Interview: Baby Bash
Tue, 18 Mar 2008 06:51:03
Panama City, Florida is beautiful during spring time. Just ask Houston rap sensation Baby Bash. "It's spring break down here. Man, it's a rough life," laughs the wide-eyed, stylish MC. "After our show in Orlando, we did a big car show in Daytona for Funkmaster Flex. It was crazy. There were bikinis everywhere!" No doubt, Florida is the place to be, especially when you’re on top of the world like Bash is.
His diverse, club-banging new LP, Cyclone, spawned a bona fide dance floor anthem in the form of the title track, and things just keep getting better. Why is Baby Bash on top? Well, for starters, he smoothly spins a down-home Southern swagger into clever rhymes a la NorCal wordsmiths like Too $hort. Plus, Bash's latest LP happens to be his most vibrant to date. He's smart and funny on cuts like "What Is It" and "Supa Chic." Meanwhile, "Cyclone" surely will ignite any club to maximum ecstasy. However, Bash nails the softer fare as well. "As Days Go By (The Love Letter)" tells a heartfelt story of a soldier overseas, and it serves as hip hop's most powerful letter to the troops. While kicking it on tour, Bash took some time to talk to ARTISTdirect about his scientific song method, collaborating with Carlos Santana and why CNN needs to pay attention.
Your lyrics are really current. It's cool you're using some of the Internet slang—shouting out "Google" and "iTunes" on the first single. What do you think of hip hop dropping rhymes about technology these days?
You've got to stay current. My lyrics are song-based. I'm not trying to be "Mr. Lyrical Dominator" or "Mr. Lyrical Gangster"—and be the best rapper out there. I want to write catchy songs, catchy tunes and cool phrases. I'm good with words. I want to keep everything cool. I try to add in a little bit of cleverness and humor as well. Then I sprinkle it up with a good rhythm. After that, I’m good. There are a lot of good songs on this album, probably about eight or nine singles.
Where do the songs start for you?
It all starts with the beat. The beat tells me what to say. Whenever I hear a song from a producer, that's where it starts. Lil Jon gave me that beat for "Cyclone." Usually, when I hear the beat, the first thing that comes into my head is the melody. Once I get the melody, I put the words together. I figure out the mood of the song. If it's an up-tempo club beat, then I'll make a club song. If it's an emotional beat, then I’ll make an emotional song.
It's a pretty scientific approach. Everything's so tight and planned.
You're exactly right! It's like a formula. It's like making a sandwich [laughs]. I already know what I want. I put the right amount of ingredients in it.
What's the Houston scene like? It seems really happening.
Texas overall, not just Houston—Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christi—I love all of Texas. First of all, the vibe is so good. It's that Southern vibe, where everyone is happy, and it's all good. The cost of living is kind of cheap so people can have a little bit of money, and they're not stressing so hard. It's got that down-south vibe. The music is bouncy. For me, I've got a West Coast connection. So what I do is I mix the West Coast-style with the down south music, and I create my own little gumbo [laughs]. I'm from Vallejo, the Bay Area originally. It's where all of the slang and terminology came from. So I mix that up with a Southern swing, and I come up with my music.
You blend that crunk with the old Kool Keith slick rhyme style.
[Laughs] Exactly, bro!
Houston's so big, there's always got to be something going on down there.
Oh, and the food is great down there, man! Everybody loves it. I've had about six or seven friends move from California to Texas, because they got there, and saw that the quality of life is just so much better. You can feel it in the air, man. The fans are loyal to their people down there, too. If you can get a fan base in Texas, you can make money there all day, and you're good for awhile. Once I got my first major label check, I decided to buy a house in Houston, because you can actually own something really nice. It was bigger, newer and in a better area than if I bought something in California. So after that, I started buying a couple of them in Houston [laughs].
"Cyclone" is obviously a fantastic club-banger. However, you've got so much going on with other tracks like "What is It" and "Supa Chic." Where are you coming from, in terms of influences?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. That's what really helps me. I listen to so much. You name it, I listen to it. Whether it's reggae, pop, rock and roll or oldies, I'll tell you if it's good. I'm a songwriter before a rapper, an entertainer or anything. Whatever kind of music you give me, I'm going to listen to the beat and write a song to it. I listen to some Lenny Kravitz and some Tom Petty. Then I'll listen to some Too $hort and some E-40. Then I'll listen to some 1960s music or crazy '70s pop. It's just based on my mood. I think that helped my career though, to tell you the truth.
