We meet the rapper at her home in Chattanooga to talk about her kids, beefing with Nicki Minaj fans and her latest video getting props from Kehlani and SZA
Seeing her braids twisted into a facsimile of a blue beehive in new video “Rules”, you might think that BbyMutha’s ‘Black Marge Simpson’ tag might be exclusively aesthetic. But spending a couple of hours with her as she looks after two of her kids (one of two sets of twins, no less), and the connections to the classic cartoon mom stands out much more clearly. The Chattanooga, Tennessee-born and bred rapper handles a pair of fussy eaters as well as she does a grimy beat.
Both personally and professionally, BbyMutha combines a brash, no-fucks attitude with an incredible sense of care. She’s not rapping about changing diapers, but she’s not denying the existence of her kids either. (Not to mention a reference to Frozen on “Indian Hair”.) One of her younger kids, Khloe, is responsible for the tag on her songs, while older daughter Michaela appears in the “Rules” video. All four pop up regularly on her social media. And yet, she’s not afraid to lean on specifics, quick and ready with a line about her pussy or a violent threat to rapists.
While she resists the idea of the traditional role model, she’s much better suited to it than any of the trolls criticizing her parenting skills online. BbyMutha’s gaining a foothold in the rap game alongside many other female artists thanks to a raw honesty, a refusal to be anyone but herself. Others try to box her in as the mom of rap, but she won’t become a gimmick, putting the totality of her life on display – an attitude which extends equally to the production that she chooses. The hyperactive retro house of “Beautiful Ratchet” and the gritty, smoldering “Rules” that just went viral on Twitter recently, manage to feel united despite their vast differences, her laconic flow and smirking charm tieing everything together.
We spoke with BbyMutha about her difficult past, her passion for the word “pussy,” her parenting skills, and Twitter run-ins with Nicki Minaj’s fanbase.
Are you just focusing on music now?
Bbymutha: Yes, and then I have my two little ones, they at home with me all day during the day, and then I have my other two little ones at school during the day, but then they’re at home in the evening time. I’m a stay-at-home mom/rapper with two sets of twins. The older set are ten, and the younger set will be four the day before Halloween.
The fact that you are full-time mom-ing and rapping is an unbelievable task.
Bbymutha: It’s frustrating. Especially once I started getting booked for shows out of town. Trying to find a babysitter is hectic. My dad, he’ll watch my older kids, but he won’t watch all of them, which is understandable, because they’re little. It’s just so hard. Everybody thinks I’m supposed to be doing something else. They’re all like, ‘You need to get a real job,’ and it’s just like, ‘This is my job!’ I live in a small town, so a good ‘real job’ is working at the Amazon warehouse. I would still need the same support system. I get a lot of bullshit about my music because of the fact that I have kids. I just want people to know I am an actual human. I’m broke, I live in the hood, my car is raggedy as hell.
Do you think that’s because of the genre you’re creating in?
Bbymutha: It’s definitely because of the genre. If I was an R&B singer, it would seem a little bit more wholesome. But I’m a rapper, and I rap about shit that they feel like women don’t need to be talking about. Like, ‘You’re setting a bad example.’ I see a lot of women in music, especially R&B, who have children, but you don’t really see or hear the kids. They hide them. I do understand the protection aspect of it but I’m not gonna let anybody fuck with my fucking kids. If I was a gospel singer, people would love me.
Right. Singing about god and faith, not pussy and dicks.
Bbymutha: I’ve had people come to me and be like, ‘Your name is BbyMutha, why don’t you ever rap about your experiences as a mom?’ And I’m just like, ‘These are my experiences as a mom.’ I’m not going to get on the internet and post a song about changing diapers. That’s, like, really gimmicky. If I was to rap about mom stuff, I’d probably get (turned into) a Buzzfeed article, and I don’t want to be a meme. I’m trying to show people that just because you have kids doesn’t mean your life’s over.
