LanaSez: Gandhi! What up. I have some questions for you… First, what are you up to today? What music are you currently bumpin’?
BBG: Lots of little stuff on the agenda. Got 2 phone meetings set up. One, some minor business stuff regarding timeline of when the album will drop. Another, with a young R&B singer from the West Coast, who I’m trying to convince to work on a project with me. Also want to finish recording some top lines I wrote for a couple artists who I’m working with. Gotta finish mixing 2 beats I’m about to send out, but that’s probably the most fun one of the day. Gonna start transcribing some interviews for a part-time job that I have this summer. Right now, I’m listening to this beat I made. Mixing it while having early lunch and responding to emails for the day.
LanaSez: Very cool. You know, when you announced your retirement from rap, I took that as you completely leaving the whole scene. You said “no more bbg music.” I was upset! Real talk. But when I read your recent interview with MTV IGGY, I was really happy to see that you plan to continue making beats and producing.
I’m also glad you’re putting out your album anyway. I’m curious, how did the producers and collaborators react to your resignation, since the album was already done? Were they upset?
BBG: Well, the “producers + collaborators” on the album is just me. I produced all but one track (the exception, a beat from VERY RVRE) and I wrote all the songs, with just one guest verse which was already recorded beforehand. So, haha, no issues there. I’m glad that Greedhead is still down to put it out, though - because they didn’t really have to.
But yeah, I am still producing. When I said “no more BBG music,” it was partly because of stuff in my personal life, but there was a business aspect, too. As I got more aware of the business side of things, I realized that it didn’t really make sense for me to keep making music if I didn’t have the funding. Funding can come from either a major label (who look for either an artist that’s already established or someone marketable enough to cash out on) or from building buzz (through shows, merch, etc.) In my situation, I knew a major label deal wasn’t gonna happen, and being a full-time student in NY while traveling to do shows wasn’t gonna happen either. So, I was thinking, it didn’t really make sense for me to work on my own projects if I didn’t have the funding to do things the right way. I could make another album in a month if I wanted to, but there’s so much other stuff that goes into putting a project out the right way that a lot of people don’t think about.
That’s why producing and assisting other people with their music works so well for me. I still get to make use of my music talent, and I don’t have to stress about how to get the music out there. That would just be the job of whoever I’m working with, and I can just focus on the in-between-the-headphones aspect. Which is the aspect that I really love, you know.
LanaSez: That makes sense. It’s a very practical perspective. How did your music affiliates react in general to you quitting rap? I remember seeing Hot Sugar’s tweets; he seemed so sad.. haha
BBG: I think they all understood where I was coming from. A lot of artists I’ve talked to kind of feel sort of the same. I know a lot have also thought about “hanging it up.” But I mean, I still see Hot Sugar a bunch, because he’s helping with the mixing and mastering of the album - he’s just hamming it up. I don’t think he actually ever gets sad to be honest.
LanaSez: I think you’re right! You said recently "Why would I want to be an indie rapper?“ referring to how broke they are. It certainly takes a lot of sacrifice. There is shame in being poor but there isn’t shame in doing without and working really hard to achieve something. Do you think if you had more passion for it, you’d stick with it like a lot of others do?
BBG: Haha, well it’s one thing to be poor, I don’t think there’s shame in that. I’m broke but not ashamed to say so. Otherwise, I’d just be lying. The thing is…. these rappers are broke, and rapping about how much money they have. So…?
I think I have the passion (maybe more so). For me, it’s just about the best avenues to use my passion so I actually get something out of it. There was a sign behind the counter at a pharmacy I did one rotation at, it said "Work smarter, not harder” feel me?
LanaSez: Yeah, I feel you. I think that’s partly why I support the underground so much and go out to shows because I know it’s hard and I wanna put a few dollars in their pockets if I can. I wanna help my favorite artists keep it going! But, I do respect your decision and totally understand.
There was a line from the Unreleased Freestyles + Other Bad Song Ideas you put out in April that I was surprised to hear.. “Heems said I’m bout to blow up, but his fake label ain’t bout to blow up.” What was that about?
BBG: Haha, well that was a freestyle I did at Dap’s crib like a couple years ago. It was all off the top and back then Greedhead didn’t have as big a name and no one knew me either really. I guess I gotta eat my words.
The first time I saw you live was the Keepaway Album Release Party at Glasslands on January 10, 2012. You performed right before Lakutis I believe. That was the first time I saw Lakutis do a full set, actually. I’m In The Forest had just dropped. That entire show was electric; I’ll never forget it! I had heard some of your tracks off your tumblr but honestly, I wasn’t sold on you yet. Your live performance was the clincher for me. Was that your first show? If not, when was your first show?
BBG: Yeah, it was one of the first shows I had done. I don’t remember the first really. But when I started out, they all sort of felt the same; I really had no idea what I was doing. I would just rap like how I would rap in the park and stuff. The last show I had done before hanging it up was probably the best one I had - mainly because I learned to relax and put all the energy in my delivery and not any other showy stuff.
LanaSez: That’s cool you got to end it on a good note at least. What did your parents think about you getting into rap? Were they on board with it? Did they have any influence on your decision to leave?
BBG: I always get asked in interviews about ‘but what do your parents think about you rapping?….’ Let me clear something up. Brown parents aren’t against creative work. Consider that South Asia is the biggest exporter of film/music/dance in the world. Have you ever seen Indian Idol Jr? It’s like American Idol, but in India, and with kids. Each of those kids have support and are better singers than the best US singers (and even Adele, etc). The real issue is that brown parents feel that if you’re gonna go into a creative field, you have to BE THE BEST, and being THE BEST is key to success in Art. The average retail pharmacist makes roughly the same amount of money as the best one… In Art, no one cares if you’re an “Adequate” or “Honest” artist, nor should they. That’s why I don’t fuck with brown artists who say their family holds them back. To me, that’s just an excuse for not being THE BEST. And to be honest, a lot of soft dudes my age could benefit from that mind state. If you devote your life to anything, you have to be THE BEST. ESPECIALLY if you’re not rich.
