To call Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab a dynamic duo would be a severe understatement. Brixton is a San Francisco battle rapper who Method Man personally recruited to help judge his "Drop The Mic" celebrity rap battle show he co-hosted with Hailey Bieber. Gab, meanwhile, hails from Seattle ahd has opened up for DJ Quik, Rakim, Cam’ron and other hip-hop heavyweights.
Whenever these two take hold of the mic, musical chemistry erupts and oozes into humorous, clever and uplifting rhyme. Their debut album, Talk About It, arriving some time in the summer, encapsulates the mood of a West Coast summer and their warrior-like rise while rolling out head-boppin’ beats that feature funky baselines and ear-catching instrumentals, effortlessly playing off of each other like you and your best friend would. As songwriters, they pay tribute to their idols, Tupac among them, but also claim their stake with striking delivery. They are here to defy expectations placed on them on sight alone by those who would doubt the prowess of female-identified rappers.
It's a no-brainer, then, that the pair's highly chantable track "Feelin It" caught Issa Rae’s ear, and was subsequently featured on the producer and actor's hit half-hour HBO dramedy, "Insecure," which follows a fictionalized version of Rae as she grapples with romance, friendship and life in the hood as a 30-something-year-old in Los Angeles. The opportunity is an "insane" one, says Blimes, who is an invested fan of the show.
The placement won’t be their last encounter with television—Blimes and Gab are on the road to their own TV show with renowned writer and producer Nelson George ("Hip-Hop Evolution," "A Ballerina's Tale"). Below, Blimes and Gab tell the Recording Academy about their epic first-time meet-up and delve into topics like comedic nerdom, intersectional identities in rap music, why they call Method Mad "Uncle" and what it’s been like to transition from songwriting to screenwriting.
How are you two?
Blimes: We're doing pretty good. It's weird to be apart for so long since we spend almost every day together back in L.A. We're definitely taking this time to recharge, reset and do a lot of admin work, a lot of content, and get this album ready for rollout.
I want to go all the way back to your start. How did you two meet?
Blimes: We met on Facebook in, I think, 2016. A mutual friend of ours, somebody that we had both worked with before, I had seen that she and Gab collaborated with each other and somehow we became friends via seeing each other's work online. It took us a year to actually be in the same city, to meet up and hang out. The first night we ever hung out I was in Seattle working on a documentary. I worked in production while I tried to get my music career off the ground. I was in town and I was like, "Gab, we got to link. I'm here. Let's kick it." We were able to meet up. That night just went down in the history books. We made zero music but we made the best of friends. Gabby showed me all over Seattle. She was like the mayor of the city. Everywhere we went, people knew who she was and what her name was. People were calling, "Hey, Gab. Hey, Gabby" from this shop and that shop and offering food from their shops and coffees and weed and everything they had to offer. I was like, "Okay. I'm hanging out with the right girl. I'm hanging out with the right person in Seattle, for sure."
That night we went out to a club. After the club was let out ... Mind you, we're in this club. It's popping. It's called the 95 Slide in Seattle. It doesn't exist anymore due to gentrification, but the 95 Slide was popping that night. We casually walk past Macklemore. Gab's like, "Oh, this is Ben. Ben, this is Blimes." Super casual. Her mayor of the city persona was going hard. Then as the club let out, a giant street brawl ensued. We were very entertained. Some of Gab's friends were in the fight. It was intense. Afterwards we were all amped up on watching this fight and we left. We were going to leave that area to go to an after party. When we were leaving, somebody kicked us out of the car. We're in a car full of Gab's friends. I've been drinking. Gabby's been smoking, like the usual. That was our usual repertoire at the time. I jumped out and I chased a girl down. We ended up in a quarrel fist-to-cuffs with this young lady, and Gab had my back. We walked away the victors of the match.
I'll always remember, though, this girl's boyfriend wanted to jump in for the fight. A crowd had formed around us and out of the crowd somebody yells, "Not Gabby, okay?" and knocked the boy clean out. There's Seattle. Mayor of Seattle title cemented in that moment. I was like, "All right, you truly are the mayor of Seattle." We gathered up dogs and tacos and called it a night.
That's an epic meeting story. Now, you two are some of the artists people heard for the first time on "Insecure." How was it to be a part of that?
Gab: I mean, man, Issa Rae is a legend, you know what I'm saying? I mean, you can't get on any social media or anything without hearing about the show and its impact and everything. To just be a part of the culture and a show like that is definitely a dope experience and hella humbling, you know? Like Blimes was saying earlier, it's been over a week and people are still reaching out to us and congratulating us and stuff, so it's been really, really dope. I can't wait to see how that catapults us.
