His name is unfamiliar, but he’s been involved in hip-hop since he was 14 years old. B. Cooper is about to get his due. July 15 marks the release date for his new album, While The City Sleeps, being released by Reflection Music Group. We spoke on the phone concerning his excitement for the new release, the privilege of working with other amazing artists, and the state of hip-hop in general. Enjoy!
IVM: What’s up guys! I get the distinct privilege of talking with B. Cooper today. We welcome him to Indie Vision Music. B. Cooper is a hip-hop artist on RMG, Reflection Music Group, that is the record label he is on. The same record label as Derek Minor. B. Cooper, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
B Cooper: Thank you for letting me talk. I haven’t done a lot of these interviews yet, and I appreciate the opportunity.
IVM: You’re a little bit new to our listeners but you’ve been around a long time working on your craft. In fact, since the age of 14. It’s been a long journey for you but you’re about to release a new album through RMG, it’s called “While The City Sleeps”. That drops on July 15. To start us off, tell us a little bit about B. Cooper, from your roots to where you are right now.
B Cooper: Definitely. I started writing when I was 14. I really started pursuing rap when I was 15. I actually got saved when I was 15, and decided to jump into this rap thing. I’ve always liked hip-hop music, I’ve always liked rap music, and it was one of those things that I tried to hide it from my parents. But when I decided to do it for myself I really fell in love with being able to express myself and being able to put my voice out there. So from that point I’ve been doing music since then. I actually went to college in 2002. So if you want to figure out how old I am, I did not fail any classes in high school. So, yeah. I got finished with college in 2003. I’m not saying I graduated, but I finished.
IVM: Quick trip (laughs)
B Cooper: Yea. Actually in college I met one of my best friends, Dirty Rice. That kind of sparked what you hear from me now. Me and Dirty are really close, and I think we’ve kind of developed a sound together and that’s what we’ve been working on.
IVM: So, you grew up in Alabama and Tennessee. What was the hip-hop scene like in those areas? I’m up in North Dakota, so I don’t know much about the music scenes in those areas, but I picture a country vibe from there. How was the hip-hop scene there?
B Cooper: Yea, I can agree with you. I know growing up in Alabama, I was always the white kid that was listening to rap. I remember I loved Vanilla Ice and I loved MC Hammer. I actually got to see MC Hammer on the 2 Legit To Quit Tour. So I’ve liked rap for a long time. I moved from Alabama when I was 13 so I’m not really sure on the scene. I know when I moved to Nashville, there is a hip-hop scene in Nashville. It’s definitely not as big as the country scene in Nashville. Country music and songwriter type music is huge in the Nashville area and I think a lot of times that hip-hop gets pushed to the back because there are so many events for other genres. But there is a hip-hop scene in Nashville, a pretty strong hip-hop scene. It’s not an Atlanta or a New York, but it’s there, it exists.
IVM: Sure. Let’s talk about your first album, “Reflections of Self”. That one came out in 2003, on which you collaborated with Dirty Rice quite a bit, and you’re still collaborating with him today. You’ve worked so much with him, what is your relationship with each other like? You mentioned you met in college. How have you guys grown together and developed together as artists?
B Cooper: We met my first year of college. It was a random meeting through a mutual friend. Most days I was supposed to be in class I ended up in his bedroom making music (laughs). That’s probably not good to tell people, but whatever. We made a lot of music, made a lot of songs. We would just sit in his room and freestyle for hours. He would make beats, he had a Triton I believe, and we spent a lot of time together and we really became close friends and decided we wanted to do an album. That’s when we put together “Reflections of Self”. From there, I really fell in love with the sound we had created. Let me rephrase that: I really fell in love with the sound Dirty created, he’s ridiculous. I think from that point forward, at least musically we’ve both grown a lot. I know that Dirty got in a beat battle, shout out to Sound Track Beat Battle in Nashville, and it really got a bunch of producers in the Nashville area and from different areas head to head going against each other. I noticed after that beat battle a lot of those guys really grew. A lot of the music here really started to grow, and sound more commercial. So over the years, I mean it’s typical for me to go to Atlanta and spend three or four days over at Dirty’s house and just kick it, and whatever music comes out of it ends up being on an album. That’s just how we really work with each other. We don’t set out to do this kind of song or set out to do that kind of song, we just vibe with each other and what comes out has always proven to be pretty solid.
