Bruce Bayne: The Hero Hip Hop Deserves

Bruce Bayne has been lurking in the background of Stank Face Records ever since they dropped their all-inclusion collaborative effort Face Melt. Without even a Soundcloud page of his own, he has made his mark largely through features and the occasional single. Despite having a relatively limited catalog, Bayne has made apparent his propensity to effortlessly deliver brain-bending rhymes. Now, tired of being known as the lettuce guy from the Bunk video, Bayne comes through with a full-fledged project aimed at asserting himself as hip hop's hero. Masterfully melding the insidious modern soundscape with the intellectual lyricism of days gone by, Bayne's debut C i V i l i A N may very well deconstruct the confining conceptions of what's in vogue.

The project features guest verses from fellow Tiny Chain Gang members Rebel Legato and Will is Chillin' in addition to some eccentric vocals from Natural State. The production credits go to Stank Face regulars Drew Mantia, Irineo, and D.R.O. as well as some new names including Velibor, Josh Grant, and SEER. Today is a day full of firsts for Bayne as to accompany the release of his debut project, OK-Tho linked up with him to conduct his first ever interview. We were blessed with a press copy of C i V i l i A N which was used to inform our questions. As a result, the following article functions somewhat as a listening guide meant to be administered alongside the tracks. So press play and read up on Chicago's silent guardian, its watchful protector, Bruce Bayne.

On “3rd Eye's Interlude” you say you are “in a room that looks like my brain I’m battling the Bruce I’m fighting off the Bayne.” Who is Bruce Bayne and how does he differ from Chad Thomas?

Bruce Bayne: True. It's a Good versus Evil thing. That line I'm saying I'm conflicted of what's right and what's wrong. I'm battling the Bruce is the being too polite and following society's social constructs of what people deem as correct. And fighting off the Bayne is the negative energy, lust, and pleasures of the world. I feel like no one is pure good or pure evil so anyone could call themselves "Bruce Bayne." I'd say the only difference between my rap persona and my government name is I can put a name on the emotion I put in bars/verses. If I say some foul shit I call it Bayne. If I say something light-hearted and caring I went Bruce. You know when Beyoncé talks about Sasha Fierce? Have you heard of that?

OK-Tho: Nope

Bruce Bayne: So, when Beyoncé goes on stage she becomes Sasha Fierce right? I feel like whenever I have a mood to get into it's like “Oh fuck I gotta go full Bayne” or whatever. It’s stupid, it sounds funny but myself, as Chad Eckersley, Chad Thomas whatever, I’m more laid back. I don’t go around telling people I rap. But, when I am recording stuff I feel like I can be as confident and cocky as I want just cause it's hip hop and that’s how you have to be. But I still try to put my regular life experiences in it a little bit.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process.

Bruce Bayne:  I feel like, with this first tape, I was trying to display my creativity and my song making abilities and then the next tape down the line I am gonna get more personal and talk about my experiences. I don’t want to give away my magician tricks or whatever but, it’s not so much a shock factor but, I want the first line to be extraordinary a little bit and then play it back and go into it. And I don’t do that every time but…

OK-Tho: What about the line in "Death to the Hypebeast" about getting a beat from Felly?

Bruce Bayne: When I first starting fucking with Brandon and Stank Face they had put us onto Felly beats off of his Bandcamp. Me and Rebel Legato would just sit and smoke and freestyle to them all the time and it was like “oh shit this is raw this is raw.” The first thing we recorded was me Loud Mouth and Rebel Legato. I forget how the beat goes but it was so early it might have been a Felly beat. I don’t know, but we never released the song. 

We actually recorded it off a laptop in Brandon’s house before he had the studio and we thought we won. Right after we did the song we were like “Yeah let’s go!” and Brandon was like you guys got a lot more work to do that was weak [laughter]. But Felly, much respect. I’ve never hit him up, I’ve never really even talked to him it just rhymed and I was just like “let’s go!”

OK-Tho: Yeah, I wasn’t sure if you were trying to imply that he was part of the hype beast problem.

Bruce Bayne: Oh yeah yeah yeah no no no no nah. I didn’t and I’m glad I could clear that. I was nervous as fuck. I get nervous when I put out some lines that mention other people. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to diss or create anything. A lot of people were like “Oh yeah Felly love” “Yeah, you should get a beat from Felly.”

OK-Tho: That’s good, good to know.

Who are your inspirations both within and without hip hop?

