A deeper look at Inglewood's own Jasmine Armani aka BbyAfricka.
To say that BbyAfricka has been an unwavering muse within the LA hip-hop scene would be a massive understatement. Maybe it’s the confidence you hear in her voice — it’s stoic, grand, yet does not hammer the message down your throat. From the opening lyrics to her song “Freddy Krueger”-- ‘I don’t stop at red lights, color blind, all I see is green’ or her feature with Lil Yachty on “Dead to Me”-- “He gon’ probably last ‘bout six rounds off the rhino”, these compelling lyrics derives from an innately deep thought in conscious thinking, while some may deem this as humorous and playful banter. The beautiful thing about this dichotomy is that they are just a microcosm of who Jasmine Armani aka BbyAfricka is; not just as an artist, but as a woman building on the blocks of her foundation.
We were blessed to meet up with BbyAfricka near the Warehouse District of DTLA, as we discussed her early stages of “fake rapping”, her stream-of-consciousness rhyme scheme that shadows the likes of Eartha Kitt, and how she was able to find comfort in simply being uncomfortable.
We’re blessed to have you here, we just finished off an amazing photo shoot, shoutout to Vivian. Photos came out nice, didn’t they?
Thank you for having me. Yeah, the photos came out crazy! I loved it! Those are always the best ones too.
So, growing up in Inglewood, I read that you initially started getting into poetry before you actually decided to extend that into music, so talk about that a little bit.
Well, I was going to school in South Central, like this continuation school. That’s really when I had like this English class, and my teacher would like me to choose poetry. I used to even write songs as a kid even before that, but that’s how I learned to really, like put how I really felt into words properly, and that’s how I came up with a rhyme scheme, which kind of led up to me, you know, using all that into my music.
Shout out to your English teacher.
Really though! (laughs)
I read that your dad got you an iPad and you started making beats off of that, so was that happening while you were still in high school as well?
Nah, that was like after high school. That was more so for me, like trying to make beats because nobody was sending beats, cuz I didn’t have any music out, they didn’t know if I was trash or not, I guess. My baby’s dad was sending beats, but I would like one of the beats he sent. So I was like “Hmm, okay I can make something simple for me to sing over”, cuz I wasn’t really doing the emo shit I was doing, it was more like an R&B type of thing I was playing around with.
You released your first project Brain Damage back in 2018, and I was listening to it on my way here--
Put you in a depressive state, didn’t it? (laughs it off)
Yea, I mean, it was just raw emotion, you know? Throughout the whole project, it took me back to my high school days ala Chemical Romance-type shit. But for you, was that just a result of your upbringing?? What brought you into that space, especially coming from Inglewood and getting into spoken word?
For me it’s been kinda like this since middle school, and then delving into high school, this emo phase or whatever. I had this girl that I knew growing up in middle school, who was like a punk, showing me all these cool bands, and then I would start listening to them. And you know, sewing my pants tighter, putting patches on everything, and it like took over for me, and I still am like that too. I still like to incorporate both the rap and emo shit to my aesthetic.
We’ve seen artists like Rico Nasty, Cardi, even JUICE WRLD encompassing this level of nostalgia, with middle school-emo/hardcore-punk aesthetic and blending it into the rap scene. It’s not necessarily a wave, but it is certainly something that is new to everyone that is not really hip to it. What are your thoughts on that?
You know, when I would be dressing like that, that kind of shit was like not accepted in my household; my mom throwing away my band t-shirts and shit. So it’s like, you can revisit that, and be more free with it, and use it in your music, and that shit’s gonna skyrocket, you know? At the end of the day, you’re just being your inner kid, so to me it’s all good, as long as it’s authentic and true to you.
Even back in the day, in like 2006, if you were a black kid listening to emo music at that time, you were definitely ostracized for doing that.
Yea, I used to hang out with the Mexicans because we all had those weird and similar interests in music and whatnot.
You had two projects that you released this year Freak of the Nile and BIGAFRICKA, so talk about the process and the method you went through to put that out there for the world to recognize.
