Las Vegas, Nevada. Beneath the glittering lights and prize fights, Sin City’s place in hip-hop history has generally been confined to its influential visitors and the shooting of Tupac Shakur in 1996. But, there is a more to Vegas hip-hop than the mainstream portrayal. Among those who have grown in the scene, Big B, who is featured on A&E’s popular “INKED,” is characteristic of the diverse voices emerging from the desert.
Between holding it down for the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company and helping out with motocross legend Cary Hart’s other ventures, Big B has slowly developed an underground following on the mic. He is fresh off the release of his third LP, More To Hate, an album featuring the likes of Sen Dog and Tech N9ne. Built off live instrumentation, the sonic body of B’s current sound has a bluesy feel akin to Whitey Ford, and shows a welcome growth and depth. The self-proclaimed “White Trash Renegade” surprisingly offers more universal subject than the moniker might suggest — proof that abiding by the old cliché “never judge an [album] by its cover” can result in finding some refreshing music.
Ballerstatus lobbed a few questions at Big B, and as a result learned a little about Vegas, tattoos and what kind of sandwich large white dudes really enjoy.
Ballerstatus.com: What is your target audience?
Big B: Anybody with an open mind from punk rock kids to b-boys and in between. I have a big following in the action sports industry, so that helps out a lot. Things are changing and people just don’t want to listen to the same type of music anymore. They want to mix it up.
Ballerstatus.com: With Suburban Noize, you’ve got a great collection of niche groups meshed with some pretty big names (like Sen Dogg), what does the label allow you to do, and do you think the interaction between artists on the label has helped you develop?
Big B: For sure it’s helped. We get the chance to work to together, tour together and to just make the music we want to make. Subnoize isn’t the type of label that is breathing down your back to bring them that next big hit song (but it would be nice). They give you the freedom to do your thing. That’s what makes Subnoize, Subnoize.
Ballerstatus.com: What are some of your biggest musical influences?
Big B: Everything from Johnny Cash to Eric B & Rakim to bands like Social Distortion and Rancid. I’ve always been big Biz Markie fan. I just like they way he always has fun with his songs.
Ballerstatus.com: How involved are you with the crafting of the beats you rhyme on?
Big B: On this last album, I got to spend a lot more time with the beat making process. We went in with a few musicians and just started jamming and came up with the music. On other tracks, I would just record the pattern I wanted and let the guys do the rest.
Kumi, who did six tracks on this record, would just give me raw beats and then go back after I laid my verses and beef the whole thing up, so we do it a few different ways. I think that’s what makes it such a well rounded record.
Ballerstatus.com: What is your favorite sandwich?
Big B: Anything free. After that, it would have to be corn beef on rye.
Ballerstatus.com: Where is the strangest place you have ever put your finger?
Big B: Man that’s a tough one. Maybe it would have to be a wall socket?
Ballerstatus.com: What was the single greatest moment for you in hip-hop?
Big B: When I got to record with Ice-T and do a rock remake of “Colors.” I was just sitting in the studio with him thinking I can’t believe this is f***ing happening right now. That was my greatest moment in hip-hop. As for the greatest moment for hip-hop? To me, it’s when Runc-DMC’s Raising Hell album went platinum. After that, the flood gates started to open and hip-hop started to get the credit it deserved.
Ballerstatus.com: Who are your favorite MCs?
Big B: I’ve always been a Biggie fan. Big pun was dope as f***. Tupac, Nas, Ice Cube and even DMX. Anybody that can tell a story and not just put words together because they rhyme.
Ballerstatus.com: What are your thoughts on hip-hop in 2007?
Big B: Somebody needs to call the garbage man and have him haul all of the trash away … MAN, it’s getting BAD.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you think people fail to fairly understand the distinction between commercial pop driven rap and hip-hop culture?
Big B: For sure!!! Commercial rap is ruining the credibility of all the true MCs out there. It’s getting worse and worse and most of the artists responsible, don’t even think that they’re the culprits. That’s when you know something’s wrong.
Ballerstatus.com: What are your favorite albums of 2007?
Big B: Sorry, I don’t really have one. But, I am feeling Talib Kweli’s new album, Eardrum, [and] maybe Tech N9ne’s Everready (The Religion) or X-Clan’s Return From Mecca.
Ballerstatus.com: Why are so many white rappers large guys?
Big B: Who? Me and Haystak?? Never really thought about that, maybe only the big ones stand out??
Ballerstatus.com: Las Vegas has been the location for its fair share of less than positive moments in hip-hop history. While Tupac’s death is well known, the local hip-hop scene has had almost no publicity. What is hip-hop like in Vegas? With the outside influence of a Suge Knight, and the internal community propped up by the excellent HipHopSite.com, it seems the local hip-hop scene might be larger than most people imagine.
