Greedhead artist Big Baby Gandhi earned his way into our Best Albums of March list with his No 1 2 Look Up 2 mixtape. It was a mixtape so good and in its own world, we heavily considered giving it top honors. It's in the opening moments of “Long Ass Intro”. It's an invitation that begins in a small claustrophic space that takes its time opening up into the celebratory Indian bounce of “Blue Magic”. From there you've stepped into Big Baby Land and he's in your ear until he's literally exhausted himself of bars.
When I phoned Big Baby Gandhi, he was still in an auditorium for a course at St. John’s University. The class was over, but we postponed the interview for 5-minutes so he could get to a quieter place to talk about juggling his rap life with his pursuit of a degree in pharmacy and the finer points of his recently released No 1 2 Look Up 2 mixtape.
How’s juggling the rap life with your collegiate life?
It’s alright. I’ve been doing this for a couple months now.
Has anyone recognized you in class yet?
No one on the whole campus, but there’s like 20,000 kids here. And J. Cole went here, so it’s not like people don’t know about rap.
If you were to do an alumni track would you want J. Cole or Ron Artest on it?
Oh man, I’d rather go with Ron Artest. No shots to J. Cole. He does his thing.
Despite the anonymity on campus…
It’s not even that. It’s just I spend a lot of time studying. I’m on full scholarship right now, so I have to take my school work seriously.
Is that going to slow down the rap career?
It slows down the live shows and stuff. Going to the studio, that’s stuff I do on a day off. It doesn’t affect anything. There are a couple shows I won’t be able to do because I have finals that week. Stuff like that.
Are you looking into summer courses or try to be more available for shows?
I’m trying to do more shows during the summer, but I have to do a rotation thing at this hospital in Yonkers this summer. I’m sure I can find some time on weekends, but it’s really more about finding a time for everything.
It’s cool because rap is something I feel like most people are doing for the love of it. So you find your way to do it.
There’s always time for something you’re passionate about.
Definitely. I didn’t realize how many rappers look at it more like a business, which I understand, but for me I’m still kinda young and trying to make music I want to hear. So for me there’s a lot less pressure to make it.
Is this insight you gained from meeting other rappers?
Yeah. Before I hooked up with Greedhead I didn’t know any other serious rappers. So once I met a bunch of other people it was like an understanding that there are other people who spend their whole day or their whole life trying to make it work. I don’t look down on it as a career. You have to work just as hard as it as anything else. Like any other job, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.
I think with me, I’m motivated by the fact I have a lot of stuff to do. I still live the same shitty life I’ve been living. When I go in the booth it’s not like, “let me write about my real life and how cool it is”. It’s more about expressing the feelings and emotions I’m not allowed express in everyday life.
It’s a purging of everything you’re carrying with you?
It’s not that serious, you know. [Laughs]
I know how to rap. I can do that part. It’s more about seeing what I could do with emotions, seeing what I could do with expression – the artistic ideals. I’m more about that than I’m about trying to get freedom or money. Not that there’s anything wrong with freedom and money. I’m just more motivated by other things.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to get signed by a major label and waste all my money.
Have the calls started coming in to discuss inking deals?
I don’t know if I can really say anything. I’ve gotten a couple calls to talk and sit down, that sort of thing. Even that’s a big deal for me. I didn’t think anyone would want to listen to my shit. But to think a label thinks I’m marketable to anybody… or you know, whatever my fan base is.
I really can’t afford to think about it much. When it happens, it happens. I can’t even afford to think I’ve accomplished anything or I’ll just get real lazy. Even with all this rapping stuff, it’s really out of character for me. The only reason I’m working so hard is so that one day I can just sit around and do nothing.
So the idea is to collect all your work into a focused period and bask in the glory later?
This is the time to do it. This is the time when you’re supposed to really hustle. I feel like our generation is supposed to live the longest. We’re all going to live to be a 100 years old. If you think about it, you spend 10 percent of your life working for how you’ll live for the remaining 90 percent of it.
I’ve not heard this theory.
How old are you? You’ll probably live to be 100. We’re like the same generation. The generation before on average lived to be 86. Just if people stop smoking they’ll live 15 years long on average. We’ll all live to be 90 or something.
The title No 1 2 Look Up 2, how did you decide on that?
That was something I was ranting on Twitter. It’s shortened from what I initially wanted to name it, which was Where I’m From There’s No 1 2 Look Up 2. I was just saying that because I was thinking about some of my favorite rappers get shit on a lot, like Soulja Boy and Lil’ B. Or not even them, a lot of the young rappers my age get shit for being young and I think it’s all bullshit. People don’t think about what our generation was brought into. You get clowned for reading books or doing anything positive is considered corny. Speaking from your heart is considered not cool. Everyone’s sarcastic about everything. No one’s had a sincere moment and you reiterate this into the upbringing of everyone I know and expect them to be quick and intelligent minds. If you shit on a plant for not growing, but you don’t give it any water or any light, how do you expect it to grow?
Things are better now, obviously, but the last 10 years in America have been shitty. The generation before us, the baby boomers, they haven’t helped. They’re very self-concerned. They take political and social issues and make them about themselves and their identity, but they don’t really care about the kids.
Do you feel as though our generation is of a more pure of heart mentality?
I don’t know. The people I know are. We’re all looking for that. I don’t think we’ve found it yet.
People are kind of blind to the status quo. It’s very hard to say, “Fuck the status quo” when it supports us. How can we really say, “Fuck Facebook and reporting to the government” when we’re all on Facebook? There are people who spent their formative years growing up on Facebook. How are they going to say fuck it when it’s part of who they are?