Bruce Bayne: Within hip hop, growing up, it sounds cliché but Kanye West. My momma had brought me to his concert. I was like nine years old when he was touring for College Dropout and he brought out Jay-Z and they threw up the rock. Ever since then I’ve been a huge Jay-Z and Kanye fan. I know other motherfuckers would be like “that’s cliché” or whatever but that’s me, it’s real. But that’s as a young kid.

Getting older, when I actually got into rapping, Nas become a heavy influence on me trying to be a lyricist. And Wu-Tang, just the creativity side, just being a nerd. How much they like kung-fu movies is how I feel about superheroes. I feel inspired too by just my friends, by other talented kids from the city.

Outside of hip hop, my number one favorite artist of all time is Michael Jackson. He’s what made me want to be a performer. It’s sad I never got to see him perform live. And left field, I’m not that huge into rock or anything but in high school when I was smoking weed Pink Floyd, just the sounds of all that stuff, made me really wanna make something that cool. Just the way that they talk about society, I took that and put that into my hip hop. Not necessarily the sound yet, I’m still trying to make some Pink Floyd style hip hop down the line. Some people have already done it. I got some homies that I went to high school with that do psychedelic type music so I’m definitely trying to make some music with them. They got a band called Seet. So shout out to them.

What path led to your decision to become a hip hopper? On “Justcg League” you claim that you just woke up one day and were good at rapping. Is that really how it went down?

Bruce Bayne: [Laughter] No. I mean sometimes it does feel like that. Sometimes you feel like you’re not good and then sometimes you feel like “damn today I’m raw.” It was actually my dad. I wrote this poem in high school. I thought I wanted to be a singer slash rapper when I was thirteen years old. I thought I was gonna be Omarion Chris brown or something. I thought I was nice, I’m not nice [laughter].

But what actually made me feel like I could do this was the confidence my dad gave me. I showed him a rap that I wrote for a high school class and he was like “yo you could actually do this, you could actually pursue this.” He always believed I had talent in other aspects but... I was like “damn for real?” I remember him telling me that when I was fifteen and I was like fuck I might actually try to do this. 

I remember just always freestyling for my friends. For the longest time I hadn’t recorded anything, I was just your typical smoke weed and freestyle type until I realized that's not going to get you anywhere. Then I bought a mic and started recording stuff and it actually starting coming out dope. By the time I had got out of high school I was like “I know I’m raw, I know I can do this” so I started taking it more seriously. 

How did you get involved with Stank Face?

Bruce Bayne: I’ve known Rebel Legato since I was fourteen. We used to walk home and freestyle from school every single day. That was in Evanston township my freshman year. Loud Mouth went to high school with my stepsister and I was with my sister and my stepsister and my homie Sinny one day and we went over to this kids house and I met Loud Mouth there and he was like “who raps blah blah blah” and I was like they just told you I rap, obviously you know I rap, cut to the chase let's go. So we had spit and he had spit a line where he was like “I’m doing me like I’m masturbating” and I was like “yo I wrote that line down before.” So I thought he was raw just because we had thought of the same line.

I had met The Squares through my sister who was dating our manager Brandon at the time. I think she had just told me about the Palmer Squares and he wasn’t even their manager yet. He was just their PR type dude. So there was just some months when I was like “Okay, these guys are raw.” They were from Wheeling which is not that far from where I was in Arlington Heights. I was just like damn these guys are cold, I just really like their charisma. I spit a verse for Acumental and he was like “Okay, yeah we gonna have to get you on the mixtape.” That to me at that point was like “Oh shit dude, the Palmer Squares want me on their mixtape.” It was cold. From there we had shot our first Stank Face cypher maybe a year later. I had just turned nineteen.

OK-Tho: Is that the one in the car?

Bruce Bayne: Yeah that was the one driving around in the city.

OK-Tho: Loud Mouth said that took like twelve hours to record.

Bruce Bayne: Oh my gawd yeah. I mean, you just got five different rappers all trying to lay their verse down. I originally had different bars in the middle of my verse and I was just kind being a pussy and Term was like “go back to those lines where you said ‘my chick bad like a bad habit, I’m caught up still with her I’m a bad bandit her pussy mean I’m mad at it’” something like that. After that Loud Mouth brought in Will is Chillin’ and was like “yeah this guy’s dope” and I was like I guess I could see how it could correlate with us and Will came on the squad… By the way FUCK WILL.

OK-Tho: Why?

Bruce Bayne: Just cause he’s a pussy.

