The Bul Bey is no newcomer to the Philly hip-hop scene. Having been around since about 2016 releasing music, he’s been putting in the groundwork that is often ignored on the road to success. But it’s not just music. Bey has been building in the community through his work with WHYY, helping to make an artistic community for all the creatives in the city. Bey has a unique view on what art should be, so after the release of his newest project I Don’t Have Time ToDoubt Myself, I sat down with The Bul Bey and we discussed what’s got him here and where it’s all headed.
Josh Leidy: Could you give us a little background on yourself for those unfamiliar with you?
The Bul Bey: Sure, I’m The Bul Bey, a Philadelphia-based hip-hop artist, creator, and collaborator. I’ve worked with many different artists and art groups in the city, and I actually currently hold the position of Community Conversation Convenor with WHYY. That’s an initiative with WHYY and the Public Library, where I go to different branches in the city to have a dialogue with community members. I was in South Philly yesterday talking with people about parking — which, if you’re not from here, is a real issue. I’ll also be in Germantown and Chestnut Hill in the next few months to talk about gentrification, preserving history, gun violence, topics cover a whole range of issues that affect us in the civic space.
JL: How did you get involved with WHYY?
TBB: I was doing community curation and WHYY is focused on having their reporting and storytelling spearheaded by community voices, because for a really long time their reporters were older white men from the suburbs and weren’t really reflective of the communities that call Philadelphia home. So I was kind of the middle man pointing them in the direction of community members whose stories were interesting. That then grew into the position I have now, which is more direct work with people. My biggest goal in anything I do is to be disruptive, whether that’s in music or anything creative.
JL: I like that.
TBB: Yeah, and the disruption doesn’t need to be loud and in-your-face. It could be a calm peaceful disruption. But either way, I’m looking to change the mood.
JL: What inspires you to make music?
TBB: Man, so much, and sometimes it’s really random. But recently I’ve gotten back into comics, and right now I’m reading Silver Surfer Black and it’s so visually stimulating, I love it. Of course music, I love all different types so it’s hard to narrow down. We also live in a time where we have such an over-saturation of music. I was at Johnny Brenda’s last night and I didn’t even know the bands performing but it was dope and inspiring. I’m constantly inspired by Philly artists, all of them. I just feel Philly rappers are different.
JL: That is one of the things that’s sad: we are losing a lot of the spots where Philly artists could get shine.
TBB: Yeah, it’s unfortunate because I believe Philly has some of the most talented musicians the world over and specifically when it comes to rappers. I mean, we came up in an era where it was all about your bars and it still is to me, and I love that Philly still brings that to this day. I do think there’s been some pushback as well to the closings with people just putting on shows in outdoor spaces or even their living rooms. And that’s really refreshing to me. It’s coming back to the community to create its own spaces.
JL: What is your creative process like?
TBB: Man, honestly I create best when I’m free. I had to get past the notion of numbers and hype and just create freely. Because things don’t always happen on your time, so I’m learning to allow things to happen instead of always trying to make them happen. That’s how I’ve allowed myself to be freer when I create. It’s not always about being comfortable but free in the sense that my mind is free and open to exploring. That’s the space I like to be in.