Who says you have to choose?
Broakeen Sheffield’19 is a biochemistry major, a track and field athlete, and defensive back on Beloit’s football team, who also writes, records, and performs music. He even wrote and recorded a song inspired by his Environmental Politics class.
The song came about when Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies Pablo Toral asked the Dallas, Texas, native to meet with him in his office after class.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what did I do wrong?’” Sheffield says. His suspicions couldn’t have been further off. Instead, Professor Toral pulled out a copy of the Beloit Daily News with an article written by Erick Mitchell’19 about Sheffield’s multiple talents both in sports and in making music.
Toral asked Sheffield if he’d be interested in composing something around the concepts he learned in the class, and Sheffield delivered with a song called “Make a Change.”
“When I hear music, it just talks to me,” Sheffield explains. “When I go into the studio, it’s not hard to go in there and just rap. When the beat talks to me, I talk back to it. It’s almost like starting with a sheet of paper and just drawing. It’s a beautiful outcome, going from nothing into something.”
Music came to Sheffield at an early age. His mother, who wanted to be a singer, always encouraged him. “My mom took me to the studio for the first time in the seventh grade,” he says. “We did a song and I performed it in a talent show. I never took it seriously, though, until I got to Beloit, and I was actually provided with a studio. At first I was using the Maple Tree studio in CELEB (Beloit’s entrepreneurship center), but then I took it upon myself to buy my own studio, a mobile studio. So when I’m traveling I can just bring it with me.”
Under the name Keen Cortex, Sheffield has played in local shows and released music on platforms including Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, and Google Music. He thinks of himself as an entertainer rather than a singer or rapper because he can do it all without sticking to a particular genre. “I kind of dabble in a little bit of everything,” he says. “It just depends on what I’m feeling.”
There is something for everyone in his music, and to Sheffield, that’s the point. “I love doing music for me, but I also like doing it for the people around me,” he explains. “That’s the kind of person I am. I make songs for everybody.”
Sheffield receives endless support from his football teammates, professors, friends, and his mother. He plans to graduate a semester early in December.
With plans to go to pharmacy school, he’s excited about an internship he has lined up in a pharmacy following graduation. But he still plans to make music.
“I always think about what would happen if I put 100 percent in to music,” Sheffield says. “I would actually like to see how far I can really go.”