IVM: Could you ever picture doing an album without having any of Dirty Rice’s beats on there?
B Cooper: Originally the first rap that I had ever done, before “Reflections of Self”, I started off rapping with a group. I had two friends, Snow and K-Dub, we had a group and put a CD out together. It was all from Soundclick? I don’t remember where we got it…we got beats off the internet. Then I started working at a studio here in Columbia and working a project with a guy named John Bass. At the time he had a big Soundclick page, so I was just getting beats from him really. Until I met Dirty, I had to do what I had to do, but since I met Dirty I think we mesh so well and work so well together that I don’t really see myself doing an album without him. Not necessarily him producing the whole thing, but it’s kinda like we’re a team. This project especially, “While The City Sleeps”, is just as much Dirty as it is me.
IVM: Sure. The way you guys collaborate kind of reminds me of Playdough and DJ Sean P. They recently came out with their album “Gold Tips” and I got to talk with them. They were saying the same type of thing. Sean P has worked on every album that Playdough has been on from the beginning. They kind of have that same rapport and relationship that you and Dirty Rice seem to have. And that’s awesome, that works well in this industry.
B Cooper: It definitely works, and I’m glad that I’ve created a relationship with someone that is super dope (laughs). Dirty is extremely talented and he’s just gotten better and better over the years. It’s almost like a, I don’t want to say a sure thing, I’m not trying to be cocky, it’s just like I know if I go to the studio with Dirty we’re going to come up with something. It’s not a, “Well, we might get something,” it’s pretty consistent. Its been consistent over the years, as far as us producing together and coming up with things together.
IVM: So this new album, it’s called “While The City Sleeps”, comes out July 15. If you preorder it on iTunes now you can get an immediate download of the song 1994. featuring the artist Foure. What are you most excited about for people to hear on this new album?
B Cooper: I really spent a lot of time, just me and Dirty, and now that you mention it Foure, Foure is my brother. He’s not my blood brother, but he’s my brother on Facebook. So, just really looking forward to having the opportunity to share with the world, A: my faith and B: the opportunity to tell someone to chase their dreams. And also on the back side of that, listening to music and growing up in music I’ve always heard, “Chase your dream,” “Follow your dream,” “Get your dream,” go after where your heart tells you. But a lot of times I think the part that people leave out is that it’s not just going to be easy. That’s one thing that Dirty and I have learned together. Doing music as long as we have, it’s not just like overnight. A lot of people think that I’m new, but I’ve been doing music for 15 years, so it’s just like, I want people to get that too. I want you to chase your dreams, but that doesn’t mean quit your job today and become a full-time rapper. I’m very grateful and thankful for the job I have. If it wasn’t for the job I have, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to fund my dream and my passion. And I’m very aware that God provides, but I also believe that God puts us in situations to provide. We really want to push people to chase their dreams, but chase them in a realistic way, and that they realize it’s going to be hard work. It’s gonna be late nights, going without sleep to make sure an opportunity or situation happens, it’s gonna be getting off work and going directly to the studio to knock something out. It’s not all the fun stuff. It’s not always lights and cameras, you know?
IVM: That’s a great point. That’s a great addition that you added on to “Follow your dreams”. You’re right, you have to be smart about it and follow where the Lord is providing. If the Lord is opening this door, walk through it but don’t necessarily throw everything else out the window. God may want you to work your way through it in a different way, like you have been doing for years. That is a great lesson for young artists to hear.
