The following interview with UK-based music producer and member of B.E.V, Dope Rich, appears in print in ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine available to purchase here. We photographed Dope Rich during his visit to Los Angeles in late 2015.
DIANE: How did you get into music and how did B.E.V form?
DOPE RICH: "I used to play professional football for a football club when I was younger. I always wanted to be a footballer. I never wanted to be a musician but I was surrounded by music my whole life: my dad’s a musician, my grandparents are musicians, my mom’s a singer. I’ve always had knowledge of music but it wasn’t the first thing I was drawn to. My football career ended though after a back injury and so I was like, what else am I good at? What else can I do? And music was all around me, so I picked that up. My boy Nehmy started getting good at rhymes and started putting together some lyrics and we started working on tracks together.
At first, we were really bad. We didn’t release the songs we made and that was it. As years went by, people started saying we were pretty decent so I started learning how to produce. I was never really good at it at first, but my musical knowledge started expanding. When we were in college, Nehmy had this idea to start a clothing line called BEVGANG and I was like, “Cool. Let’s give it a go.” I brought in our friend Jay because he was into the same type of fashion as us. Jay brought in his best friend Drew and from there we formed a clique. I said to Jay (back in the day when grime was big) I thought Jay was the greatest grime artist I ever heard and after I gassed Jay enough, he finally wrote a 16 for me and produced a song. We never released it because I lost the files, but it was one of my favorite songs I’ve ever produced. The song was gold. From that song, B.E.V (formerly BEVGANG) started.
When B.E.V first started, it was all about how we looked. People usually dress certain types of way where we’re from [Greenwich, London] but we decided to switch it up a bit and express ourselves through the way we dressed. We ended up recruiting people. We were like a family. Whoever dressed “cool” could come join us. We were 16 or 17 members at the time and we used to bring a camera and take pictures everywhere we went. Now we’re at six members. We continued making music, kept taking snaps and started doing shows. Things are elevating in different ways now. I was saying to someone yesterday that you always end up how you started because in the early days it was me, James Casual, Nehmy, Drew Bakes and Eric Stilo. We have Fola Abatan now too. That’s the family. Things are on the up.
I’m mainly a music producer whereas as the other three are mainly rappers. As a producer I’m trying to expand and work with other artists as well; I want to work and create as much as I can. Next year hopefully, we’ll all be here [in the States]. The other guys are back in London, and I can’t wait for them to release what they’ve been working on. They’re doing me proud back home."
DIANE: What’s your favorite part of the music process? Is it recording, doing live shows?
DOPE RICH: "In 2013, we were doing three to four shows per month. I became addicted to shows, more so than making music. We generated a really good run of shows on the East side of London. At that time, I was so into performing that I forgot we actually had to make music to perform it. [Laughs] Last year when we went to France and Germany, (me and Nehmy did shows out thee) – it was just lit. It was a different experience because it was overseas. When we got back, we signed with Mahta, our manager, and from there, it became real because Mahta sat us down and said, “I want you guys to make a tape in six weeks,” and we were like, “Frick.” We had always done things without a deadline. That process of making that project was the most exciting thing I’d ever done because I fell back in love with producing again. At that time, I had just moved temporarily to Greenwich and in this house, they had a nice basement and from the minute we moved in, I wanted the basement because I’d have a cave to make music in. We were in there day in and day out just doing music. That was the hardest we’ve ever worked and we put our heart and soul into that project [titled BEVTAPE and released online]. I want to be doing this for the rest of my life. Producing is my passion."
DIANE: I think it helps that you’re a collective too because you’re all pushing each other.
DOPE RICH: "Yeah that’s really important to us and even though we’re all together, every man is working for himself at the same time. At the end of the day, if B.E.V for whatever reason ended, each man can still eat. We all look out for each other and create together but every man’s on their own grind and at the end of the day, we all still connect and link each other whenever it makes sense. It always comes back to B.E.V/BEVLDN. We’re like a big tree."
DIANE: Did you see Straight Outta Compton?
DOPE RICH: "I’ve seen it four times. It changed my life. A lot of people had mixed reviews, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen because of what it taught me. Seeing that movie, I came out to L.A. with the same mindset that I got from that movie. It’s really shown in the music I’ve made and I have a different energy now. I’m going to go hard or go home."
DIANE: Watching that movie, you see that they created a force with what was going on politically and racially. And it’s still real life for my friends who are from Crenshaw, Inglewood, Compton… When I was watching, I was thinking, 'It could have been today.' There’s a really good friend of mine, Blaison Maven, he’s performed at one of our events. Super underground guy. I can tell when he performs that that’s his life. You can’t help but see that it’s real. It’s his story. Noticing now, being a fly on the wall, that there’s a lot going on now. Music is being inspired by things you see on the news.
DOPE RICH: "It’s crazy because I had a very big stereotype of Cali. I’ve seen everything that I’ve heard. I’ve seen the gangbangers, the extreme homeless community out here. These are all things I’ve been hearing about. It’s weird because I’ve never been so excited to see a gangbanger before, haha. Usually people would be like, “Bro what are you doing?” The other day I was at the mall and there was a whole lot of Mexicans with the black bandanas, grey t-shirts, had all tattoos and I kept smiling at them. And my boy was like, ‘Bro, let’s keep it moving.’ The other day we were walking down the strip in Hollywood and I was wearing the Compton hat, and then some guy came up to me and was like, ‘Yo, are you from Compton, bro?’ And I said no and he asked why I was wearing the hat then and I realized people take those things very seriously out here. They’re about where they’re from."
DIANE: Talking about Greenwich...
DOPE RICH: "B.E.V always from day one represented Greenwich because the people from Greenwich are the ones that put us on the map first. They posted our music online. I’ve seen crazy things over the years. I’ve seen things I wish I never saw but that’s made my story. Greenwich is where so many of our influences lie. When I hear people’s stories like Dre’s where they’re repping Compton so hard, if they ever died in the industry – Compton would keep them alive. The West Coast will always represent YG, Kendrick, Dre because they represent their city and that’s what we’ve been trying to do for Greenwich. One day Greenwich will be as big as Compton, as L.A. And Greenwich is a small place, y’know?"
DIANE: The thing about music listeners is that they don’t have to be from where you’re at to appreciate your music, but they connect with genuine stories.
DOPE RICH: "I’m never going to sit there and talk about how hard life was in Greenwich because to be honest, I didn’t have everything I wanted but my life has never been that hard. I won’t be writing about things that aren’t me just because that’s what’s selling."