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 To Doubt 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.

The Bul Bey and Patrick Feliciano | photo by Melissa Simpson for WXPN

JL: I Don’t Have Time To Doubt Myself is your new project. Can you tell us about it? I really love the name.

TBB: Hahaha, thanks man. Yeah I was talking with my friend Donnie, he’s the guy I bounce so much off of, not just music and art but life stuff. We were talking about doubt and he said “I don’t have time to doubt myself,” and I had a eureka moment like “that’s it.” Because I’m navigating self-doubt daily, but it’s a reminder to not listen to that. For me to succeed in whatever form that success is doubt isn’t part of the equation. I love that, even if folks don’t listen to the project but just come across it and read that title just saying those words have power.

As far as the music, this was a collaboration with Patrick Feliciano. We met in 2016, 2107 and we’ve worked on a few different songs before and we enjoyed each other’s creative process. So I thought we should sit down and work on a whole project together. And for me, this is really a calling card for folks to see how dope my friend is. Especially because if you listen to a lot of his music it’s more on the R&B tip, but when he started playing me the music for this album I was like oh wow this is some ol’ other shit hahaha. I honestly think he’s Philly’s best-kept secret because of how versatile he is. And I think we really nailed it on this project. And that really pushed me. We still have a bunch of records in the cut that we didn’t feel like really fit this record so maybe we’ll release a side B so be on the lookout for more to come.

JL: So I know the project has been out for a month or so. What are the next few moves? 

TBB: So we’re working on a video now and I’m really excited about that because it’s really out of my normal lane. So that’s the current focus and I want to do some more visuals for I Don’t Have Time To Doubt Myself, so that’s the plan over the next few months. I also don’t like to sit on music, so I’ll probably release another one of those songs that didn’t make the cut as a single. I want to put the art out and have conversations about it, that’s the goal for real.

JL: Where can folks find you and find the music? 

TBB: I’m pretty easy to find on social media: everything is @TheBulBey, so you can keep up with me there for the music and my work with WHYY, and obviously Bandcamp and all the streaming sites you can find my music.

The Bul Bey - I Don't Have Time To Doubt Myself (playlist)