B Cooper: I know, definitely on top of that, one thing I really had to do for myself, was define what success was for me. I look back to where Dirty and I started working on music, and we never wanted to “make it”. Of course I would like to make enough money off of music to completely do music full time. That would be awesome and that would be excellent. But from the beginning our whole point of doing music was to share our faith and inspire people. I don’t know if you can relate, but I know growing up there were songs that when said and done, those songs inspired me more than other forms of media could. Whether it be to follow my dream or just to inspire me in different ways. We’ve always wanted to do that, but when I sat down and asked myself what success was, success to me is being able to touch people and inspire people. That doesn’t mean making a million dollars off of music. That isn’t success to me. I feel like when I really started focusing on what my success was, it puts everything in a different perspective. We’re not trying to be famous, we’re not trying to “make it”, we’re trying to inspire people and I feel like we’re winning there because people are reaching out to us and letting us know that the music is inspiring them and touching their life. That’s the point. I think a redirection of what success is to you can really put you on a different path and make you choose different things.
IVM: Definitely. The win isn’t how many people hear your music, it’s how many people are affected by your music.
B Cooper: That’s it.
IVM: That’s awesome. I want to mention “Spare Change”, which is your album that was out before this, your RMG debut. You shared the mic with 9 other MCs on that album, which I love. I’ve been jamming to it all week long. On “While the City Sleeps”, every song features a different artist. You just love sharing the mic! Who was the most inspiring or exciting to work with on the latest album?
B Cooper: On the latest album, it was really just a lot of ups and downs. The majority of “Spare Change” and “While The City Sleeps” was done together. Once we decided to put “Spare Change” out, we kind of pulled what we wanted to put on that project and save the other songs. So it’s been kind of 6 or 7 months of working together with different people. I’ve always loved working with Foure, like I said that’s my brother. When I get in the studio with him it just happens. He’s an excellent songwriter. If you ever get the chance, go look in the credits on the album. He’s written a lot of hooks that he’s not on, he’s written a lot of hooks that he’s on. I write all my own verses, as far as the lyrics for my verses, but he definitely helps with the creative process. So it’s always great working with him. It was a lot of fun working with Steve Means. He came up and kicked it with me and Dirty for a couple days and even the songs that he’s not on, he played a lot of guitar on the album. But as far as the features, I really tried to find people like, A: that I liked their music, but really people that have just impressed me as people. I met J Givens, I actually got to do a show with him and Propaganda and Swoope, and J Givens just seemed like a really great dude. Like a really good dude that really wanted to do good with his music. That’s the kind of people I want to connect with. The same story with Corey Paul. Corey Paul, I met him at SXSW this year, and he’s just a stand-up guy. Any person that I know I can bank on, and I know that shares the same characteristics and the same mindset as me, that’s who I want to work with. It doesn’t have to be a political move, it doesn’t have to be, “Well I need to get this name and this name on the outside of the cover because that’ll help me sell records.” It was fun working with everybody, it was great working with SPZRKT, that dude is a beast. My label mates, it’s already family. I’ve been friends with Derek Minor for 14, 15 years now. He absolutely bodied the verse he did, it’s ridiculous. Yea, he showed me up on my song, and I’m going to get him back.
B Cooper: (Laughs) And working with Deraj was great too man, Deraj killed the song and really showed a different aspect of what we were trying to get across on the song Wake. I don’t want to say there was a favorite person to work with, I think each experience was great in it’s own way. I look forward to working with people. A lot of the features on this project too, as a side note, are just the hooks. I do have some rappers on there, but the majority of it, like Anthony Mareo came through and knocked the hook out for us. Steve Means knocked a few hooks out for us. Just opportunities to work with other people, and work with talented people that have the same goals in mind, it’s always awesome to do that. It’s really cool for me to get to the position where I have an opportunity to offer some sort of platform to another artist. Likewise with the artist who has stepped up and done stuff for me. I know on “Spare Change”, there was really no reason for them to do a feature for me, short of they like my music. A lot of the guys that featured on “Spare Change” had no clue that I was signed yet, we hadn’t announced it. It was just relationships that I’ve built over the years with good people.
