Ever since he started making noise in the Orlando music community, B8TA has stayed busy. If you’re at all familiar with local DJ nights, chances are you’ve already seen him. He DJs every Thursday at Patio’s Talk Yo Shit, books his own nights under the Labwrk brand, and pops up on bills by TMD and Body Talk. Additionally, B8TA’s Soundcloud is filled with his own smooth tunes that are heavily influenced by the sound of eclectic hip hop label, Stones Throw Records. I had yet to kick it with the guy, so we sat down, dug through all of his projects, and listened to some music, all while ORL glitch artist MalRea provided a backdrop of twisted anime. Enjoy.
matthew warhol: Let me just say, thank you so much for doing this, because I have been a fan of your shit for a while. I really like the stuff you’re doing with Labwrk, the Talk Yo Shit stuff you’ve been doing. [In addition to DJing] you’ve been doing the design too, right?
B8TA: Yeah, I’m not … I’m just stealing shit from The Internet and just putting words on it. [laughs] Thank you, though.
matthew warhol: No, you’re just repurposing. [laughs] But yeah, we’ve never gotten to talk, but that’s why I like doing these interviews. I get to learn more about the artists I cover. So … Starting off, are you from here?
B8TA: I’m originally from the Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas. But um, I’m by way of here. I’ve been here all my life. I just turned 30 in October, and I’ve been here since like ’95. Actually no, ’96.
matthew warhol: How old were you?
B8TA: Nine or ten?
matthew warhol: And you came to Orlando?
B8TA: Straight to Orlando.
matthew warhol: Why did you move?
B8TA: In ’94 we had this crazy hurricane, Hurricane Marilyn, and it was a Category 4 or 5. I remember being in the closet with my mom, my two aunts, my grandma, and my sister, who was a newborn. [We] were all huddled in this little closet. And throughout the whole storm, we could see our ceiling peeling off; we could hear glass breaking, windows breaking.
matthew warhol: And after that they were like, we need to leave?
B8TA: Yeah, our home was completely messed up. And we were eating army rations at school for like a year. We didn’t have actual power for like a year. We were running off generators.
matthew warhol: So you moved here when you were nine. Did your parents bring that music and culture with them?
B8TA: When I was younger I remember her listening to things that were popular back home but when I got here, that’s when I got into hip hop. Like, the first song that I heard that was hip hop where I actually understood what that was, was Fugees “Killing Me Softly.”
matthew warhol: Oh cool. Where did you hear that?
B8TA: Funny story about that, I was on the way to the dollar theater with a guy my mom was dating at the time. He was taking us to see Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and it was on the radio.
matthew warhol: Was it an instant love? Did you try to find other things like it?
B8TA: Naw, it was just one of those things where it was like damn, this a new sound. Because when you’re young you just listen to what your parents listen to.
matthew warhol: So when did you start finding your own music that you liked to listen to?
B8TA: Probably like the start of middle school. I think the first album I bought with my own money was the Busta Rhymes When Disaster Strikes…, that had “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” And that summer was when that the Missy Elliott album came out, and the Will Smith Big Willy Style.
matthew warhol: Man, I had [the Big Willy Style] CD in my car fairly recently. [laughs] When did you realize you wanted to start making music?
B8TA: You know what? When I was in high school, I was like trying to be a rapper. Or I would just write stuff and me and my friends would freestyle. But nothing really serious. But actually making beats and producing music … my boy Jeff, who was in algebra class with me, he brought in this CD that had instrumentals on it. So we’re listening to it in class, on his walkman, and we’re like, “Yo, this is hot. Who made this?” And he’s like, “I did.” And you know, we’re like, “You’re full of shit. You can’t make this.” He’s like, “No I did. I made it with this program called Fruity Loops. And you just download it. It’s like $99 or some shit, but you can get it for free.” From then, I went home and got the program. I think my first beat was like all bells. But I thought it was the hottest shit ever. I think I was like 15, 16.
matthew warhol: When did you start wanting to put it out there?
matthew warhol: Immediately? What, for your friends? Did you have CDs you would pass out?
B8TA: I used to burn a new little mixtape or album every other week, or every month. I was just super excited about it at that time.
matthew warhol: When did you start getting your name out in Orlando, or even start going out?
B8TA: I think it was like, a couple years ago. I was going out to the Beat Battles at Spacebar. And all the producer-heads used to come out and show face. It was one of those things where there was nothing like that in Orlando. I was probably 25 or 26 … I started getting out there late. Up until I was like 25, I was concentrating on work, and I was going to college too. I kinda got lost in the everyday type thing.
matthew warhol: Were you not making music at the time?
