BES – Cyzo Interview
Fresh out of prison, BES speaks out! Drug addiction, prison, and rap.
In 2013, BES was convicted and up until very recently was still serving his sentence. Despite this, the rap lyricist released his new album in April 2016 while still inside. So how did he go about this? Fresh out of the penitentiary, we sat down with and asked the man himself.
If not a musician’s musician, then I guess you could call BES a rapper’s rapper. Yet, regardless of having unrivaled talent, due to various circumstances his time in the limelight has been short. Managing to use the support he’s received over the years, BES managed to release his new album, Untitled while serving jail-time. An extremely rare case in Japan, where when an artist gets arrested, it’s protocol to not only put new projects on hold but to also pull any past releases from the shelves. BES, rapping rougher than usual makes this new album sound somewhat like the blues, being sung by a man living as an outlaw in this rigid country of ours. Fresh out of prison, we spoke with BES and the man who took charge of production during his absence, producer 318.
Cyzo: How long were you locked up?
BES: Basically, two-and-a-half years.
So, Untitled was released two days before you came home. I understand the foundation for it was the collaboration album you did Alexandra Mizuki, due to have been released in August 2013, right?
BES: Yeah. I was already in pretty bad shape when I recorded that, though. My head was all fucked ’cause of alcohol and coke. I did so much I’ve got a hole inside my nose, so now both nostrils are connected.
Ah, you destroyed the cartilage in your nose.
318: He was always doing it in the studio too. When I asked, “What are you doing?” he was like, “Don’t talk to me!”
BES: Because I do a lot in one go. Like 5 lines. In the end, even crushing it up was a pain in the ass, so I’d just eat the crystals whole.
318: What?! Holy shit!
BES: Doing that shit’ll fuck you up. I had really bad paranoia and eventually got busted for waving a bat around, destroying property.
In America, rappers releasing an album while incarcerated isn’t really that’s rare. But in Japan where standards are different, I imagine it’s gotta be pretty hard.
BES: I thought there was no way it was gonna happen. This was my second time in jail but when I got caught the first time, a friend of mine tried putting out a mixtape with my music and the record company put a stop in place. But when I got a letter from 318 saying, “I think we can put it out.” I was stoked.
318: A different label was producing the album at first, but when he got arrested they were like, “We can’t put it out.” The Pyrex video with NIPPS had already been shot though and I thought it was pretty dope. The thought of seeing it all get put on the shelf seemed like such a waste and so he let me take over the project. It’s tough making an album when they artist isn’t there, though.
So, you discussed the production of te album via letters?
BES: Yeah, but they’ve got inspections in jail, so when they saw the name “318” I was told shit like, “What’s this? Some kind of code? Stop using that kind of stuff in here!” English wasn’t allowed either. It was hard.
Was the reason BES sounded rougher than usual because the material used was from a demo?
318: It was preproduction. There were rough parts and segments where the sound was split. So at first, we weren’t going to say it was a “Release from prison,” but after thinking about it for a while we figured it’d be the easiest way to explain to the listeners, “Look, this is the way we had to make it.” That’s also why we went with [lines of cocaine on] the album cover.
I also saw that you also re-tweeted a comment on Twitter that said, “What’s up with this sales pitch? It’s like they’re endorsing being arrested.”
318: I tried to expose him. [Laughs] If I had the chance to meet the kid that tweeted that, I’d like to say, we’re not endorsing it but this type of thing is also a part of reality. During production, Seeda, I-DEA [members from BES’ group, SCARS] also told me, “It’s BES’ album and since he’s not here, don’t do a half-assed job.” That really made me wanna go for it.
This time around, there are two names for the record label credits, 318’s Gunsmith Production and Black Swan. Currently, the latter shares an office with 9sari Group but was originally the late Sho Sato’s label.
BES: Mr. Sato taught me how to rap. When I got locked up he often came to visit and encouraged me, “Even if it’s about what’re you’re eating, just keep writing lyrics.” When a friend of mine wrote me a letter and when I read Mr. Sato died in a fire, it was a massive shock. I couldn’t believe it. So, 318 was kind enough to include both label names.
318: I wasn’t able to go to Mr. Sato’s funeral. So it’s like, “Now we’re even! Sato!” [Laughs]
Did you listen to the album as soon as you got out?
BES: Yeah, I heard it. My friends who came to pick me up played it in the car.
318: Was is alright?
BES: It felt good. I was like, “Ah, so this is how it is!” It felt good, having all kinds of people feature on it. I’ve never even met Dutch Montana though, so that’s kinda weird. [Laughs] I wanna go around and thank everyone.
What plans do have going forward?
BES: First, I’m gonna go in the studio, start recording and get “Rehabilitated.” While I was inside, I couldn’t take any drugs which was a good thing. I decided once I got out I wasn’t gonna drugs it anymore. I’m done with that shit. Now it’s just coffee and cigarettes. I still have after effects like, sometimes I hear voices and shit. I stammer and make groaning noises too. So now I’m doing push-ups every day and that feels good, pushing myself to the edge, ya know. [Laughs]
Well, they do say a natural high is the best drug. I look forward to hearing your new music.
Original interview taken from the June issue of Cyzo magazine.