For decades, female rappers have stepped onto the scene and commanded the attention they are due. They’ve spit bars with and against some of the dopest male hip hop artists to hold a mic. DELUX Magazine had a chance to sit down with STL rapper Bates to talk music, her religion, and the male dominated industry she plans on busting wide open.
DM: Your next album is One God. Talk to us about the title and what to expect on this project.
BT: First word came to mind is “totality.” Another thing that comes to mind is recognizing the divinity in myself and the divinity that comes with surviving in this black skin, and that being a black woman treaded on throughout almost every religion. Sometimes you have to claim your own divinity regardless of how that holy book represents you or just flat out doesn’t acknowledge you.
On another level, when I was writing the project I wanted to tie the meaning and the tracks together without sounding cheesy. I had trouble finding a name at first, so it was originally “Bates Under God.” But then in a drunken and high moment fanning out watching The Knuckles perform One God I had that ah-ha moment and with their head nod I used their song title as the album title.
DM: Where’d you get the name Bates? How has this shaped who you are artistically and beyond?
BT: It was originally Norma Bates, but most men act Fu Fu when they see anything that has to do with a woman so since the homies in Pine Lawn already called me Bates, I dropped the Norma. I figured it was something I had to do to be judged on the same scale as my male counterparts. It would at least keep them from skipping over me just because I had a feminine pronoun or title ahead of my name.
When cats used to announce me, they didn’t know what to expect. That allowed me to ride the wave of the mystery. I didn’t wanna sound too tough like ‘Young Pistol Grip’ because then they wouldn’t take me seriously, so a name that has zero stigma tied to it fits me and my sporadic rap style.
DM: You’re one of the few artists that actually does speak out about political issues. Are you ever afraid of damaging your professional platform?
BT: Nope. If you don’t rock with it, I give no f***s. My perceptions build my reality and I don’t feel it’s necessary to spare feelings. I think if anything, that raw honesty may piss the right people off, but at the end of the day it’s respected. I ain’t losing respect.
DM: You just dropped a mixtape. Tell us about the project and why you released it prior to your next original body of music?
BT: 1990 Raw is my personal tribute to the best decade of hip-hop since its inception. All sorts of joints on that demonstration but I felt it was important to keep the same feel as the original. Like, if 1995 was 2018, what would it sound like? I wanted to make people “re-feel” the songs. It was also important to try and recapture the analog and early-age digital sound recording-wise.
I started writing 1990 Raw about two and a half months ago. Started it in my basement. During the last One God mixing session which was also the first 1990 mixing session, Matt Sawicki shot out the idea to drop it before. I hadn’t even finished writing it yet, but with how focused One God promo was about to be, it would’ve gotten lost in the sauce. I think releasing it before was a power-move and it gave me a chance to just do something fun and rap in styles that don’t really fit with today’s trap music. It also showed me how quick I could write and release a project with no prep.
DM: How do you feel about rappers with Ghostwriters?
BT: Man, these are not rappers. These are idols. Just because I can change a tire doesn’t make me an auto mechanic. Mugs better get the f*** on somewhere. And this ain’t directed at people who may have gotten creative input from other people during the writing session. I feel like images and voices with the absence of that connection are part of the reason hip-hop was so easily commercialized. Accepting that as a norm is why it’s so much garbage. Mugs can have zero skills yet look trendy enough to sell a single.
DM: Why are you so different from other rappers? Where do you fit in terms of the conversations about best rappers in the city?
BT: I’m in my own conversation. I managed to create and fill in my own lane. The rappers in my city and outside my city can do what they do, but at the end of the day what I bring has a demand—I’ll always be one of the people other artists listen to, to figure their next move. As far as why I’m different, I can’t find anyone like me. I’m not Lil Kim, Nas, or nobody else. Being organic should be mandatory. Nobody has my message, image, demeanor, delivery, drive, experience, perception, anger—none of all that at the same time. That’s what makes me stand out. I thank God for the ability to see the value in that at an early stage in my career.
DM: Who is your favorite emcee? Favorite rap song? What motivations do you draw from both?
BT: It all depends. I never bump any rapper as much as I bump 2Pac and Fiend. Right now, I’m on my local/underground wave so I’m bumping Tank the Machine and this fire femcee from Philly named B.L Shirell. I’m a big fan of STL underground, though. I listen to my own city the most. I don’t really seek inspiration from other rappers. I’m an R&B fan. I listen to oldies and vocalists the most, but I can say I listened to “Hell 4 A Hustler” by Pac more times than I can remember.
As far as songs made in the last five years, this may sound crazy but that intro to War Machine III by Tef Poe and the Kenny Knox joint “Too Real for This Shit” got put on repeat. I can’t name a song that I didn’t write that I played as much as I played those two joints.
DM: Do you believe in the afterlife? What are some things you’ve yet to write about?
BT: I believe that spirits continue after they leave the body but not necessarily the concept of heaven and hell as places of eternal happiness or eternal damnation. I don’t know anybody who’s lived to tell about either one soooooo [laughs]…
I’ve yet to write about things I haven’t experienced yet. But life is full of twists and turns so I’m sure something will occur that will be fresh and inspiring.
DM: How has religion shaped you as an artist??
BT: I built my relationship with God right when I started rapping. Once I graduated I had a lot of spiritual things happen and out of nowhere I shed my own flesh. I woke up. I even was about to sign to a Christian label. I used to be that Bible thumper who ignored contradictions and inconsistencies. Then I had to wake up again. I no longer profess to be Christian. Now my relationship with God has empowered me and allowed me to be condemning and unrepentant when I write. Relentless in my message. I’m not someone who just runs around spewing my opinions—these are truths and I’m the messenger. I get to still have my fun, but I choose carefully what I say because the power in these words are real and I don’t just represent myself.
DM: Once the album drops how soon are you following up with another project?
BT: Not sure yet but I can say this, I’m definitely doing 1990 Raw: She-Pac.
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