Welcome to the first installment of Fuse's newest column, Then & Now! Throughout this interview series, we chat with some of your favorite artists from the '90s and early Aughts about their career's biggest highlights and what they're up to today. This week, we spoke to Baby Bash.
Baby Bash first got mainstream ears buzzing with his 2003 single "Suga Suga" featuring Frankie J, which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 7. Thirteen years and five albums later, the 41-year-old rapper is prepping the release of his new project Don't Panic, It's Organic on Nov. 11.
Read on to see what Baby Bash told Fuse about his favorite collaborations, the importance of showcasing his Mexican-American heritage and legalizing marijuana.
Baby Bash: So what classic hits do you know of mine?
Fuse: Well obviously "Suga Suga," "Baby I’m Back," "Cyclone," "Obession."
Yeah, I’ve got 7 or 8 Top 20 hits. So that’s pretty good. “Baby I’m Back” is probably my favorite performance songs, because I just like the groove and the style of Akon’s voice when he did that Prince high-pitched note. I loved it.
Fuse: That’s one of my favorites
because it has that southern swag. And we all know "Suga Suga"...
Robin Schulz made the EDM version, which went to No. 1 in all different countries. I made a lot of money off of that, because I still own 90 percent of it.
Did you think it was going to
be so big?
When I first recorded “Suga Suga,” I had it for about a year before I even put it out because I thought it was too soft. I was signed to a record label called Dope House and we were doing more street stuff. It’s funny because people who know “Suga Suga” probably don’t know about my more b-boy type stuff. So everyone was telling me “You need to do a radio song for the girls,” because I always had a lot of girlfriends. But I was on my “Fuck the radio!” shit. But my pockets were like, “Man, you need the radio.” [laughs] So it took off in a way I never really imagined it to. I almost sold that song for $5,000 and I ended up making my first check for $250,000. It was a $245,000 decision to keep it. Thank god I didn’t sell it!
Were you nervous about transitioning from that hardcore b-boy style to a more mainstream sound?
I wasn’t nervous because I love all types of music. Coming from a Chicano background, I grew up on oldies and doo-wop. I know a lot of my hardcore fans kind of got mad, but I gained a million more from it. To tell you the truth, “Suga Suga” was about smoking marijuana. The original title was called “Lifted.” A friend hit the beat, I hit the joint and said “Man, I’m lifted.” So that’s how it started. [sings “Lifted, shifted, higher than a ceiling] So it was like when Rick James did “Mary Jane.” His was about marijuana, but some people actually thought it was about a girl named Mary Jane.
I also wanted to dive into “Doing Too Much” with Paula DeAnda. How did that collaboration come about?
She was 15 years old, and at that time I was doing a lot of shows in Corpus Christi. I was friends with one of the guys at the radio station, and he was telling me he had a girl who could sing and if I could write for her. “Doing too much” was a phrase we used a lot back then, and I was going to use it in a song for me. But it turned out great for her, and next thing you know she has a record deal! And not only a record deal, she was signed by Clive Davis. To this day, Paula is still one of the dopest singers and that song was one of my favorites.
Which collaboration did you enjoy the most?
I love to collaborate because it’s just like my meals. It’s like eating a steak: you want potatoes, then you want some vegetables, corn and ice cream afterwards. That’s how I treat my songs. You want the main and side dishes, the hook, the rapper. The biggest stamp of my whole career would have to be [working with] Carlos Santana. I can’t believe he even knew who I was. He put me on his album Ultimate Santana. For me to rap on a song with Carlos Santana, who is a legend…for him to recognize this little Chicano kid was huge.
You’ve been working in this
business for more than a decade, but do you find it hard to maintain relevancy?
I feel like rap music is becoming too fast-paced.
