Rising Bronx Rapper BA PACE released his new EP, The Tower, this past week, an excellent collection of down tempo hip hop, that features his languorous, deep voice over hazy, scratchy beats. The artist, who was born in Washington Heights but now lives in the High Bridge section of the borough that birthed hip hop, has been creating a a furious pace, like his lyrical moniker.
The Tower is a continuous mix of ten songs, an almost claustrophobic collection of tracks, that drifts into your ears and then deeply settles in, overtaking your consciousness. PACE’s flow is slow and sticky, and it clings to the beats. His articulation is buried a bit in the mix, and he almost drawls over the sounds beneath him. This can make it difficult to discern his lyrics without a more intense listen, but it is a unique and effective style that works well the instrumentation accompanying him on the record. Snippets of dialogue fade in and out, ala MF DOOM, accentuated by reverb and piano loops. The Tower is a beautiful and stylistically cohesive project that demands your undivided attention.
BA PACE also released a single and video this month, “EGG DROP,” featuring Lungs, which was taken from UNMIXEDRAW VOL.3: FOOD WATER SHELTER. PACE describes that collection as “an unmixed raw checkpoint” to let fans know where he has been and where he is going. About the actual video shoot, PACE said “I had to fight some shit off with [that] verse, like I tapped into a deep part of my brain…and just started cleaning out. The video was shot by Marley Chapman, our videographer at PUBLICHOUSINGNYC.”
PACE gives Lungs high marks for his verse on the song. “Lungs said it best:
‘underground the swordsman guard the sacred texts from piglets.’
That line best describes what’s being represented in the visuals, a lot of symbology, and shit you have to pay attention to, to notice.”
UNMIXEDRAW dropped in the beginning of the year and will see a physical release on cassette in August, courtesy of PTP, (formally known as Purple Tape Pedigree). You can purchase the tape here: https://purpletapepedigree.bandcamp.com/album/unmixedraw-vol-3-food-water-shelter
This interview has been lightly edited for publication. Photo of BA PACE provided by BA PACE.
Backseat Mafia: You’re from the birthplace of hip hop?
BA PACE: Highbridge in the Bronx!! I grew up in Washington Heights when I was a youngin’, but most my life was in the X.
BSM: When did you start making music? When did you think, this is something I want to do? I want to pursue a music career.
BAP: I started recording music about three to four years ago, when I was 17, 18. When I turned 21, I hit a whole new level within myself. It became not only clear that I could [create music], but that I already was.
BSM: Are there any musicians in your family?
BAP: To my knowledge, no. I could be wrong, though. Maybe one of my folks in Venzuela plays or used to play something, but I’m not sure. It’s something I’m curious about myself.
BSM: When did you become an active listener of music? Were there artists who you started to pay attention to, artists you admired and/or artists who you wanted to emulate?
BAP: I’ve always listened to music. When I was younger, I would make my mom buy me those bootleg mixtapes they used to sell in the Heights and just run it on my cd player for hours. But the first artist I really wanted to emulate was MF DOOM. I was amazed at how he spun his shit around; the raps and the sound collaging was ill. I’m sure he engineered a lot of his shit too. Still, to this day, I do as much as I can in the “process,” to really paint it how I want.
BSM: Did anyone outside of your family have an influence on your music career? Teachers, friends, someone from a religious institution, more distant relatives?
BAP: Shout to the homie Christopher who taught me how to use da programs for da music! A lot after that I kinda just expanded on my own. The most influence actually,, I always say, is I’ve been blessed with people in this lifetime, blessed with amazing teachers on this journey. The east is strong!!
BSM: Walk us through your creative process when you are writing the lyrics for a song. How did you create the lyrics for your latest EP, The Tower? Your lyrics seem somewhat abstract. What kinds of things do you address in your lyrics? Your subject matter?
BAP: It depends. Sometimes I’ll sit down and “pen out” a verse. Sometimes I’ll think of a thing to say just outside, or on the train, then I’ll write it down and get back at that puzzle. Sometimes, I kinda blank out and it feels as if my left hand is trynna keep up with the information being presented. It always feels like I’m cracking a puzzle or decyphering some shit. I can’t really explain The Tower. I already did that in the raps. A lot of the concepts are abstract or complex because what I’m trying to articulate takes a little bit of imagination. So by mfrs going “huh?,” you give them the space to think their own thoughts and really think about wtf you spinning. Art is to be interpreted. I could just tell you wtf I see, but I’d rather you see it on your own, when it’s time.
