Q&A: Big Baby Gandhi On Rap Battling At Nine, Rebelling In The Facebook Era, And Getting Das Racist's Attention With Negative YouTube Comments
"Gandhi Mandhi was the name that they called him/ Now the honeys call me Young Kama Sutra/ Old white people real mad 'cause I'm the future." That cheeky rap is from "Boogie Nights," a jubilant track on Das Racist affiliate Big Baby Gandhi's recent mixtape No1 2 Look Up 2. The free tape is packed with similarly cocksure boasts and showcases the 22-year-old Queens resident's fleet flow and cheeky belief in his own abilities as a rap figure.
While taking a break out from ferrying a friend's relatives around town for a wedding, the B.B.G. holed up in the Williamsburg bar Ontario to talk about how his prickly comments on Das Racist's YouTube videos helped snag him a deal, the difference between the young and elderly versions of Jay-Z and Nas, and why he'd readily sign up to work with Queens' hometown anti-hero 50 Cent.
How did you get involved with Das Racist and Greedhead?
I used to leave YouTube comments and just shit on their music. I'd be like, "You guys are good, I like these two songs, but this sucks." I feel like maybe Dapwell respected that. I used to think I knew everything about rap and stuff. I was also in my curating phase, figuring out what was good and bad.
What name did you post the comments under?
I had this username Fred-MS. I had this tag that was Fred, like after the [Brazilian] soccer player, because everyone's tag was SCAR or some hard shit, so I made like this KRS-One style acronym.
What did Fred-MS break down as?
It was Freely Rebelling Every Day Moving Silently. But I feel like I'm maybe one of the few people my age who took KRS-One seriously. A lot of that positive old school rap like Poor Righteous Teachers, I took it really seriously: Yes, this is true, those guys are prophets, they are speaking for the people!
So you didn't like Das Racist's music at first?
It was the thing where at first I heard them and then I didn't really get it. It was on this dude's Dallas Penn's site and he posted something up and I was like, "Yo, they have talent but they should do this." So I sent Dap a thing I did on YouTube where I did a remix and sent him a bunch of beats. It wasn't like a hateful thing, more like me being very honest. I wasn't afraid of them or anything.
When did you first get to meet them?
This was like December 2010. The first time I met them I went through the studio while they were recording Relax. They were the first real rap dudes I met that was professional, so I was just trying to learn it all, soak it in. They're really good people, they really supported me a lot. I didn't think anyone would fuck with me. I just feel like I really hit them up before they really blew up and started riding the wave with them.
Is is true you actually lived in the same building as Heems?
It was the same building in Flushing, Colden Towers. It was in a Large Professor music video once. He's on the rooftop rapping and it shows that building in the background.
Did you see Large Pro around Flushing then?
I never seen him. I saw 50 Cent once when I was young. He came through the neighborhood. That was before he was really big. He used to have all his videos on Queens public TV. I was a 50 Cent fan before he hooked up with Dre, before he went to jail even. It was the songs like "Life's On The Line"when that came out it was really big and all my friends liked it even though we knew he wasn't famous. He was mad funny; everybody loved him. A lot of people hate him now, but I see him as the dude from back then when he was chubby. I'd love to work with 50.
Did you get to meet 50 Cent?
I was about 11 years old, and he was walking around talking to people and they were like, "Yo, that's him!" He was just talking to friends. I kinda wanted to meet him but I also didn't realize that he would be 50 Cent or anything. But I would love to meet 50 now, and be like, "Yo, you influenced me a lot, keep doing your thing." I'd love to work with him. I sent a bunch of beats to his A&R before I hooked up with Greedhead, but it didn't pan out.
Big Baby Gandhi feat. Das Racist, "Blue Magic"
So those beats might appear uncredited on the next 50 Cent mixtape...
I wouldn't even mind if 50 stole my beats!
It's popular to hate 50 Cent at the moment.
Yeah, then he goes on The View and those talk shows and he's so charismatic and he's this nice goofy guy. How can people hate on someone like this? Even with his material, people give him slack for not being conscious or whatever, but he says things like about being shot nine times, "Now it's clear that I'm here for a real reason/ 'Cause he got hit like I got hit, but he ain't fuckin' breathing." That has way more meaning to it than any Mac Miller song ever does. When he talks about his mom and stuff, too [on "Hate It Or Love It"]. He's just a scapegoat for a lot of the stuff in rap that people are kinda tired of. And he was from Queensthat's crazy to me.
