courtesy Babeo Baggins

Q&A: Babeo Baggins

The Virginia artist discusses working with Drake and bringing country music to Internet rap fans

Babeo Baggins has been launching music into the Internet with East Coast/Tumblr-based collective Barf Troop for years, but a recent mp3 leak pushed the 23-year-old songwriter's music into a broader and brighter spotlight than ever. Last week, her cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” featuring vocals by Drake surfaced on Audiomack in a bizarre instance of worlds colliding: Here was a song known for soundtracking The Royal Tenenbaums seemingly rendered without explanation or context by one of the biggest hip-hop stars working today.

Headlines claiming the track was a Drake cover weren’t exactly accurate, though; if the leak sounded unfinished, that’s because it was. That version of the song was an early draft of Baggins’s take on “These Days” called “Things I Forgot to Do.” Baggins also sings on the finished track, with Drake appearing as a duet partner over a sped-up sample of the guitar from Nico’s cover of the song. The leak erased Baggins’s voice literally and figuratively; most of the discussion around the track credited its existence to Drake, whose celebrity overshadowed the artist who had been putting the song together for months.

“Things I Forgot to Do” is the second track of Baggins’s new three-track covers EP called Love Songs for Tough Guys, released ahead of schedule in response to the unexpected leak. Unlike last year’s Posi+ive mixtape, a playful, self-affirming hip-hop romp spangled with Adventure Time samples and features from fellow Barf Troopers, Love Songs moves away from the fast and fun terrain of “Internet rap." Baggins sings on all three covers, which hang somewhere in the space between dance pop and country — a direction Baggins is moving toward on a new project that’s currently in the works.

Baggins spoke with MTV over the phone about the new EP and its still-untitled follow-up, as well as the history and future of country music and how the genre can still be opened up to people who have written it off.

Barf Troop formed through the Internet, and obviously the Internet has been a powerful tool for disseminating your music. But then there's the flip side to it where it acts in ways you can't control. What was it like when you first found out that your unfinished work had been leaked?

Babeo Baggins: It was a weird experience. That's not something I've dealt with before. Any music that I've created stays within my team. I didn't really know how to digest it — I was asleep and I got a message from my creative director and he was just like, "Hey, did you know about this?" I didn't. I was super upset, because it's something that I had been working on for a very long time and was super excited about. I was just trying to digest the information — it's not something that I'd really dealt with before.

But it seems like you were able to turn it around pretty quickly and reassume control of the narrative. The official version went out soon after the leak.

Baggins: My goal was to release it. It wasn't "Oh, I have to put it out right now." I just wanted people to be able to hear what I was working on without it being tainted. That's it. I was just like, OK, we have this unfortunate situation that we didn't plan on, but I've still been working on this, and a lot of my fanbase was waiting on this EP that I'd been working on for such a long time, since last year. I just wanted people to be able to hear what I put so much work into.

How did you narrow the EP down to these three covers?

Baggins: It was difficult to narrow it down to three cover songs. I just wanted to do something that would allow me to express my love for music and how much it means to me, not [be] confined by any genre.

Can you talk about your history with each song?

Baggins: "These Days," that's absolutely my favorite song. The song that Jackson Browne wrote is absolutely encompassing. I've heard every version of it there is — the song itself never fails to resonate with me.

As for Patsy Cline [“Used to Be”], that is from my childhood. I've grown up in southern Virginia. The majority of my life, I was brought up with music like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. That's what my grandmother listened to, that's what I heard when she was cooking in the kitchen. This is a song that I continue to connect with over time from different perspectives. As for the Lykke Li [“Stay With Me”], when I first heard that song, I just really connected to it. It was so different from what I was hearing at the time — there was such an honest vulnerability to it. She's being very honest. "I love you. I know it's not great and I wish I didn't, but this is just how it is."

This EP marks a transitional point for you. You released Posi+ive last year, and now you're working on a new project. What is that transition looking like right now?

Baggins: I'm really excited about the new project. I'm writing a lot and playing instruments, which — I've always done that but not on projects, just in my house, covering songs. I wouldn't say I'm leaving behind the music that I made before because it's definitely still a passion. I will love rap until the day that I die, and I definitely want to make it again, but right now I'm in a place where country music is what is inspiring me. And not because rap is — of course it's dominated by men, everything is always going to be dominated by men — but I have a very special place in my heart for country music, and it makes me disappointed to hear people and how they talk about it. That was the main inspiration for the transition, to make something that will blend genres.

People will be like, "I listen to every single musical genre except for country,” and that's just so heartbreaking for me because most every genre started in country music. Like, rock music is a derivative of blues and blues is a derivative of bluegrass, which started as Appalachian song. It's something that's in everything, but people just deny it because of country they're currently hearing. The storytelling in country music is unbelievable. It's honest and it's true and it's real situations. It's that joke when people are just like, "Oh, country music is about a broken down truck and your dead dog." But that's really what happens in day-to-day life! Your car breaks down, you lose love, your heart breaks — that's what happens. I want to create country music and make it palatable to people my age and people who may not have opened themselves up to it before, to make it a little easier for them to be able to receive it and maybe open up a world that they weren't aware of before. That's always the goal: to allow people to seek out art that maybe they didn't think they could be a part of. Everybody is a part of art in general. You don't have to be this type of person to listen to this type of music. You don't have to be this type of person to create this type of art. That's what I want to show everybody.

Are you working with other members of Barf Troop on this new project?

Baggins: Oh, of course. Anything that we work on is collaborative, even if we're not on the song. At the end of the day, we're a family. Anything that I've created is something they've heard, or anything I've thought about is something I've run past them. Definitely they're going to be a part of it. Babe Simpson, for example, just recently started producing her own tracks. Now we have in-house production, so it's really in-house everything, Barf Troop everything. Everyone is going to be involved in the new project. Whether you [can] hear it or not, just know that everyone has been involved in the creation of it.

You met Drake at a Virginia Beach concert in 2014. What was the path to collaborating on a track together?

Baggins: Just music, honestly. Just two people that really, really love music and were able to connect with it. He's somebody who just loves music a lot, which I can appreciate, because I'm someone who loves music a lot. He appreciates every single genre. How it came along is I said "These Days" was my favorite song, and I played it for him because he hadn't heard it before, and he just really connected with it. That's how the song came about. Our shared love of music is really what brought it to life. We both love music and that's what we connect on and share like I do with any of my friends.

When can we expect to hear new music from you?

Baggins: It's definitely still in the works, but I would say expect a single by the summer. It shouldn't be too long.


VMAs 2017