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Unfinished Business: Bashy On His Return To Rap’s Big League

Okay, so to the music now—how does it feel to be back in the rap game, and why did you decide to return to it now? It’s changed a lot since you were dropping mixtapes back in the mid-2000s, that’s for sure. 
There’s a whole album complete, and I’m still nervous. There’s been great feedback so far from anyone who’s heard it but, bro, I’m just mad nervous. I’m not so nervous about the personal story, to be honest, because it’s the truth. There’s been no embellishment on the album, no exaggeration. Everything I’ve said on Being Poor Is Expensive is 100% the reals! I drilled down on the truth. I had to go so deep into my mind and my feelings and my traumas and my insecurities to make this album. No one can fault that. No one can say anything about that. The ability and the soundscape of the album and things like that, the lyrical abilities, the flows…. Like I said, I’m so dedicated and so intense with creation of my stuff that you’re putting yourself out there for the world to see. I made sure that I was razor-sharp on the project. I had to get up to what me and the mandem call ‘match fitness’. I had to get into that space. But I would say the process of starting to even think about writing the album started maybe around 2020.

So, during lockdown, you were writing new bars?
Well, lockdown time, but I was in the middle of shooting THEM, and then we had to take a break during the lockdown. I was in LA and I couldn’t come home because I was one of the leads of that show. If I came back and I couldn’t get back into America, they wouldn’t be able to finish so they asked if I would stay. I stayed, and I was just in my apartment by myself, feeling a lot of different emotions. A lot of things were happening in the world at that time. I was reading a lot and I was watching a lot of TV series and films. That’s just how I would fill my time. And I was working out a bit as well. I almost finished reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book [Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race] when I got a call from [UK music producer] Toddla T. He was like, “Where are you?” And I was like, “Well, I’m in LA.” He kept on telling me that the world needed to hear from me again.

Energies! Big up Toddla.
I don’t wanna say I fobbed him off, but he was telling me to release new music, telling me that I have an important voice in the culture and my voice and story should be heard, and that the scene needed me. I just was like, “Sure.” Things that people probably think all artists are like—like, “Yo! I’m the guy”—I don’t feel like that. I just feel, like, mad insecurities. And then someone else called me, another producer named PRGRSHN. He called within the same timeframe and said the same thing. And I was like, “Well, they don’t even know each other, so what’s going on here?” I told both of them, “Yeah, when I get back to England I’ll look into it.” And then, I dunno, man, I just started writing. At first, it was just little notes to go off and start thinking about. I think that time gave a lot of people time to reflect. I started thinking about what my fears attached to music were. Them times there were treacherous as well; it was just a bit of a dangerous time. It’s still dangerous, but during that specific time, everything associated with music I associated all those feelings and trials and tribulations that I went through as a young man. 

Let’s say those years between 14 and 25. Those 11 years, that’s me becoming a man, but that’s when I was also doing the bulk of my music. So all those feelings I was going through at the time growing up in the ends, growing up poor, my proximity to violence, proximity to the hazards and trappings, near-death experiences, interactions with the police, it all came flooding back. I tried to bury those memories super deep in my mind and tried to forget about everything. A lot of good things happened, too, though, don’t get me wrong. You learn a lot of good things growing up in the local area, tools that have helped me survive in this Hollywood-esque hyper-realism world. But I still had to overcome those feelings of the not-so-good things that happened in the ends as well.

That definitely comes through on the album. It’s raw and personal. Being Poor Is Expensive, which is dropping on July 12, follows on from your 2009 debut album, Catch Me If You Can. Firstly, let’s talk about that title, and secondly, the intro—“The London Borough Of Trent”. What a vivid piece of storytelling!
Literally, when I came back from shooting THEM, I was leaving the train at Kensal Rise Station to get on the bus and everyone had to wear them masks. So no one’s really seeing that it’s me. I’m able to really tap into the environment and take in the ambiance of the area, what it feels like, what it sounds like on those trains, what it sounds like on the bus, what it sounds like on the street, and really dive back into my coming-of-age. That’s what this album is, actually: a coming-of-age story in my part of the city. Everything is from growing up in the London borough of Brent, in North-West London. The album title is Being Poor Is Expensive, and there’s a reason for that because it’s literally how I grew up, how so many other people grew up. This is our story, my generation’s story, but also other people’s stories. If you grew up in Hackney, then it’s a similar story too. There are probably so many correlations between the time when I grew up to what the younger generation’s growing up in now. They’ll be able to relate to it because it’s like, “Oh shit! He was going through that? That’s what I’m feeling now.” 

And the lead single, “Sweet Boys Turned Sour”, speaks a lot to those feelings. I see so many people from my generation, and now the younger generation, who are still going through it. Young people dying. That could have easily been me. That could have easily been my bredrins. This is how me and so many other people grew up in London, and probably the rest of the country and other parts of the world: just regular, nice, sweet kids, working class, trying to navigate being outside and adapting to the environment the best way that we can. I was naive and innocent, but that naiveté and innocence begins to curdle. Now, the people you were scared of, you have turned into those same people to try and survive in that environment.

On this album, I’m talking about testing times in a dangerous period. I’m painting a portrait of my environment and everything that came with that. All the trials, the tribulations—the journey! I would say it’s like a campaign, an homage to the generations before me of that experience, right through to the modern day. Now, where I’m at, I’m on the cusp of… Some of my friends have it already, but they’re introducing the next generation of kids and I’m right on the cusp of that in my personal life. But I would say that it’s a Black British origin story. It’s definitely an origin story for me. This album feels like a limited series, with each track possibly serving as an episode of that series. And that probably comes from my involvement in storytelling via my acting. That’s why it’s so vivid too, I think, because I wanted it to feel like that. So while I’m nervous about putting this out…

—you’re excited as well? I mean, you should be. And I’m not just saying this because we’re cool outside of music and we’re talking now, but this is a truly future classic, and I don’t say that about newer projects often.
Thank you, bro. A lot of dedication, a lot of unearthing has gone into this album. I spent most of my teens shook, and that was something I had never identified before, or how Black men lose their smile, the relationship with our dads and understanding who they were as young men. All these things that we think about our parents, maybe when you’re younger, you’re blaming them for this or that, or questioning why we haven’t got this or that, like: “Why ain’t there ever any money? “What’s going on?” It’s only now, working on this album, that I’ve been able to truly understand my parents and forgive them… Not even forgive them, but forgive myself for thinking how I thought about them at certain times. They were just living their life and they didn’t really do much wrong other than give me everything that they had. So I’m very thankful for that.

On the song “Earthstrong”, I say a line like: “My dad’s an old-school tough guy, I rarely see the man cry/But when his mum died, he reverted to a young child/In that moment, in him, I saw I, knowing one day that will be me, the cycle of life/My child watching me as I break down inside.” I saw it like, “Rah! My dad is me! He loves his mum.” I never really saw it like that before, until I started writing the album. Every line on this project has been accounted for. There is no fat, no filler. Everything is intentional. Everything’s the truth. Everything is from my life.

View news Source: https://www.complex.com/music/a/joseph-jp-patterson/ashley-bashy-thomas-uk-rap-return-interview

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