“I just want people to know I am an actual human. I’m broke, I live in the hood, my car is raggedy as hell” – Bbymutha
Your kids are young, so is the fact that you are exposing them to ‘bad’ language an issue, or is it a case of that they’ll probably hear those words anyway so it’s better coming from you?
Bbymutha: My parents were so secretive about everything. My mom is super Christian, and my dad is Muslim. When I first got my period, I didn’t know what it was. That’s how secretive they were about sex stuff. The only reason I was so curious about sex was because everybody acted like it was this big secret. My kids come talk to me about sex all the time, and I tell them. If you’re a human, you’re going to want to go and have sex, and I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to be like, ‘Hey, I’m interested in this, what should I do?’
My mom was pregnant before she got remarried. Maybe she was embarrassed or something, but we moved to Pensacola, Florida. I didn’t want to go so I went through this really depressed spell that whole year. At the end of the year, when I was 12 years old, I ended up beating up one of my teachers. There was a guy poking me in the back of the head with a pencil, and I kept trying to raise my hand to tell her. I stood up, and she grabbed my arm and dug her nails into my skin. And I just blacked out and started whooping her ass. Pensacola has zero tolerance. I was going to go to juvenile detention, but I told the police officer I was just going to kill myself, so they took me to a psych ward. I was in a crazy hospital, and they diagnosed me with depression and ADHD. That’s how I ended up moving back to Chattanooga.
Did the criticism for rapping stem from your parents’ conservative nature? Do they accept what you’re doing now?
Bbymutha: My mom just got to a point where she’s like, ‘Hey, I get it.’ My mom is an artist. She can draw her butt off, but she just put her dreams to the side. I don’t want to do that. I see the struggles that she had to go through, and I would rather struggle for my art than struggle trying to work some job that I’m not happy in. But my dad is not on board. We fall out constantly. One thing I will say, though, is that if I have to go out of town, and he’s able to, he will watch the kids for me. Them not liking my music makes me feel like I’m doing something to rebel against my parents. I don’t want my art to be angsty teenage rebellion. I would think that my dad would understand because he doesn’t work a regular job. He’s a barber; he’s been cutting hair since before I was born. Rap is like a regular job, you have to build a resumé. When you first enter, you start with minimum wage, you build yourself up to get raises. The only difference between what I do and a regular job is that I can’t be fired.
And you’re opening yourself up to public criticism in this regard – there’ve been people tweeting pretty cruel things at you. But it looks like you stand up to all that hate.
Bbymutha: I’m not going to let anybody talk to me crazy. I’m a very transparent person. What you see on Twitter is me. I don’t know how to put on a persona. I’m not going to let anybody disrespect me. I’ve been doing this for almost four years, so I have my fans and I feel like they know me. I feel like we have conversations, and I’ll talk to them. Recently, I have all these new people looking at me, and they don’t know me. So, of course they’re coming at me, like, ‘Damn, you’ve got four kids?’ I know there’s a lot of rappers who call themselves ‘mom’ and ‘dad’, but I actually have kids. It’s not just a name for me. As a woman who is raising kids by herself, I know I’m going to be fine and my kids are going to be fine. The media makes a lot of people look worse. The media portrays single moms terribly, especially single black moms.
What is the most rewarding thing about being been a black single mom?
Bbymutha: My kids are hilarious as fuck. (Laughs) I have so many single mothers that tell me, ‘Please keep doing what you’re doing. You inspire me.’ Having kids is not a punishment. I don’t understand the disconnect. What happens when you have children that makes people think that you don’t want to have fun anymore? Anything women do, we have to be punished. Like, okay, you want a girl who sucks dick but when she does you call her a ho. We can’t win.
Because of that double standard, the world can feel like a crippling place. Do you feel comfortable in Chattanooga because it feels familiar and safe?
