July 13, 2024
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FLH Exclusive! Andrew Bigs “Think Bigs” interview!

static1.squarespace.comAndrew Bigs is taking hip-hop into fresh new territory with his new record Think Bigs. He is very active at giving back within the community of San Jose working with Silicon Valley De-Bug, an organization that coordinates social justice campaigns to advance the rights of youth, workers, immigrants and those impacted by the criminal justice system. Bigs also is a documentary filmmaker having produced the feature film “Exodus From The Jungle”, a film that chronicles the closing of one of the country’s largest homeless encampments located in the heart of Silicon Valley. For 2016, Bigs continues to keep chasing his hip-hop dreams no matter what! Don’t miss him live at Vans Warped Tour 2016 all Summer long!

Chad Thomas Carsten: How has living in San Jose influenced you as who you as a recording artist today?

Andrew Bigs: I would say most of what I talk about stems from the experience of growing up in San Jose. It’s a crazy place; it’s one of the biggest cities in the countryside. It’s so well known for the tech world and Silicon Valley and all the wealth and all the companies that exist out there, but for me and people that I grew up with, we know the other side of that. This town is normal beef city and a lot of craziness  happens here . A lot of poverty and violence and stuff like that, and so, there’s like that crazy contrast that we’ve grown up around in a difference which influenced my topics and what I talk about, you know, how I look at music and how I pursue music and the message in the music, but also myself as a person, so I’m being authentic with my story that’s incorporated into it.

CTC: Wow and how many years have you been in the hip-hop game now?

AB: I’ve been rapping since I was like, 16 / 17. So I’ve been rapping for like 9 years now. I’ve been taking it serious since I was 19 or 20, so I’ve been really actively doing it for about 5 or 6 years now and I’m 25 now, just turned 25 this past February.

CTC: For the new listeners, what one wind instrument would describe your sound the best if you had to choose?

AB: Fuck man, that’s hard! *Laughs* I would say the horn, probably the sax. There’s alotta sax on this project, and I think it’s that instrument that has more element to it. That’s what I am surrounded by and I wanted to incorporate it. The sax has a soulful feel to it and it’s like a soulful jazzy feel to it

CTC: Can we get into how you came up with the title ”Think Bigs”?

AB: Yeah, absolutely, it’s kind of multi layered. If you know what I’m saying, I think on the subject level, I kept on playing with this phrase, think big, and you know it was definitely kind of influenced by Apple and Steve Jobs and shit like that, you know. They had this campaign, I’m sure you remember the campaign, “Think Different”. They took all these iconic photos of all these iconic people like Gandhi or Muhammad Ali or Einstein and would take the Apple logo and put “Think Different” in the corner you know and it was an amazing view. The idea was thinking different with your product. Apple started in a garage probably about 15 miles away from my house. It was a way to flip an idea that was local to where I grew up. There is a humorous aspect to flipping Steve Jobs. My cover art is kinda a jab at a iconic Steve Jobs photo.

CTC: I notice you have a conscious rhymes inside your songs too. Can we get into that and why you decided to take that route?

AB: Going back to what I said earlier. For me, I think my music is the most important thing.  It’s just like me being authentic with myself and authentic with my story and social observation and what’s happening around me and evaluating that is apart of that – When I was like 18 I got really involved in community organizing and doing a lot of social justice working and being around people who really make a difference in lives. I was part of an organization and I still am,  called Silicon Valley De-Bug.  I think just growing up around them when I was like 18 had a huge influence on me, in how I perceived the world and how I looked at what was happening locally and getting the bigger picture. Pro-conscious is definitely in my music, represents my experience in time in De-Bug and doing that work, and to always be a part of it you know. I don’t think it’s my music entirely, but it’s definitely a big part of it though.

CTC: Can you give any behind the scenes details on the recording process?

AB: Yeah man, so many people had hands on this thing, like my process was like, especially when it came to the production in actual music, my man, Bhatoa, who produced some of the singles that already were released, he came in with a lot of foundations.  Like he would have like a drum loop, or he brought the baseline into it for a foundation. He’s coming with that like a sample clip. I would write and once I kind of contextualized and wrote the song it was a matter of bringing people in. I brought in so many different producers to add to the beat/ add to the production, a lot of live instrumentation, live guitar, live horns, live bass, live keys etc.  So for me it was really interesting. You know I produced one song on my album, but I still played kind of like a composer role bringing all these people together in order to create the sound that happened, you know, and that was a process man! It was crazy just having so many people in the room creating theses songs and so many people who had so many different styles, who were pretty hands-on with these beats and pretty hands-on with this production, influencing my writing. It was a great process man! The process was dope! I think that’s why – the process that I created with “Think Bigs” is like the best product I ever created and it’s the process I’m moving forward with on damn near everything that I do.

CTC: You said you produced one of the tracks.  What song was that and can we get into your state of mind at the time of producing?

AB: I produced the interlude on the project called A Word From Frank… I mean, I’ve always wanted to produce and I think as time goes on I feel like I should be producing more of my music that I put out, being with me just wanting to do it. We made the song “That’s Life” on the project and “That’s Life” is a “Frank Sinatra” flip that’s like the Frank Sinatra song “That’s Life” and we took that we made a hip-hop song out of it which I was really proud of.  I was really proud of the process, I was really proud of the writing, proud and the beat and everything that it offered.  You know, I wanted to make an interlude going into that and so that was kind of like the idea going in. So the interlude sounds legendary, an interview between Frank Sinatra and Larry King. It’s one of those last interviews of Frank Sinatra right before he passed away. What’s interesting is someone like him, who has done all the things that he’s done in his life – in kind of like what the perspective is of that kind of career on the way out, you know, knowing that your time is coming to an end.  So that sample definitely heavily influenced the sound of the song and the feeling of the song you know, like when you listen to it; it gives me chills! It’s a tribute to that man, especially since we created a flip to his song. I thought it was important to include his voice. But what’s interesting is that we actually didn’t sample it, but we took the song “That’s Life” that he made and we switched up.  We used the same themes, we played an element of the song and then we made a completely new beat around it but we used the same topic though.

