A conversation with BeatKing; Houston's next up.
BeatKing isn't necessarily on your radar if you live on the East Coast, but in Houston, he can't go to a Wal-Mart without inspiring what he describes as a "minor riot". The Texas rapper and producer has been building a loyal fanbase in his hometown over the last 5 years, developing an aggressive, explicit, but ultimately fun-loving sound he's coined as Gangsta Stripper Music.
The self-appointed Club God regularly pays tribute to southern rap's past, whether it be No Limit, David Banner, or his favorite source of inspiration, Three 6 Mafia. He possesses the same unfiltered style and penchant for shock as his hero, Juicy J, but delivers his lines with a much more visible smirk -- a colorful sense of humor that's integral to his appeal. He's also a talented producer, helping to mold the current sound of Houston's underground with his propulsive beats, and allowing him to work at a faster rate than his peers, pumping out upwards of 15 projects over his relatively short career, the latest of which being his debut for Penalty Entertainment and first non-independent release, 3 Weeks.
The new record is the most recent addition to a particularly prolific two-year hot streak that has produced fan favorites like Gangsta Stripper Music 2, Houston 3AM, and Underground Cassette Tape Music; a full length collaborative effort with Three 6 legend Gangsta Boo. This output has seen him begin to gain recognition on a national level, and 3 Weeks (which is preceded by an all-star remix of GSM2's "Keisha") aims to bring the rapper a step further out of his regional bubble. According to elder statesman Paul Wall, he's destined to be Houston's next big export.
We spoke to BeatKing about his largely female hometown fanbase, cracking jokes through depressing times, and what it really means to be "Juicy J in '99". Read our conversation below.
Your new album was made in 3 weeks, which is the fastest you've ever completed a project. How did it all come together?
As soon as I came back to the city [after signing my deal in New York], I just started recording. Houston 3 Am was still very new, so for the most part I just kind of steered my energy into that. So when the label said they wanted another project, I was like OK! I was gonna name it Club God 5, but I was like -- this is not really sounding like a Club God project -- I'll just name it Two Weeks because I made the whole album in a week, and I took another week to mix it down. Then Bun B hopped on a song the next week. So I'm like, I'll just name it 3 Weeks to be true to the timeline.
How did the Bun B collab come about?
I reached out to him. Everybody else in the city, I call them whenever, but people like Bun, I like to hold those favors for special occasions. I was like, "it's gonna be my first album put out, it's time to hit him up now". Bun's always been cool -- he stay like 30 minutes away from me, so he came to the house and did his verse.
Bun is just one of many respected Texas rappers you've worked with. Who else has been coming by to record?
Slim [Thug] was just at the house last night because I'm kind of executive-producing his new album. His new album's gonna be all trap/turn up stuff... I'm not gonna have no beats -- it's gonna be a lot of hooks. I'm gonna be ad-libbing a song for him -- just making Slim turnt up.
Speaking of ad-libs, "Hol' Up" is a pretty great one that's all over your records. How did you come up with that?
I started saying it in 2011 and from there it just started staying. I got my whole ad-lib game from Young Dro. He taught me how to ad-lib. I got the whole thing from him when he first came out in like '06. The shit he would say in the background, it was like a whole 'nother song [laughs]. When he came out he taught me how to comedically say things that agree with what you're saying [in your verses].
There's definitely a lot of humor in your music. Do you make an effort to put funny punchlines into your songs?
I don't try to do it. I think it's just my personality. I hate being depressed. Even when depressing things happen in my life, I hate that feeling. So even when I try to talk about some real stuff, I try to bring life to it. Kind of like what a comedian does on a stage. Real life things are funny too. I try to just make it light, so I won't be looked at as "Why is Beatking being depressed on this song?" [laughs]. It might be a serious topic, but you'll be like "damn, I never looked at it like that".
You've called yourself "Juicy J in '99". Why do you feel a kinship with that particular era?
I make that comparison because -- off top everybody probably knows that's my favorite rapper. Most of the people who say that they're Juicy J fans, they're not Juicy J fans. They are "Bandz A Make Her Dance"-on-up fans. They don't know about the gold fangs and the Tear Da Club Up Thugs. They don't know about all the underground stuff. So, when I say I'm Juicy J in '99, I'm saying I'm this raw-ass motherfucker. I'm not saying Juicy J ain't raw now because his new mixtape is HARD, but in '99 he was like "slob on my knob like corn on the cob" [laughs]. That's the type of shit I'm on. Like I play some outlandish shit. It's all about the shock factor too, like "I can't believe you said that!" So that's what I be on.
Are you looking to follow a similar career path as Juicy?