Blimes: This has been a goal for me since I saw the billboard that "Insecure" was [going to be on] HBO. I was like, "Oh my God. This is insane." I would love to be a part of this in some way because I've been a fan since "Awkward Black Girl," Issa Rae's web series on YouTube, you know? To watch somebody take it from that level to the cream of the crop of television on HBO has been insane. I've been watching for a long time and I am very invested.
Last episode we were left wondering if Lawrence and Issa could have a round two together. Are you pro-Lawrence and Issa or not?
Blimes: Man, I love Issa and Lawrence's chemistry. I really enjoy watching them with other people, but every time they get together, the writing really supports their love. You can't help but want to see them together.
Gab: I'm too early in the show to form a true opinion just yet.
One of you is from the Pacific Northwest and the other is from the Bay Area. What are your respective influences, musically?
Gab: I love West coast hip-hop. Really I just love hip-hop, in general. Hip-hop and R&B are my go-to, you know what I'm saying, vibes. From a Northwest Pacific standpoint, really just ... How do I put it? Seattle is really like a melting pot of sounds and art, you know what I'm saying? Not just musical art. It's like there's a bunch of sculptures and painters and performing artists that come out of Seattle, as well as a lot of athletes.
I think just being immersed in the Seattle life, especially how it was before the gentrification, it's kind of hard to, when someone comes to Seattle now—I mean, you can paint the picture from someone that's from Seattle and knows the old Seattle, but it's such a different place now, you know? It's a very tech city and a lot of the culture and the things that made Seattle what it was are kind of dwindling away. I really get my inspiration kind of from the old Seattle and from growing up in the Center district, being the hub, the black hub of Seattle and the arts and just everything that comes along with it.
Do you feel like the music scene there has been affected by gentrification?
Gab: Yes and no. I think it's gotten ... I'll say the Seattle scene is, specifically the hip-hop scene, has definitely grown a whole lot in the last 10 years. Just from it being a tech city and lots of people moving into the city and definitely bringing more people to the shows. Now people talk about Seattle hip-hop. It was never in a conversation like that before. Now Seattle has made a name for themselves with all the people that have came out of Seattle and have been doing big things from like even before Macklemore [and] Blue Scholars.
Blimes, your influences?
My dad's been in blues, funk and soul bands my whole life, so I grew up on blues and funk and soul, lots of B.B. King, Buddy Guy. Bill Withers is one of my pop's favorites. Then growing up in the Bay area, it's a huge music hub. I started listening to hip-hop from a very young age. I can remember being like in first grade and reciting all the lyrics to TLC's "Waterfalls." TLC was huge for me, a huge influence for me. If we're talking Bay area specific, Mac Dre. I love, love, love this group called GO DAV. The reason that I loved them so much was because they were my age when I was listening to them, so I was in high school. They were on the radio and they also went to school with my girlfriend, so they were like just arm's distance away, but doing amazing things in music. They're witty and silly and funny. I feel like they were also must have been big fans of Mac Dre because it was all about the comical lines and silly, witty punch lines, you know? Still gangster, but still that hint of comedy in everything.
Same with E-40, who I'm not a die-hard fan of, and I don't want to go on anybody's sh*t list for saying that. At that time, I was just a little bit more into kind of lyrical miracle type stuff, you know? I was super fked with Jurassic 5, Jay-Z and what people would call the old Kanye. Strong female artists, vocalists like Tracy Chapman, she's my ultimate dream collab. I would love to do a call with Tracy Chapman one day. I've heard she's pretty untouchable, but yeah. My dad's band, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, I grew up just on the side of the stage idolizing those guys. They were fking super cool, slicked-back hair, pompadours, sharkskin suit and all the just cool dudes.
The list goes on and I'm sure I'm forgetting some really important people, per usual, but yeah hella groups. I loved groups, the Roots, Pharcyde, Jurassic Five and then producer/rapper duos like Missy Elliott and Timbaland.
Your debut's coming out this summer, congrats. It's called Talk About It. What was your vision behind it?