B8TA: I was, but not as consistent. I was in Altamonte for a while, but when I moved back to Orlando I didn’t see the scene the same. Everything had changed. People were actually doing cool shit. And I started doing the Beat Battles. I think I won one or two. That’s how I met Allan Duncan [native feel] and Side C.
matthew warhol: How soon did you start booking your own stuff? Because that’s what Labwrk is, right?
B8TA: Labwrk was basically me and my buddy sitting and watching Boiler Room videos and we were like, it’d be so cool if we did something like this. Not quite Boiler Room per say, but just add different elements like visuals to tweak it just a little bit. And that’s when we started doing the parties.
matthew warhol: And with Labwrk, were you going to play a certain kind of dance music?
B8TA: Naw, we were like, fuck a whole format. You gotta touch everybody, right? Everyone wants to have a good time. No one wants to be alienated. So play what you whatever the fuck you want. Somebody is not going to feel it, but it’s not that serious.
matthew warhol: What about The Left Field Theory? You’re affiliated with them too, right? Explain that.
B8TA: Yeah, I’m the DJ. It’s mostly rappers and producers. There’s 15 of us? It’s me, Blue Novemeber, METVLMOUTH, Alfonso X, LFT Solis, Lauren’s Truees, Nelson, ZAE THE PHILOSOPHER, illfigure, j. robb … there’s so many of us.
matthew warhol: How did that get started?
B8TA: We actually all met at this open mic thing called The Sesh, like 2014. Some of them performed. And we were all like, what do you have going on?
matthew warhol: So you formed a collective. What do you do in that?
B8TA: We all do our own individual thing. But right now we’re doing a Left Field LP or tape or whatever you want to call it. I think the single, “Ay Mane,” was played on the radio last Sunday, on 104.5 The Beat. But some of the guys I mentioned don’t even live here. They’re in Baltimore, Boston, Miami.
matthew warhol: What’s your role on that tape?
matthew warhol: The whole thing?
B8TA: No, I’m mainly doing interludes and intros/outros with Metalmouth. And I think the main sound will be coming from Jay Rob, to form the vibe.
matthew warhol: Is there a vibe yet?
B8TA: Yeah, that song they played on the radio is probably what they’re shooting for, upbeat and feel-good. Because a lot of the stuff I make isn’t very upbeat. It’s more chill, smoke a blunt.
matthew warhol: Who all have you produced for?
B8TA: Blue November, Donny Blanks, this guy over here, [Zuhaven], Duckworth, a whole buncha cats.
matthew warhol: What’s the difference when you’re making music for someone to rap over, versus something purely instrumental? Is it a different process?
B8TA: I like to sit down with people and listen to different music before. A lot of times I’m two tracking it with people, sending stuff through email. But if I have you in my space, we’ll listen to music for a while then go into it.
matthew warhol: Do you play off them and adapt to what they do?
B8TA: Yeah, definitely. Then I come in and add my little thing.
matthew warhol: You have to similarly adapt when you’re DJing, depending on what type of event it is. What’s the difference?
B8TA: At Talk Yo Shit, I definitely can’t slip in a Mac DeMarco track all willy nilly. That would not fly at like 12 o’clock. But maybe [it would] at Cultural Canopy. I can do that with ease and mix it into like Lou Reed or something and people would be like, woah.
matthew warhol: What are your personal goals for music?
B8TA: For this year, I really want Labwrk to develop into a brand that’s more than just throwing parties. Becuase that’s not really my scene … I can’t even say that. I like being out. And I like having fun. But it’s not about partying. And I eventurally want it to be a thing where I can take other artists and help them get out and do their thing, essentially the Stones Throw Records of Orlando.
matthew warhol: Were they an early influence for you?
B8TA: They were a huge influence. MF Doom. Jay Dilla. Madlib. Madlib is my all-time, next to The Neptunes. I’m sorry Jay Dilla.
matthew warhol: What attracts you to that kind of music?
B8TA: I think it’s the “I don’t give a fuck,” vibe. Because it sounds gritty and dirty. There’s so much more tape hiss and hella dust on the record when they’re mixing it. But it still sounds like … I can’t even explain it.
matthew warhol: Raw?
B8TA: Yeah, raw.
matthew warhol: How do you add that same feel into your music?
B8TA: Man, I just try to emulate what these cats are doing, and just add my own thing to it. And I think at the end of the day, me transitioning from a producer to also being a DJ has made me realize where I see myself. It has helped me discover my sound.
matthew warhol: And that’s because you’re taking so much in?
B8TA: Yeah, constantly having to find what’s new. Because a lot producers do this where they’re like, I’m not going to listen to no new music; I can’t be disturbed. But you start to put yourself in a box. And before you know it, you put your shit out and you’re 10 years behind what the new sound is, instead of progressing with the sound.