In this Q&A with Detroit emcee B-Side discusses his journey to become the independent artist that he is today, his prospective on the industry and shares some wisdom beneficial to anyone who loves the art for what it is.
Achickwitbeatz: Who is B-Side?
B-Side: I guess I should get the introductions out of the way first. My real name is Brian Genga, I've lived in the metro-Detroit area my whole life, except for 2 years in Toledo, and I'm a full-time father of an 8-year old daughter. B-Side is pretty much me in real life, multiplied by ten. He's an emcee, a lyricist, a thinker, a poet, a smartass, and a father...he's funny, he's an asshole, sarcastic, intelligent, creative, outspoken, and pretty much has an opinion on everything. In real life, I'm outspoken, sarcastic and opinionated, but as an adult I have to "take the high road" in certain circumstances, like at work or around my daughter. B-Side doesn't have to do that...he can say whatever, whenever, however and make it work. So I don't wanna say B-Side is my alter-ego, it's more just me unfiltered with the volume turned all the way up. When I want to say or do what's REALLY on my mind, the "B-Side" of me speaks on it.
Achickwitbeatz: When did you discover that you needed music to be a part of your life?
B-Side: As far as Hip-Hop goes, I remember hearing Nas' "It Ain't Hard To Tell" remix on the radio in March of 1994, just a couple weeks before Illmatic came out. I was finishing up 8th grade at the time, and I was getting heavier into Hip-Hop, but that song was genius to me. The rhyme schemes, the words he chose to use...I was blown away. I got a dub of Illmatic from a friend the week it dropped, and when I'm telling you I was blown away by it...the more I listened, the more I said, "I have a pretty good vocabulary, I bet I can write like this" and started writing little raps in notebooks. At that time, I was doing it just to challenge myself. But I never thought I could be taken seriously or it would be what I did, even though I was such a "Hip-Hop Head". I sought out everything I could, didn't matter where it was from, until it pretty much overtook me. I don't think I was confident enough to actually perform my raps in front of people until I was about 18, in 1998 or 1999. I was in a group with my best friend Rory (aka Ro-D), and he would always convince me I was dope and that people would dig what I was saying. I put a hell of a lot of pressure on myself to be dope, but when I started seeing people's reactions to what I was saying and seeing how consistent those reactions were amongst different crowds, I knew I could pursue this. We started by freestyling or spitting writtens at parties or wherever we could get on the mic. We didn't have studio access at the time, so I used to collect instrumentals, then we would set this shitty little boombox in front of stereo speakers, play the instrumentals, hit "record" and rap until the tape went off. Then I got a Tascam 4-track and recorded on that. I didn't actually start to record until about 2003, when my friend Mike Lamb, who I still work with, moved back from California and started making beats. It took a minute to find myself as an artist...I went through phases where I used big words like Ultramagnetic or Company Flow, then there was a freestyling phase, then there was just the random bar-writing phase where I kind of tried to mirror what my favorite emcees were doing at the time. After a while, I realized that it was best to just be myself, talk about things that I knew or saw, and how to make that formula work for me. Years later...here I am.
Achickwitbeatz: What would you say is the best thing about being an independent artist?
B-Side: Definitely the freedom. I don't have a bunch of people in my ear telling me to do this or that, or shoot for this audience or whatever. I can say and do what I want, and therefore the fans are more real and genuine, because they're buying into YOU. Also, when you're independent, you can see who really wants to work with you for artistic reasons and not financial. Anyone can cut a check, but to vibe out with others and have them respect you for being you and just make good music...you can't put a price tag on that.
Achickwitbeatz: What are some of the biggest challenges independent artists have to overcome?
B-Side: For me, finances and time. I respect the hell out of anyone who can do this full-time or dive headfirst into it. My lifestyle and circumstances have not allowed me to do that yet. Also, in this age of technology, I can't stand how over-saturated the game is. Hip-Hop had to be something you really loved, cared about and worked at. Now everywhere you go, everyone is a rapper, or a producer, or has a studio...you have to work and grind extra hard to shine amongst all the shit. The game is way more than having skills and selling tapes out of your trunk like it once was...now you have to be cool with all the bloggers, give away music free, etc. With technology the way it is, you can get left behind quickly. You have to stay up on it.
Achickwitbeatz: What are 5 attributes/skills that would place an artist on your top 10 list?