Blimes: Well, in order to talk about it, you got to be about it. Me and Gab have loved to prove time and time again that we're about it. I think we did that with our single "Come Correct." There's really strong scrutiny on rappers who identify as female right now where you come out and you have to prove yourself. There's almost like this idea of you're like an over-sexualized female rapper or you're not and over-sexualized ... What people would call over-sexualized. I don't prescribe to that specific category, calling it that, because I feel like women can talk about whatever the fk they want in music. That's why we're making it, so that we can express ourselves. I feel like there's a lot of categorization that happens. People love to talk about it. People love to talk about what women are doing in hip-hop because it's this idea that it's new or that women are finally breaking out in hip-hop or that there's this new wave of talent. That talent's always been there. It's just that we haven't been accepted and allowed. Gab, you want to help me out on this one?
Gab: Women have been around in hip-hop since the very beginning. It's not like we just decided to pick this thing up recently. In most male-dominated fields, the women in it always have to constantly prove themselves all the time. I mean, now we're kind of to a point where people are preferring to hear women rap. I don't like the term "female rapper" because that's just dumb to me. There's really no reason to put your gender in front of your occupation or your skill, whatever. Now people seek to hear women on tracks, which we didn't even really hear about before. No one was really like, "I only want to listen to girls rap." You know what I'm saying? You hear that more and more nowadays, so that's dope. At the same time, you put in all this work and they still always have something to say or always something to talk about. I think the vision behind it is just they're always going to have something to say, always going to have something to talk about, so might as well give them something to talk about. Let's let this music talk about it.
What I love is that you do it through your skits, also. You bring up some commentary on gender. You're both female, one of you identifies as gay, do you feel like you're continuing to open doors for underrepresented voices in hip-hop or do you just see yourself as doing your thing and it is what it is?
Blimes: I'll start real quick just by saying that I'm the queer one. I'm the gay in the room. [Laughs.] I would love to open all the doors that I can for the folks that are underrepresented in hip-hop, in the world, anywhere that I can, you know? That makes me truly joyous and happy. In terms of being queer and being a rapper, for so long people have tried to box me into that category, much like the female rapper category. For me, I feel like the way that I can contribute to the LGBTQ community is if I make it in the mainstream. I feel like to make it in the mainstream it's not a tattoo that I need to wear on my forehead that says that I'm gay, which is also in the skit that we're writing for our TV show about face tattoos and hanging up our characteristics for the mainstream to digest easier.
I feel like I don't need to wear that as a tattoo on my forehead to represent my community. I feel like I do get to open those doors just by making it as a queer person. It's not really my goal to wear that flag in front of my name because I want to be accepted as a human. I want to be accepted as a rapper. I don't want to be accepted as a queer rapper. I think that does more for my people, for my other queer folks if I do and I'm being digested by listeners that are straight and gay.
Gab: Just man, that was profound, Blimes. You're absolutely right. I mean, I can't really speak on it because I'm not gay. I'm just an ally, you know? I don't give a fk. It doesn't change my perception to find out who you make love to. It's like the term "female rapper." You look at me, you know what I'm saying. No one says "female doctor." No one says "female janitorial company." It's just what you do. I tell people all the time when they'll be standing out and stuff, I'm like, "Relax. I'm regular, too." I appreciate the love and it's humbling and everything, but I'm just a regular. I'm going to try to be as regular as I can for as long as I can. A different term would just be just being yourself.
I really don't try to change myself in any scenario. I think that's kind of something that's lacking a lot. You can tell when people are not being true to themselves. It's like, "Damn, that must suck to really just have to wake up in the morning and put on the mask on your face." That's tiresome. Just be you. I think that's the truest, you know what I'm saying, the biggest strength you can have is just being yourself. If nothing else, I'm not really looking to be a role model or anything. If you can get something out of whatever it is that I give you, it's just to be you. That'll get you, you know what I'm saying? That'll get you where you need to go.
Blimes: Gabby's fking phenomenal at that and teaches me about that all the time. People can smell it from a mile away when you're not being genuine or nothing. A really positive lesson about working together, too, is that when we're together, we bring out the truth in each other. I think that when "Come Correct" came out and people saw us together and saw how genuine it was ... Honestly that song came together so organically from the moment of induction in the studio where we practically freestyled the whole thing in like two hours. Or the music video that we shot on a whim in four hours. Then we threw the thing out on a Friday night and by Sunday it had like five million views on Facebook. What people could see from that or what people picked up on is that we were just being ourselves. We were just staying true to the type of music and the type of lyricism and skill that we grew up on.
