The rain had finally slowed down as I approached HIBISCUS, a vegetarian cafe in West Philly. After a number of rescheduled interviews (on my end, sorry Bey), I was happy to finally be sitting down with East Coast emcee Amir Richardson, known to most as The Bul Bey. The 26-year old rapper seemed to fit the description that I had read in his biography: modest and low-key. I liked that. His energy was genuinely warm and once we got talking I felt like homie and I were long-time friends.
We talked about both of our failed attempts at being vegetarians, the Philadelphia music scene and our shared love for travel. Bey works part-time at an airline which gives him the ability to take spontaneous trips every now and then. He’s smart about it though, he tells me about all of the open-mics that he’s rocked across the country. He uses his job as a means to gain exposure, and I respect the hustle. When I questioned him about how he decided that rapping was his life’s purpose a smile crept across his face and his eyes darted to the ground.
“Kris Kross was poppin’ somewhere in the 90s”, he bites his bottom lip trying to hold back laughter and proceeds to tell me the story about how his brother’s hatred for Kris Kross is what sparked his career. Like many younger siblings, Bey looked up to his older brother and often imitated him, so when his brother started rapping, so did he. Bey explained how he started off keeping his raps in his head and strictly rapping when he was alone, until high school when he started writing full length songs. That’s where he decided to start sharing it with his friends.
“Dawg, you suck!”, he laughed as he mimicked his cruel high school peers. But he wasn’t salty about it.
He went on to explain how writing and rapping became something that he couldn’t shake. Even though he kept it to himself, he continued to write music.
“It’s like telling yourself you’re not black, or telling yourself you don’t have fingernails, or telling yourself you’re not who you are. But it is what it is, and you are who you are, and I really just couldn’t turn it off, I was a rapper”.
By the time Bey finished college and had free time on his hands, he decided to jump in the booth and start recording which he describes as a horrible experience that he never wanted to try again. It wasn’t until he met The Product, a producer from Jersey/South Philly who he describes as “the person who put the battery in my back to get me going”. The Product praised his skills and gave him the confidence to get back in the booth, and try again. Soon after he put out his first mixtape, In the Meantime which snowballed into another project called You’re Quite Right, a mixtape that caught the attention of Matthew Law who immediately brought him on to Illvibe Collective.
“Perception is a funny thing. If you keep telling yourself that you are something, then eventually you become that,” he says, “I kept telling myself that I was a part of hip hop, that I was a rapper and here I am now, I’m a rapper”.
A rapper, yes, but also a game changer. Bey stands out from the pack by pairing progressive lyrics with superior beats and relatable visuals. We already showed you his video for “Where I’m From” a few months back so you can peep the video for his single “Apples” below to get the gist of what I mean.
“Apples is on my first mixtape. It was one of the first recordings I’ve ever done as an artist so I’m kind of insecure about it but at the same time I love the story behind it, I love the lyrics in it. Sometimes I go back and listen to it and I’m like “Man, I was really goin’ in”. The whole title stems from the saying “How do you like them apples?” and the song represents an answer to that question, like, “Yeah, I am here and I’m lovin’ em”.”
[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″ video_id=”TQIk_HghgKY”]
See what I’m saying? This guy is #rare.
Bey is currently working on his latest project Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies. Don’t sleep on him.
**Editor’s Note** The Bul Bey was down to kick off our brand new feature “The Question” OogeeWoogee’s new interview series that gives you short, intimate moments with your favorite artists. Check it out below.
[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″ video_id=”db3t1M9uEio”]