Universal Concussion

On Being 'Hot Ta Def'

"The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he
that watereth shall be watered also himself."
Proverbs 11:25

Two things hit hard after a 'conversation' with B.B.Jay. The first is that the brother speaks nearly as fast and as flowingly as he raps. The second is that his expession is consistently laced with the Word.

He's even got scripture on being 'phat like dat'. Here's what he says:

"Yeah, I'm phat like dat". What I'm saying is, to be phat, the root meaning comes from Prov. 11:25: "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that waters shall be watered also himself." So, I'm talking Bible B.B.Jay fat, not baby fat! Basically it's saying that the person who gives their time, money, wisdom for the benefit of someone else, God in turn makes your soul fat like that. So whatever fat is blessed."

As Jive's hip-hop pride and joy, the hefty artist clearly revels in double meaning, and takes obvious delight in explaining what his rhymes mean.

"Basically I've been giving my time and wisdom and money for others, and God is making my soul fat like that. So on "Don't Be Mad (Who's Da Blame?)", I'm saying don't be mad because I'm blessed, because I have an abundance in my life. Don't be mad because I'm blessed like that. Don't be mad because you're style is wack —that's like, a lot of people look in the mirror and don't like what they see, they 're miserable with themselves. I'm saying 'blame God', simply because God is the one who is blessing me. He's the one who has given me the opportunity, he's the one who lets us rise up out of circumstances, who makes something out of nothing, who makes a way out of no way, and gives an opportunity for everyone. But it's up to an individual to accept his way or to reject his way. So it's not my fault, He's the one responsible, He's the one to 'blame' for all my blessings."

That line about 'blaming God' is just one of the points of heated discussion that have been raging about B.B.Jay, ever since his independently-released "Pentacostal Poppa" single starting heating up the BET video request line back in 1998. Much of that controversy has centered around the elemental similarity of his style to that of the late secular hip-hop artist, Biggie Smalls.

B.B.Jay"I sound like Biggie? Yeah, so many people say that. As a hip-hop artist, and as a fan of hip-hop music, no one can deny that he was a great part of hiphop. He's greatly missed —I wish I could have got to work with him. The thing is, I feel so overwhelmed that people even mention my name in the same breath as Biggie Smalls, simply because I feel like I'm not worthy [of that]. I don't try to sound like Biggie. I always tell people, I could never be Biggie Smalls, I can only be B.B.Jay. A lot of people try to skip goodness and go to greatness, but I'm just trying to be a good B.B.Jay. If I just stay the course, maybe I'll be a great B.B.Jay some day."

So if not Biggie, then how about Rocky? That's the first comparison that he makes when asked about who he is.

"I'm like the Rocky Balboa of hip-hop. I represent people all over the world, you know, having an intimacy and a realness, first of all acknowldging God our creator, and then acknowledging his people, who are his creation, and the world. I'm like Rocky because a true champion is not necessarily one who wins the awards, the platinum and silver. No, it's because I say, 'look, I have ups and downs in life, I have things to deal with in life', and thats like the everyday person, every level, every ethnic group. A true champion is one who never gives up. I represent everyone who has a desire to be a champion, and who IS a champion every time they get up and go to work or school or whatever. It can be difficult sometimes, but I'm not going to give up."

The boxing theme also surfaces on the title of his debut album, Universal Concussion (see review), which B.B.Jay says refers to 'world wide impact' and references his vision to change the face of rap through the delivery of good news, of sanctified rhymes. To some it will sound brash, perhaps even bragging. Indeed, if you isolate a phrase or two from his material and don't examine the surrounding rhyme, it certainly does appear that way. And yet in rap and in conversation, B.B. always qualifies that confidence by saying "I acknowledge God in everything simply because without Him, I am nothing, and with Him, I can do everything but fail."