To be able to be recognized for that was a huge relief because we were like, "Okay, thanks. People do respect the real still. People do respect good lyricism still. People do respect women who are being themselves, who are not changing and augmenting their bodies still." Not to knock that ... It's yours. Do what you want with it, but it's so refreshing to know that we can have success being ourselves. If we get to show another woman that or another kid that or another teenage gay boy who hasn't come out yet or a trans person or a black woman or any kid, like you said, opening doors for people that are underrepresented ... If we get to show somebody that they can be themselves and have success at it, then sht, our job is done. It'd be nice to make some money and have a house and a family and sht, but that's goals to me.
We learn a lot about you two through the skits, outside the music. You're both super funny and we feel the chemistry. Not as many hip-hop artists are including skits like they used to back in the day. Did you always envision skits in your debut?
Gab: Definitely. I'm the comedy nerd. Like, stand-up comedy to slapstick. I'm a huge Adam Sandler fan. I love Eddie Murphy. I love Bernie Mac. I'm one of those people that probably in my past life, I was a comedian. It's a gift and a curse. I'm sure all comedians or true funny people can attest to that. It's a true blessing and a curse to be able to find the humor in anything. There's really no situation that can't be laughed or made a joke at. I've been at funerals and we're cracking jokes. I've had scenarios where maybe like we lose hella money and we're still able to find a joke in it. One of us gets hurt, you know what I'm saying? I don't know if it's not taking life too seriously or just a coping mechanism or whatever the case may be is, but comedy has always been a part of me.
One of my favorite artists is Ludacris. When he came out with Word of Mouf ... I can't remember what year it was, but mind you, I grew up in the church. I sang in the choir, played the instrument, was in church three to four days out of the week. This is when the anti-skip CD players came out. That was the big thing. You could run and dance and do your thing with the CD player. We always had his on and we had Word of Mouf in there. I used to sneak and listen to his CD at church, like really had to hide it because I know if my mom came and grabbed the headphones, I would be in hella trouble. That was a very vulgar album, but I just remember specifically the skits were hella funny. He always had skits. Ludacris and Eminem, Redman, they always had skits. I always loved the lyrical rappers with that funniness.
If you can make me laugh, I'll pretty much do anything for you, right? Truly. Yeah, so skits and just funny sht, like even if you see my videos, there's always a skit in my videos or something funny in it. Even in my rap I'll say something witty. That's just what it is. It was a no-brainer to have skits on this album, especially with it being called Talk About It . We got to really paint this picture for you exactly what we're talking about, you know? This is where we're at now, what we've done thus far, imagine where we can go with the skits. That translates into TV shows, movies and all the other sht. I'm really kind of showing skits more than anything really to show the personality of the artist.
On the album you have a bunch of great features, one of them being from Method Man. How was it working with him?
Blimes: That sht was amazing. That sht was surreal. I still sometimes don't believe that it happened because, man, he straight up was like, "I love you. You're one of my favorite battle rappers to ever do it. Let me know if you ever need anything." He was like, "Okay. I'll sell some merch for you at a show. I'll carry some equipment." He said he would help me out with anything I ever needed and then he followed through on that. I got in the studio immediately the next day and started recording tracks and sent him that one, sent him Hot Damn. He was like, "I got you" and sent it back in three weeks with a verse done.
For him to extend the blessing ... You know, I hit him up about the remix and getting Gabby on it and to extend the blessing to Gabby, he was like, "Of course. Anything you want. I got you. Anything you all want, I got you. You guys are a team." Then we had the opportunity to go work with him on the set of "Drop The Mic," Gabby and I. After the taping he had us in the green room and he was just putting us up on game about the industry and what to do with our money. He's like an uncle, you know? To play into the auntie/uncle theme, that's Uncle Meth and he's got our back.
Gab: Most definitely. Anybody that knows me knows that Method Man is one of my favorite people ever. For him to be on my top five favorite artists and just people in life and to know him and for him to respect what I do. It's just hella crazy, but at the same time, it's one of those things where it's like well yeah, because again, back to we're being ourselves and we're hella dope at what we do. It's natural that we would link with like-minded people. It's crazy that we can call Method Man family, but at the same time, of course it makes perfect fking sense. Now it's the point where like it's almost normal. Oh, Meth? Yeah, that's dope. We can really call him right now and he'll answer. To meet people like that in the industry and then especially people you idolize... They say you never want to meet your idols, but I'm so happy that he lived up to the potential.
"Magic" is your latest single. I love it because it's so summer and I hope we're out by then so we can really vibe to it. Tell me what the inspiration behind that song is.
