Bangladesh Advocates Independence; Clarifies "Flowers & Candy" Concept
Exclusive: Producer (and now rapper) Bangladesh explains why breaking artists is essential to his creative control and details the multiple themes in his debut album title.
Bangladesh comes across as brash when you read his past interviews. Admittedly, calling Swizz Beatz “irrelevant” and denying it, only to have audio proof of the swipe at a fellow producer surface had a lot to do with that perception. But if you remove that isolated incident and view Bangladesh’s track record and actions within the context of other artists, what is he doing that’s so wrong? He’s been making regular trips to the Billboard magazine Hot 100 singles chart since emerging on Ludacris’ Back For The First Time back in 2000. In addition to providing work for Lil Wayne, 8Ball & MJG, 2 Chainz and Tha Dogg Pound, he’s successfully crossed over to the R&B/Pop world through his work with Beyonce, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
So what’s there left to criticize? He’s not any brasher than Kanye. And despite the Pop sensibilities, he’s surprisingly militant when discussing the politics of dealing with major labels.
“It’s like tap dancing to get in the club,” he says in between what surely sounds like either blunt or joint tokes. The sound of a lighter can be hard in the background. Some answers, such as the forthcoming one, are measured out in a staggered, prolonged inhale. “I feel like I’ve got to do a jig to see this person behind some door. Like, ‘I’m chosen today…will they like me? Will they accept this from me? Is it good enough?’ That’s not how I want to live.”
So how does Shondrae Crawford want to live? His latest mixtape, Ponzi Scheme provides an insight. Bangladesh is rapping, and he’s laying the foundation for his upcoming album, Flowers & Candy. He’s setting up the artists he works with to be equally independent. Just don’t get too carried away by the title. This isn’t a Valentine’s Day or anniversary situation.
“You know, you buy flowers and candy for people that you hurt,” he explains. “A lot of people have this certain impression of me, or they think they know me…so if I ever hurt your feelings for being me, then here’s to the bitches—males and females.”
Bangladesh Explains His Foray Into Rapping
HipHopDX: Aside from your production work, what about rapping and doing production interests you?
Bangladesh: It’s just the culture of Hip Hop, man. As a producer, hooks and concepts just come to you. A lot of the material I produce, the concepts and whatnot are already on the track. So it just comes as part of it. You’ve got to put ideas and shit on the beats as a producer so artists can see the direction or even know where you’re going with it. So that just became a natural part of it for me. For a long time, people didn’t understand what the beat should be doing or what to do on the beat. So it’s my duty to make them understand by putting a concept on it.
DX: You make a good point, and you’ve been quoted as saying your beats aren’t safe. If you’re in the studio, how do you get an artist out of their comfort zone so they experiment more?
Bangladesh: Yeah, some [artists] just don’t want to. And those are the artists I really don’t have too much success with. We don’t really get too far or end up making no songs. An open mind is really better for me…someone like 2 Chainz. We’re really tight and cool on another level than music. So he understands me already, and I know him. He knows I do other shit, so he accepts it. That’s what he wants me to do; he comes in like, “Do your shit, and I want to get on that crazy shit.” He doesn’t want that other shit that everybody else would give him, because that’s his sound. He wants what I do. And it’s easy in a sense, because he’s already accepted and he just gets on it.
Other people want me to come into their world. They request to work with me, but they want me to do something easy or something simple. I always make tracks to go with whoever I’m working with, but some people only want me to do what they usually do. That’s kind of hard, because it doesn’t get you anywhere. And those are usually old-school rappers. What I mean by old-school is, when albums were selling. The rappers that were in the era of when albums were selling are scared to do other shit. The rappers that are working now typically are grinding so hard that they became who they became. They weren’t signed to a label first. It don’t matter if you were signed to a label first or second. If you were in that era where the label was the engine that drove your career—you were making hits, the label looked out and shit was good—you’re kind of conditioned. That’s different from the artists today who get out here, grind and then they get a deal after they got the name and stuff. Those artists are more open. They just want to get on shit; they’re just rapping. It’s not really politics, and they don’t care who did the beat. The mentality is just, “Let me get on that!” They’re not so rich to the point where they don’t know what to do. A lot of those rappers from back then, man they’re so rich they don’t know what the fuck to do or even approach it. They’re into different things.