OK-Tho: Aren’t you guys in Tiny Chain Gang together?

Bruce Bayne: Yeah, so? [Laugher] No I’m playing, me and Will are real close, we just make fun of each other a lot that’s why.

Tell me more about Tiny Chain Gang.

Bruce Bayne: One time me, Will, and the Squares were on the bill at Mother’s Original. There is a picture of the marquee it says Bruce Boyne on it cause they didn’t have an A. We all had these tiny chains on and I was like “yo we the tiny chain gang bro” [laughter]. It was stupid as fuck but I was like for real we TCG Tiny Chain Gang. It was gonna be me, Will, Legato, and Loud Mouth. I kind of was just thinking of it as another name for Stank Face like Tiny Chain Gang.

It’s become just me, Will, and Legato because there was a time that the three of us would go and make songs with Irineo at the studio. We have a bunch of songs that we haven’t released and we’re gonna make more. It was just all waiting up for me to drop my project and then we were gonna make the Tiny Chain Gang TCG shit. I still plan on doing a dual mixtape with Legato. Me and Will might do that too. That’s the gang.

Anybody can be in Tiny Chain Gang. As long as you got a tiny chain you’re in. You know what I’m saying. So Ian, you in it bro.

OK-Tho: It’s an honor, I gotta get a chain I guess.

Bruce Bayne: Yeah, it’s gotta be real tiny, doesn’t matter how tiny. Rebel Legato could explain it to you.

Will is Chillin and Jesus Christ are in a knife fight, who do you back up?

Bruce Bayne: You know I gotta go with my boy Jesus Christ all day. Wait what? That’s such a weird question. [laughter] Ah that’s funny. I mean, I’m not real religious but I believe in God and there’s a lightning storm going on right now so I feel if I say anything else it might not go my way.

On “Death to the Hypebeast” you say “Thank God no one know me cause I know that they would bite me.” If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s there to hear it, which genre of hip hop would the tree best fit into?

Bruce Bayne: I wish it was whatever Flo Rida makes but, probably underground backpack rap.

OK-Tho: What do you think of backpack rap? Are you a backpack rapper?

Bruce Bayne: No rapper likes to be called a backpack rapper. Let’s be real.

OK-Tho: Why?

Bruce Bayne: Cause it’s just a struggle rapper. I’d rather be known as a lyricist before being called a backpack rapper. And that’s no disrespect to Team Backpack and stuff cause I know that’s real helpful for up and coming people.

OK-Tho: But you also say "backpack rap has the bet type of fan support" right?

Bruce Bayne: Yeah yeah yeah. When I just did the show at Boston that line got some reaction from the crowd so I don’t know if… I don’t know. Yeah, that does sound kind of contradictory if I just said nobody listens to it. I feel like it’s got just diehard fans.

OK-Tho: Yeah, it’s less number wise but more commitment?

Bruce Bayne: Yeah for sure. I mean if somebody wants to be like “I’m a backpack rapper” I'll be like fuck nah but I mean, whatever they want to think, I don’t care.

Would you say Civilian sets out to tell a story or is more of a collection of tracks? 

Bruce Bayne: I’d say it’s kind of a love story a little bit. It sounds weird cause I spit a lot of hardcore stuff on it but it starts off with “Yung Stank” just young Bruce. At the end where I have songs like “Cold hearted,” “Heartbreak hotel,” or “Gold” it feels like I’m putting emotions to the side like I have no love for this shit. I’m trying to pretend like I don’t have any love in my heart and then at the end it has "Gold" which shows all I want is Peace and Love. So I mean you could say a collection of tracks but it sounds like an album to me.

OK-Tho: So if it’s a love story who is the love between, you and someone else or…?

Bruce Bayne: I haven’t been in a relationship since my freshman year of college which I would be a senior now if I even did go to college. I had this song I took off:

“PB no J I’m in a jam in a jiffy 
feel like the whole entire world out to get me
who am I kidding all my pain is self-inflicted
based on someone else's living on my well living.
Wellbeing might as well be in hell’s kitchen 
life and death I couldn’t tell the difference 
smoking stress hope I don’t forget my elder's imprint
see the cycle every time I held an infant.”

I might release that song later, I don’t know. It’s cool to not just be like hard all the time and just act some type of way you know?

What is the hardest bar you drop on the project?

Bruce Bayne: We were talking about that. I think maybe on “Heartbreak Hotel” I said "turn the movie off this part could get graphic” and then I beeped it out.