Well it’s A.D.D. I came up in the low-rider car show circuit, so my fans are probably a little more loyal than the average hip-hop fan. Especially nowadays. If you sound like you can’t read or if you’re illiterate, they like you more. But for the youngsters, all you gotta do is put a dance video up. You don’t even need to know how to rap. But I stick to what I do. I’m a songwriter, the rap is the last thing I worry about because it’s one of the easiest parts. I never wanted to be Mr. Rapper Guy. But I’ve been lucky that my journey’s been slow, and I appreciate it more. Back from 2003, I’ve seen people blow up and come right back down under me. And I’m still moving slow up the ladder. I don’t know if it’s me being a Mexican-American. But whatever it is, it’s a blessing. I’m still putting records out and making a lot of money because I own everything. I invested in real estate and a medical marijuana company, so I’m saving lives as well as doing music [laughs].
I wanted to touch on your
heritage, as it was recently National Hispanic Heritage month. What do you
cherish the most about being part Mexican?
Keeping the family together was always important for me. Our culture is so beautiful. Besides the food and parties, the whole strength and work ethic…if my grandfather wasn’t nailing a roof he was mowing someone’s lawn. He had a regular job, and on the weekends he did landscaping. No one can ever say we don’t work hard.
You also put out that “El
Pinche” song that featured a lot of Mexican-American rappers.
That’s also gonna be featured on my new album, Don’t Panic, It’s Organic. It has E-40, Mac Dre, Cap G who’s a young Mexican-American rapper who comes from Atlanta. The “El Pinche” song was with Chingo Bling, who is one of my good friends. I wanted to make a hardcore song and put some humor in it.
Was it important for you to include those artists instead of doing the standard black rapper
Mexican-Americans get looked over and we have so much talent. It’s a black and white music world, and I have to face that fact. Whenever they say Mexican, they actually want Spanish. They have to understand that a lot of Mexicans growing up, we didn’t listen to Spanish music. We grew up on hip-hop. We spend a lot of money because I know one of the biggest consumers in hip-hop are Mexican-Americans. I’m not saying Hispanic, I’m not saying Latino. There’s a difference. But we have the least amount of heroes. The people with the suits and the people who make the calls at these major labels, I think they think “Mexican” is a bad word. They pile us up in one bowl. We’re not reggaeton and we’re not Tejano, we like hip-hop. When I was on a major label, they didn’t know what to do with me. I grew up in the hood and I was just as grimy as those dudes. But when I blew up, I had the pretty boy looks and people thought I was such a sweetheart with “Suga Suga.” So they painted me as a pop guy. My whole career is such a one in a billion thing. Thank god I was never an asshole or a corny dude, I always just stayed in my own lane.
I was listening to your
Legalizers mixtape with Paul Wall earlier. Do you have any funny
stories of when you were high?
[Laughs] Yeah, I’m high a lot. My whole life is a comedy. The hypocrites of America promote alcohol and people die every single day from it. And in some states you can’t smoke a blunt and eat a burrito, or else you’ll go to jail. There’s a guy in Oklahoma who grew six plants of marijuana because he didn’t want to take pills to help with his PTSD. And now he’s going to face five years in jail because of it. So with Legalizers, me and Paul Wall are trying to bring awareness to it. We either have to legalize or decriminalize. I’m saying it’s for everybody, but it does help a lot of people medicate. We also have a comic book coming out that shows out marijuana helps so many people with issues in life.
Nice! When is that coming out?
We just finished the first rough draft, so we’re looking to have that out by January of next year. I also invested in a medical marijuana company called California’s Finest. Can you believe in America right now, a company will try to sell you a prescription pill and admit that it might make you suicidal. That just goes to show how powerful pharmaceuticals are in this country.
You’ve worked with a ton of rappers and singers throughout the years. Is there anyone else you’d like to collaborate with?
I get so disappointed when I meet some of these asshole rappers. I don’t care how famous you are. If you’re an asshole I’m not gonna fuck with you. But the one person I would love to work with would be Andre 3000, because I’m a big Outkast fan. He goes out on a limb and I think we would’ve made a dope collabo. We could create some creative funny shit with a touch of class, but also with a groove. But I’ve worked with so many people. I’ve been lucky.