like Janet.

“I’ve got things I want to do to prove myself,” says Brown. “I’m not there yet.”

Do you think the legacy pressure is high for a singer like Austin Brown? And what do you think of a musician premiering music with a movie trailer?

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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