An Interview With: B. Aull
Two weeks back, Maine hip hop artist B. Aull (and his manager Garrett) came through the RhymeBeat offices for an in-house interview. Right from the jump, it was evident that B. Aull was serious about his work and overall career. Not only does he spend his time creating music, but he also works both at local rap station ‘Hot 104.7,’ and as the on-court MC for the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics D-league team. After winning the ‘Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act’ in the 2017 Portland Awards, B has his sights on an even bigger 2018. Whether he’s collabing with producers from Turkey or hitting the stage in local Portland, B. Aull stands as one of the next-up artists in the entire New England scene. Hit the jump below and see why.
“What is your first memory of hip hop?”
B. Aull: “The first memory of hip hop for me…..damn. Well, my mom was huge into hip hop. So, she always tells me about growing up in Portland – she went to school in Portland in the 80s – how she was one of the first kids listening to hip hop back in the day. Like LL Cool Cool J, Beastie Boys. So, I’d then say my first memory of hip hop has to be being in the kitchen as a toddler probably, as she was bumping something on the radio.
Another memory I have is of my dad, rolling through New York. Cause he was from out in Queens. He had on the radio Timbaland and Aaliyah. That sticks in my mind.”
“What are a few things about growing up in Maine you think the average person wouldn’t know?”
B. Aull: “That there is a steadily growing rap scene in the Portland area. Like, just in the past few years I’ve been doing it I’ve seen it grow. You got the OGs like Thommy Kane and Spose too. Shane Reis is another that has been doing it for a while. And now this next generation is starting to come up and push it forward a little. I know a couple kids my age starting to do their thing. People like Ben Thompson, Shang.High, J. Spin. Those two mess with Spose and P Dank a lot.
Something else that people are starting to figure out is that Portland has a realllyy dope arts/food/beer scene. Like if you’re going out on the weekends you don’t have to go far. There’s usually something going down somewhere at one of the many venues. Port City, Portland House of Music, State Theater, Flask Lounge – even the breweries are starting to have shows. There’s always a lot going on.”
“What things do people guess right about growing up here?”
B. Aull: “Well, it’s very white (all laugh). It’s not that big, not really poppin. There is a hip hop scene but it’s pretty little. It’s growing though. Like I said Portland is getting more known and I think things will grow overall because of that.”
“When did you turn from listener to creator of music?”
B. Aull: “The thing that impacted me to start my own music, or made me realize ‘I wanna do this,’ was probably when I saw J. Cole perform at Port City Music Hall in 20, 2010 I wanna say. Spose opened for him. It’s like a 500 cap place. Most people almost don’t believe me when I say I saw him there. That’s kinda what motivated me to start on my own. I was either 15 or 16.
When I saw Cole I knew I wanted to do that – not necessarily as a profession – I was like ‘damn, I just wanna rap.’ Seeing him made me want to make music. I had always liked music; it was something I always had around me. My older cousin, who wasn’t blood but is still family, would always be coming over and putting me onto stuff. I remember Lloyd Banks, G-Unit. It wasn’t until I graduated high school though until I was like ‘you know, maybe I can do something with this actually. So I put together a mixtape.”
“What was it titled?”
B. Aull: “Flowin’ is a Habit. It was super corny (laughs). F-I-A-H. That fire.”
“Ay, that ain’t that bad dude.”
B. Aull: “That was the first thing I put together. Had 10 songs on it. Yeah, that was the start.”
“What were you trying to accomplish, stylistically?”
B. Aull: “I was going with the motions really. I didn’t grasp things like the idea of concept projects or anything like that. I knew about them, but I was more trying to showcase what I could do, basically. Over any type of beat. There was no style for the project in general. It was cool.”
“Early on, where did you draw your inspiration from?”
B. Aull: “I had always been a Boom-bap, Nineties head. The Golden Age. Like I also said, J. Cole was a big inspiration. Logic was a big inspiration. Joey Bada$$ was an inspiration – 1999. Obviously the older shit too like Nas, Tribe Called Quest.
I obviously – and still to this day – liked Kendrick and Drake too. Right around this time I was trying to figure out life, what I wanted to do. Taking classes at a community college and whatever.”
“What was community college like?”
B. Aull: “I went to SMCC for a year and ended up transferring to Husson. Since I didn’t have a major it almost felt like I was just going through the motions. Then I learned about the audio engineering program at Husson, at NESCOM, and looked into that. I wanted to learn more about music and how to mix and master my own music to make it sound better, so that just felt like the right fit for me.
I transferred up there and ended up graduating with a degree in audio engineering this past May, 2017.”
“What did you learn on the other side of the boards?”