IVM: On 1994, which is the song you get when you preorder “While The City Sleeps”, you talk about discovering your craft. The line that stuck out to me was, “I remember listening to Outkast, hoping that my momma ain’t find out.” I love that line because that line is so real to me. I did the same exact thing when I was a kid. I would make mix tapes off of the radio from local rap stations, and I always got nervous that my parents would find. Eventually I did get caught and punished for listening to that hip-hop (laughs). But it had a powerful impact on me. Do you think that experience is part of what inspires you to create positive hip-hop, to give kids something to listen to?
B Cooper: That’s definitely a side of it. I know growing up, like you said, you would get a CD at school or get a tape, and I would color over the Parental Advisory sticker and try to hide it from my parents. I’m not saying that anybody should do that, but I’m saying that in that time in my life that music inspired me in a different way. My brother actually came home with a cassette tape one day. It was called “Music To Ride To”. It was a Grapetree compilation, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Grapetree, they were kind of like a big label in Christian rap a long time ago. I heard a guy on there named Lil’ Raskull, rapping. He was going hard, and it was dope. It actually had a fake Parental Advisory sticker on the tape, and my brother said he got it at the Christian book store. I was like, “What?!” I never really understood that I had the opportunity to speak positive because rap was vulgar and rap was aggressive. From that point forward, that’s kinda when it started, in my mind, maybe I can do something that’s positive. No matter where my life has been at, I’ve always tried to make sure that I’ve kept the positive message. I wanted to inspire people. I don’t want to say I want to be the alternative…I want to be the music people listen to, but it is good to be able to say, “Here’s my CD, you can play it in front of your 4 year old daughter, I’m not worried about it. There’s nothing on here that’s going to be negative.” That’s always been a positive point for me. Growing up, when I was listening to more secular music, it was like, you got it in your car, and you go to a certain area of town, and you turn your speakers down and you roll your windows up because you don’t want anybody hearing you listening to it. With this music you can crank it up! There’s not gonna be anything negative coming out of the speakers, and I like that place.
IVM: Did you ever get caught?
B Cooper: Absolutely.
IVM: (Laughs) It always happens! We thought we were so smart. (Laughs)
B Cooper: Exactly. It was like, “Uh, I thought you knew…my bad.” (laughs)
IVM: (Laughs) You make it pretty clear that you’ve got a full time job and a hip-hop career. That sounds extremely difficult to balance. That’s just one of the hurdles you faced while crafting “While the City Sleeps”. What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome during the making of this album?
B Cooper: That’s a good question. And the answer I’m going to give you is not thought out, but it’s going to be true (laughs). I think one of the biggest hurdles for me is to be completely transparent. I’ve always been an independent artist, and I’ve always worked on my own stuff, made all the decisions. This album I’ve really had to learn to just step back, trust my team, and let RMG do what RMG does. That’s been one of my biggest hurdles. I’m used to making every decision as far as the artwork, the photo shoot, from the mixing to the mastering, to what the track list is going to be, when we’re going to put it out, what video are we going to shoot, and I really had to learn to step back and let people who do that, do that, and focus on my craft and let people who do that, just do that. Another hurdle has been waiting. I’m so excited about this project and I just want people to hear it. Like I said, that’s my success. It’s not about record sales, it’s not about charting…I don’t even want to say this in a negative way, but it’s not even about touring. If one kid gets my CD off of somebody at school and it changes their life, that’s what I do this for. It’s been having the project done and learning to be patient, learning to wait on this release date. I’m anticipating it just like some other people are anticipating it.
IVM: Is there a specific song on the album that sticks out in your mind for any specific reason, like it’s more emotional or personal or you just dig the beat more, anything that sticks in your mind making you think that people are really going to dig this song?
