BTB Is Putting Westchester On His Back
By Chioma Nwana
It’s not easy putting on for the 914, but Greenburgh-native BTB does it with grace. The buzz of Westchester County is often overshadowed by its next-door neighbor New York City, but this ravenous artist has made it his mission to get everyone’s attention. BTB closed out 2018 with a bang, releasing his debut album Ravenous and founding his indie record label Ravenous Records, and everyone is excited for what’s to come, SVGE included. Earlier this week, I got to chat with BTB about music ownership, artist longevity, and what it means to be a white man in Hip-Hop.
For our readers, what’s your name, where are you from, and what do you do?
My name is BTB. I'm an artist. I'm from Greenburgh, New York.
Why do you call yourself an artist instead of a rapper? What’s the difference between and artist and a rapper, in your opinion?
I call myself an artist because I don't just rap. I'm really speaking to you. It's bigger than just rapping for me. It's really an art. The difference would be how much you put into your music—how much you experiment or how often you work on perfecting your craft. That would be my definition.
So you’re speaking to your audience. What is your music saying to us?
No matter what you’ve been through or are going through, don't make it any harder on yourself. Keep pushing. I use my negative situations to motivate people through my music. I want people to know that they can do this themselves. Get you a solid team that you trust and believe in (and vise versa), and just grind for it. Own all your material. Don't let these big corporations keep their in hands in your pocket. And last, but not least, pass the knowledge on to future generations.
What I find to be especially admirable about you is that you’re a living example of the messages that you spread. For example, you talk about having a solid team and owning your material, but you’ve also actually taken the initiative to create your own record label, Ravenous Records. Can you tell me a little bit about the label and what y’all are doing?
Creating the label has always been a goal. I knew from day one that I wanted to start a label and sign myself and my people. The main reason we started it up was to make sure artists weren't getting jerked anymore. You own everything you do. You create when you want. ‘Cause at the end of the day, we are creatives, so that's what we do. But that's why it works—we don't get in each other's way, and we don't try to know something we don't. But we are working on more than just music related things (can't say yet). We just take our time with everything ‘cause we want it done right.
That’s exciting. Aside from yourself, who’s currently signed to the label?
Officially, as an artist, just me. We are still working out some of the legal stuff and gathering resources before I bring some of my people in.
That’s responsible of you. All too often, artists rush into things without having done their research and without having prepared enough. Such artists often fall off as quickly as they got on. What, in your opinion, is the key to maintaining longevity within the music industry?
Just keeping it real with yourself and everyone else. Doing things your way and not for the relevance and clout—all that stuff is "here today and gone tomorrow.” Staying consistent with the quality of your work, and just growing as a person. Make sure you keep some OGs around you ‘cause I wouldn't be where I am without mine. I owe him a lot of credit for guiding me through this journey. Shoutout to my producer, graphic designer, and mentor, Andre Rodriguez!
Speaking of guidance and support, it seems that Greenburgh rides for you, heavily. The last time I saw you perform at Raps N’ Receipts, your people really showed out. What role has your community played in your development as an artist?
Everything. Greenburgh built me into the person I am today. All of the love and support around the town is just beautiful, and I got them for life! Plus all of the other talent around Greenburgh really helps to inspire me to keep going as well. Imma make sure they know about us!
Shoutout to you for working to put the 914 on the map! A lot of times, artists from Westchester find it difficult to break into larger scenes (New York City and beyond) though. Have you had that experience? How do you get your name out there?
I have had that experience, but then I thought, “Why don't we build up our county?” We always want to go to a bigger spot and eat off of that, but why not build our communities up to compete with those bigger markets? I understand if you go to New York City for the resources, but bring them back to your hood so that we all can benefit from it. We aren't doing that, and that's why we wonder why nothing is picking up in Westchester. We gotta build us up and make people want to branch out over here. Imagine that.
That would be incredible. Now, we’ve spoken about the role that you play in your community, but I want to switch gears and talk about the role that you play in the larger hip hop community: you’ve referred to yourself as a “guest” when it comes to hip hop culture. Can you explain what that means?
It means that as white artist, I know my place in this game. I'm never gonna come in and act like I own this because it wasn't started by white people. And a lot of times, other white artists get that confused and try to gentrify the culture. But I know for a fact that I'm a guest in hip hop. I'm blessed to be accepted by the culture, and I won't ever let that be forgotten.
I respect that. It’s refreshing to know that you’re so mindful of your place in the culture, and it definitely shows in the way that you navigate the music industry. Lastly, what can we expect from you for the rest of the year? New music? Shows? Events? What’s coming up?
For the rest of 2019, we plan on putting out new music. A bunch more shows in the summer. More visuals for Ravenous. Our new merch is coming as well. And more talent on the roster!