Bbymutha: I keep myself here because I’m scared. I moved to Nashville before I had my little twins and I was going to school for fashion design. I ended up getting caught up with this guy who was actually my babies’ father. He ended up being really abusive. He was an alcoholic. He started spiraling after a while. We lived in his house and used to sell drugs. There was a studio in the house, too, so it was just too much traffic in and out. Somebody ended up shooting my babies’ daddy in the arm. Almost blew his arm off. So, after that, he just beat the shit out of me, and gave me a black eye. He apologised and said he wanted to see me, and we ended up having sex, and I ended up getting pregnant. It was like, ‘Now I’m stuck with this fool.’
“Rap is like a regular job, you have to build a resume. When you first enter, you start with minimum wage, you build yourself up to get raises. The only difference between what I do and a regular job is that I can’t be fired” – Bbymutha
I feel ill-equipped to tell you how truly sorry I am, but your care and focus is in the right place – especially in your music. What is your earliest musical memory?
Bbymutha: When I was really young, we used to go to this thing called The Girls Club. It was an after-school program and summer camp. We would have dance contests – that was during the booty-shaking era. Then, after my mom stopped working there, she got really holy and I couldn’t listen to any secular music. I would go over to my dad’s house every other weekend during the summer, and my dad let me listen to music. I used to sell mix CDs; people would give me a list of songs to put on CDs for them and I would sell them at school for five dollars. I started getting really into T.I, Three 6 Mafia, Trina, this female artist Ludacris worked with named Shawnna, and Missy Elliott. That’s also how I started finding out about more local rappers like La Chat. I would listen to her and really love how she would tell stories.
Was there much of a local music scene?
Bbymutha: There was, but they were all older guys. That was my first experience with local rap.
What was the turning point for you to start rapping?
Bbymutha: Before I ever started rapping, I was a poet. When I was in tenth grade, my cousins and I had this fake rap group. I would write all of their verses for them and we would sing the songs in class. Before I actually moved to Nashville, I was dating this guy who ended up getting signed. He and his friends all did music, and I would listen to some of the stuff they would do and be like, ‘This is good, but I could probably do better.’ I ended up going to a friend’s house, and I recorded this song called ‘Slut’. I just wrote the verse really quick over ‘Feelin’ It’ by Jay-Z. I put that on Soundcloud, and my boyfriend at the time was like, ‘Oh, that’s actually good, you should keep doing it.’ So I made two or three more songs and then I kind of just quit because I moved to Nashville. My boyfriend at that time was like, ‘I’m not going to date a rapper. If you want to be with me, you’re going to have to let that go.’ But after a while, after I had the little twins, I was just bored and got back into it.
Was there a song or moment where you knew you were onto something big? ‘Rules’ is really a turning point for your sound. It’s filled with these sage do’s and don’ts, a musical slap that teaches you not to let your pussy become other people’s business. What was the idea behind that?
Bbymutha: There was this guy who had been hitting me up for a year or two straight, and I thought he was just really corny. I would entertain him if I was bored, but other than that I had zero interest. One day he posted a video of him playing instruments, and that’s sexy to me. So, I hit him up, and I was like, ‘What are you doing, I’m going to come over?’ We ended up having sex, and then, I kid you not, a week later, one of my homegirls came over and was like, ‘Oh, you had sex with that person?’ Apparently, he was telling his girlfriend, ‘I fucked BbyMutha, but she ain’t got shit on you.’ Don’t be using my name to make your bitch feel better! Don’t be out here having these hoes thinking they’ve got something on me, seeing me winning and being like, ‘Yeah, but my pussy’s better than hers.’ I wrote that in the car, riding around, throwing lyrics together in my head. The second part of the song is about my babies’ dad and the night he got shot. I can’t make none of this stuff up.
What does the word ‘pussy’ really represent to you?
Bbymutha: I like rapping about my pussy because it pisses people off. Ugly God has a meme page and he posted my video to make fun. The caption said, ‘What city do y’all think she’s from?’ He was waiting on people to drag me. In the comments, all the dudes were like, ‘She’s so ratchet’ or ‘She’s from Africa.’ But a lot of guys were like, ‘Female rappers can’t rap without talking about their pussy.’ You have millions of male rappers being like, ‘I fuck this bitch, my dick this, my dick that.’ Nobody ever complains about that. I would never reduce myself down as a woman to my vagina, because I know there are women who don’t have vaginas. But I do have one and I am proud of her.
