Friday, June 29, 2012
INTERVIEW: Singer B.Reith talks about his new hip hop mixtape, surprising listeners with rap, and the challenges of sharing his faith in music
On June 29, 2012 B.Reith released How the Story Continues Vol. 1 – a free hip hop mixtape that reimagines and continues to expand the theme of his recent How the Story Ends album.
I recently caught up with the acoustic pop artist via e-mail to discuss the project, whether or not listeners are still surprised to hear he raps, and which style of music is an easier way to share his faith.
Sketch: In today’s mash-up, multi-genre music culture, are people still surprised that you rap? Why do you think that is the case?
B.Reith: Maybe not surprised that I rap, but hopefully surprised at the depth of my rap skills. Being able to rhyme a few basic words is one thing, but being an actual lyricist? That’s more of an anomaly.
Regardless of how multi-genre and mashed up our music culture is today, hip hop is categorically an urban genre. My element of surprise is that I don’t dress or talk “urban,” yet a portion of my music is urban.
I think God has a sense of humor, deciding to place these diverse gifts in me. I’ve been around diversity my entire life, it’s part of my calling. I’ve learned to cherish it, embrace it, love it: relationally and artistically. But diversity is rare, and that’s why it probably surprises people.
Sketch: The new version of the song “Lonely Hearts Club” is described as an “acoustic cello-beatboxing remix.” How in the world did that come about?
B.Reith: Yea, so if you haven’t heard of Kevin Olusola you need to go and look him up ASAP. He is a cellist /beatbox virtuoso. I met him a year ago (before he became a part of the Pentatonix and won The Sing Off, since then his career has sky rocketed). He was touring with the band Gungor who my manager Calvin also managed at the time. He was in Nashville for a few days and we tracked some cello parts on “I’ll Get By” for my most recent album How the Story Ends.
While we were in the studio we started talking about how cool it would be to remix a song with cello and beatbox. “Lonely Hearts Club” was perfect. We started it that night and then finished in L.A. earlier this year. Kevin arranged it, slowed it down a bit, and gave it a whole different vibe. I can’t believe I’m giving it away for free!
Sketch: Which do you find more challenging: to write a hip hop song (which tends to have a ton of lyrics) or an acoustic/singing song (which tends to have less lyrics)? Why is that?
B.Reith: I think writing good, authentic and quality music is challenging, period – no matter what the genre is. But I find that writing hip hop is a little easier for me because I can just go with the flow of a rhyme scheme and not be bound by the word limitations of a melody. I think it’s harder to say what you need to say with less words – especially when those words are bound by a melody. You have less words to tell your story, so each one counts more, and they have to fit poetically with the melody as well. It’s the same thing as communicating with people. It’s easier to say EVERYTHING and hope they get the point than having to carefully edit yourself and craft each word. That’s why I’m glad I do both, I can slip in and out of them when I feel like it. It’s the best of both worlds.
Sketch: Do you find that one artform, hip hop or acoustic pop, lends itself to conveying your faith better than another?
B.Reith: Well, it depends on how the song comes about. Sometimes I feel as if God is writing through me, and I find it very easy to convey my faith through my writing because it’s pouring out of me. Verse 1 of “I’ll Get By” was like that.
Other times it takes everything I have, and then some… and then some more – to labor over every lyric and carefully craft my words so they can hit the listener in an authentic, creative, and emotional way they’ve never heard before. I think that softens people’s hearts. Verse 3 of “I’ll Get By” was like that, took a LONG time because of how sensitive the topic I was speaking on.
So I would say regardless of the genre, conveying my faith in a refreshing, artistic, non-stale, non-recycled sounding way takes some deep digging. Maybe hip hop lends itself to that slightly more because I have room for more words, but then again, it’s hard to sound authentic and not cheesy. So… to answer your question, I’d have to say both!
Sketch: Are there any songs where you prefer the album version over the mixtape version or vice versa? Or is that like asking you which of your children is your favorite?
B.Reith: I think I like the mixtape remix of “Simple Days” because of the sincerity of the new rap leads over those classic samples. It has more passion and more relevance; it’s more personal to me. And “Lonely Hearts Club” and “Drawing Board,” well, the remixes are so different, new and fresh to me right now, I guess I always favor my newest ideas. If I ever have children I hope I don’t treat them like that.
Download How the Story Continues for FREE at breith.com