Now, regarding my parents, they weren’t really aware of my foray into rap. I would tell them that I have 'fans’ and stuff, and they’d just be like 'Okay, Nafis. Good for you.’ I’ve always been doing some type of music so it wasn’t anything crazy. More recently, my mom has started to support me a lot more. She thinks I have a lot of potential with my producing. Actually, she read some stuff out of my rhyme book a while back, and said that she likes my concepts but thought that it was sort of irresponsible to talk about certain issues and not provide any resolution (in terms of songwriting, not actual social solutions.) And that played a big part in how I changed how I wrote as I was going through Debut.
On my decision to leave, there was sort of an indirect influence. My main concern was that I CAN’T be poor 4 years from now. A lot of that is because I want to be there for my family. Really, almost every decision I make is somehow influenced by that. I’m not conservative but I am traditional, and I was raised with old-school values, and that’s really a part of who I am. Also, if I can bring up a quote I say all the time, “Who I am is who I want to be” - Reba.
LanaSez: Yes, Reba! Awesome quote. So, have you actually played them any of your rap songs? Like, that Gianna Michaels track for instance..
BBG: Lol no. I played them a couple of songs but they don’t even listen to American music period, so I’m not surprised that they can’t make out rap. I played them more of my wannabe conscious stuff.
LanaSez: As opposed to your more “aggressively conscious” stuff which is how you’ve described Debut?
BBG: Yeah, I mean, people think that conscious rap is soft, but there’s a lot more drive in my delivery when I rap about that stuff, than say, how I am a thug and will fight anyone. (I will fight anyone though.)
LanaSez: Have you ever gotten into a fight before? What happened?
BBG: Haha, not in a long time! I used to get in fights here and there when I was younger but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m pretty sure I never 'won’ a fight, I’d always lose, but it was always about not backing down for me. No one person or group can ever really scare me, institutional problems are a million times more concerning.
LanaSez: Deep down, do you really want to “make it” in the music industry? If you were offered a lucrative record deal today, would you take it?
BBG: YES!!!!! lol Sorry, yeah. If I could pay off my student loans immediately, then I’d dive in and work for free for any record label till I paid off for them. I’m not against working mad hard, you know. Like, the reason I quit was purely financial, and had nothing to do with passion. I feel like at this point, I still have more passion for music than 90% of the people in the game, but if I can’t eat off it then it means nothing. So, to answer your question, in a heartbeat.
LanaSez: I had a feeling you’d say that! So now we just gotta find you a deal… haha
Is there anyone out of the contemporary underground rappers and producers that you really hope makes it big? Ones you’ve worked with and otherwise..
BBG: Yeah, of course. I kind of want everyone to eat, and if I had the time/resources I would try to see if there are ways so that all rappers and producers could get more from their music than the current “unpaid internship” approach of putting out free music and getting nothing back. I do want to say this, that I want Hot Sugar and Yuri Beats to really eat in this game, and I’d be almost as happy if they made it, than as if I did.
Outside of people I’ve worked with though, I’m big fans of Young Roddy, Sean Mack, and Kream Team/Khris P from Kream Team. I’m also a huge supporter of this rapper Savvy, who’s out in Cali right now. I want the most for her too.
LanaSez: Have you learned anything from your short time doing rap that you feel will benefit you as you move on to other things in life?
BBG: Uh, not really. That’s actually the worst thing about music, is you can’t apply a lot of it in the real world.
LanaSez: What about the whole business aspect?
BBG: I don’t see how it applies outside of entertainment, to be honest. I mean, I guess promotion, marketing… A lot of rap business is figuring what the fans (i.e., target audience) is looking for, and providing it. So, I mean, I don’t know really. I’m not a business major, feel me. I just taught myself “rap business” stuff because that’s apparently a part of being a rapper now, but I don’t really care about it.
LanaSez: Word, I feel you. So when is this album dropping?
BBG: Just finished mixing yesterday! Handed it in to my dude Yuri for mastering. Gonna hand it in probably next week, which I guess means September is the earliest for it to drop.
LanaSez: Awesome! I’m really looking forward to that. I heard your track with Fat Tony on Steel Tipped Dove’s new tape and I know you got a couple other joints on Part 2.. so that will hold me over in the meantime! You got anything on deck as far as beats and producing? Do you think you’ll do beat tapes?
BBG: I’ve sent out beats but I don’t want to really speak on them because you don’t really know what’s gonna be used till it actually comes out, you know. Now that I’m done mixing, this is the first time that I won’t have had a project that I was sitting on in like 2 years, so I may just take a little break from thinking about any music period. Maybe make some beats later in the year if I feel like it. I’m not really holding myself to any expectations or output anymore.
LanaSez: I can understand that. Well, thanks for doing this interview with me. You’re on my list of favorite rappers and producers, so it was really cool talking with you!!
This year, Big Baby Gandhi has dropped the following releases, all proceeds going toward what will be his first and last album aptly titled “Debut.” And if you haven’t listened to his previous projects.. do yourself a fucking favor! Cop Big Fucking Baby and No1 2 Look Up 2.
Unreleased Freestyles + Other Bad Song Ideas
America Eats Its Babies (Produced by Yuri Beats)
Unreleased Freestyles + Other Bad Song Ideas Vol. 2
Produced By Gandhi