I think people just want some honesty and sincerity, but I don’t know how we’re going to find it. I definitely don’t have any answers. I just complain a lot.
Releasing music that comes from an honest place is a good start.
I’m just trying to be myself. Speaking as a fan, all my favorite artists are considered weird. They’re just being themselves and being honest. If you try to come from a place where you talk about your flaws or your insecurities, all the sudden people say, “Oh, he’s not cool” or “He doesn’t have swag”. How unrealistic of an idea is that to place on any artist, let alone rappers, whose whole personality is put on display to be criticized.
People have these strange standards or expectations as to how rap is supposed to be as opposed to any other genre. You can have an indie rock dude singing about how hurt he is because some girl didn’t say hi to him and people will call it beautiful and thought provoking. But in rap it’s the total opposite.
There’s plenty of machismo lingering in rap, despite some daring artists that are seeking more expressive channels and willing to be flawed.
There’s going to be machismo because it’s a lot of guys. Guys are just like that. I’m trying to say there’s a lack of duality. You can be a thug or whatever and still have feelings. That’s not a crazy thing. That’s what Pac was all about, right? A sensitive thug?
I feel like now, more than ever, it’s magnified. The people I talk to don’t listen to Internet rap. It’s more the Hot97 sound that’s just one thing. That plays into people’s perceptions as to how to behave and act. A lot of people in the hood, I don’t want to say that I know any better than them, but they should feel OK to be little pussies sometimes. Whatever, sometimes you feel like a little bitch and it is fine. It’s OK to be sensitive. I feel like a lot of people don’t get that. They end up over compensating and it leads to poor decisions in the long run.
I think what I appreciated most about your mixtape was the sound was shaped to create its own world. Was that a conscious decision or did your taste just direct it?
It’s a combination. When I was recording I didn’t really have time to make beats. I was just going to delegate all the beats out. The beats I did end up making were just for fun. So all my stuff I did was really weird shit. The “Blue Magic” one, the original instrumental was just a 10-minute beat that I made. I ended up making the “Long Ass Intro” along with “Blue Magic”. Another one I had this really crazy sample, but only had one bass note, and made that into “Stack City”.
I was using some beats from Steep Tipped Dove that I liked. They were different, weird shit. You know, personal taste wise. Once I had six or seven track and half of it done, I had an idea as to how to round it together without it being really strange and too out there.
<p>How did Mike Finito, Hot Sugar and Carmichael Cutty fall into that as well? It seems like despite all these producers there’s a unified aesthetic.
I think that might be me. This may not be a very good answer, but I have this thing where when I listen to music I can see the colors of music. Once I had a bunch of tracks I knew what kind of pallet I had, so I just wanted to round it out, you know. I listened to some Hot Sugar beats and knew I needed certain kind of stuff. Most of his stuff I recorded towards the end, so I was able to tell him what I wanted and he gave me more stuff.
With Mike Finito, I just told him to make me some MIA shit. There’s no vision with that one.
What were the colors you saw with the album?
It was like a mixture of blue and white, with the darker songs being an atonal atmospheric thing, but the bass lines would be very blue or green. The popier songs would be very purple. So, it had this purplish, bluish, greenish kind of thing.
When you have a painting you don’t want to use the same colors. There’s stuff you put in contrast to make other aspects stand out. For me it’s very abstract when I listen to music. I can’t really explain, but it’s stuff that I know or that I taught myself by listening to a lot of music.
I get what you’re saying. It’s very clear that you’re intentionally shifting the moods as it progresses from “Turbo” and “Drink A Little Pepsi” to “Boogie Nights”.
“Pepsi” is kind of a gold, bronzish thing. The drums are kind of metallic for me too – maybe a silverish gold. The bass line in it has the one purplish quality that fit right to me. For me, I’m really proud with how I tracklisted the whole thing. But I don’t think anybody cares about that.
Did you spend a lot of time mulling over the proper order?
I spent at least an hour, which is a long time for me. Tracks 8 through 16 were meant to be nonstop, like once you got in there you’ll not want to skip anything. That’s like my favorite part of the tape.
Is the last track, “Is This All For Real (Remix)”, a pure freestyle?
Yeah. I really like that beat, but I was so out of rhymes. I’d been writing the whole month. I have more bars on that mixtape than most rappers’ careers. I was trying to do some different shit.
I like that concept of closing your mixtape by exhausting yourself of everything you have.
Your tape dropped, Children of the Night, who are also from Queens, dropped a tape… is Queens having a resurgence?
I don’t know, man. We won’t really know until later on. We’ll see what happens. I knew their shit was going to be hot before it dropped. Who else is from Queens?
This dude T-Shirt, who I don’t really know. He rapped on some of Steel Tipped Dove’s beats. I like his shit a lot too. Everyone in Queens raps better than people in other Burroughs and that’s our style, but it doesn’t get the recognition.
The underground New York rappers need to loosen up more. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if these older dudes stop taking themselves so seriously and start doing the kind of stuff that’s going on with the younger kids that could really blow up. Although, I don’t if it’s still OK to do goofy shit when you get that age.
I’d like to hear a Big Baby Gandhi and Cormega track.
Oh my god. That would be insane. I love Cormega so much. I’d just be happy to have him listen to my shit once. I don’t even need a track. I don’t even know if the way I rap, next to them would even make sense. My shit is all about being an outsider and the kid outside of rap making fun of rap. I don’t know how good that would be. But they probably won’t hear my shit, so there you go.