B. Aull: “When they say it’s an engineering degree, it is. There’s math, there’s science. The terminology can be another language almost. My capstone project was to record, mix and master an artist or band’s EP. I did 5 songs for a rock band, something like that. It was crazy to get that perspective because you are making creative choices in a way that you wouldn’t get to make as an artist.
It was a lot of information. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know I was gonna learn. Compression basics and EQing – things like that. Now, when I’m going into a session with another engineer, or if I’m recording an artist, I have both sides. So now I can better understand what someone else, or my engineer, would be looking for.”
“You’re up at Husson, working on the audio engineering degree as well as your music. When did you start to see results of your work?
B. Aull: “I’d say, 2013 had some of my first shows. I did a show at Port City. Opening for Moufy from Boston. I also did the KahBang festival in Bangor. I submitted my music and one of the people, her name’s Meg Shorette, who runs the festival said ‘we’d love to have you.’ She was also the person who books the shows at Port City and State Theater. So I’ve had a great connection with her since then, she also puts me on shows and looks out for me. 2013 was when I started to gain some traction. The first huge show I got was the following summer.”
“The Snoop show?”
B. Aull: “Yeah, the Snoop Dogg show. That was like, ah, wow (smiles). I think that’s when it started, like, when people saw that I did that. People would see me around school and what not and be like ‘yo, that’s B.’ That year I also had a show in Bangor and a bunch of Husson kids came out for it. It was dope to start to get that recognition. Dope to see it grow steadily.
I was living up in Orono with some friends that moved up there. The next year or so going out more people would come up to me and recognize me. That type of stuff is dope to see. Over the years. Up there, word gets around.”
“Middle of nowhere.”
B. Aull: “Yeah yeah (laughs). At the time too I didn’t have the image I have now. With my high top being this high and the visor. I didn’t rock all this shit. Now it’s like starting to become my brand. But that last year was when I started to recognize more and more people coming up when I would go out to parties and shit.”
“Can that fuel the ego at all?”
B. Aull: “Nobody is dope enough to be an asshole.”
B. Aull: “In a way you just feel more confident. You get gassed up a bit, makes you feel good. But I never let it get to my head. I definitely recognize where I am compared to a couple years ago. But you can never let your head get big.”
“Often times in life, opportunity is given to those who go and seek it. Early on, and even now, how did you push yourself to be apart of the local scene?”
B. Aull: “It’s tough sometimes. Everyone who has created, or is an artist in some way, can get down on themself sometimes. Sometimes it can be hard not to. You can think something is going to go a certain way and it doesn’t go that way and you gotta go back to the drawing board. You can start to get into your mind a bit. Luckily I have a good team around me. Garrett, and my other manager Alex. We all see this vision, see it going far, so we push each other with it. In that aspect, it’s easier if you have people who are behind you. Especially if they are motivated and believe as well.
To motivate myself, I look at where I was a year ago, or two years ago, and it’s like – yo I’m like a lot farther than I was then. Where can I be a year from now? A year from now I could be on tour! Who knows.”
“You could. 100%.”
B. Aull: “You just gotta keep going. Keep believing. And don’t compare yourself to other people. Comparing yourself to yourself is always going to be your best bet. You’re going to realize how much farther you’ve come.”
“It sounds like you have the right perspective. When did you link up with management?”
B. Aull: “Well I’ve known Garrett for two years now. Last year was when he and I started becoming more tight. That show where you first came out.”
Garrett: “The show at ‘The Roost.’ ”
B. Aull: “That was one of the first times I rocked the visor publicly like that. And I was like: ‘Issa look. Issa look. (laughs).’
Garrett: “At the time I was doing concert photography heavy. I sort of reached out to him and was like: ‘Yo, if you ever need a photographer for a show feel free to hit me up. I’m super local to you – we’re both up in the Orono/Bangor area.’
So that’s sort of how we connected. And then eventually when he had that ‘Roost’ show I went and took pictures of that show. From there we built this working relationship and friendship.”
B. Aull: “After the ‘Roost’ show, that was the first time I met him in person, that was probably like seven months after you initially reached out on social media.”
Garrett: “Oh yeah also – I was covering his songs on this blog I used to write for, so that’s sort of how I built the foundation for it. And then obviously we met in person at that ‘Roost’ show.”
B. Aull: “After that show, I was like: ‘I’ll reach out to you for photos and what not.’
And I had a couple more shows that were coming up. He would take some shots and obviously cause of that you start chillin’ more. Cause you’re around doing that shit, why not? You weren’t a weirdo or anything – or like a shitty person (all laugh).
