The Comeback Kid
Interview conducted by: Todd Davis
The artist formerly known as Billy Bathgate, first came to the attention of the masses after dropping his anthem like lead single, F!@# That, or known by its more PG rated titled, Bump That, back in 2001. The, then, promising wordsmith, known for his fierce battle raps, and, later, superb mix-tape offerings, quickly garnered a lucrative deal with Virgin Records, and plans immediately got underway for what was to be his highly anticipated debut outing, Dear Rich America, My Story To You. Label woes and a shape shifting music industry, instantly put a damper on Bathgates plans as his oft delayed full length album fell by the wayside. The Harlem emcee, who borrows his moniker from the graphic novel & film of the same name that tells the story of a teenage boy who later becomes the surrogate son of infamous mobster Dutch Schultz, virtually disappeared from the Hip-Hop scene Or, did he?? 2003 saw Bathgate released from his binding Virgin contract, and nearly five years later the Uptown rapper has returned with a brand new album, recording contract, and lease on life
It is my understanding that you are FINALLY working on new material -- What can you reveal or divulge about it so far?
Bathgate: Ive been working hard on a new face of music. Its edgy, its hard, its soft, its B-Boy, and its Hip-Hop.
Has the record been titled as of yet?
Bathgate: It is called Hard Candy. And, it represents doing what you feel. Its like a drug. Its addictive. Its really like a drug. Music is a drug, and we need a new brand, a new drug.
What can actually be expected from your long overdue, years-in-the-making Hard Candy debut?
Bathgate: I have some dope producers to look out for. My album is bringing worlds together, and creating a new space of music -- The sound is new.
How do you feel it compares to that of your since shelved official first project, Dear Rich America, My Story To You?
Bathgate: My unreleased album was soulful. I mean, I worked with Just Blaze before he did Jay Zs The Dynasty album, and Kanye West before The Blueprint -- I was ahead of my time. The music was raw. Its before I really knew how to do this.
In your time away from the music business, what had you been doing with yourself?
Bathgate: Working on finding me, and at the same time creating a new me.
Why did you opt to remain gone for so long?
Bathgate: Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forwards. I had to understand whos with me and whos not. Plus, I had to grow into who I really am.
Looking back, when did you first fall in love with Hip-Hop?
Bathgate: Ive been in love with Hip-Hop since Beat Street the movie came out in 1984 -- Ever since The Fearless Four made Problems of the World Today. When Rakim shot I Aint no Joke, video in front of Gems on 125th Street, I was there.
So, besides Ra and the Fearless Four, who else were you listening to back in the day?
Bathgate: From Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, to Ma$e, Camron, and Nas. When I was in high school, you couldnt tell me I wasnt Nas.
When did the professional pursuit really first begin?
Bathgate: When basketball didnt work out <He chuckles>. Nah, I just felt like I wanted to get out there -- That stage is a rush!!
Back then, how did you end up signing with Virgin Records?
Bathgate: It was crazy!! I finished high school, was in the streets battling, destroying nigg*s, then Gee introduced me to Puff, I wrote for Diddy, the bidding war began, and I was signed with Virgin.
Although the single, F!@# That, was blowing up, and your album was finished and ready to go, it never did see the light of day -- Why?
Bathgate: A lot of things happened. Mariah Carey signed the unprecedented Kevin Garnett deal, and then did a Dave Chappelle bug out thing. Next, Virgin fired 90 people. Aaliyah passed. Kelis left. There was no urban department, (and) the boat is sinking. Somebody said gotta leave, I left. Wow, that person also said Koch was a graveyard for rappers. I guess I just listened to the wrong advice at the time <He chuckles again>. But, Im cool, Ya dig?
Are there plans in place to eventually release some of your unreleased product?
Bathgate: I might, but like I said, that sound might clash with this sound, and it would be all over the place.
How do you best define what you do?
Bathgate: My style is hustler meets B-Boy, 80s meets 90s, or Gangster/Kanye West.
Lyrically, what motivates you?
Bathgate: Just whatever vibe Im in -- Mostly good music. I am motivated just by good music -- That raw, you know, that sh*t.
How do you still keep yourself relevant in this new day & age of Hip-Hop?
Bathgate: For me, I just gotta do what I want, and what I love. The passion you put in is what keeps you loved.
Once you re-establish yourself as an artist, is there anything else youd like to branch out and do?
Bathgate: I just love TV. I just want to act, or be like the next big host of the illest Hip-Hop show.
How has Hip-Hop evolved since your whole inception into it?
Bathgate: Sometimes Im disgusted with it, and other times Im happy. Im happy when the music is dope. Im not when its garbage.
Who is Bathgate?
Bathgate: Im real. Im down to earth. Im cool. I can be touched. And, Im not afraid of the people.
What is a typical day like in the life of Bathgate?
Bathgate: Chilling. Im a big Xbox 360 fan. Im dumb nice at NBA2k7, Ya dig? Or, Im with a fox!!
Favorite career moment
Bathgate: Funk Flex tour. I performed in front of 19,000 people -- It was stupid!!
Projecting ahead, where do you foresee yourself futuristically speaking?
Bathgate: With a few kids. A couple sons, a couple daughters, and a fox for a wife!! Also, making more money -- Getting my Russell Simmons on!!
And, your immediate goals & plans?
Bathgate: The single for the title trackHard Candy -- The videos, Hard Candy the album, and my chance to rock 19K again.
So, with that being said, is there a tour in the works?
Bathgate: Not right now, we just working this record, and getting people ready. Understand, Im like an alien Im dumb with this pen. Im in another space in my life.
Any words of wisdom for other aspiring emcees?
Bathgate: Its tough. Dont let let downs kill you. Keep pushing, keep grinding. The biggest failure of man is pride. Just work hard, and bounce back if you fall -- This game is crazy!!
Any message you want to relay to the readers of www.RapIndustry.com
Bathgate: Im here Capital Gang Records Hard Candy in stores soon!!
[Visit myspace.com/bathgateharlem for more Bathgate exclusives!!]