Having the ability to produce music and provide lyrics for the song creates an interesting dynamic: one in which you're aware that one requires a physical presence, brand-like, on top of the already present artistry, and the other is more intimate and relative to the self. Brav Gotti, rapper and producer of Grand Rapids, Michigan, explored these differences, alongside other discussion like what he buries in music, and misconceptions of perspective; "It's all journalism at the end of the day."
How would you describe your sound of music?
It's basically just what I see everyday. I wouldn’t categorize it any way because I can’t; it’s not old school hip hop, it’s not new school hip hop, it’s not trap, it’s not rappity rap; although I am in tune with my lyrics-- I love being lyrical-- it’s just like being a news anchor. I just rap about what I see or what I do on a day to day [basis]. It’s just Brav Gotti.
What in particular are some common elements you put into your music that translates over from the things you see day to day?
My emotions. I’m not a very emotional person, so the best way I can open up to people is through music. Whether it’s in my beats—and that’s why none of my beats ever sound the same—or in some of my songs. People always say, "Oh, you sound like 'this' in this song," and this and that or whatever-- but it’s not that. It’s just that when it comes to writing my lyrics, I can get deep, but when it comes to making beats, I can get way deeper because that’s where my mind is really reacting. I don’t have to fit a rhyme scheme and make a rhyme scheme say what I’m feeling at that moment; I could just make the beat sound like a moment, you feel me? It’s just about me getting my emotions across.
Which one comes more naturally to you: the producing or the actual rapping?
They go hand in hand. It’s just that after I had my daughter, it was kinda like a rollercoaster. I wasn’t in tune with people in the physical, but in the mental I was always right and I was always making the beats mentally because that was just me putting my shit [thoughts] into this shit [beats] and putting it out. But in the physical, you have to be in the physical when you’re a rapper because you have to do shows, you have to actually come to the studio. And so now that I have a schedule fixed and I can actually make studio time, I’m starting to do both more. They both go hand in hand. I never really stop doing either; if I wasn’t recording I was always writing.I have like 3 or 4 mixtapes in the bag. I’m ready. It’s just gonna take some time.
Who is one really strong musical influence that you have?
Locally, Sky Lex, cause that’s really the only person doing it. I literally seen this nigga Sky Lex when I was learning how to make beats, while I was sending Slim trash beats. I’m talking, trash shit, but he would be like, "This shit hot." Then niggas was hitting me up for beats. Sky Lex just taught me how to handle both situations, how to portray yourself as both a producer and a rapper, and how to not be categorized and boxed in with nothing. And J Dilla from Detroit, really. That’s probably one of the best producers in my hand. That’s somebody that really made me take music seriously. His music had emotion. Plus he was rapping too.
What was the one main thing that gave you the initiative to start making music?
I always had it in my heart, but my aunt, really. Ever since I was a really little kid, she would tell me she sees me doing something in music, and when I finally started doing it, finally got a passion for music, and I realized my talent, that’s the first person I showed. And she was like, "I knew it." She just always told me I had charisma and that just kept me going. So really, just family.
If you could idealize your music, what would it sound like? What would it translate over as to people who listened to it?
I always say it like this: I’m not trying to make the most money, and I’m not trying to be the best rapper. I have a lot of emotions myself, and what made me actually be able to cope with myself is music. So I feel like if I can’t be the best, if I can at least touch one person, that’s all that matters to me. I don’t really care about much else. I just really wanna touch people. That’s it.
How would you describe the concept of art?
Showing your own personality, nigga. That’s what art is. It’s not about being someone else. A lot of people take that oh I see you a lot in person and you don’t talk much, you don’t do this or that, but it’s because maybe I’m not. I don’t like talking to mothafuckas, honestly. And people are always baffled by that shit. People see my twitter and I say whatever comes to my mind. I talk shit on twitter for days, but when they see me in person, they tell me I act different. But it’s because they really don't know me. The best way to get to know me is through my music. Nothing sounds the same. Be yourself: that’s what art is about. It’s about portraying yourself. I don’t think I know of any artist, even if they paint other people, they paint it in their perspective, you feel me? It’s about being yourself. That’s art.
Would you like to see yourself portrayed by others as you art?
As long as I'm represented well, in the right way, respectfully, I wouldn’t mind it. I will represent anyone, if I talk about you, I’m not speaking bad upon you. I’m bringing light to your name, at the least, if I am speaking bad upon you.
Have you ever gotten any feedback from people that listen to your music, where it’s a misconception of what you’re trying to translate to an audience?
Yeah. I do rap about selling drugs, or if I rap about shooting mothafuckas, it’s because, like I said, I speak it as a journalist. It’s all journalism at the end of the day. People be like, "Bro, I know for sure you ain’t shoot nobody." But I might’ve saw it. You never know. I saw my uncle get shot on my porch. I was eight years old. I could be speaking about that. Really, I’m just trying to tell the side of Grand Rapids how I see it. And then once I evolve from being a local artist, I’m going to tell how I see the world. So it’s not really misconceptions. It’s a lot of people that’ll say they don’t think I do this or that, but yeah I really sold pills, I really sold weed. But I’m really out here being a father too, and that’s what I’m doing at the end of the day. That’s why I’m starting to take music way more seriously. That’s why I actually put a price on my beats.
Touching on you becoming more serious about making music because of your daughter, what are some other motivators in your life that push you to take this more serious?
Myself. Growing up broke, you wanna make this shit for yourself. I’m doing this shit cause I’m tired of being broke. If you listen to our [Brav & Slim] old music, you hear us talking about being kicked out on the park bench. We literally didn’t have shit. Both of our moms kicked us out while we were still in high school, and we were like fuck it. We got a quarter ounce of weed, and we got this park bench. We gone smoke 'till our fucking brains is gone, and we gone take it day by day after that. That’s literally what it is. Niggas is tired of being broke. But I don’t wanna say it like that, cause I always say it’s not about the money. That’s just what’s pushing me to really show myself with this shit [music]: because I’m not expecting money, but I know the money gone come.
Even though it’s not necessarily about the money, if you’re an artist, that’s an occupation that’s worth money. You’re still working, still producing stuff like anyone else who is in their job field. How does it make you feel if you're not getting paid for all the work you’re putting in, and that people just expect music out of you without paying for it or without wanting to pay for it?
I’m glad you asked that, because when I first started putting out my beats, and telling people-- I was just mass-emailing mothafuckas-- and they’d be like "Oh yeah, let me use this." I was excited that people were actually fucking with my shit. Then I started seeing that shit happen more often. Mothafuckas kept hitting me up, asking if I had more beats. Slim was the one that told me to start selling my beast. I was like, "Bro, I ain’t even there yet," and he was like, "Yo, shut the fuck up; yeah you are." It’s my pinned tweet-- my beats are literally cheap as shit. 30 dollars for a beat, two for 60 dollars, I’m changing it to two for 50, four for 100, and ever since I posted that, mothafuckas stopped hitting me up. It didn’t make me feel like I wasn’t as nice; it made me feel like y'all mothafuckas is weird. Y'all mothafuckas is broke. I see you in your videos, I see you out here rocking your Balmains, and this and that, and gold chains-- man, if I’m in a video, I’m in sweats with my fucking work shoes. I don’t flex to be nothing. If you gotta flex to be a rapper, then don’t rap.