We started all chilling more, and I had known my other manager Alex since middle school. He’s been my best friend since high school. He lived up there with us too. Lived with him for three years up there. So he’s always been invested in my music. I’d say probably four or five months ago we all decided: ‘Yo, what if you guys take hold of reaching out to people, and e-mailing and the management shit.’
Alex kinda brought this idea up. So that way I could focus on music more. It was never explicit from the very beginning like ‘you guys are my managers,’ we didn’t sign up any contracts or anything like that, but we all agreed that they were going to manage me now. So they’ve been helping out. Doing stuff behind the scenes. It all started out actually because I had to clear a sample for this song I’m getting ready to release soon.”
“Can we get any deets on that?”
B. Aull: “Yeah yeah – the song is called ‘The Feeling.’ I kinda teased it on my social media. It’s part of a new sound for me. I’m not necessarily rebranding, or re-doing my music. Just starting to incorporate some more shit I didn’t really touch on before.
In the past I was always about bars, bars – give ‘em bars. But now it’s like – incorporate melody. Sing on the songs a little more. So I started to experiment with my singing voice some more over the past year or so. That has opened up some doors. ‘The Feeling’ is bouncy, a dancy kind of track. Think it could pop off in the clubs, you know? I got DJs getting ready to spin it.”
At this point in the interview B. Aull and Garrett played me ‘The Feeling’ in full. I have to say, the shit is dope. Definitely bounces. Good vibes. I think y’all are gonna like it when it drops soon. Back to the interview. – Benny P
B. Aull: “So yeah, yeah that’s ‘The Feeling.’ Droppin’ mad soon and we got a video coming for it.”
“Who directed the vid?”
B. Aull: “His name is Zach Greaton. He’s been my video guy since high school. He shoots a lotta videos.”
Garrett: “He does a lot of stuff for local artists. He’s the guy you want to do your video around here.”
“What’s his IG?”
B. Aull: “His Instagram is just straight up, @zacharygreaton.”
“Word up, thanks. One thing I’ve noticed about your style immediately is that you seem to have a lot of energy as an artist, and put a lot into your music. Where does this energy come from?”
B. Aull: “One thing that I think is evident when you meet me and something I’ve heard my whole life is that I’m very positive. When it comes time for any performance, whether a video or song or onstage, I try to apply the same and be positive.
Onstage performance is a whole other thing I take pride in. I take a lot of pride in the onstage part because that is where you can really sell yourself and make some diehard fans. It’s one thing to press play on a SoundCloud link and think: ‘That’s dope. Next song.”
But on the other hand if somebody comes out and sees you at a show, onstage, and sees you go up there and merk it, they’re gonna be like: “Yo, that was dope. I actually care, I care about this.” Now my goal when I get up on stage is to really make people care.
Just get on YouTube and watch some videos of big time entertainers performing. See how they do it. That’s what I did. ”
“Who’d you look at?”
B. Aull: “I watched videos of Method Man and Redman. They have a lotta energy. J. Cole. Logic. Pretty much a bunch of people that I already listed who inspired me.”
“What specifically about the way they carried themselves onstage do you think you gravitated to?”
B. Aull: “It’s just that when they get up there, up on the stage, they have this type of aura where your eyes are going to be glued to them the whole time. And that’s that. This is a trance now. It’s crowd control. The crowd control is one of the major things. If you can get all these people that you see to focus and say the things you say. So that’s what I try and do whenever I get up onstage.”
“What’s your mindset right before you hit the stage?”
B. Aull: “You definitely gotta psych yourself up and amp yourself up some. When you get up there it’s do or die. If you slip up, and fuck up, people saw it.”
“Everyone’s got phones now.”
B. Aull: “Yeah yeah, exactly. The first couple times before I performed I got nervous. I don’t get nervous any more, just really anxious. Almost like: ‘I’m ready to go! Can we do this now? I wanna do this now and get this thang done.’
But you would never know that, cause once I step on the stage it’s like Ash Ketchum. When I step on stage it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
“What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?”
B. Aull: “Hmm. I’d say…well a personal challenge for me is being consistently creative. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a prolific – I’m not over here writing three songs a day. Some people can bust songs out like it’s nothing. Early on it wasn’t always like that. When I made my first couple mixtapes I made ten, twelve songs. I would bust out those mixtapes in a month and a half or two.
Now I think I’ve started to become a little more of a perfectionist. Or, I started to question my shit a lot more. Just like: ‘Damn, is this good enough?’ Back then, it was just like: ‘Fuck it! Make ten songs and drop that shit.’
