With an extensive body of audio engineering accolades and creative musical work that spans over three decades, Dennis Mitchell, a Brooklynite and owner/operator of Stone Brown Studios (SBS) in Park Slope, New York, produces edgy beats and masterful sounds that attract generations of music makers to his underground studio. His work is influential in shaping the sound of New York’s hip hop, which has transformed from an underground sound associated with city street dwellers and rebellious urban youth to a modern, mainstream art form.
Mitchell, a native of Long Island, New York, grew up during the infancy of hip hop (rap) where he was surrounded by the sounds of artists like Kurtis Blow, the Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kool Herc, and Spoonie Gee. Their legendary sounds filled dance clubs and spun on turntables at family cookouts and house parties.
Mitchell came from a family where playing musical instruments such as the piano, trumpet, flute, or bass guitar was a common thing to do. He recalled being inspired by watching his father play complicated pieces by Polish composer Frederic Chopin and others.
“He had this huge piano in this little apartment, I mean it was so huge that you could barely squeeze around it to move around in the living room,” he said. “My father would listen to (recordings of) grand orchestra performances and play along. He always took his piano playing seriously.”
Mitchell’s exposure to both classical piano music and early hip hop fueled his love for the art from driving it to become a lifelong passion and calling for him.
“I remember DJs setting up their gear with lots of speakers in the park,” Mitchell said. “People would be playing basketball, others playing dice and socializing, while these DJs played music for hours. My friend and I would go to the park and watch these guys do their thing.”
Mitchell was captivated when a DJ named Cool Breeze set up a synthesizer and a futuristic-looking mixing console with colorful control knobs and illuminated buttons. This experience ignited a strong desire in him to create melodies and beats, leading to a decades-long journey of composing music, producing tracks, and professionally mixing and mastering the creative work of the likes of SWV, and Gang Starr. He now offers a treasure trove of remarkable beats and tracks that are poised for commercial success.
Mitchell’s engineering track record includes an impressive list of music celebrities, many of whom have become household names not only in the music industry but also in Hollywood. One notable example is the rap group Wu-Tang Clan from Staten Island, New York. Mitchell was part of a team of engineers at a local Brooklyn recording studio who refined the group’s legendary sound on their debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).”
“I remember working with the producer who said, ‘I’m putting together a group called Wu-Tang’,” Mitchell reminisced, recalling fond memories of the now-super famous group (which recently launched a TV series on Hulu titled “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” in 2019). He mentioned that some of the studio equipment, including a tape machine used during those days, was rumored to have once belonged to the artist formerly known as Prince. Mitchell also recalled how producers would sometimes bring a sampling keyboard with pre-recorded song ideas from home, which they would hook up at the professional studio.
“We would spend the whole day transferring songs, and then the producer would listen, add something extra, and bring in more songs on vinyl,” he explained. “Back then, we used a turntable and also listened to tapes to find something that would fit into a track.”
Mitchell’s tracks produced at SBS are available here on Beatstars. Check it out.