So [I like] the new, hungry rappers who are on the come up or have came up in this era right here. Those are hustling ass motherfuckers, because they came from the ground up. I’m talking about the examples of 2 Chainz—he comes from the old and the new. He was in the building, and he was on the streeet with it. So you see the difference, because he’s more progressive.
“A Milli” & Bangladesh’s Argument For Minimalist Production
DX: How do you balance that versus the artistry? Because you could play it safe and probably make five more “A Milli’s” and make tens of millions…
Bangladesh: Man, that’s corny. That’s like a natural thing to do when I’m making beats. I could do that, but I don’t want to do that. Sometimes that’s what the artist really wants you to do without telling you. Some artists tell you, “Give me another song like that.” But I’m the kind of producer that moves on. I’m trying to do another style, because everybody had jumped on that. When you do it, it looks like you keep doing your style. But everybody else had been doing it, so it makes it hard for you to do your thing.
DX: In line with that, we’re in a culture where people are re-interpreting things, doing mash ups and freestyling over popular singles. Any thoughts on that? It seemed like there were a million “A Milli” freestyles.
Bangladesh: Nah…it’s just Hip Hop man. I guess the track was so important that people wanted to set up their machines and do it. I guess they woke up in the morning like, “Man, I’m gonna re-create ‘A Milli’ today.” That’s big man. That’s real influential when people do it. The only thing I don’t like is when people say, “That’s easy. I could do that. Listen to mine; mine’s better.”
What are you saying? You’re doing it after me. It’s only important to the motherfucker that did it first. If you come up with it, then that’s genius…not, “Ah I heard it, then I did it.” Even if it’s simple as fuck, simplicity is the most genius shit sometimes. The Neptunes and Timbaland were so simple if you listen to their tracks from back in the day. Some of those tracks only had like three or four sounds, man. But you’d be thinking so much was going on, even though—at most—there was only five sounds. Those were so dope, and that’s where the genius is. It’s like witty to put that amount of sounds in and make it a hit. It’s stellar.
Bangladesh Compares Pitching Tracks To Tap Dancing
DX: Yeah, that’s minimalism…you see it in all of the creative arts. In addition to that creative side, what lessons do you incorporate from that into being an executive that’s responsible for different artists?
Bangladesh: That’s the progression in my career man. I’m progressing into an executive that oversees whole albums and seeing visions of careers. I want to see artist’s vision with them and make it happen. Breaking artists is the ultimate goal. Like I said, you can either take control of your career or just be in it. As producers, we gotta chase placements. We’ve got to get on stuff. We have to perform so well that the feeling is, “Man, I got on a Beyonce joint! I got a Rihanna joint!” There are hundreds of people working on the same thing…the same few albums that actually sell.
It’s really nothing under your control. It’s like tap dancing to get in the club. I feel like I’ve got to do a jig to see this person behind some door. Like, “I’m chosen today…will they like me? Will they accept this from me? Is it good enough?” That’s not how I want to live. That shit is corny as hell. I feel like I design…I know what the hot shit is. To me, I feel like they’re not listening sometimes and they’re the ones that are wrong. That shouldn’t hold my progression up, and that’s why you sign artists. That’s why you get artists and become an artist yourself. You want to put out music that won’t just be sitting around. Some of these artists just don’t know. They don’t know whether it’s hot or not; they don’t know if it’s that one. They’re in that world of not knowing. They’re not in that position to know, they’re just here to entertain. They’re told what to do. So for a producer with a vision such as myself, it’s hard to get across to these artists sometimes.
DX: It sounds like you’re setting things up for your artists to think in the mode you do as opposed to just entertaining and being told what to do. You’ve got Candice [Pillay] writing for Rihanna, and Fast Life is on your new single.
