Atlanta-based artist Baby Rose talks to VIPER about her upcoming album ‘Through and Through’,  her early influences and words of wisdom from Dave Chapelle…

Bullied and misunderstood for her voice in school, Baby Rose found solace in listening to greats like Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone who inspired her to see her voice as a gift. Since performing at SXSW 2023, featuring on the Creed III soundtrack and being co-signed by the likes of J Cole, SZA and LeBron James, Baby Rose is an artist truly in the ascendancy and she looks to make her mark in the industry with her upcoming album.

You were inspired by the likes of Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Billie Holliday, did you grow up listening to this type of music or did it come later as you pursued a career in music?

I had a lot of music in the home, my mom would play Hip Hop like OutKast and stuff like that. My Dad played a lot of Acid Jazz like Roy Ayers. Then there was my Great Aunt who had that soulful aspect, starting with Gospel, Mahalia Jackson then there was Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and James Brown. I started to do my own research and found my own voices that were very affirming for me to hear like Janis Joplin, Nina and then Amy [Winehouse]. I remember hearing Amy’s ‘Rehab’ on the radio for the first time and I was like “Oh shit, this is fire!” It’s just inspiring to see them not only be so incredibly different and their voice is so different and music is so good and rich but also them being super bold and their appearance and everything is so like them. It really inspired me as a younger person that was very much in my shell and I didn’t know that my voice was a gift; I didn’t consider it a gift. I consider it something that I was kind of ashamed of. People teased me about it and so I was shy and I see people like Janis Joplin with the craziest raspy voice and the big hair and the bangles and sparkles going crazy on stage and I’m just inspired, I want to feel like that and I want to be like her like and I want to be fearless; to be able to get to this point. It’s only by watching them really and starting to do the work, obviously. You can only get so far by watching somebody else but it gave me a little clue, a little breadcrumb, “You can do it too” type of shit.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I started recording music when I was 12 and I didn’t take to doing things that a 12-year-old will do. I immediately took to playing piano and I just wanted to write Blues and I want to go real simple and real straight to the gut!  It was really fun to be able to do that and I’m so grateful to my mom who took me and allowed me to do that when I was a kid. None of that will ever see the light of day but it was all a part of development and learning the processes of recording and engineering, writing and getting in that mode.

You performed music from your upcoming album ‘Through and Through’ live for the first time recently in London, what was that like?

It was unreal, It was so incredible. I felt like I was astral projecting at some point! I was just so overwhelmed with like, “Oh shit. This is really a new era!” This is really out of my head now and off of me. This is for everyone now.

It’s also pushing yourself out of your comfort zone – performing in front of a London crowd, outside of your core fanbase. 

I’m so grateful to have been able to have done it over here first because there’s just a different respect for music I believe. 

That’s interesting, what do you mean?

Historically, If you look at James Baldwin or Nina Simone, they felt safe havens here. I get it, there were  racial tensions and all of that but there’s also the appreciation of the art form.  When I first played in front of a crowd in London the audience was so quiet and I thought I was fucking up but when I finished a song there would be a roar. Sometimes when you’re in the US there will be people talking, especially if you’re in LA or some fucking mixie place but here I get undivided attention, it’s just me and y’all. 

Back to Joni Mitchell, when she first played ‘Blue’ to Kris Kristofferson for the first time his response afterwards was “Jesus Joni, save something for yourself.” With your new album ‘Through and Through’ how did you find that balance between what to reveal and what to conceal through your music?

The emotions, even though they’re from my experience, it’s a universal truth. If it’s not me going through it, I can name someone else that’s going through something similar. When I was in college I studied psychology and I know the state we are in, the juxtaposition between living in the US where you have freedom to say whatever the fuck you want to, ‘make it’, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’, ‘you could become the richest person in the world’… but depression is the highest it’s ever been, suicide is at the highest it’s ever been, people are addicted and overdosing at the highest [rate] they’ve ever done in the world, so there’s a problem. There’s a problem. I know what I go through and what I deal with… around the pandemic we flew back in a frantic rush from London to the US, I had a sold-out show in London but then we had to rush out. Going home was just so painfully quiet, achingly quiet, having to face myself in a way that I’ve never done before because I reached this high high but in a very dramatic fall. And so what’s next? What do I do?  Then there is this voice in the back of my head saying “Of course this was going to happen,” “You never deserved this anyway,” “This isn’t for you.” That imposter syndrome and all of that shit kicks in. I can only write from my own experience and the way that I get shit out of me and get it all for me and don’t feel like I’m being a fraud or faking some shit, I’m no good at that.

