For November’s First Look Friday, we spoke to New Jersey rapper Bandmanrill about his rise, club music, why he doesn’t want to be associated drill rap, and more.
“You have to have a lot of discipline with being a rapper,” Bandmanrill says, sitting on a velvet-cloaked chair in one of Warner Music Group’s many rooms. Ironically, he was 30 minutes late to the interview, constraining us to only 15 minutes with the New Jersey rapper.
Two nights before, Bandmanrill held a listening party to celebrate the release of his new mixtape, Club Godfather; the debut project dropped via Warner on October 28. We sat down with Bandman that Saturday, and it was the first of many appearances for his day-long press run. His team seemingly scrambled to fit in new opportunities and reschedule others, proving how exponentially his music career is growing. “[I rest] at nighttime… when I’m not at the studio,” he comments on his non-stop lifestyle.
Newark’s Bandmanrill was propelled into the spotlight in March 2021, when his song “Heartbroken” blew up on TikTok. After only a little under a year of making music, the single would be the first time the MC rapped over a Jersey club beat. Now at 2.7 million views to date on that TikTok alone, over 600 thousand monthly Spotify listeners, and a contract signed with a major label, there’s enough sufficient evidence to show that Bandmanrill is taking the briskly burgeoning Jersey Club TikTok trend to a level the genre hasn’t yet seen.
Jersey club — initially penned Brick City club after Bandman’s hometown of Newark — is a fairly new subgenre of dance music, only dating back to the 2000s. Prominent house selector DJ Tameil found Baltimore club pioneers DJ Technics and Rod Lee through a record shop and spun their music in his mixes, effectively bringing the seductive sound to the garden state. In the mid-aughts, younger producers like Nadus, Sliink, and R3LL would develop the sound to even more audacious levels of horny (it’s brimming with bed squeaks and “dick” samples) and into New Jersey residents’ daily consumption through hip-hop and R&B radio stations.
At that time, Bandmanrill was barely out of the womb, but the genre would still go on to be the backdrop of his braggadocious bars 20 years later. “I really feel like I bought Jersey club to the whole world,” he said. “I was the first one that had that Tiktok shit. With TikTok, you could blow anything up. Now all you see on TikTok is club music.”
Arguably, people like producer Cookiee Kawaii and dancer-slash-DJ Kia were actually pushing the Jersey club agenda on TikTok a year prior. But Bandman undoubtedly caught the attention of the more mainstream audience, who could easier digest a Jersey club beat whilst it was being rapped over. In other interviews, he never hesitates to credit Unicorn151 for being the first MC to ever do it; however, he also doesn’t hesitate to carry the torch of enlightening the world about what the East Coast has been indulging in for the last two decades.
With Club Godfather, Bandmanrill offers a frenzied 13-track project that details his 20-year-old streams of consciousness over Mcvertt’s bubbly beats. There’s no central theme to the record. Most of the time, it seems like Bandman and his collaborators are just having fun, spitting nonsensical rhymes about love, money, and the absurd life of a rising star. To assist, the Jersey club rapper brings along peers whose career trajectories are ascending just as quickly as his, including Sha EK, Lay Bankz, and skaiwater.
There’s an often repeated generalization that hip-hop hasn’t sounded fresh in a minute, but this tape encompasses everything that’s exciting about hip-hop right now, through the eyes of one of the most compelling rap newcomers.
For November’s First Look Friday, we spoke to Bandmanrill about his rise, club music, why he doesn’t want to be associated drill rap, and more.
Firstly, I want to say I loved Club Godfather. What was it like putting it together?
Bandmanrill: I don’t know a whole lot of different emotions, for real. I ain’t have no intentions of recording no tape, I would just go to the studio every day. The label saw how much I record and they were just like, “pick some songs” and I put a tape together.
What’s your involvement in picking the beats you’re going to rap over?
Me and my producer are real close. He’s the one who makes all my beats. We have the same vision at the same time. I got a lot of control of beat selection — that’s a big part of my sound, fasho.