B Cooper: I’m not going to answer that (Laughs). No, I’m kidding. 1994 was a standout for us. I know the first time we heard it in the studio, they gave me the beat and Dirty added to the beat, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I handed it to Foure and he hit me back in an hour with the first verse and the hook, and the first time we played it in the studio with Dirty, it was just like, “OK, I get it.” It felt right. It’s been that response around the board. The majority of the people that have contacted us have given us a positive response. I love the song Wake, featuring Jacque Jordan, Derek Minor, and Deraj. Jacque Jordan was actually found by Foure on Soundcloud. She went to a local college and he reached out to her and we sent her the track, and she sent me back the hook from an iPhone. We loved the way it sounded so much when we did her final recording we got her to record it on her iPhone. It’s a very eerie sounding hook but her voice is amazing. That song to me stands out as far as, if you wanted something as a message for the whole album, between myself, Deraj and Derek Minor, our verses really express what the project is about.
IVM: Wow. I can’t wait to hear this album. I would like to ask you about your faith. You’ve made it very plain that you are a Christian and you want others to be inspired by your music and the positivity that it brings. How do you feel about the term, “Christian Hip-Hop”?
B Cooper: Hmmm. I didn’t think anyone would ask me that question (laughs). I personally don’t see the problem with it. But then again, I don’t really know the politically correct answer to your question…but at the end of the day I’m a Christian that does hip-hop. If you want to call me Christian hip-hop , I’m perfectly fine with that. I’ve never shied away from that. I know when I listened to Lil’ Raskull it was Christian rap, from a Christian book store, and I had no problem listening to it, and at that point I wasn’t even saved. So I don’t think it’s a negative thing. I will throw a warning out there: Every song on my album is not going to be a preachy, religious song. I don’t do music that points fingers, I don’t do music that is overly religious, I do music about life. I’ve got a song on the record about a breakup. I mention that God got me though it, and I do believe that God got me through it and it doesn’t change the fact that I believe, but the only fear that I would worry about labeling it as Christian hip-hop is…I mean it’s real life music. Christian hip-hop over the last few years has evolved, especially with Lecrae and “Gravity” and “Church Clothes”. It’s kind of getting to the point where people realize it doesn’t have to be spoon fed. That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with theological rap. I loved a lot of theological rap growing up. I loved Cross Movement, I loved a bunch of people in that era, and that music is for a certain person, and my music is for a certain person, and praise music is for a certain person. I think the only risk in labeling it is, I don’t want to say that I do Christian hip-hop and someone automatically be turned off. I’m not ashamed to say it’s Christian hip-hop, it’s Christian music, it’s hip-hop music. Names and categories frustrate me because…ew, ugh…I don’t know. Yea. You can call it what you want. I’m a hip-hop artist. I am a Christian. So…yeah.
IVM: Alright. I ask because it’s interesting, in rock it’s a little bit different than in hip-hop. Hip-hop has gotten to a place where…and you’re right, talking about Christian hip-hop in the past, it was T-Bone and Cross Movement, those 2 artists were the first ones I listened to when I was younger. Theological rap was basically what is was. T-Bone was sort of the predecessor of the hip-hop that is out there that you are describing, which is hip-hop about life. He started it a little bit, and it’s progressed so much that it’s not about labeling the music, it’s about the person and where they come from. Their background helps portray what will come through in their music. People in the rock world don’t like labeling things, and I was just curious how hip-hop artists felt about it (laughs).
B Cooper: Definitely. I might be a little different than other people. I know a lot of people run from that title and a lot of people cling to it. But I mean, listen to the music. Let it speak for itself. Whatever it is to you, I’m good with it. If you want to label me as a Christian rapper that’s cool, just don’t get mad at me because I did a song about a breakup.
IVM: After “While The City Sleeps” drops, will there be any touring to promote it?
B Cooper: I absolutely hope so. (Laughs) I mean we’ve booked some dates right now. I’m going to a few places in the next month or so, so hopefully that will go well and I definitely would love to tour. All of you people out there booking tours, my name is B. Cooper, and you can find me on the internet. (Laughs) We’re definitely promoting the album hard. I know we’ve got some things in the works that should be coming out in the next week or two. Hopefully everything will move forward like that.
IVM: Here are a few questions from IVM readers. Anthony asks, “Your Spare Change mixtape had a strong soul/old-school influence to it. For this debut album, what kind of sound and influences should we expect from you and Dirty Rice?”