CTC: Speaking of finding new ways to innovate hip-hop, how do you think your album is putting hip-hop into new territories for the better?

AB: I definitely see “Think Bigs” as continuing to push the envelope as to what music can sound like, like what hip-hop music can sound like.  I definitely see hip-hop going in this direction that incorporates live instrumentation and kind of like this big band in the field again.  So I definitely think that my music is pushing in that direction, but still keeping it modern, still keeping it with this kind of like “new era bang” and you know heavy 808 and still maintain the element to it, but by bringing in the big band element.  I think when it comes to conceptualizing the songs, it’s bringing different narratives into it and bringing this narrative with that type of style. I do think the San Jose narrative hasn’t been told yet on the massive scale.

CTC: Besides your hip-hop career, you are also into film-making.  Can we get into the details behind your film Exodus From The Jungle  and the homeless aspect it covers?

AB: Yeah. I mean just like we were talking about before man.  This channels and narratives, the hidden side of Silicon Valley isn’t known. It isn’t talked about on a massive scale and I mean I didn’t walk into it and try to make a documentary. First, it’s a De-Bug production.  Everyone who watches Silicon Valley De-bug has their hands on this. I was definitely there on the days that it was being shot and I was huge in the editing process and kind of like producing the film.  It was a team project. To understand the documentary, you have to understand De-bug. De-bug is the most integrated organization into its community that exists, that I have ever seen. We had relationships, like we knew people who were organizing and rough housing in San Jose and Sinclair County. We knew people that were living in the jungle, that were homeless that were organizing and were trying to create solutions to it on that scale. We knew it was going to close.

The jungle was a homeless encampment in San Jose.  It was called the largest homeless encampment in the country by Business Insider. There’s some other ones that are big, you know, but it was definitely one of the largest encampments in the country.  It was in the heart of Silicon Valley and like the way I describe it to people is it’s this homeless encampment that existed like 10 miles away from the Apple headquarters and even closer to Adobe and all these companies that have their headquarters in Silicon Valley. It’s massive. It’s one of the most expensive places to live in the world and people can’t afford it.  Like fuck, I can’t afford it. Myself, my family, we all struggled to make this happen. People end up living on the streets for whatever reason. And the big companies didn’t help.  Instead of trying to solve the problem, their only solutions were to kick people out. And they were really trying to push everybody out you know. I think they just want to push poor people out of Silicon Valley. In the heart of it, that’s what it is, to push the poor out and keep the rich. So they shut down the encampment.  We were there when it was closed.  We were there the day before, the day that it happened.  Then we followed a group of people after they tried to get together anything that they could, and try to figure out what they’re going to do next.  So that’s the documentary in a very short abbreviated version. The day that we were there at like 4 am at the encampment, the police showed up. When these bulldozers showed up, people were running and it was raining. People kept slipping and falling into the mud trying to take everything that they had with them. It was one of the most traumatic things I have ever seen, that I’ve ever been around and I was even living there you know. I was a witness to it and it was really crazy.

CTC: How soon will the documentary be dropping?

AB: We had a premier the other day in San Jose.  That was in October and we had like 500 people in attendance. We’ve been putting the film into movie festivals and different places like that, so we don’t actually have a release date planned yet, but it will probably be within a few months.  We’ll probably release it publicly on YouTube. The documentary should definitely play a big role in the political scene in San Jose when it comes to housing and homelessness. It’s serving its purpose to raise awareness.

CTC: You’ll be touring with Warped Tour this year.  Can we get into the behind the scenes details on why you will be recording a social commentary podcast in each city while you’re touring and what are you looking to forward to the most at Warped Tour?

AB: Shit man. The podcast is a way to kind of incorporate some of the good work that’s happening at home and kind of take it on the road.  We were just trying to highlight folks and highlight good things that are happening in every city we go to. I’m excited to get to participate in everything that’s going on out there and to perform and to really connect with people.  I’m excited to put my music on this place. I haven’t really had the opportunity to put things on this big of a scale before and I’m excited for that! I’m excited to put it out there and to show people what I been working on, what I am capable of. And the band/collective that I’m part of, seeing them get recognition is awesome too. I’m excited for myself and I’m excited for San Jose to be on this platform and to have these opportunities and to be able to represent why we do it and to be able to showcase what we’re doing.

CTC: I wish you all the best of luck.  Are you touring all of Warped Tour or just select dates?

 AB: The whole thing!

CTC: Good luck to that. Any final shout outs before ending this interview?

AB: Yeah man, definitely, BAMN SQUAD! Shout out to the entertainment company and the collectives that we started off as in San Jose back in August 2015. BAMN SQUAD has been the foundation to where I am right now and the growth over the past year. There’s so many dope artists, so many dope people that are apart of it and not only just rappers man, like, producers cinematographers, designers, photographers, people who write scripts, you know what I am saying?! You know they are family, they’re a huge factor in my success and where I’m at and anywhere I go, I’ll be with them! And thank you Chad, I appreciate the questions, they were challenging enough.

Download Think Bigs for free here



Interviewer: Chad Thomas Carsten

Interview Date:04/04/16



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