The Bronx may be historically known as the birthplace of hip hop, but if you let native DJ BassBear describe his story, he’ll tell you about how its underground hardcore music scene was the gateway drug that led him to bass music. We catch up with the low end frequency enthusiast and rap about his latest project and all things music.
Mass Appeal: What’s cracking mang? So first and foremost, how’d you get your name and what does it mean?
BassBear: BassBear came around two years ago when I decided to take the DJ route. Originally I was always named “ReyBear” (a nickname for Reynaldo) since high school because I always kept [my facial hair] a little grizzly and chicks dig that. I let the name stick by using it as a username/handle for all my social sites. I thought about using it as a DJ name but it didn’t seem to give any type of attraction when promoting myself to new people and listeners. I still wanted to have the word bear in it so it’s still relevant to me, so I figured since I love bass music, just put one and one together and voilá! You now have BassBear! Or “BassOso” For my Spanish friends in Washington Heights. But that name is just a gimmick to keep myself and my friends entertained.
MA: When did you first get into music and DJing?
BB: Well music was always a “thing” since the beginning of time. It always managed to get my attention. I remember making mix CDs for friends in middle school and getting all my music from the Internet on 56K dial-up. I wasn’t even aware of DJing then. I just found it awesome to make my own playlists, make a CD, play it on my walkman at the time and just jam out. I couldn’t just carry around my favorite albums because that became heavy and there were a few where I only enjoyed one song from the album.
I discovered DJing somewhere towards the end of high school by going to house parties or hookie parties. I would always be near where the music was playing and always making suggestions for what to play. It’s kind of funny because DJs hate requests, but hey, all the kids were so worked up on partying at the time that they didn’t care about what was playing, you just had to make sure your song selection wasn’t wack as fuck.
MA: How were you first introduced to bass and trap?
BB: Bass is one of my favorite sounds, shit feels fucking warm in my heart man, I swear. I always say, “There’s never enough bass in my life.” When growing up I started going to a lot of hardcore rock shows. Mostly because of the group of friends I was hanging out with at the time. The experience was always mind-blowing when I got to hear these high-end venue sound systems. Shit made everything great. I always wondered how other genres would sound in venues like these. So I started going to a bunch of shows within genres. Rap shows, electronic shows, you name it.
The trap music genre came a little later, like maybe 2009-ish. I give a lot of thanks to my boy Chui (pronounced “Chewy”). He’s like a trap guru, he put me on to a bunch of sources and artists like Juicy J, Waka Flocka and Lil’ Boosie. He is still is my go-to man on this type of music anytime of the day.
MA: I hear you’ve got a real tight grip on the SoundCloud platform and all of its ins and outs. Is this true? How do you make it work for you? What strategies do you use?
BB: Big shout out to SoundCloud man! I swear I spend hours in there doing anything possible to get around and find new things. I consider it a digital crate, digging for new wave of DJs. SoundCloud has opened doors for me to get my music going. I also pay for it, too, since you only get a limited amount of storage space to post. 9 Euros a month, which is like maybe $13 USD. Paying for it also gives me the access to my profile analytics. This goes a long way because if I’m getting a lot of positive feedback on what I’m posting, I only want to post more music. Which is the only thing I care about mostly – the music.
I use SoundCloud as a learning tool for what can make me a better DJ and musician. Following certain social networking trends on how to post and present your music is key. This is a worldwide tool and presentation goes a long way to whoever you can possibly attract out there in the Internet.
MA: You have a new double tape that just dropped. What’s the concept behind it?
BB: Well the tape is called _BLK.WHT//, which is some computer slang I made up for black and white. Since trap music has been my thing, I also wanted to introduce all the trap/808 sub-genres that revolve around it. From electronic trap to UK grime, hip hop trap, chopped and screwed and even UK bass music has a bunch of influences in this category. I wanted to make a tape that’s evenly enjoyable for everyone. I made it a double feature cause one sounds a lil darker than the other. But you can be the judge on that ultimately.
MA: How did you come up with the cover? I see that a lot of your covers take on a minimalistic and patterned approach. Why is that?
BB: Covers are a big thing for me, I love a good visual concept with any material I see. When artists want to make their songs seem cooler or have meaning, they usually make videos. There’re very few good album covers out there for me, to be honest. I wanted a bold image that had two different feelings. Roses already catch your attention because of their definitive look and color. It’s one of the few flowers that you’ll spend a few seconds more looking at when you see it, especially when they’re a different color like white or black roses. I want to give you something to look at when you’re listening to my stuff since I haven’t made any videos yet (which will happen soon, shhh). I want to give you some type of visual stimulation.
MA: What’s been on your music radar lately? What artists and tracks have you been inspired by?
BB: Lately I’ve been indulging in the chopped and screwed genre. I’ll give a little credit from my friend Steven cause every time we smoke a few L’s we’re just caught up in the sounds of Lord Infamous. From taking it back to the DJ Screw days to the newly transformed screw genres like DJ Smokey 666, and Tommy Kruise. When it comes to any rhythm I always go for the dark side of things. I’m not a negative person or anything I just enjoy these sounds.
MA: A lot has changed in the music game, from producers, to rappers, to DJs. It’s almost like everything’s been flipped thanks to the Internet. What’s your take on it all?
BB: I’m actually pro about it. It gives the new starving artist a chance to prove themselves as well as introduce something new to the world, and always reminds those at the top of their games that there’s always someone trying top you although they fuck with what you do.
MA: Where does BassBear see his influence/music/work going in 2014?
BB: I’ve been getting more into producing. You’ll probably already see that with the edits I’ve been dropping so far. It’s a rough learning curve, even when you have producer friends. It’s a whole new language and experience. I’m not gonna be all trap focused in producing, there’s already a list of the next possible Lex Luger or even Kaytranada for the experimental cats. I’ll admit that whatever I put out will be similar to what you hear now. But there will be room for more new sounds to discover, create, and re-create.
MA: We hear that you’re a big graffiti head. Can you tell us about that?
BB: Graf is one of my few things I enjoy during times I’m not so musically caught up. A lot of friends I grew up with are still out there painting every damn day. I never really bombed heavy, but I can say I’ve lived through those experiences, going out with friends taking flicks or even just hanging out as a lookout. On top of that, I’ve inherited handstyles from these guys. It’s only right and at least I have somewhat of a connection. Call me weird, a poser, or just a plain toy, but I’m pretty sure my style is better than yours. I love graff and its subculture. Too bad New York City is against it politically.
MA: Any last words or shoutouts?
I just want to thank you guys mostly for supporting me. And Rise And Grind BX, Doce Clothing USA, Wear The City, Bedrock NYC, Dallas Atoms, Eiffel Life, FirstLookiTV, Nostalgia Label, Higher Limits Clothing, Bronx Renaissonx, Mosaic NY, Sunny Cheeba, The Filmatics, DJ El Blanco Niño, DJ Dollar Bin
Listen to BassBear’s latest project _BLK.WHT// below and download it here.