B.B.Jay"Like on 'I Told You So', I'm saying that whenever you try to do something, you got people who support you and people who don't support you. It's a song that says that I was [bound] to be successful, based on my hard work and my faith in God. And now I'm phat like that —I'm blessed like that. I say look at God, look at what God has done, he's taken something that was nothing, and made something beautiful out of it. So people relate to that because everyone's trying to reach a goal. I'm really blessed to do what I do, and it's really not based on my skill, it's based on my faith in God. And the word of God says that faith without works is dead. The reason why B.B.Jay is so alive and kickin' like a newborn is because of my faith and hard work. It goes together real well."

The story of how he went from a struggling artist in the streets of New York to landing a Jive Records contract is one that B.B. Jay likes to tell. During his "Pentecostal Poppa" days, B.B. was consecutively signed to two small, independent labels. "Both situations were ones where I learned alot, but there were two times where my contract was bought out." Through those business dealings, his work somehow reached the ear of the influential music industry exec., Andre Harrell.

"Man, I'm so grateful for that. I went to meet him in an Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan, and I walked in and I said, 'Wow that's Andre Harrell'. So we sat down and he asked me a couple questions, and then he turned to his people and said' Ok, that's enough, this kid is a superstar, I've heard enough.' So he introduced me to Jive Records, and it's been a lot of love.

On the way, B.B.Jay has had the opportunity to meet and work with some of renowned. He's quick to acknowledge mentorship of MC Hammer.

B.B.Jay"He's like a big brother to me. He's just a great guy, we hang out and chat. You know, a lot of people tell me, 'B.B. you need this and you need that in your entourage, you need two DJs, you need more of this etc.', but this means nothing to me. I've learned so much from Hammer, because if anyone has learned about doing too many things and going over budget, it would be him. He's educated me so well. I'm going at a pace that I know I can handle. The things I've learned form him is wisdom that I could never learn in a book."

Then there's Prince Markie Dee, of Fat Boy fame, who worked with B.B.Jay in producing much of the album.

"To work with Markie was a big joy. I mean I was so much into The Fat Boys. I was always eating pizza, to the point my mom thought I knew them! She'd be like, 'there's your friends on TV!', and I'd be like, Ma, I really don't know them. So to actually work with Markie was a great joy."

B.B. is one of only a handful of hip-hop artists with a Gospel message on a mainstream label. "Sometimes it's good to be isolated, and being the first [here] to do what I do, is a great responsibility. There's a lot of artists who are rooting for me on the Gospel side as well as on the mainstream side. They're saying, 'B.B.Jay, do your thing because you're the bridge that's going to allow a lot of people to come over."

"My genre of music is Gospel, hip-hop and R&B actually, and I'm trying to expand. Music being the medium, I don't consider myself as 'B.B.Jay the Gospel rapper'. Yes I am a Christian, I believe strongly in Jesus Christ, I believe he died for my sins and the while nine, and I believe that God put a message in my mouth for this day. It's a strong message for this 'mess age'."

"I'm also a performer. When I hit the stage, I'm a big brother, but I get down, you know what I'm saying? I was born to perform. [I do that] because, I'm free. The Bible says that he who the Son sets free is free indeed, and I'm so free. You see, the only person I have to please is God. Yes, I haveB.B.Jay obligations as a recording artist to Jive. But the only person I have to please is God, and if God gives me the green light, then I put my foot on the gas and I'm outta here, you know what I'm saying? He opens the doors, and that's why I'm allowed to do the things that I do.

And these things, that's not because of my talent, but because God is so awesome, and being that no-one can put God in a box, He is showing that His are the best in every genre, in every career, and I'm just a manifestation of that. My career is 'hop-hop artist'; I rap and I have faith in Jesus Christ. I rap good things and good news, which is what Gospel means. I'm not ashamed of my faith. Because of God I am who I am and without Him I'm nothing. I wish people wouldn't get so caught up in titles. You are who you are, and I'm a hiphop artist.

"I'm really living my dream right now. Why dream the life when you can live the dream."

And you can be sure that B.B.Jay's got scripture on that one too.

— interview by Stan North

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