For me, it wasn’t pretty difficult to get ideas down, I would just be thinking of ideas and just writing them down, simple things, you know? Piece things from past inspirations and experiences I had, and then, I don’t know, I just have like random ideas--I usually just go by the beat, that’s the main thing for me, if the beat is fire, if it speaks to me, I usually just go from there, and then other times when I’m in the studio, whatever comes to my head; I’m just freestyling.
When you go in the booth, do you go in with stuff already written or do you just hear the beat and then kind of let it fly?
I used to always have to write before; I would freestyle and just be saying stupid shit. But now I can just go in and freestyle, and basically hope for the best. (laughs)
Yea, it definitely goes without saying that the more you write, the more confidence you build up in your art. And as the confidence builds up, your pen sharpens as well. Is that fair to say?
Yeah, for sure. Like I was not able to do it at first. I remember like two years ago when I was “fake rapping” my dad had a home studio and his engineer friend, so I would play around with the music and get on to rap, and be like “Damn that shit was trash”. But then I had to learn and just keep practicing, and eventually you just end up getting it, you know? But, I still prefer to write, when it all comes to me. I don’t always structure things when I freestyle, at least not till after, when I find words I could’ve put in different places. Structure wise, writing is definitely better for me.
You mentioned that you did spoken word when you were in high school, and I did that as well. So, I know that social anxiety, and doing it in front of a crowd can be a little bit hectic, and I’m sure you had stage fright issues like we all did, but growing into that, you learn to not necessarily care about what people think, you just kind of black out, going into your zone. Was there a moment where you kind of had to overcome that obstacle and grow into your own as an artist?
I’ve always been kind of a shy reserved person, so I always felt like I was uncomfortable all the time.
It certainly doesn’t show that in your music, you know? (laughs)
(laughs) Yea, and even still, I’m still kind of like that, but I can definitely talk. I used to not even really be able to talk to people. I had to just keep putting myself in situations where I was uncomfortable to make me get used to being uncomfortable, so I kept working my way out of it because it wasn’t clicking in my head that I needed to relax at times, you know? It’s definitely a learning process.
Do you find comfort in being uncomfortable?
Yea, I have to. I have no choice, I’m made like that.
Yea, I get that. You always have to be on your ten toes, you never know when you might come across some snakes that might do some shit or whatever. Not to say that’s happening or anything like that, but just you never know. I mean, you grew up in Inglewood, so that shit’s always in you anyway.
I do, yeah
I find it intriguing that while you definitely get into your bag, when you rap about your raunchy sexcapades or the type of niggas that you fuck with or don’t fuck with. In essence, you’ve developed a creatively sexualized outlook on it, and yet you also have a very intricate and specific rhyme scheme when you spit.
You think so?
I do, yeah.
(laughs) What is it?
It’s hard to say, I mean I definitely think of stream of consciousness, like that level of rap. I don’t like to make comparisons to other artists b/c I think it does a disservice to the people who are putting in the work. But I definitely hear some influences from female poets like Eartha Kitt, and--
Damn, I’m trying to think of what you were watching or listening to, to get that influence from what I was writing, that’s crazy.
But even then, it’s always going to be a part of you, no matter how much of it you try to scrape away, it’s always going to be there. So, as you’re growing as an artist, how do you find the balance between sticking to what you grew up knowing, but still trying to write about shit that’s happening right now?
Music for me is still like a learning process. I haven’t been doing this long enough to have it like that, but I’m still growing, I’m getting better than where I was before. I still gotta remind myself of certain shit. The shit thats going on now, that’s easy to get inspired on. I used to get inspired by old shit, but that’s when I was doing my little emo shit.
What do you find now that inspires you?
Well, sadly it’s usually people making me mad. Like if its a guy I’m dealing with that makes me mad, so I’m like ‘Okay, I got something to say about this anyway’. Or sometimes I try to think of the most ridiculous thing that I could possibly say, and it usually comes out great in my raps, most of the time.
Well listen, it's been a pleasure. I really enjoyed our conversation here, and we just want to cap off this last question so finish this for me, if you can: I wouldn’t be where I am today with whom?
Damn, why does it gotta be a person? (laughs) I mean, I guess, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dad blessing me with that iPad.