Fresh off the release of her LVL5 P1 project, the Rico Nasty collaborator talks drinking in moderation, doing her own thing, and making music that mind fucks you
Nowadays, the average musician is rarely just that. Most are polymathic – from Solange, who is now traversing the realms of song composition and interdisciplinary performance, to Saweetie, Joey Bada$ or Little Simz, who are exploring other disciplines within the arts, like acting. For Atlanta rapper Bktherula, her expansion outside of music comes by invitation. Landing in the UK for London Fashion Week, she’s set to model for Nigerian designer Mowalola.
Beyond runway modelling, the 20-year-old bills herself as an artist whose confines far exceed the world of rap. “I’m just an artist, man,” she declares, when we meet at London’s Shoreditch House. “A rapper, yes, but an artist overall. I sing, and I’m inspired by other aspects of this. There’s so much more outside of music, too.” Still, Bktherula will always find a way to tie musical output into the equation. While talking about her plans to invite friend and collaborator Rico Nasty to a fashion party later that Friday night, she reveals that she’ll be performing a live set.
When we meet Bktherula is composed, despite the jam-packed schedule. “If I was to open the door to not being calm, I’m opening the door to the devil giving me more chaos,” she says, clasping her hands as she adjusts in her chair. “If I open the door to that the slightest bit, he can get in.”
Raised Roman Catholic, Bktherula describes herself as having a deeply personal relationship with God, not as much led by institutional religion, but by a constant dialogue with the divine – praying daily gives her a high. “As long as I have my relationship with God, as long as I can pray first thing, I’m good. I’m not one of those people who pray and then get on their bullshit,” she explains. In a similar fashion, she has stopped taking drugs, as one of her latest songs – a foreboding, broody number titled “NO ADLIB” – reveals. “It heightens my chances of making those decisions closer to the devils,” she ratifies, choosing to only drink alcohol in moderation. The words “one bev a day” appear on her lock screen almost like a mantra, alongside other instructions like “do not unlock your phone before prayer”. These principles seem to indicate a maturity that defies her still young age.
Called Brooklyn Candida Rodriguez off-stage, or outside of the booth, Bktharula was raised in Atlanta and gravitated towards physics in her later school years. It was there that she picked up the concept for what would become her latest project LVL5 P1. “You know there’s the third dimension and the fourth, well, this project is about existing and being here bro, but also not, being in another state. Here, but not really,” she explains. In rap then, Bktherula is boundless, at times traversing – or at least trying to – the metaphysical. The destructive, menacing synths of “TAN” see the rapper open her project with a brash brand of rap as she brags about walking in on some “money shit”, whereas moments later on “BELIEVE”, she’s crooning across undulating, moody soundscapes. This breadth of sound wasn’t strategic in direction, but more reflects Bktherula’s approach to crafting songs.
“I honestly don’t think it’s about the genre,” she says of her recent release. “It’s more so experiences, and that would make sense as to why I’m all over the place. If I feel very sappy, romantic, and ‘ah I got a crush’ I’m gonna make some R&B shit. But say if I’m on my energetic shit, I’m gonna make something that mind fucks you.” We etch further into R&B and stumble on H.E.R. as a pivotal influence; Bktherula values her penmanship and how reflexive her songs allow you to feel. “I would listen to songs like “Focus”; my mother and I would bond over a lot of her older projects,” she admits.
“If I feel very sappy, romantic, and ‘ah I got a crush’ I’m gonna make some R&B shit. But say if I’m on my energetic shit, I’m gonna make something that mind fucks you” – Bktharula
“I don’t want new writers yet,” she says when the conversation turns to the future. “The label wants me to write with new people, but I write the majority of my music. I have way too much ego to shed before I’m ready for that, it’s going to take a long time.” A long time, it turns out, means a year.
Coming from a post-peak generation of Soundcloud and informed by what’s been termed ‘cloud rap’, rappers like Bktherula, Hook and TiaCorine refuse to be boxed in. “I’m doing my own thing,” she says simply. “That’s the goal, isn’t it? Not having to do this for a living, not having to work for a living.” Before any of us get there though, there’s life to live and for Bktherula, that includes embracing her ascension in the world of rap.
She agrees that the landscape for women is changing and concludes that they need to stick together as opposed to letting themselves be divided. Bktherula has already proved she doesn’t need to compromise to build her career and bolster her already viral moments, like her appearance on Moneysetryan’s 2020 track “LEFT RIGHT”. “I’m becoming mainstream, just by being me, they’ll be on what I’m on in a couple of years,” she says, with a laugh. “It’s not about me compromising or appealing to anyone, they’ll follow my lead when they catch up. But then, I’ll be on some new shit.”
LVL5 P1 is out now