Short and sweet. That’s what Philly rapper The Bul Bey thought when putting together his upcoming project, The Bul Bey EP. After releasing the 15-track Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies LP, Bey, who is known as Amir Richardson offstage, decided that he wanted to offer his fans something punchier, with a clearer and stronger impact.
On May 11, The Bul Bey hosted a listening party at a nondescript recording studio at Warehouse on Watts. The setting, simply dubbed Watts Studio, was very intimate, with no more than 30 people in the audience. Friends, fellow Philadelphia musicians such as Chill Moody and Dilemma were in attendance to hear the latest music from their peer.
Throughout the evening, Richardson welcomed all criticism and critique.“I believe that I have a lot of versatility as an artist,” he said. “I believe that I rap very well, but I also believe that I write very well, I also think that I present and perform very well. These are areas that I want to make sure are polished and presented properly.”
For him, this event was to not only showcase his new music, but to find out how the raw versions of his songs could be improved. All responses that he received from the audience were words of encouragement urging him to not hide the EP away from the public, but to share it to his fans who have been waiting for new music for over three years. After taking the solicited critiques, he mentioned that fans can anticipate the project being released to the public later this year.
Although Richardson is soft spoken in mild in nature and manner, when he raps, he becomes another person. While his previous releases exuded bravado and confidence, this EP takes to to a new level. Richardson is louder, harsher, and unapologetic.
The song on The Bul Bey EP that exemplified this attitude the most was called “One of One.” It opens with minimal piano notes that were slightly distorted in order to offer more of a trap vibe. Richardson approached the song by stating “I am one of one never to be doubted, never to be shunned.” It’s a mantra that Richardson said helped him get through a rough patch in his life. As the first verse went on, the beat reached a crescendo and the pace speed up.
“I would call it mantra music,” Richardson explained. “Music that you can say to yourself to lift yourself up out of a dark place or a sad place. Honestly, a lot of it is personal medicine.”
One of the most interesting things about The Bul Bey EP was the use of midwest style footwork and jutting music. Traditionally, the style is reserved solely for dancing, so it was refreshing to hear someone rapping over a beat that may be foreign to people on the east coast. Producer Tuxedo Mask did a superb job of constructing the beat and identifying Richardson as the person to put words to the music.
Tuxedo Mask actually produced two tracks on The Bul Bey EP, including “800 Number.” In this album, Richardson gave nods to Aiyana Jones and Eric Garner, followed by a brutally honest reference to one of Philadelphia’s most active political organizers. “Shout out to Philly Coalition for Real Justice. ‘Either you help me load my gun or get the fuck away from me’. Thats a direct quote from Morgan Malachi.”
“I met Morgan and her sister Megan during actions and protests,” said Richardson. “They are incredible human beings and I would challenge anyone in the space of Philadelphia to look into the work that they do,” said Richardson. “They do real, actual boots on the ground, real work.”
The Bul Bey is stepping into new territory with no holds barred lyricism and experimental production. Although the sound is different, it makes sense for who he becoming as an artist — and the progression he showed at Watts Studio Friday is an exciting prospect.
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