Bangladesh: Yeah, it’s all about the set up and the approach. You want to be around and have longevity. And Candice is not my artist anymore, so you can really get rid of that shit.
Bangladesh: [Laughs] But that is the logical thinking. That’s what you’re supposed to do for your artists. If they’re writers and producers, you get them work. But it seems like when you get them work, they wanna get the big head and not fuck with you. That doesn’t really make sense because you’re the one that got them the work. It’s like you become their worst enemy. They’re mad at you for something. Who knows what it is? It don’t make sense. You’re mad because you’re on a Rihanna joint? I don’t understand it.
Bangladesh Addresses Critics With “Flowers & Candy”
DX: Gotcha. Well, let’s switch gears a bit. Tell me about the concept behind Flowers & Candy if that’s still going to be the title of your album.
Bangladesh: Yeah, Flowers & Candy is still the title of the album. You know, you buy flowers and candy for people that you hurt. A lot of people have this certain impression of me, or they think they know me. I hear a lot of things with people saying I’m this way or that way. So if you’re talking about someone you really don’t know, you’re jealous in a sense. Something’s wrong with you. So if I ever hurt your feelings for being me, then here’s to the bitches—males and females. There’s many a things flowers and candy can stand for. One of the themes on the album is being a hitman. The first song on the album is called “Sicario,” which is the Spanish world for hitman. There’s a lot of dope boy and hitman references on there, because I am a hitman. I do make hits. It’s in the same sense of a real hitman, so “Sicario” sets the tone.
I don’t even want to say it’s for the haters, man. It’s more to give people understanding. It’s like turning a cheek on you for saying whatever you said. Like, “Here you go anyway. Here’s some flowers and candy.”
DX: You seem to be pretty outspoken and not really influenced by trends. How is the vibe when you’re paired with another producer like Sean Garrett?
Bangladesh: Well, it’s the same thing…no different. I still do my thing. If I’m in a situation like that, it always starts with me. They’re waiting for me. So when you’re in that type of position, it’s like you’ve gotta do your own thing. Be comfortable; be you. People gotta understand how you operate. They’re basically waiting for you to come up with the creation to know what they want to do. It starts with me, and it don’t get handed to me afterwards. It starts with me. So it’s a big difference with writers and producers. Writers are waiting for the producer to come up with that hot track…that crazy beat.
DX: How about on the artist’s side. Aside from the obvious what’s the difference between working with a pop artist like Justin Bieber versus Brandy or a rapper? Do you approach that differently.
Bangladesh: Nah, man. I established a sound in a sense to where I can…my sound is kind of everything. It’s every genre. It’s Pop, it’s Hip Hop, it’s urban, alternative. It’s all meshed up, and depending on the artist, I can just bring more of that element out if that’s what they want. It’s just that raw sound that people just want, and it works on anybody. It doesn’t have to cater to them. That’s why I really got the opportunity to work with somebody different like that, because they like what I do.
DX: I’ve heard you say production comes pretty easily to you. When was the last time you were challenged and something was difficult for you?
Bangladesh: Where did I say it comes easy?
DX: Earlier. I think it was one of the very first questions I asked you, and you said things just come to you.
Bangladesh: Hmm…well, what was the question? I don’t remember that.
DX: Maybe I misunderstood you. Does it come easy?
Bangladesh: [Laughs] I might have said that. I was just trying to see where I said it came easy. I don’t wanna be talking too big.
It definitely ain’t easy. I think the challenge is wanting to do better than what you did before. It’s not easy, but it’s fun to always set a goal and accomplish it or get further than you were last year. For me, it ain’t easy because I always gotta convince the unconvincing. You’re not hearing a high quality or a lot of different styles of music. Things are in one mode. The inspiration is not the same, so it’s harder to get motivated in a sense. So you’ve gotta kind of motivate yourself to motivate somebody else. It ain’t too easy. It’s more like, “I’ve been doing it for a while,” easy.
DX: That makes sense. There’s a familiarity to it.
Bangladesh: Yeah, I’m more familiar with it.