You transcend barriers that way.
It's crazy, because you can check my MySpace, and I've got everyone from little teenage girls and grown women to teenage guys and older dudes on there. I've got black, white, Filipino and Mexican fans—everyone. I'm so proud of myself to have that. You check my page, and the people on there are just so diverse. It's not like it's all one group. It's a mixture. I think what helps is, in my music, you can tell that I'm a down-to-earth guy. I'm not falling for the superstar. I don't try to be "Mr. Rapper" or "Mr. Celebrity." I think it shows through my music that I'm a down-to-earth guy.
You're just a dude chilling in the club, taking it all in.
Exactly, people like to root for the good guy!
You’re also the guy that can draw from every style and make it work.
On this record, you've got everyone from the hottest guys in the game right now, T-Pain and Sean Kingston, all the way to Keith Sweat and Pimp-C from UGK. It's a diverse album. Even though, I'm kind of under the radar as far as hip hop or pop. [laughs] They're still trying to categorize me. I'm kind of "uncategorizable." I like to use that word.
How'd you hook up with Keith Sweat?
Actually, the producer of that song had the hook ready, and I was like, "Man, that sounds like a Keith Sweat record." He was like, "That's a great idea!" So we had to get a hold of Keith Sweat. He was in Chicago, and we got him the track. He just laced it up, and he was cool with it. It's pretty crazy, bro. I also just did a song with Jennifer Lopez and Carlos Santana for Santana's next upcoming single. That's going to be another big gig for me.
What was that like?
It's crazy working with someone like Carlos Santana. Once I told my mom and my grandmother, they started crying, because Carlos Santana's like a legend in our family. It's like doing a song with Elvis. He was in Cali, and I was in New York. So I just laced it up real quick.
That's another thing to check off the list.
Yeah, right [laughs]. Checked off the list, yup!
How was working with T-Pain and Sean Kingston?
They were really cool. T-Pain walked into the studio and heard "Cyclone." He was like, "What is this?" I said, "Man, it's called 'Cyclone.'" He flipped and was like, "Let me get on this." We were working at Hit Factory studios in Miami, and you never know who's working there. There are like eight studios, and all of the big artists are all spread out. T-Pain just happened to be next door, and he wanted to show me some beats that he made. He heard "Cyclone," and was like "Oh, I'm on this." It was a cool vibe. There was more of a homeboy-type vibe. It was like no questions asked, just get on the song. I worked with Sean Kingston's producer, and he thought Sean would like the track so he called him down there. That’s how that happened.
This album's definitely a big evolution from Super Saucy, how do you feel you've changed?
I think I tightened everything up a little bit more. I concentrated more on singles. The last one was more quick songs. I worked on them real quick, instead of biting down on them like with this album. I spent more time crossing my "t's" and dotting my "i's" on Cyclone. J-Records gave me a nice amount of room to work with on this one. I got to vibe with the music more.
What's the story behind "As Days Go By (The Love Letter)?" It seems really heartfelt.
That, to me, is the best song I've ever created. It's a special song. It's so powerful. I think I can get that to CNN and CNBC. That's such an emotional song. I wish I could get that to the news, man. It's a basically love letter about a guy handling his business in Iraq. A lot of girls are cheating on their husbands that go to war, and I thought it was messed up. I actually had an experience where I did a show in Albuquerque where these girls were trying to be groupies and come to my room. They were good-lookin,' and I let them hang out a little bit, and all of a sudden, I found out one of them had a husband in Afghanistan. That's when I kicked them out of them room. I said, "That's crazy!" Even though I'm a player, if I had a wife that was in Iraq risking her life—there ain't no partying going on in Iraq—I would at least buckle down. That's pretty disgraceful. That song's not even really about the war. If you look at it, it's more about hoping a couple will see each other again. It's not really a war song, but a love-letter song.
You paint a vivid picture. It's like a movie.
It's a video, bro. It's a video that ain't done yet. It's so simple to create. I have a concept! I've just got to have time to shoot it. Touring's business as usual though, right now.
Is there anyone in particular "Cyclone" is about?
It's about every single pretty girl, ugly girl, fat girl, skinny girl, beautiful girl that moves her body in a circle on the dance floor. It went perfect, man. I'm pretty happy with it.