I was lucky enough to speak with one of Baltimore’s major current talents: Bandhunta Izzy while he was in New York on the day of his mixtape release Code Blue. We spoke about his experiences growing up, his relationship with music and art, and of course, his current releases.
I think I can speak for most Hip-Hop fans when I say: “We like when an artist is authentic, when he tells a true story. So, what does authenticity mean to you?
Bandhunta Izzy: I mean, it means everything to me, because I feel like if I’m not authentic, then whoever relating to me isn’t gonna be relating to the real me. And everything in the dark comes to the light, so, if I’m faking some shit it’s gonna come out anyway, and I’m probably gonna lose the fans I had from some fake shit, when I can just be myself, and they’ll like me for me.
What would you say to a rapper right now who isn’t necessarily doing the things that he says he is, or she says she is?
Bandhunta Izzy: Just be yourself, because if you be yourself the fan base that you’re gonna get from that is going to be a lifetime fan base. You feel me? Because they’re gonna rock with you. You can’t be somebody that they think, you feel me, and then when you’re not that they just don’t respect you no more. So as long as you be yourself, you’re going to make it way further than if you lie.
So you grew up in Baltimore, can you talk a little bit about what the city means to you?
Bandhunta Izzy: I mean the city means everything to me, but I realized I can’t stay there forever. But it made me who I am, like say I grew up down here in New York, I would have a whole bunch of different experiences, because, you feel me, it’s just a whole different environment. But it made me who I was, and it taught me a lot.
You see yourself moving out though?
Bandhunta Izzy: Yeah, I’m trying to move out as soon as possible, because you know, it ain’t nothing else for me there right now. Of course I’m gonna give back, and you feel me, look out for people who are there and get them out of their situation, but… I can’t stay there.
So, you started rapping alongside your brother, just hanging out growing up…How big of an impact has your brother had on your music?
Bandhunta Izzy: He had a huge impact on my music, he’s older than me by a year and a half, so he was always like better than me at rapping, so he jus’t encouraged me to try to go harder so I could be as good as him. Like we would be making music and someone would say: “Oh that was hard, but Jugg (Izzy’s brother) burnt you on it.” So like it just made me work harder, you feel me? Now I feel like I’m on his level, he might even be trying to catch up to me and shit. And he was in the streets real heavy too, you feel me, so we just had a lot of shit to rap about, shit that we was both going through. Now he locked up so there’s even more shit for me to rap about.
So artistry runs in your family then, you would say?
Bandhunta Izzy: I don’t know, like, no one in my family ever really made music for real. So we’re like the first people to be doing this, well, I do got family like my mother’s side of the family that lives down here in New York, they like dance and shit like that. They do the Harlem Shake and all that. Like you ever seen people in a circle talking about “Get Lite” jumping over their feet and shit? That’s them, like, their shit was like the “Go Crazy Boys” or something.
So you’re talented with the ink of a pen, but you’re also talented with tattoo ink?
Bandhunta Izzy: Oh yeah, like well art ran through my family, like my father was real good at art. That’s why I wanted to do it when I was young, so I was always good at art, and that was when my cousin had a tattoo gun and I took the tattoo gun from her. She gave me one, and I just started doing tattoos and shit. I started tatting myself, tatting my brother, tatting my man Jigga. I was getting paid for it for a little, but I just stopped doing that shit, you know grew up and shit.
Would you say that type of artistry influences your music at all?
Bandhunta Izzy: It definitely makes it easier. Because if I want to get into detail about something, I know how to speak about it, because I was really into detail when I was doing art shit, that was the type of person I was, so if I wanted to explain something to you I could explain it the best way possible, in a way that you could picture it.
Would it be possible for you in the future to branch out from music and do visual art or tattoos or something like that?
Bandhunta Izzy: I don’t know, I don’t think that’s the lane I want to go, when I branch off from music, I want to be in some movies or something like that. Some crazy shit.
So do yourself, maybe doing album art for yourself?
Bandhunta Izzy: Yeah, like if I draw some shit and have a graphic designer fuck with it, or, like when I was in school I wasn’t passing that many classes. I wasn’t passing any classes except for my art classes. Like I had straight fails, and the I had an A in art. So it was like I passed Art 1, Art 2, Graphic Design, Photography 1, Photography 2, I passed all of that with ease.
So, when I listen to your music, I find that you’re very open-minded, you like to do different flows on different types of beats. One would think that because you’re so open-minded your music would evolve with time and experience, so do you see your music changing at all?
Bandhunta Izzy: Yeah, like that’s what I was just talking about, I just did a song yesterday that was different, because the beat was different, and like, my boy was telling me: “start listening to hits,” shit that worked. So I was listening to like, Kodak Black, I was listening to hit-makers, people who anything they make do numbers. And I just switched it up a little bit.
Do you think open-mindedness is a quality that’s important in this industry?
Bandhunta Izzy: Yeah you got to be open-minded, because if you’re narrow-minded and you’re only thinking about what you want to do, you’re going to end up failing because other people will know more than you. You don’t know everything, you got to listen sometimes.
So you’ve been signed for a minute now, do you find that navigating hip-hop and rap is different now that you’re signed?
Bandhunta Izzy: I mean, it’s kind of the same process for me. Its just: record, record, record. Before I didn’t even have a studio, so any money I was getting was invested into that. I was just paying for studio time all the time. It was like 25 dollars a song, the studio I was going to in a closet for real. And I was just paying for hella songs whenever I had the 25.
Do you find yourself more attracted to working with Baltimore artists?
Bandhunta Izzy: Yeah, because I want everybody from Baltimore to pop so we can show what we really go through. But, I could work with Baltimore artists whenever, you feel me? Like my main focus would be expanding now, because Baltimore is so little.
So what’s your studio process like?
Bandhunta Izzy: I need some liquor. I’m more of a phase person, so like when I first started drinking it was Patron. I needed strictly Patron. Then it’s like over the years it might switch up. Like now I’m on a Henny wave, I need some Henny, black and milds. And I like going to the studio kind of knowing what I want to do already. Like I’ll listen to some beats in the house, get a concept, then when I’m in there I’ll listen to some other beats and maybe come up with something on the spot.
Code Blue is dropping this week, what excites you about it dropping?
Bandhunta Izzy: Because I haven’t dropped music in so long, you feel me, I’ll be excited when I start getting reactions from the fans. I think they’re gonna like it.
Check out Code Blue here: https://republic.lnk.to/codeblue