B Cooper: Accordion Pop.
IVM: (Laughs) Dude, don’t toy with me! (Laughs)
B Cooper: This is an interesting question, because one thing that we really thought was going to be a bigger struggle than it was…Dirty is a big sample producer. When you learn that you can’t sell music with samples in it unless you get it cleared, and you get signed to a label and you actually have a legit deal, you aren’t going to put out music with samples. So, that was in the beginning of working on “While The City Sleeps”, we hoped we could keep it the same vibe. I personally love sample music, it’s just a different feel. One thing we tried to make sure that we did differently with this project is we kept it soulful. We have a lot of live instruments: strings, guitars, bass. We tried to keep it that vibe with that same feel. I think this album is in the same vein. Obviously it’s not the sample record that “Spare Change” was, but it’s very soulful. There are a lot of beats on this album that make me have that disgusting face, where it’s just like, “Ugh”. Dirty Rice really outdid himself on a lot of these tracks. I’m super excited. Middle Of Nowhere is a song that I’ve got with Foure on the album, and Dirty produced a majority of the beat. Then we sent it out to Tone Jonez. That guy is a monster. He gave the song a whole different feel. I wish you could hear the song now so you could know what I meant, because I’m excited. I’m not excited in a cocky way, I’m genuinely excited about how this record sounds. I told Dirty, at times listening to it I can’t believe that it’s mine. This is mine, these beats are mine. It’s cool to be able to work and get to work with so many amazing people that the project comes out so much better than you think it would. It’s been awesome. As far as the feel of the record, it’s soulful.
IVM: Alright. Two questions from Josh. The first question is: Since you’ve been doing hip-hop independently for over a decade, what do you think of the current state of hip-hop in general?
B Cooper: You can always find bad music if you want to find bad music. I think a lot of times, we listen to what’s on the radio or look at what’s being promoted on TV, and sure, there is a lot of hip-hop out there that I don’t like. There was a lot of hip-hop in the 90s that I didn’t like, that I felt didn’t really represent the culture. So you pull that to the side, and you start looking for really talented artists and really talented hip-hop, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hip-hop right now. There’s a lot of good music coming out, a lot of new talent. Even in the Christian hip-hop realm, I was thinking today, it seems like the projects that come out now are a lot more focused on quality. I just feel like music is good right now. I feel like there are a lot of great projects out now. I’ve been absolutely stuck on Christon Gray’s album. You can call it R&B if you want to, but that boy can spit. There’s just a lot of good music out. It kind of frustrates me when people say, “Hip-hop is dead.” You’re just not listening to the right station. There’s good music out there if you look for it. I will agree there is a lot on mainstream radio, MTV, and BET that just isn’t my taste in music, but I don’t think that kills the whole genre.
IVM: Last question: Josh wants to know what led you to sign with RMG?
B Cooper: The money baby! No, I’m kidding. (Laughs) Definitely not the money. I definitely still work my full time job. Basically RMG is my family. I’ve been friends with Derek Minor for 15 years. I’ve been friends with Doc for almost 10 years. It was the right place, right time. It was the kind of situation that made sense. They gave me an opportunity to find my success. It’s not like I signed a record deal with RMG and I got a million dollars. I signed a record deal with RMG and now I’m able to touch a lot more people with this music. At the end of the day that’s where the decision came from. That’s what it boils down to.
IVM: Your album is available on iTunes, correct?
B Cooper: Correct. You can preorder “While The City Sleeps” on iTunes right now. Anything else that you need, go to IAmBCooper.com. I Am B. Cooper anything…Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. If you look up any of the social media sites, I Am B. Cooper will get you to me.
IVM: Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today. I appreciate the chat. “While The City Sleeps” is out July 15.
B Cooper: But you should probably just preorder it now.
IVM: You’re right! Anything else you’d like to end with?
B Cooper: I really appreciate you giving me the time and talking with me. I know I ramble a lot, but hopefully somebody got something out of this interview. Shout out to all you guys!