Blimes: "Magic" is really just the success story of what I hope our fans can relate to. I think that they have been able to, judging by how well this song has done and what the numbers have done across streaming platforms without a video or anything, which is kind of crazy to us. This song is about coming from nothing and making something out of it and putting in the work and getting on top. I think for a lot of people, whatever you do is relatable when you've achieved something, that feeling of, "Oh wow. I've accomplished this and I can be proud of myself. I can stop for a minute and kind of dance in that feeling of accomplishment." We wanted to make something that people can dance to while celebrating it.
It's an ode to the Bay Area, for sure, with the beat and Iamsu on it. I felt pretty excited to get to pay homage to the kind of music of kind of the hyphy movement that I grew up on when you have that flute in there in the beat. Then to get Iamsu from the Heartbreak Gang on it. Super hyped to be able to make an ode to the Bay.
Gab: Being from Seattle, we look at the Bay as kind of like our sister city. We've gotten a lot of influence from them. A lot of Bay Area folks move to Seattle. The influence is obviously just there from being in the West Coast, as well. When hyphy was popping off, you know what I'm saying, in the Bay in California, Seattle was definitely hyphy as fk too, so we definitely related on that level... You hear those flutes and you just want to dance.
You're working on a TV show with Nelson George. What can you tell me about that project?
Gab: We're playing together hella organically. At the time we were being managed by AJ Miller. He brought Nelson to our show. It was in L.A. at Gold Diggers. He came to the show and he asked AJ to link with us. We met [and] we ended up chopping it up for hours. We ended up ordering food. Nelson used to write, and probably still currently does, with Chris Rock and a bunch of other people. He's written so many books and interviewed pretty much everybody you could think of from James Brown to the current. He's really a hip hop and just a culture historian. For him to find interest in us on that level aside from our music was really dope. Blimes and I just being writer, in general, it really wasn't too crazy of a switch up to be able to write in that format, even though we've never done that before. It kind of came together so naturally just because we had it in us and to Nelson, to bring that out of us. For it to be Nelson to be the one that basically ... I fill like coach sounds so corny. It's more than that, you know what I'm saying? For him to really bump it up on that level is just crazy, you know what I'm saying?
I moved to L.A. for music and I never, not made a scene, but never wanted it to stop there. I never was like, "I'm going to just move to L.A. and rap," you know what I'm saying? I knew it would turn into other things. To be there for the time and to be able to do my music, but also write a TV show is crazy. It's really happening. We have a really dope team behind us. Shouts out to Pender, our manager, Juan, Eric, Gary, the whole squad. It really just came together just how it should be coming together. Hella natural, we're organic.
Blimes: We got two seasons outlined. We're pitching now. It's in some really, really influential people's hands, so at this point we've seen that anything is possible. When the two of us get together, it really feels like our friendship turned music bond was organic that it only makes sense that the TV show is happening in the same way. I would not be surprised at all if this went really far because of what we've seen be the catalyst toward people's interest in us is that we just make people want to talk about it. That's how you sell music and T.V. Not that we ever started this to be in the business of selling anything, but I'm really grateful that we get to sell our story, that people are interested in hearing about our story. It's true. It's all genuine. We're giving you the truth, you know? That's the most fun part, is that we get to write from such a genuine place.
Now that you're doing TV, has that changed the way you see yourselves as artists?
Gab: Yes and no. Yes because it's a total different art form and like I said, just from the formatting and knowing how to properly write a script and having to be super, super detailed. It's definitely sharpened my pen skills, just all-around writing, period. Also just 'cause like Blimes was saying, all of our writing comes from a real place. From the TV show to the way we met, everything just ... We really just led a crazy life. I don't know what it is ... but people just be drawn to us and scenarios. We got stories for days, to the point where it really takes us to have to have a brainstorming session or me smoking or something to really just get the stories flowing. So much sh*t just be happening. It's like this is really fking crazy, like we should be do a TV show. Now we writing a fking TV show and then we really just have this real-life stories. You also get to really just expand your creativity and just go for it and really just have no boundaries.
Blimes: I agree with Gab on pretty much all of that. I just think that the only thing, for me, that feels different from going from being a rapper to writing television and then eventually starring in the TV show is that now we have to work on the acting. 'Cause we're playing ourselves, it will be pretty natural. However, I know that I can perform in front of a camera. If we're talking rap sh*t, I can perform in front of a camera all day. When that camera comes around on me to act, it's a whole different story. I know, for a fact, that's a tool that I'm going to have to sharpen or I need to once we get this thing going. I'm excited for that and nervous—and I haven't been nervous about a performance in a long time. There's something about that that really lights a fire under your ass.