Now that I’ve gotten to a point where I have more eyes on me, I wanna make sure shit is hot. So I’ve started to critique more. I think it’s slowed me down a little bit, but I think creating this new project I’m working on is helping me pick up more momentum – it’s getting me into a rhythm where I’m creating more often, more frequently. That’s been one of the biggest challenges for me. Creating consistently.”
“Do you have any info on that project you want to share?”
B. Aull: “Yeah. Basically, the situation is that I haven’t dropped a project in a couple years. I’ve been dropping singles and songs here and there. In my head, it’s time – I need to get this shit going. It’s bout time to drop a new project and give the people a body of work that’s like: ‘Yo. This is me.’
I probably got like almost half of it done in terms of knowing what songs I want to be on it at this point. Not all the songs are completely done. They’re either in the works or need to be recorded or something like that. But, I’m shooting for it to be like along the same as the past ones. 10ish songs, something like that.
The goal is for it to be out – no set date for it quite yet – but I’d like for it to be out within the first three quarters of 2018. Something like that. We’ll see exactly what happens. There are still some things that need to take place. I don’t have a title or anything quite yet.”
“Any themes you’re trying to tie together?
B. Aull: “Not really. I’d like to make a concept album one day, but this one is more going to show my versatility. There are a couple different sounds, I think there is a little something for everybody. Shane Reis said this to me: ‘You must be working on a project right now. Don’t rush it man. Take your time – make sure you make it good. In a way this will kinda be your official introduction to a lotta people in the Portland music scene and just in general.’
And I was thinking: ‘You know, you’re right.’ I wanna make sure it’s dope, showcases my versatility. ‘Yo I got a song with me rapping my ass off. I got a song with my singing. I got a song that’s bouncy.’
But, yeah. That’s kinda the project as of right now. Still a lotta work to be done to wrap it up and make it actually a thing. 2018, though, will definitely have a lot of new music from me. The rest of the year.”
“Dope. Can you name any producers you’re working with?”
B. Aull: “As of now I got a beat from ‘god.damn.chan.‘ Who’s just killing it right now. There’s a couple producers who probably will be – I haven’t gotten a beat from them yet. I’ve been working with this production duo from Turkey called ‘Flytones.’ They’ve actually really helped me shape my sound these past couple months. Already made a couple songs for them for their own projects. We’ve even been talking about me going over and collabing for a week in their studio. Flights are expensive though.”
“Can’t believe how cool this time period is, man. Aight, time for some rapid-fire questions. Last album you couldn’t put down?”
B. Aull: Freudian by Daniel Caesar or The Space Between by Majid Jordan. Always liked R&B a lot.”
“Go-to breakfast meal?”
B. Aull: “Breakfast sandwhich. Any type of breakfast sandwhich. Easy on the go, or you can make it fat and sit down. Hashbrowns on the side.”
“Nah, hashbrowns on the sandwhich.”
B. Aull: “Straight up!”
“One of the biggest taboos you think aspiring MCs are falling into?”
B. Aull: “That, almost vibe music. Where people are focusing more on the feeling than what they’re saying. I think a lot of people are doing that now.”
Garrett: “To add to that, I think a lot of artists are forgetting to see the longterm. Almost trying to just fit in the moment.”
“Favorite verse you spit so far?”
B. Aull: “My verses on ‘Get Got.’ ”
“Favorite backstage memory thus far?”
B. Aull: “Maine Day 2017. Line was around the whole parking lot. The hype after getting offstage and seeing all the homies. I had 2,000 kids screaming for me and going nuts and the hype was crazy. ”
“Dream producer to work with?”
B. Aull: “I honestly think getting in the studio with Pharrell would be crazy. For newer age producers I gotta say Kaytranada for sure too.”
“Final question. Where will B. Aull be a year from now?
B. Aull: “We gone be doing hella shows. Getting lots of attention. We gonna be poppin (laughs).
My goal – I’d like to be on tour and I think it’s going to be at a point where, when you think of artists from the region, B. Aull is one of those top dogs from up in New England. I think in a year from now the attention is going to magnify tenfold. I’d like to say in the next two to three years this is all that I’ll be doing. My main source of income and I’d be living off of music.”
Garrett: “A year from now we’ll have more leverage to connect the dots and move forward. If the music keeps getting better, that opens more doors for us. Sky is the limit.”
Hope y’all enjoyed the interview. If you are looking for new music, wait no longer. B. Aull is dropping his new single ‘The Feeling’ this Friday. For more info on B. Aull, follow him on all social media at @AullThat. For managerial inquiries, please reach out to either one of his managers on Instagram. Garrett can be found at @GarrettClare, and Alex at @Alright_Alex.
images via B. Aull & management
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– Benny P