Were you rapping yourself at that point when you saw 50 Cent?
I was always rapping since third grade, just to fit in really, 'cause I was one of the only Indian kids.
What was your MC name back then?
It was a bunch of weird ones, like Rapid Dismissal. It was really corny. I'd say like, "Why's my name, Rapid Dismissal? Rapid Dismissal on your face!" Back then it was cooler. This was like junior high. We used to do lots of battlesthis was when 8 Mile came out. The raps were just freestyles like, "I fucked some girl and your mom." And you're nine years old! Then it was battles and 13-year-old kids in a circle saying like, "I put lead in you like a mechanical pencil." But we all lived in the same 'hood, we were all 13, we know no one's going to kill anyone! But we put our hearts into those battles.
Did you win many battles?
That's the thing, I was always a little out there, but I basically had the same rap style as now, like, "Yo, suck my dick/ I'm nice, you're not at nice/ You got guns, no you don't, I got guns/ No I lied, I don't." So I never won a battle but people would be like, "Oh, this kid can actually rap," and just knowing that people would fuck with me. But I don't even know why people battle, now that you asked me these questions. In the '70s I'm sure it was different, but it's definitely not a substitution for a fightyou battle and you fight anyway.
On "Blue Magic" from the mixtape you compare yourself to a young Nas and a young Jay-Z, while saying other rappers are like the older versions of those two.
I feel like if you asked Nas and Jay themselves, they'll tell you they were better back then. Nas, his first three albums were all about being a poet and painting that picture, but now it's like an older more tired poet who's painted the same picture a lot. I don't want to clown Nas, but I think he knows it.
Why do you think Nas has fallen off like that?
I feel like he's said what he had to say, and it would have been great for me as a fan if he went into other areas and other weird shit. I'm sure he has stuff that his label wants him to do and his fans expect him to do, so he never really left that circle. At least with Jay, he tried to make Kingdom Come so I respect that, and the stuff he said on Watch The Throne is out there. I thought Watch The Throne was one of the best albums in the last ten years, at least in rap. I thought what Kanye did, rap wise... He might not have written the lyrics, but for a mainstream pop album they were so full of consciousness. Hopefully there are little ten-years-olds listening to that album thinking that maybe that's what they can rap about.
Do you think that's likely to happen?
I don't really know what's going to happen to the kids who are just getting into rap now. For so long it was understood in hip-hop that you had to have some level of social awareness, but now all these rappers are totally absent to it. Even Waka Flocka Flame, when he says "When my lil' brother died, I said fuck school," that has some social relevance. Like I don't want to pick on Mac Miller, but his stuff doesn't have anything. There's even some dudes who are good lyricists and good at flowing who aren't really saying anything. It's cool but it depends on if rappers have an obligation and the whole history of hip-hop thingI don't really know if they do any more.
Big Baby Gandhi, "Gandhi Mandhi Mandhi"
Do you feel that obligation to rap about social issues in your music?
I used to feel that. I go in and out. Every couple of weeks I change my mind. Sometimes I feel like I should only be conscious, and other times I feel like I want to only be really dumb and ignorant. But I feel like that's how everyone feels now. You definitely want things to change but we're all so embedded in the status quo. Can you be like "Fuck Facebook!" when the world is so connected? It's like, if you want to say you're against the status quo can you really be against it the way the world is connected with the Internet and the government? I don't have a formed idea on it yet, but people feel they want things to change, they don't like the way things are, but there's nothing they can do about it so maybe they should just forget about it. Maybe people don't look to music for their political ideas any more anyway.
You have a line on the song "Drink A Lil' Pepsi" where you break down the different girls you'll see on different subway lines in the city.
The line's really about the different races on the subway in different parts of the city: the L train is all white people between East New York and the city; the 7 train is all Asian and Spanish people; the J train is black girls. It was a commentary about that.
So on which of those trains have you been most successful in picking girls up?