And proud of what it can do to be bold, honest, and open about your own body, your desires, and your story. Tell me the story behind the video for ‘Rules’.
Bbymutha: I just posted on Facebook, ‘Hey, who can shoot a video for me?’ A bunch of people tagged this girl named Jamee Goodman. She’s hyperactive and really sweet. She told me she’d only charge me $150. There wasn’t a real concept; we just thought for it to be in a school, like they were my class. We just showed up, we bought liquor, everybody just started drinking, and we did what we did. My only rule was, ‘Wear whatever, come as you are, and be yourself.’ I appreciated so many different kinds of people coming out.
And you also refer to yourself as ‘The Black Marge Simpson’, with a cartoon logo wearing big gold hoop earrings that spell out ‘Kill All Rapists’. Why do you identify with her, and how important is it to stand up to abusive violence?
Bbymutha: Marge is the perfect mom. Bart was an asshole, Lisa was a brainiac, but she catered to each kid, and even her frustration is sweet. She never judged her kids. If I was a cartoon, I would be Marge Simpson. Plus my little ones are very yellow, so I call them my Bart and Lisa.
I’ve been going through shit since I was really young. I’m tired of it. I’m sick of men feeling like they’re entitled to my body. Rapists deserve to die.
“Marge is the perfect mom. Bart was an asshole, Lisa was a brainiac, but she catered to each kid, and even her frustration is sweet. She never judged her kids. If I was a cartoon, I would be Marge Simpson” – Bbymutha
I know Kehlani and SZA gave you lot of attention recently. Do you feel like everybody just needs to really support each other now?
Bbymutha: I definitely feel like everybody needs to support each other, but I don’t feel like everyone has to like each other. It feels good because I feel the same way about their music. I do understand that everything is not for everybody, so if someone thinks it’s trash but you see her getting her views, congrats to you. There is enough people in the world for all of us to have fans, enough money in the world for all of us to get money.
What was the whole hullabaloo about people saying that you should have sold your song to Nicki Minaj?
Bbymutha: Somebody retweeted my video, and she was like, ‘The song hard but I wish she didn’t look like this.’ I hate to be this person, but I can’t ignore blatant-ass colorism. The girl who said it was a light-skinned girl with nice, straight hair. So what, you want me to give it to Nicki because you think she’s cuter than me? Why can’t my shit be valid with me looking the way that I look? I told her that, and I was like, ‘Well, how am I supposed to look?’ And she was like, ‘Well, you should have sold the verse to Nicki cause your verse was hard.’ What kind of a backhanded-ass compliment is that? I’m not mad at Nicki, and I was never trying to disrespect Nicki at all. I’m not trying to rap from Nicki Minaj’s point of view, so why would she from mine? For her to say that was an insult to Nicki. Nicki can write her own verses. If you feel like somebody needs to be selling verses to Nicki, that’s the problem right there. It’s Nicki Minaj; she paved the way, and people can’t take that away from her.
Your debut album is due out in March next year. Are you writing new material, and is there anything that you’re rapping about that you haven’t touched on before?
Bbymutha: I’m definitely writing lots of new material, and I’m excited about it. (Laughs) I have an interlude that I’m doing. The guy that I told you about that I was dating when I first started, when he got signed and released his EP, the first song on the album was just trashing me. He said my name and everything. I never responded or dedicated any of my energy to that song, and never listened to any of his music again. One day I was in the studio and I was on LSD. I was pretty emotional, and I wrote this song about the relationship I just got out of and that relationship as well, and vented about both of them. I’m in the studio crying on the song. So that’s gonna be really different. I’m actually scared to put that out. But, fuck it, it’s time.