You’ve said that when you started rapping, you noticed you always had a natural talent for it. And when you blew up after rapping over Jersey club beats, you “manifested” this success. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Nah, I ain’t really that spiritual. I just believe if you work hard, you’re gonna get what you give out. You give some bullshit, you’re going to get some bullshit. If you work hard, you’re gonna get results.
But you got results really fast. You only started making rapping in 2020. Are you just the type of person who’s always good at whatever you do?
Nah, I wouldn’t say I’m good at whatever I do. I just feel like if I’m going to do something, I’m going to put 200%. Before I was rapping, I was boxing. So when I stopped boxing and just kept rapping.
If you could make as much money doing boxing as you do rapping, which one would you choose?
I would stop rapping tomorrow. The rapping shit’s cool, I just don’t like all the industry shit. I’m not no industry type of dude. I would rather be rich than famous any day.
What are the similarities and differences between being a rapper and being a boxer?
Being an athlete is different. You’re looked at differently. Being an artist is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You gotta watch out for a lot of shit — a lot of haters when you’re an artist. I can’t really tell you, there’s just a lot of niggas that hate. Athletes don’t really get that. Everybody loves athletes.
I feel like some basketball players get a lot of hate.
Yeah, but you gotta do some bullshit to be hated. You either gotta be ass or you got to have a bad life outside of your profession. But niggas don’t really just be hating on athletes for no reason like they hate on rappers.
How do you decipher between someone giving constructive criticism and someone being a hater.
It’s clear to me. I’m real logical and I live in reality. Nine times out of 10, I’m gonna always be the nigga that’s on some shit like, “Hey, that’s not hatin,’ he’s just telling the truth.” I know when some shit’s hatin’ for me. You could just feel it. Some shit just comes out of nowhere, you don’t even know where it came from.
I can’t take advice from nobody that didn’t make it as far as me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always open to ideas and shit. [I’d just have] JAY-Z giving me pointers rather than somebody that really hadn’t made it too far. Other than that, I always got my ears open to the youth. That’s the only exception I’ll make. I’ll definitely take heed of what they’re saying because they’re the future.
Are you looking forward to taking younger kids under your wing when more and more people start rapping over Jersey beats?
Yeah, definitely got a hole movement. I got three artists right now. They don’t just do Jersey drill, they also just rap on Jersey beats. It’s just in their culture. One club we saw was just like in the culture. You gotta be from Jersey, though, if you’re rapping on club beats. No disrespect, but you gotta be from Jersey for me to rock with you.
It’s interesting that you called IT Jersey drill just now because you coined “club drill” nine months ago, but in recent months you’ve been saying you don’t want to be known as a drill artist. Why the change of heart?
In the past two years, I’ve learned a lot of shit. I don’t even want drill to be on my name. I don’t even want nothing to do with no drill or none of that shit because that shit fucks you up not just in the music business, but just [in the way people perceive] your character. Niggass look at you differently. I just want people to see me as Bandman, I don’t want nothing to do with that.
Yeah, for some reason I already see people painting you in a certain light and I don’t know why. Other interviewers will always ask you what it was like to be in the streets and you always have to tell people you weren’t in the streets.
(Laughs) Honestly, I don’t either. To be honest, if you hear me say anything that sounds a little too far, I didn’t even write it. I got a writer.
Well what do you want people to actually learn about you from listening to the tape?
My character. I feel like I show my character on the tape. For once, I wasn’t not sure or didn’t know. I feel like this tape put a time stamp on a lot of shit.
It’s your first project with Warner, too. What’s the first thing you bought?
I ain’t really bought nothing. The first thing I did was I gave my mother 70 bands.
Arielle Lana LeJarde is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist who focuses on representing underrepresented and underground artists in hip-hop and dance music. Her work has appeared on Rolling Stone, MTV News, Mixmag, Pigeons & Planes, Pitchfork, and more. Follow her on Twitter @ariellenyc