By Brandon E. Roos
Baby Bash may possess a multiple-hit career, but he still has a slight problem: his visibility has been hindered by his own gift for diversity. Despite the hits, many listeners don't know that all his successful singles actually belong to the same artist – songs like his 2003 breakout “Suga Suga” and his Lil Jon-produced Top 10 hit “Cyclone.” As such, he has managed to craft one of the quietest decade-long careers an artist with his kind of success can have.
Some may look at this partial invisibility as a curse, but as he is well aware of, the numbers speak for themselves. Bash's catalog boasts a tremendous resume of collaborations that, when placed together, looks almost comical, even to him, yet as the million-plus YouTube views for his new single “Go Girl” with E-40 prove, he may be hard to classify but his knack for hits is rarely off the mark. With Bashtown coming out in March on Upstairs Records, HipHopDX caught up with Bash to hear about possible future gigs in radio and criminal justice, the art and challenge of supply and demand, and the question of classifying his sound with none other than Clive Davis.
HipHopDX: When I was checking up on what you were doing, I saw that you've been pretty busy. You were recently shooting out in Hollywood with Edward James Olmos, right?
Baby Bash: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't ever get starstruck. I've met all kinds of people and I don't be tripping, but he was one dude I was like, "Wow, pretty weird . . ." It's like I'm really talking really to Selena's dad [in the film Selena], 'cause that's how he really talks.
DX: You're promoting Go Girl as, which works well with the single with E-40, and then you were doing the on-air thing with Wild 94.9 out in the Bay in December, right?
Baby Bash: Yes sir. I loved it. That's actually -- my next gig is gonna be radio.
DX: Oh yeah?
Baby Bash: Yeah. I'm gonna do a morning show, but in the afternoon because I can't get up that early. I've got offers, but it ain't time for me, because once you commit to that, you really gotta be there. You can't miss no days and I'm known for being late and shit so I gotta make sure I'm cool before I take on that job.
DX: Out in the Bay Area?
Baby Bash: The Bay wants me right now, but I can't do it because my music still has legs right now. I've got Bashtown coming up. I'm gonna be a magician soon too. Be ready for that. I'm the utility man!
DX: So with all these opportunities to branch out, has your focus on music been harder to maintain in your opinion or does it just make you enjoy it even more?
Baby Bash: I don't know. I'm a little busier, but I still feel the same. Whenever I hear a beat and I start writing to it, I just feel the same. When I do my songs, I start off with the beat first and then I see what the beat's telling me to write, and that's been my success because I write my hooks and I write my bridges and choruses. I've pretty much still got the same formula, the same recipe: If I hear a beat, tell me what to say, I'll put it on there and we'll run with it. All this other stuff is just extracurricular.
I'm still a happy dude and I never take myself too serious. I've never tried to be be "Mr. Serious Artist," and I think somehow that's helped me on my humble hustle, you know?
DX: You see a lot of artist branching out now into ventures other than music, with things like energy drinks, Beats By Dre headphones, acting gigs, etc.. Do you think that branching out is essential for survival in the current music industry?
Baby Bash: I think anything and everything you can do to produce revenue is what you have to do in this industry, because the industry is pretty much cutthroat. It's a real small circle and it's run by a small circle of people. You need to just get what you can do, whether it be music, acting, promotion, clothing, energy drinks, magazines, motherfucking cookbooks. Whatever you can do. Don't ever plant your whole seed on one get down, you know what I mean? I've always learned that. You know, I'm a junior college graduate. I don't even get it, junior college graduate, if that's the case.
DX: What did you study when you were doing the JC thing?
Baby Bash: I did Criminal Justice because I was playing basketball, so you know, of course I took the easiest shit, with all the athletes. But I was real focused on the juvenile hall system, me talking to kids in their own language because sometimes when you're young and you hear some older dude trying to preach, you're like, "Aw, shut the fuck up." But if you talk to them in their own language that they created, their own lingo, they tend to listen more and be more respectful. I still want to do that after I do music and radio. I stil want to do the juvenile programs and tell these young fools to stop acting like weirdos.
DX: Of course everybody knows about "Cyclone." I know it's been a long time, but I still want to ask. How's life as an artist been after a single like that? It's an undeniable single, but how were your creative opportunities afterward? Did it open up, or did the label say “That worked. We want the same thing.”? You always talk about doing your own thing -- did it stiffle your creativity or give you all kinds of new chances?
Baby Bash: It opened up a lot for me. "Cyclone" and "Suga Suga" and "Baby I'm Back" are worldwide and in movies, so they're still relevant to this day. That's how timeless I like to do my music. If "Suga Suga" came out today, and was never out before, it'd be a #1 hit again.
When I do shows, I've noticed people come up to me and say "Wow, I didn't know you did that song too and that song" because they're so out of left field. I do one song and the other sounds totally different. To this day, there's people who hear my songs and still don't know it's the same guy who sang "Suga Suga" or "Baby I'm Back" or "Cyclone" or "Outta Control.” And that's kinda been the story of my career. But I love it though, because I'm just a laid-back person anyway.
DX: How did you arrive at a style like that? When I kept listening to more of your music, I kept thinking that this sound really is that fusion that you talk about. Did it just come out of necessity, because you weren't the greatest singer, or was it just something you noticed – you know, what if i mixed these two?
