Interview with Baauer
Since its opening in 2008, the Social Club has become one of the most important clubs in Paris. Snuck behind the Opera and surrounded by its bustling nightlife, the venue’s been busy promoting young and new electronic artists from all over the world. Their night “Jerkin’ n’ Out” specifically caters for American artists, and it was here that Shlohmo, Nosaj Thing, Danny Brown and even ASAP Rocky had their first opportunity to perform in front of a Parisian audience.
This September, Baauer, the Brooklyn based hip-hop producer and latest signing of LuckyMe, came to perform at the Social Club on a European tour that would take him to Israel, Germany and Sweden. Teki Latex, DJ and former member of TTC (mainly known for their song “Girlfriend” that Yelle criticized in “Je Veux Te Voir”) took me backstage where I met a tired Baauer, sipping on a beer and ready (we’d hope) to answer my questions.
Although Baauer is now well known thanks to the catchy “Harlem Shake” and “Yaow”, there is little information about the producer in general. So I ask him where his scene sobriquet came from. “It’s my middle name. But it also is a hockey skate company from Canada and means “farmer” in German if you type it with one “a” [‘bauer’] into Google”.
Baauer presents himself as a “hip-hop producer and DJ” but is most famous for his contribution to trap music: a mix between hip-hop and what Americans call EDM (Electron Dance Music). Trap has been re-emerging in the past few months, ballooning in popularity on Soundcloud and being featured on radio shows such as Annie Mac’s Mini Mix. For many, this genre has been around for at least a decade. Trap music has its roots in the 80s, when one of the first programmable drum machines the Roland TR-808 was released. Its deep bass bumps, hi-hats and tinny snares became central to the trap sound. The chopped and screw style used first by Houston hip-hop producer DJ Screw, became another one of trap’s trademarks, with the slow tracks intended for its original listeners drinking codeine cough syrup. Recent rappers, namely Young Jeezy, TI, Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame, have been credited for bringing the genre into the mainstream.
People tend to see in trap music a similarity with “skrillex-like dubstep”. For some producers like Lōtic, trap music appeared in Houston and has its own history. New trap producers are, according to him, mostly white and have no knowledge on what trap music should really represent: they are only selling it as a product with the same bass-y tunes. When I ask Baauer how he feels about these critics and the possibility of this genre becoming a product of globalisation, he answers as if all of this didn’t matter. “People have of course compared trap to dubstep and its high chance of becoming ‘mainstream’. But to be honest, I don’t really care about genres. I think the most important thing is to just do what I like and if the sounds I make sound like trap music and people want to call it that way, I’m ok with that”.
Baauer was captivated by electronic music when it really shook the US scene in 2007. “Electro was just blowing up in the US and bands like Justice and Crookers were starting to be famous. I have to say that their music had a huge influence on me. I guess electro and fidget house – the type of songs the Crookers would produce – are both two kind of styles that had a big influence on my work in general”. But he’s still into hip-hop, especially southern hip-hop and crunk. When I ask him who he would like to collaborate with, he turns to these roots. “Like my dream person? There’s this lady rapper from the south called ‘Lady’. I play her songs at my sets, I like her songs so much. I would love her to be on my stuff” he says, laughing. But after listening to one of Lady’s songs “Twerk”, I understood the origins of the Lōtic argument; Lady’s lyrics represent a lifestyle that in some ways I can’t picture Baauer having.
Nevertheless, Baauer is still recognised by his peers. He’s affiliated with Wedidit Collective and its most famous producer, Shlohmo, who is also an important player in the new expansion of trap music. “I am definitively close to the Wedidit collective. I have the same manager as RL Grime so I get to meet Shlohmo through them. I’m really good friends with both of them. They are really fun to hang out with and both of their music is incredible” says Baauer.
Once the interview was over, I went back to the main room where Baauer was to play. The importance he places on giving songs an impact led to the crowd going crazy the second his set began. They went wild for the same reason that Baauer’s a huge fan of fellow LuckyMe artist Lunice’s collaboration with Hudson Mohawke as TNGHT: “as well as being super cool and forward thinking, their music in a club absolutely slams”.