How do you cope with that feeling as an artist? 

The only way I can do that is by shining a light on it and dispelling it like it’s almost taking away its power. I don’t know if there’s too much for me to keep for myself when it comes to the writing and creative process of the music. I believe it’s my responsibility to be honest in my music, that’s just in my world. I feel responsibility every time I hit the stage like I’ve got your attention for at least 30 minutes at a time, it’s me and y’all and we are here and what do I want to leave you with? I just don’t want people to feel so alone. I want them to understand that you can get through this, we’re all working out something, life is an ongoing working out process. Stay strong, stay gentle with yourself; Love yourself through it. 

It sounds quite cathartic?

Yeah, I just want to offer something that feels beyond me. I told myself I got another chance to do this… because I was dropped from my previous label and like that was a whole thing. I had hella music but what do I do now? Everything that I had the biggest fears about literally happened and I was like “Wow, so we are at rock bottom, how do you feel?” I told myself that if I got another chance to do this again, I want the work to reflect that if this is the last thing I do, this is what I want it to be. I want it to be the totality of who I am and what I’ve learned. Imperfect, okay! Chaotic sometimes? Sure! Self-deprecating sometimes, vulnerable, loving, hopeless romantic and growing pains. I wanted it to encapsulate everything, it was more of an offering than anything else. I just want to give everything and I did my best to make it very intentional and also leave a beacon of light at the end. When you love yourself, you water yourself, when you learn to do that, love can change the World. You’ll be able to love people wherever they are, even if they’re not there yet. 

You’ve had co-signs from the likes of J Cole and SZA but also randomly from LeBron, how did that come about?

If you know, you know, LeBron is low-key a music critic [Laughs.] So yeah, he was singing ‘Everytime’, the song I featured on Big K.R.I.T’s album, in his car and singing my part. I was just like “What the fuck is happening!”

That must have been a crazy moment?

It really is, I mean come on now Black excellence baby! We are here and just even to be seen or acknowledged by one of the greats in his own respective field is amazing.

You also performed with Robert Glasper recently, what was that like? 

I perform with him often because I go up to New York when he does The Blue Note residency in the Fall. I’ll go up and stay there for a couple of weeks and come every night. His tour manager and I are friends [Laughs]. I go up there and he’ll invite me on stage to perform ‘Expectations’ when everybody is eating their dinner and shit. 

You met Dave Chapelle after performing there one night, right? 

Bro! I made a whole speech because my uncle, who got me the piano when I was nine and who changed my whole life, was in the crowd and it was his birthday. I made this whole speech because I wanted to honour him and be like: “Whenever I feel down and very bombarded by the industry and all of these expectations, I remember the nine year old version of me, who discovered the piano for the first time and just felt like music chose me. So shoutout to my uncle, Happy Birthday – I just want to give y’all a reminder to stay true to yourself no matter what, Fuck what everybody else has to say.” I went into the song, killed it, then went upstairs to get a break and Dave Chapelle came through the window and was like “I heard your speech! The way you put that was so amazing and I want you to remember that always and stay true to yourself no matter what. Remember what you said tonight.”

What was the afterparty like?

The afterparty didn’t even feel real! Dave Chapelle threw an afterparty and Ye came with no security, just on some Ye shit! There had to be about 30 of us in the basement of this restaurant. Before I left, [Dave] was like “I want you to remember that you’re always protected. If anybody tries to make you change or anything, call Robert or call me. You are safe and you have to be yourself, stay strong.” Dave Chappelle is one of the reasons why when I go on stage I’m very intentional about what I say and the explanation of why I do it.  When I feel like I need to explain something further, I’m very intentional with what my words are because he is the best… people call him a comedian, great if that’s how you feel, but is one of the best orators and storytellers of our generation. He is extremely fearless and he’s not able to be cancelled in a very 1842 ass society because he is free from thought and theory because he does not give a fuck.


Photo by Nicole Hernandez

Words by Adam Davidson 

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