Wednesday, November 22

Retired and Realistic, An Interview with Big Baby Gandhi

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Big Baby Gandhi is equal parts playful and grave. Deity and toddler, as his name lets on. I snagged an interview with him after 2 or 3 fangirl tweets sent in his direction. I had hardly expected a response back let alone such a positive one. When I told him about our brand-new all-Desi publication, he thought it was rad. And if BBG thinks it’s rad, it’s gotta be alright, right?

Fans of Das Racist, Le1f, and Swet Shop Boys won’t be unfamiliar with BBG’s tracks. He raps about being an immigrant (his family moved to New York from Bangladesh when he was a kid), about love, about making money, and the rest of it. His song ‘Green Card’ inspired another piece included in this issue and it’s in half of my iTunes playlists.

Big Baby Gandhi’s voice came out of my computer late afternoon London time, morning EST. We chatted while he made his breakfast and I desperately tried to smother the sound of my hyperventilating. We talked about everything, from the album he sold through Bandcamp to his pharmacy studies to his decision to leave the rap game behind. For all of the attention his work has received even after his retirement, BBG remains bracingly realistic.

N: Why rap?

BBG: Everyone I know raps, it’s not like a big deal.

So you were just like surrounded by it so it was natural to pick up?

Yeah, I mean, literally everyone I know raps. I live in New York

What age were you when you first started writing rhymes?

I was pretty young. I guess you know my whole life it was like a hobby, something to do. You know, like freestyling with your friends or whatever or just rapping to yourself is fun. The same way everyone else does it, from like first grade. I just like never stopped as I got older. I had a lot of time to myself so I just did rap stuff. And it got out to some people and people liked it but it was never like me doing this huge thing. I was just doing it for fun.

Were you surrounded by other brown kids doing the same thing?

No, but that’s because there weren’t like any other brown kids period. Even now there are more brown kids than there were when I was growing up. There’s more of you and it’s more visual. I was always like the only Bengali kid

Do you think it was a natural continuation of stuff you grew up with? Like besides growing up in New York.

Well not at the time, but sure why not. I have a lot of musical people in my family too and I’m probably like the least musically-talented person in my family. That’s just ’cause I do rap and that takes no talent.

That’s what our parents say anyway.

Uh, well the minimum you have to do to be a rapper is actually like very minimum so I get why parents think like that. I kinda think more like that than some hippie kid who wants to be some rap god.

It seems like your retirement has made you really practical about this.

I’ve always thought like this but now I say it more. I’ve always been like this really old man trying to be responsible and shit.

Are you still writing?

Songs? Nah, I’m really caught up in pharmacy. I’m going to do this for a while until I get bored and then do the next thing.

I see a lot of range and variance in your material. So I wouldn’t like typecast you into one style or another.

It’s sort of a reflection of what I listen to but I mean, I feel like you can be yourself in so many ways.

What do you like listening to?

It varies all the time. I listen to like everything and I know everybody says that. I’ll get like really passionately into one genre for a month. I was working at Rite Aid and there was this like custom playlist for Rite Aid. It was all like the best of top 40 and all these 90s one-hit-wonders and TRL stuff. It reminded me of when I was young and watching Mad TV and stuff and for like a month that’s all I listened to. Now I’m listening to Drake. And I’ll only listen to Drake for two months and then move on.

For the album you did release, what went into it? Physically and artisitically?

Well it took me a while. I had trouble raising the money to get like recording time and mixing time and it took a lot longer than I wanted. That project was kinda like, I don’t know, I’m glad I did something. I put a lot of work into it and now I can say I came up with something. I’m also glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

So do you like put it on your resume that you dropped a rap album?

Um, no. You know, I may look like just some dude who made a mix tap in his basement but like now that I’ve sold it it’s an actual thing.

So you released your album after you publically retired. Was that sorta like a posthumus publication?

I guess but I did what was comfortable for me. I needed to focus on school more so that was like my priority so I didn’t really care what some people thought on the internet like ‘Ooh is he trying to pull something?’ Like, nah, I need to finish this semester. And then I had a month off for summer so I mixed it and put it out and I just went back to school. Whatever people think is whatever.

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