Success-wise, yes. Doing it 20-plus years, an Oscar, you rap and make beats -- I rap and make beats. I always wanted to rap and make beats, and once I heard a Three 6 Mafia CD I knew how I would do it. I figured out through their music how I would fit in. So with all that, you know, of course. He went to the pop side, he still did good on that side. On my end, I've got these ratchet fans and all that. After the Gangsta Boo mixtape, it kind of made my fanbase shift slightly. I just had my first show in New York two weeks ago and it was sold out.
I've heard that the majority of your fans in Houston are women. Is that true?
Yeah, I'd say it's probably about 75%... The whole Club God thing came from me finding my voice and where I fit in in this Houston/South culture. If you want to be in the strip clubs, you've gotta rap about selling dope. That's where all the dope boys come. They come there to see bitches and throw money and all that. I've never sold drugs, so I can't rap about that, but I can rap about getting some head [laughs].
If it's on the same type of beat, then my music fits in with the rest of that stuff. I started calling myself Club God -- if I'm on these trap beats talking about some bitches, I don't have to talk about selling dope or none of that shit 'cause I've never done that. That's my own little lane so I kinda named it Gangsta Stripper Music because it's some hard-ass strip club shit. People have told me "man, you're making songs for bitches, but they're so hard I can ride to 'em". So that's kind of how it happened -- and the females gravitate towards it.
More recently my fanbase started to even out. In the very beginning it was all females, and if I did a show in front of all dudes, my show would probably be wack because none of these dudes can twerk in the crowd [laughs]. My catalog has become really thick over the last couple of years. Now I've got songs like "Stopped" where I can cater to all kinds of people.
"Stopped" is a big one. I hear you're working on a remix to that?
I want Travi$ Scott on "Stopped". We've DMed a bunch of times, we just haven't met in person yet. I really hear him on there. Straight up.
On the outro of your new album, you advise fellow Houston rappers to build fanbases outside of the city. As someone who's collected a large regional following, at what point is it time to think bigger?
If you're making a certain type of music -- if you're making trap music or you're making ratchet music -- you have to start in the hoods and the streets. You have to have that foundation first, so that people respect what you're doing. Once that happens, you have to leave, because you'll get comfortable, because where you're from -- you're God [laughs]. You'll just be happy and content, and you have to get out. That happened to me for at least a year or two. After "Throw Dat Ass" and "U Ain't 'Bout That Life", I was kind of a fixture [in Houston]. You get to the point where it's like "how long am I going to do this? I have to get out this motherfucker".
Speaking of local sensations, Sauce Walka recently came at Drake for borrowing a little too heavily from Houston culture without giving proper credit. Where do you stand in that debate?
I don't stand anywhere in it! [laughs]. The problem people have with [Sauce Twinz] is the same reason people love them. They don't listen, they're loose cannons and they don't give a fuck. They're cool people.
I don't think I've ever seen you wear a shirt that wasn't one of your own custom-made designs. Do you exclusively rock your own merch?
Yeah, I mean in the beginning it wasn't on purpose. When you're new in the game and you're trying to get a song hot, and you're in clubs every night -- you're gonna run out of clothes! You're gonna be buying clothes every week! You're in the club every night! I'm just like, "I'm just gonna start wearing my own shirts". Real talk, that's how you save money so you're in the club every night and you're not wearing the same shit. That kind of just stuck with me. That's kind of my image now. I've never been a jewelry guy, I just wear these shirts. Everywhere I go, people want them. As soon as I start selling them, it's gonna be over. I'll get a million dollars [laughs].
You've mentioned that fans have come up to you calling you a "legend" and you didn't really know what to make of it. What does the word "legend" mean to you?
There's levels to the legend shit. Some people are H-Town legends. Some people are hip-hop legends. I think being a legend comes with consistency, doings something repeatedly. People love hit songs but people don't respect it until you do it over and over again. People don't care unless it sounds like it's magic. Anyone can accidentally do it, but when you do it over and over again it's like "oh shit"... I think I'm getting there, but I also know if I died today, people would say it. Just off the five years and all the songs and the internet freestyles and how every night you'd have to play me in the clubs. I'm a Club God. No one's ever said that. They'll say it then, but for right now, I don't think anyone will say it for like five more years... So as far as the legend thing, I'd say I'm a legend as far as my reach. The whole club thing -- there was no club sound in Houston. No one was making that type of music yet... You look at Houston now, everybody's in the club. Sauce Twinz got club songs, "Flicka Da Wrist," Chedda Da Connect got a club song. Everybody's in the club now, but five years ago, it was just me.
BeatKing's 3 Weeks album is on iTunes now. You can stream the project in its entirety below.