IN DEPTH: Respek BA
Respek BA has been making beats and rapping since 1997. Between then and now he has toured around the UK and Europe with legendary UK Hip-Hop pioneer Blade. Opened shows for countless acts including: Jurassic 5, Xzibit, People Under The Stairs, Smif-N-Wessun and DJ Shadow. As well as putting in the work to be a battle rap veteran and fan favourite since 2002. We catch up with him to discuss his latest LP release, New Weapons.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us man. Let’s get right into it - what’s the purpose behind your latest release?
The purpose of the album is to be the benchmark for lyricism in hip hop, along with the beats being traditional, sample-based boom bap. It was also important for me to get Koaraktor, the producer of the album - to do cuts on every song so he got a chance to speak on every track.
It’s a well thought out project, catering an acquired ear for detailed wordplay and production. Is this your first time working with Koaraktor and how did it come about?
Yeah it’s the first time we’ve worked together. It came about through Koaraktor contacting me and offering me some beats. I’ve always been known as a picky guy with beats, so when I liked about ten tracks on the first beat tape he sent me, it was a good sign. So basically, I thought he was so dope I wanted to do a full LP with him - just as I was about to suggest it, he did!
Coming from a battle background, can you tell us a bit about your history, achievements and what brought you to this point?
My history is battle rap on this island basically! I was part of the group who built battle rap in the United Kingdom and the first wave of British MC’s who could battle the top American battle rappers and keep up with them. I’m the Jump Off 2005 Street Battle league champion, the 2005 Spin the Mic runner up and the 2005 World Rap Championships UK runner up. I’ve battled everyone from Possessed, Whashisface and Stig of the Dump to Illmaculate, Serius Jones and Tony D. I’ve battled hundreds of times in tournaments, street battles, stage battles and freestyle battles. Basically, I have consistently destroyed 99% of the rappers who ever stood across from me for the last 15 years. I’ve seen many people come and go, change careers, move on, get better or get worse. I’m all about sustained consistency - I’ve just always been here body bagging folk.
Aside from the battles, when did you decide to start recording and making music? Was there a conscious decision after a period of time or were they both focal points from the outset?
I was recording and making music before I ever battled. I started by making beats and rapping in about 1999 and started performing live in about 2001. Not long after that I discovered battle rap, which I liked instantly, as I am a huge combat sports fan. To me battle rap is a mental combat sport.
How many albums/projects have you put out in that time and is there a favourite amongst the ranks?
I’ve put out all sorts of limited run EP’s and things like that, but the three which are easy to get hold of are The Secrecy Act mixtape, The Wasteland Of The Free LP and the New Weapons LP. Out of the three, New Weapons is easily my favourite.
Who would you say have been your main influences?
Back when I first started rapping I used to look up to emcee’s like Big L, Canibus, Royce Da 5’9 and Nas. Nowadays I don’t really look up to other people. I respect my fellow emcee’s, but don’t have any idols or anything like that.
Unlike most hip hop albums out there, this album is completely free from featured artists. What brought this about?
I’ve always been comfortable working by myself, but also it’s easy to have a dope verse if you’re getting features on every track and only have to pen 16 bars. With this album I’m making a point that I can do three verses on every track and every verse is filled with bars. It’s a lot harder to do consistently by yourself without other rappers motivating you to do well, because they have a nice verse on your song. So yeah, it’s just another extremity I went to in order to demonstrate the skill involved.
Any personal favourites?
Nah not really. I’m happy with all the tracks, so it’s for other people to decide what their favourites are amongst them.
You’ve put out a few music videos along with the album. Who oversees this part of the process? Is there a director you regularly work with?
There have been three directors involved in the videos. Theo Cane, a good friend of mine, directed three of the videos and we work together all the time on all sorts of different things to do with hip hop, films or just things like our podcast on Slimehouse TV. Andrew Mackenzie did the video for Nightmare, and Hunter did the video for The Master. These videos all came about by people either liking my work and wanting to do a video to them, or just through me knowing the directors involved.
Music videos are pretty much an essential tool for artists these days, especially with the likes of YouTube and other social media platforms. How would you say they’ve been received and have you got any advice for younger artists looking to raise the bar?
Yeah, all my videos seem to have been received well so far. I have no idea what my advice would be to raise the bar though. I don’t care about being known for anything other than my skill as an emcee. That limits my fan base, but it’s a trade off I’m happy with in order to have the type of fans that I do. In order to make a name you generally have to do something to stand out, and unless you stand out on the merit of your art alone you’re always going to lose artistic integrity.
What I’m saying is there are ways to get big and famous and make a name, but they all involve being more of an actor rather than an actual artist who just wants to make their art.
Where can people buy the album?
Everywhere digitally or you can buy it directly at CD Baby
And lastly, any final shout outs to round it off?
Yeah, shout out to all my fellow emcee’s still trying to work hard on their crafts out there.
Words By: Lloyd Ross