I’ve Got Some Bad Newsz For Ya
So, I get an email from my editor about a month ago asking me to check out some music from a rapper on the West coast. “OK,” I said. I must admit I have not been listening to or following rap for a long time. I grew up listening to Whodini, Curtis Blow and Run-DMC. In college I found my favorite rap group, A Tribe Called Quest. I got into the Dr.Dre/Snoop Dog thing for a minute. Eminem is pretty badass. But the rest of it over the last 2 decades I pretty much have no interest in.
So, I open this email from my editor and see this dude’s name: Bad Newsz Greatest (BNG)… Hmmm. OK. Click the link for the first track, “Birth of Rogue“… skepticism over. This is straight up, good stuff.
Along with his engineer, Asaf Fulks, O.C. Recording, BNG has created a sound and lyrical flow whose combination is completely different than anything I’ve heard in quite awhile. Rock ‘n Roll beats and quick hit bass kicks combined with several layers of keyboard, synthesizer and textured background sounds make the foundation that BNG stands upon to deliver his well-thought out lyrics to explain what is really going on inside of him as he fights the become the Greatest.
I had to talk to this cat to see what he was all about. He agreed to an interview. Here’s what went down.
Jeff Cofer: So, tell me who you are. Where did you grow up? How did this whole thing get started?
BNG: I’m from Los Angeles. I lived here and there in and around LA, Orange County, Corona, all over. But I’m from LA. I wrote my first rap in 5th or 6th grade. That was a while ago! I’m 27 now.
JC: What was it like when you first started rapping and coming up with your own lyrics?
BNG: (Laughs) Early on I was lyrically more about just what I was doing day-to-day, ya know? Just whatever was going on. And I was mostly rapping over other people’s beats. Whatever was hot on the radio I was rappin’ over it. But after about 6 months of that I start working on my own, original music.
JC: So in 6 months you realized you wanted to make original beats and music?
BNG: I always knew I wanted to do that. I just rapped over other people’s stuff, ya know, for practice and then I got into my own stuff. But I always knew I wanted to do that.
JC: Who were/are your biggest influences?
BNG: Right now my influence is God. You know, just being a man my influence is God. Back in the day, it was my Grandmother. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be into hip-hop. She even used to take me to jazz festivals at Drew University where she worked when I was young and I got to work backstage there. So yeah, she was a big influence on all of this.
JC: Let’s talk about the music and separate lyrics from instrumentation. The three tracks I listened to (links below) sound very different than just about anything else out there (BNG laughs). Being a jazz musician I’m always drawn to music with a strong bottom; great bass, great beats, great rhythm. What is it inside of you that makes you want to go in this direction musically?
BNG: Just be different. I mean not just different but just be yourself. I always wanted to have my own sound. I didn’t want to copy anybody, just innovate and have my own style, my own blends. So, basically, just be myself through my music.
JC: Does it make you nervous to step out like that? Because you know people are either going to dig it or think this dude is crazy! You’re kind of just putting yourself out there with no safety.
BNG: No, because, well not nervous. More cautious about some things because it’s cool to do it but I know it can be better. It’s never quite good enough for me so I’m always looking to get better. I never get nervous putting out a new record because I know what I did before I left the studio and if it wasn’t up to par I wouldn’t put it out. I wouldn’t do y’all like that. I get excited about people liking it, ya know?
JC: When I listen to your stuff I hear an interesting mix of the bass and beats coming with a Rock feel with a little jazz mixed in on the changes.
BNG: Yeah, definitely Rock because, like, Rock is intense music. They don’t even have to be saying anything it’s just intense, it’s got that vibe. I always like that serious tone.
JC: The jazz element comes out when you are leading into a lyric flow change or music break. There are some rhythm and even time changes that happen. Blended in with all of that is some cool, strong keyboard/synthesizer work and texture sounds that make their way along the flow of the song. It has an edge to it.
BNG: Yeah, I like the blend. We make it go together. I try to keep it somewhere in between Candyland and really hard. Kind of like medium, ya know? (both of us laugh).
JC: I’ve found that those blends usually start with a feeling or a spark. It takes a lot of work to take it from that to the structure and, ultimately, the whole record. Have you found that to be true?
BNG: Yeah, definitely. That’s why sometimes I take longer than the average artist with my music because you gotta stir it just right. I have stacks of blends that weren’t stirred right!
JC: It takes a lot of patience.
BNG: Yeah, and focus.
JC: Your lyrics seem to be reflective and personal. You talk about the emotions you feel and you don’t deviate from that. You also have a great ability to get feelings and thoughts together in deep, metaphorical ways.
BNG: Well, it goes back to being me. I think about those things for me not just what I think people want to here. The bottom line with all of it is I’m ready to go, ya know? I’m ready to take this whole thing to the next level but getting there causes a lot of thoughts and feelings I haven’t had before. So, I get them out with the sole purpose of taking it all to a higher level. That’s the whole thing with “Birth of Rogue.” I got that certain beat stirred just right, I knew what I wanted to say and there it is.
JC: Other than Asaf Fulks, O.C. Recording, what label are you with? What is your crew all about?
BNG: I wanna keep everything independent so I signed myself to my own label, Black x Royal. Our motto is O.A.F.O.U.L., Only A Few Of Us Left. It’s just our way of life.
JC: So, what’s coming up in the near future for Bad Newsz Greatest?
BNG: Well, the album will hopefully be out by first quarter in 2014. And I am scheduling some shows in LA, New York City, a few other places in the states and then probably some shows overseas.
JC: If you had to sum your music up at this point for someone, how would you describe it?
BNG: It’s like when someone hears something new or tastes something new they immediately compare it to something they’ve already experienced. I want my music to be new and be me but also something the listener can relate to. You can’t lose with that.
I enjoyed spending some time with Bad Newsz Greatest. He clearly respects his roots and his craft. He knows where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. He works hard and knows it’s the only way he is going to keep getting better. He’s thoughtful and always listens to a question and takes time to answer it. I think the music is good and strong, and you can tell a lot of patience, focus and dedication goes into every track. Don’t take my word for it, though. Check out the links to his stuff and decide for yourself.
A lot of people believe that no news is good news. In this case I think Bad Newsz is good news.