None of them, I guess! You don't really want to be stepping to a girl on a train. That's a place where they're mad. It's a vulnerable time. Who really wants to be stepped to on a train by a dude who doesn't really have a car and can't drive her anywhere?
If you were trying to pick up a girl on the subway, what would you say to her?
What would I say? A couple of times it's like you see someone and indie rock starts playing in your head and you get the feeling that it's the girl I'm going to marry and that ass is so amazing. So I feel like maybe smile and see if they smile back and say hi. I don't really have the sort of game that works on the train. I'm more like, get to know me for a while then let your guard down.
[As a new song comes on the jukebox] It's crazy that this song is playing.
What is it?
It's this dude King Khan. They do crazy shows. There's a period where I quit rap and a started a punk rock band and just copied their songs for two years.
What was the punk band called?
It was The Kicks.
What did you do in The Kicks?
I wrote songs and was the vocalist; I had a dude who was the guitarist and we had like a drum machine to do drums. I have a couple of songs on my hard drive, but they're not that good. They're really bad. I remember for my first gig our drum machine broke and we had to do it acoustic and it went really bad and everyone was looking at us real weird, so I started freestyling and they liked it and I was like maybe I should go back to the rap shit 'cause I really suck at this rock thing. So that's when I went back to rap. But I only listened to King Khan's shit and the Black Lips for two years straight.
What were the Kicks' songs like?
I had a song called "Hate" which was a love song. It was a lot like "Other Jackets": "I want to love you, suck my dick, let me come on your face." I think that's where I got a lot of my "Other Jackets" styles from, from punk.
Big Baby Gandhi, "American Experience"
On the song "American Experience" you talk about "listening to top ten." What sort of stuff are you referring to?
We used to listen to the top ten pop songs, like Z100 was the radio station here, so it was NSYNC, Britney [Spears] and Nelly.
A lot of Neptunes production.
Yeah, I still listen to that shit now. I don't have hate for that stuff. It's hard to make good pop music. It's good now, but there used to be more variety. They use the same drums [now], they use the same patterns to build up, but back then you could be weirdlike every Timbaland song is like that.
Why do you think it's changed?
I feel like it's a personal artist choice. Timbaland wants to be known as the production dude that wants to use weird sounds. But especially with the economy, if people take your beats 'cause they sound like everyone else, well, I can't blame them. Creativity is a luxury right now.
What was your mentality when you started producing songs yourself, then?
When I started producing I was simply trying to make stuff for me to rap over; I wasn't really thinking about the art at all. I wanted stuff that looped okay and didn't sound horrible. I used to loop like the ends of songs I liked, like T.I. and Jay-Z songs, [because] at the end there would be two-bar instrumentals and that's how I figured out how to make beats. I think a lot of people don't know how to do that.
What did you use to loop them up?
I used a sound editor. I had to copy and paste each time, using the waveforms. It's a rally tedious way. But now I use a wave editor and use that to chop loops up. It's good for me. I have the best chopping skills in the game.
Which other producers do you think chop samples well?
Well, J Dilla's like the G.O.A.T., and a lot of people are good at it, but I don't think a lot of producers chop. A lot just take loops right now. So I feel like my sound is way different, especially my production choices. But I don't care if it means I get more fans, because what's better for rap in general is better for me. Rappers don't need to compete for one spot any more. Back in the day in the '80s there was only five spots for rappers on the label, but now it's not really like that. The more people get in to Waka the better it is for me; the more people get into these new New York rappers, the more fans for me. I mean, I want to see rappers bandy together. In the world outside hip-hopI've spent the last four years in college for medical schoolpeople really look down on it from upper-class backgrounds. They either think rap is like the stereotype of it or disrespect it. But we're all trying to do the same thing, trying to speak for a lot of people who don't have voices and represent for our community and do something positive. I would rather attack indie rockers. I mean, I was going to start beef with a lot of rappersthis was my thinking a month back. I was going to go after Odd Future, I was going to go after Jay-Z, Nas, everyone.
My thinking changed when I realized that was really dumb and immature. I want to start beef with these major label heads instead; I want to put their names in songs, like put Lyor Cohen's name in song for how come rap is the way it is. I want to shit on them. It would be dumb for me to go after rappers. What control do they have? They're just trying to feed their families.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.