Baby Bash: Like I said, I'm a Vallejo-bred California person but then I came to Texas. I learned to network and sort of soak it all up like a sponge, and I don't know what I did. It just kind of clicked in me and I made my formula up.
I remember talking to Clive Davis one day. He signed me to J Records and I remember telling him my music is fusion. And he tried to ask me “We need to figure out how to describe your music. What can we say?” I said it's fusion and he told me that's a bad word in music but I think he's wrong. I think that's where it caught up with him. I think fusion is what's happening now. That's why everything is urban, Pop, rhythmic, and Hip Hop. It's all one thing now. Everything's all in one and I was saying that a long time ago, but I remember him telling me specificaly fusion is not a good word in music. And in my head I was thinking “No, I think you're wrong buddy.”
I think I've always been like that because I listen to so much music anyway, and different types of music. I don't just listen to Rap. You'd trip out if you heard the shit I listen to.
DX: I was kinda trippin when I saw in an interview that you're a Tom Petty fan.
Baby Bash: Yeah, man. He's a rapper. [singing from "Mary Jane's Last Dance"] “Oh, my my, oh hell yes / Girl, put on that party dress.” That's my type of shit right there too.
DX: What else do you listen to?
Baby Bash: I'm a big reggae fan by heart, because I love smoking my medical and just jamming out to some good Bob Marley, Steel Pulse. Of course I'm a product of Mac Dre and E-40 so that helps me with my slangability. I was always a big Outkast fan and I love how they always were on the edge. South Park Mexican, SPM, my favorite Latin artist of all time. I have a big blend, all the way to Tom Petty. All the way to Metallica. Metallica concerts are the best. Motherfuckers don't even know. They're like “Metallica . . . Psh, alright, nigga. Alright.” Metallica concerts go hard. You go to all these Rap concerts and just see motherfuckers just standing up there. Go to a Metallica and watch what they do: “Da da dun, da da dun, da da dun dunnn.” Especially when you're high as fuck. Oh my god. It's crazy shit.
DX: Since Clive Davis wasn't really buying what you were saying when you described your sound as “fusion,” you've definitely encountered trouble with labeling it in the past. With Pop music taking on a more club-influenced sound, do you feel your music being even more pigeonholed then it was before?
Baby Bash: I'm really into supply and demand. I used to sell a lot of weed and meth and shit in the streets, selling it not because I necessarily liked the shit, but to survive: they demand it, so I'll supply it. And the music – it seems like cheerleader music is really what's cracking right now. It's all really cheerleader, so if someone gives me a fist-pumping, cheerleader beat, then I'll write a song to it, know what I'm saying? I just put my own flavor to it. If someone gives me a country beat, I'll write a country song to it. If someone gives me a Rock & Roll / Hard Rock beat, that's just what I do. Like I said, supply and demand. I don't feel myself pigeonholed. If they give me an old school classic Bay Area slapper, then best believe some old school slapper shit's gonna come out of me. It's all about supply and demand. So whatever production I see that I need to write to, I'll write to it. I'll write to a beatbox. Someone can beatbox and I'll write to it.
I just think I'm in my own lane. While so-and-so is doing this or so-and-so is doing this and all the major labels are trying to copy so-and-so – that's one thing I didn't like about the labels, when they'd say “We need a song like so-and-so. Do a song like so-and-so.” I was like “Shut the fuck up like so-and-so.” The beat's gonna tell me what to write. I can't force nothing. The beat's just gonna tell me what to say.
DX: You've got your solo career preety much in its second decade at this point, right? You've been here for a minute.
Baby Bash: Yeah, it's crazy right? But I'm flying perfectly under the radar, though. I love it.
DX: You're still popping up from time to time, though. Not as much under the radar as you might think.
Baby Bash: I think living in Texas – I'm not caught up in no mixes. I stay in Texas, so I'm not trying to get into no drama, which is good and bad. It hurts my publicity, because I'm not out there getting no publicity, but I feel like I can be me.
DX: It seems like publicity is gonna be ramping up soon because Bashtown's coming out in March. What have you got going on? What's gonna be on there? Who's gonna be on there?
Baby Bash: I've got a nice blend. If you know my work, I like to blend a lot of different voices on a song. I like different people on my music, that's why I always like to collab with people. They say “Man, you've collabed with everyone”' because I've collabed with everybody in the game. It's so hilarious. I just think I can't just eat chicken. I like chicken, potatoes, and corn on my shit, so my record's gotta have the whole combo plate. That's why I have to have different voices come in.
I liked working with Lloyd. I think Lloyd's a great singer - real underrated too. Of course the one with E-40. Like I said, I was a big fan of E-40 growing up. I've got my boys The Stewie Brothers. We've got production from my boy Jim Jonsin. We've got songs with my boy Zero, who's one of the most underground, hardest motherfuckers in the game. So, like I'm saying, I do radio shit, but I'm still doing songs with Zero, Slim Thug, Jay Rock, The Jacka – all on my album. And then I'm also doing stuff with Lloyd, Carlos Santana, Jennifer Lopez – all mainstream shit. Then I go back down and do stuff with Pimp C, Mac Dre . . . Pretty hilarious. Then I'll do something with Jesse McCartney. [Laughs] So it's pretty hilarious to me, but I think it suits my personality. My inner-chamelion. I can adapt. I got that west coast-[meets]-Texas [vibe] – like a Texafornian feel.