BSM: Your flow is slow and sticky much of the time. Very relaxed. How did you develop your voice and your sound? What did you think when you heard your voice for the first time?
BAP: By just recording. I cracked my cadence when I took it upon myself to learn how to engineer my shit because I know how I want my shit to come out. As far as the pace of things, I like slower beats because it feel right and you mfrs gotta hear me. I gotta give yah time to digest this ill ass shit, and I know yah do. I know you heard me cuz I gave you time, time and space for your skillet to comprehend.
BSM: You have a variety of producers on The Tower. Tell me something about them.
BAP: These mfrs, I feel, understand the world I see. They may not even see the same thing but the joints they make align so wonderfully with the thoughts I wanna share. I look at beats like a space to go to. I thank all the producers and beat makers for creating spaces for me to walk through. The Builder is the elder of PUBLICHOUSINGNYC. (Editor’s note – a musical and artistic collective. The Builder produced several tracks on The Tower.) The founder and facilitator of the machine, a muthafucking spirit guide if you ask me. Eli14k and No Face are close friends (other producers on the EP). They make a lot of joints together. I met No Face first and then Eli. First time I heard they shit, I immediately knew I wanted to exist and walk through that space and those three, for sure, helped bring the world I saw to life. Alai is someone who recently sent me beats on some random shit and they were the right beats at the right time. I’m pretty sure he’s from Texas, but the dude’s beats are wild and fit perfectly for what I was thinking and the realms I dwell in. Shout out to Alai!
BSM: How long did it take to create the EP?
BAP: I could say easily 10,000 years plus, but that’s a whole ‘nother pocket.
After the songs were completed, it took me about a week to put it all together. On a real note, it took my entire 21 years on this earth to reach those lyrics and concepts. When it comes to putting things together, I like being in the moment about it, putting shit together in a short amount of time.
BSM: Tell me about PUBLICHOUSINGNYC.
BAP: PUBLICHOUSINGNYC was started by The Builder, back in January of 2019. It was to build a space for us to exist in and do what we want with our shit, while also giving the work a home and an order. The official roster as of now is myself, Pothead, Mimz, The Builder, No Face and Eli14k. Pothead lives in my hood, along with The Builder. Mimz was a someone I knew about before we made music. Something about their language got to me after cooking a whole lot with them. Eventually, I saw the greatness in their puzzles. We just got to work! The spot [itself] is called Basement Town, in BK. (Editor’s note: Brooklyn.) We are currently moving our shit in and painting the walls and all that good stuff.
BSM: Do other types of art influence you or inspire you? Films, painting, sculpture?
BAP: All of the above. I used to draw ALOT when i was younger
and was always facinated by fine arts shit they taught us and then eventually, in high school, I went to more art galleries and started finding out about different artists and that further pushed that hunger to cook up and live in my art. Also, my curiosity for what art was, and how it manifested in different ways in our lives. So anything, from a tag someone threw up on a wall to a gazillion dollar sculpture or painting by who ever the fuck lived in the 1500s in some museum somewhere. It can all resonate, and spark thought.
BSM: Are you a reader? Are there writers who you admire and influence your art?
BAP: Don Miguel Ruiz, Huey P. Newton, Octavia E. Butler, George Orwell , and couple others. Reading opens up a whole new world for you. A lot of stuff on Buddishm. Also fascinated with the Bhagavad Gita and many spiritual scriptures. The stories and things they talk about be having some trippy shit in ’em!
BSM: When you blow up and you are planning to tour the world, what is the one place you’d like to visit the most and why?
BAP: Venezuela; it’s my motherland. My parents and all my relatives before them came from there and I would like to go back and get in tune with my elders and my people. But besides that, Mexico City. It has amazing venue spaces, and a big punk scene, but I got a feeling they would rock with me. London, I get alotta love from out there. And Berlin, as well.
BSM: Anything else you would like fans and readers to know about your music?
BAP: I hope what I leave inspires yah to be better, to think better and to face yourself. You know the beast we been at war with. The no-names before us fought this battle and, so shall we. We here! Dismantle! Rebuild!
BSM: Shout-outs? New projects coming? What else can we look forward to from BA PACE and PUBLICHOUSINGNYC?
BAP: Shout out to Rey, Aasir, Silence, Lungs, the Wrong Islanders, Marley Chapman, my cameraman, the whole rap scene in New York for showing love when its real! All those in tune, who appreciate and support the art and all the giants from Da East Coast, just bodying shit out here. Salute to all the camps and tribes, champs and scribes, the Beastern Conference! We here!!!