B-Side: I don't know if I can do these in any particular order, so I guess I'll just randomly say them. One would be creativity. I've always respected trailblazers and people who don't say predictable things. Another thing would be lyricism. I'm not saying you have to spit mind-bending verbal gymnastics, but be real and accessible with what you say. I love Scarface just as much as I love Redman or Rakim, and Face doesn't drop rewind-worthy punchlines or use multisyllabic schemes, but he's clever, visual and down to earth and when you listen, you know exactly what he's talking about. Another thing would be being true to self. I respect anyone who does what they do and makes it work in spite of what people think. When I listen to an emcee, I want to walk away feeling like I know him or her, or can understand what they're about just from their music. I love when people can make other audiences cross over to them and not the other way around. Originality is another one. Sound like yourself, damn it. No biting. Lastly, I'd say being well-rounded. When I say that, I mean be able to convey different topics. To be an emcee is to not only rock the crowd, but to talk to the people. Don't just talk about the block, or the club, or the fact that you're a "lyrical spiritual miracle"...talk about something I can relate to and live to.
Achickwitbeatz: Conversely, what are 5 attributes that would place an artist at the very bottom of your list?
B-Side: I could probably think of about 20, but I guess I'll stick with 5 in no particular order. Being a follower is definitely one. The game is over-saturated already like I said before. If you're here biting, copying someone else's formula or "doing your best Jay-Z rendition"...get the hell out. Making music that insults my intelligence is another. We're in an era where completely shitty music gets millions of views, because people are laughing AT Hip-Hop more than ever now. It's almost become self-parodying in some instances. Another would be sacrificing your integrity. I understand some artists may try to do songs to reach different audiences, but at least be true to yourself when doing it. If you're reaching and it's not you, we'll know. Being boxed-in would be another. I can't stand when people can only rap about one thing. Whether you're trapping or battling your way thru an entire album...I don't wanna hear that shit. Give me some variety, damn it. And I would definitely say that not understanding or respecting Hip-Hop for what it is, a culture, would be another thing. I'm not saying you have to do a windmill on linoleum or tag the wall behind you at your next show, but don't walk in, disrespect the pioneers and foundation, announce that you're purely in it to get a buck and act like you run shit. Have some respect. That goes with any genre, not just Hip-Hop. Know the past, present and future of what you're doing.
Achickwitbeatz: What can people expect from B-Side?
B-Side: Coming soon is "The SideNotes Experience" project with Mr. Cliffnote. We've had it ready and people have been waiting for a minute. It's just myself and Mr. Cliffnote as the emcees on there, no guest rappers, just us. So it's time to hit 'em in the head with it. I started working on a project called "The Essence" a few months ago, it started as an EP but blossomed into being a full-length project. I'm excited for this one. I have other tracks I'm not sure about, but so far I have beats from Mike Lamb, Konphlict, Black Bethoven, J Mac, Foul Mouth, Steve Nichols, DJ Los, Pig Pen and a few others as definites...there may be a few other ones I've been sitting on that end up on there too. I'm featured on a couple dope records that are out right now that I'm proud of, tracks that are already out like "Funky Worm" featuring me and Mr. Cliffnote off the A.R.E.S. "Eye Formation" album and "Grayscale" off Faze Blue Le'goon's project. "Grayscale" is Faze's joint that features me, Philosophy Cole and Leaf Erikson with D Cypha cutting, and there's a remix out with all of us plus Mixo and C-Rayz Walz. Duque Nuquem did the beat on the original, Nate OG did the remix. They're both bangers. Plus "Unfadeable" off DJ Illogik's album #ontheotherhand... I love that joint. And as far as upcoming records, Mr. Cliffnote and I did a joint with Syruz Grizm for his upcoming album. I'm not gonna give away the title or the concept, but it's a really dope and heartfelt song, Horatio the Best Man produced it and Coko Buttafli is singing on it. It's a banger!
Achickwitbeatz: How can people connect with you and stay current with what you have in the works?
B-Side: I have 2 bandcamp pages. The first one is b-side313.bandcamp.com . You can get my album "Vertigo 1.5" there either for free or if you donate a couple bucks. That album contains a certified classic, "Coldblooded", featuring me, Konphlict, Supa Emcee and Mr. Cliffnote, with DJ Los cutting. Mike Lamb produced the record. It also has "The Vices", produced by Slautah on there too. You can also snatch up the first officially released track from "The Essence" on there for free. It's called "Burial", produced by Foul Mouth, featuring me, Aztek the Barfly, Dagda and Foul Mouth, with DJ U.N.I. scratching. The other one is sidenotes.bandcamp.com ...that's mine and Mr. Cliffnote's group page. You can download The SideNotes Mixtape Vol. 1 there, along with A Side Called B, a project I did with DJ U.N.I. mixing and a ton of my Hip-Hop fam over all Tribe Called Quest Beats. You can also get the Double A album there. If you're a Detroit Hip-Hop head, you should already know what that is, but if not, go get it. You can also catch me on soundcloud at soundcloud.com/b-side-aka-mr-genga , follow me on Twitter @313bside, Instagram @313bside and Facebook at facebook.com/bside313. Get at me!