Big B: The scene here is kind of a weird one. Tons of dope MCs with little or no direction. I think for the Las Vegas scene to reach its full potential, they just need to start working with each other and not against each other. The talent is definitely here. HipHopSite.com has been doing there thing for years. Mike Pizzo and Warren Peace are good guys that have a real love for hip-hop and its culture.
Ballerstatus.com: Describe your introduction to hip-hop and any, if at all, difficulties you faced in forging your own identity as an artist.
Big B: I think my fist real Introduction was when I got my hands on my first compilation. It was a green cassette, I’ll never forget it. It had NWA, Toddy T (Batter Ram), Rodney O & Joe Cooley and a bunch of other rappers on it. I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. After that, I knew I wanted to be an MC.
Back then, I didn’t get taken seriously. And the whole Vanilla Ice thing that would happen later didn’t help my cause at all. But I just kept doing my thing, never trying to act like or be somebody I wasn’t. I still had the love for punk rock and skateboarding and sh** like that, but I also had love for hip-hop. So, I think that’s where my identity and style came from. It’s kind of a mesh of everything.
Ballerstatus.com: You are obviously fond of tattoos. How did you get involved with Hart & Huntington?
Big B: I’ve been good friends with Carey Hart for a long time. We have worked together for years. One night we were eating dinner and having a few drinks and out of the blue, Carey said that he wanted to open a tattoo shop. Little did I know, six months later, we would be opening in the Palms Hotel. Now two years later, we have four shops. I’m still part of the company. I do most of my work from the road. My job consists of making sure all of our team athletes always have product. It’s kind of my little security blanket. It’s good to know you always have a check coming in every month.
Ballerstatus.com: What style of tattooing are you most drawn to?
Big B: I like anything with a lot of color. Black and gray is cool, but I just like big bright detailed work.
Ballerstatus.com: What’s your favorite hip-hop tattoo?
Big B: Back in the day I thought LL Cool J’s mic was pretty dope. And Swizz Beatz came to the shop a while back and got a tattoo of some headphones. They came out real good. We get so many big name rappers coming to the shop to get work done, it’s crazy. The all always have good ideas.
Ballerstatus.com: What’s the craziest story you have from working at the Palms based shop?
Big B: There’s so many. Just come by on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see what I mean. We’re right in front of the entrance to club Rain, so it’s just one big circus. I remember a guy came and got his girlfriends name tattooed and four hours later, he got it covered up because his girl left the club with another guy. Talk about bad luck.
Ballerstatus.com: Why do you think so many people are afraid to go for your definition of the “American Dream?”
Big B: They’re like cattle. They just move in the direction of everybody else. They’re programmed to think that if they act or look a different way, society will look down on them. People just need to live their own lives and be happy. F*** what everybody else is doing.
Ballerstatus.com: On some of your sung choruses, there is a tinge of Whitey Ford. Are you at all influenced by Everlast’s experiments with the blues?
Big B: For sure, he is an influence. I’d be crazy if I tried to say he wasn’t. I am a huge House Of Pain fan also. To me, it was a big deal when he broke off and did Whitey Ford. It proved he wasn’t just a rapper, but also a song writer. That’s what I want to be known as — a song writer, not just another rapper. I listen to so many types of music and try to incorporate them all when I’m making an album. I hate it when you listen to an album and all the tracks sound the same. It doesn’t matter how dope of an MC they are, it gets old fast.
Ballerstatus.com: Reality TV and hip-hop have collided in 2007, most prominently with “The [White] Rapper Show,” and now with the “Celebrity Rapper” thing on MTV. You have also played a role on the show “Inked,” where you famously taught a shop apprentice how to rap. How has your experience on television changed or broadened your audience? Can there be any true authenticity in reality TV?
Big B: Sometimes I’ll be out in public and old ladies walk up to me and say I loved the Dizzle song. I just think in my head, “WHAT THE F*** DID I DO?” True more people know who I am because of the show, but none of them know what I’m really about, so it’s kind off crazy. I don’t think it translates into fans or record sales. It just makes me a little more popular with the TV crowd. As for authenticity, the answer would have to be no, not from my experience. True reality is usually boring when the cameras aren’t around.
Ballerstatus.com: You’re obviously into having a good time (the album is full of great party tracks), why does hip-hop always take itself so seriously?
Big B: It watches too much BET and MTV. Most rappers think that having fun or making fun of yourself on a track is letting their guard down. Everybody wants to be tough. They all feel like they have something to prove. They’re too worried about what people think. I know real killers and they would never tell you that they are.
Ballerstatus.com: Who would you most like to work with in the future?
Big B: Outkast, Biz Markie, maybe Everlast. Oh, and be sure to tell Dr. Dre I’m available any time.
Ballerstatus.com: What are your goals for 2008?
Big B: Just to make music, live life and have fun!!!