OK-Tho: Oh yeah.

Bruce Bayne: You remember this part? The parts I beeped out I was like “I got my dick in my girl she on her period she ratchet” then I was like “I'm crazy like that, I’ll hit it when she on it I’m brazy like that” saying I’ll have sex with her on her period which I haven’t done since high school but it was just funny. Is that the hardest bar though? I dunno, there's some hard... yo it's all hard bars bro what you talking about? I’m just playing.

What is the softest bar you dropped?

Bruce Bayne: Probably said some lame ass shit. In "Trap Goddess" I say "right away I wanna spend my life with her, do a honeymoon nowhere by the earth" That song is kinda about being stuck in a thirst trap with the baddest bitch ever.

OK-Tho: Is she real?

Bruce Bayne: Loosely based but I don't wanna give this girl too much credit [laughter]. And I actually made the song in 2014 before trap queen came out. Cause Gucci had Trap God and Ferg had Trap Lord so I saw where that was going. Then Fetty made the biggest song in the country and I was crushed. But the song is so wavy and different I was like fuck it, it's going on the tape and I'm not changing the name for nobody. I have the Dropbox dates to prove it.

What did a typical day recording for Civilian look like?

Bruce Bayne: A lot of it was me and Irineo doing a lot of takes honestly. It’s my first project. A lot of it was a lot of weed smoking, not that much drinking, I’m not a heavy drinker. I don’t like that many people to be in the studio. I don’t like the distraction, I really dial in. Some things I really want to be a certain way, I get kind of picky. You could ask Drew, you could ask Irineo.

A song like “Day One” that I had wrote right there in the studio at my homie Natural State’s. Natural State is Jommis Jettison, and SEER who are part of Beach Jesus and now they do a duo group called Natural State and I wrote that verse right in there. That was just the first song we made together. We made a good amount of songs this spring and summer. That was just one I made in the studio we were vibing out so heavy to that. That’s still one of my favorite tracks. That song just brings a different vibe to the project cause a lot of it is dark and I really thought the project could use it. I’m really happy it made it.

Tell me more about the album art.

Bruce Bayne: Those are characters I’ve been working on since maybe 2013. The two main guys, I call the guy with the triangle the eye and the mouth, that’s the Civilian character. And the guy with the dunce cap on his head, I call him the Dun. Those are the two first characters I made. Actually, I drew the cover out, I had a version that I drew on a piece of paper then I redrew it and made another version and I painted over it with acrylic and that was one of the first paintings I ever did.

Some of the characters relate to the songs and some of them are a little different. It goes the hype beast is in the corner. Then I got the Dun holding the cold heart and the Civilian has the eye on his hand right next to the three so that represents the third eye. The treasure chest is the gold which is like handing over the money for the love cause I’ll take the love over the money. And then I have the trap goddess on there which is a character I had drawn before I actually made the song cause I watched some nerd documentary on Cleopatra. It’s a realistic version of the statue of liberty. She is kind of Egyptian, instead of holding the bible she’s holding a baby Jesus which kind of represents young stank too. The three characters to the far right are the Alien, Angel, and Astronaut which is something I made cause when ancient people saw gods come down they would be like “Oh, it’s an angel that came down. Oh, it’s an alien that came down. Oh, it’s an astronaut.”

I showed my uncle and he was like “Man, why you gotta make the angel white?” And I was like it’s actually supposed to represent one of my home girls that passed. She overdosed. She was white with blonde hair. I had a song that I mentioned her in but I took it out. Like I said I’m trying to get more personal on the next project.

OK-Tho: I'm sorry to hear about that.

Bruce Bayne: Of for sure bro, she was real supportive of me. She believed in me hella. Rest in Peace.

What are you trying to get out of hip hopping?

Bruce Bayne: There are so many different things I want to make, even outside of hip hop. I’d love to make money. I would love to have a sustainable career and help my family out. I know I’m just a tiny little thing but I feel like I can contribute a lot. For me to say what am I trying to get out of hip hop, I’m not looking to get stuff I’m looking more to give.

Now that you’ve made your official debut, what’s next for Bruce Bayne? More videos? Shows? Collabs?

Bruce Bayne: Me and Drew Mantia plan on making the sequel, after Civilian there’s gonna be a follow up which is gonna be Super Civilian. We are gonna get right to it. I'm really happy Civilian is finished so I can go make other music. Once it drops its gonna feel so good. Me and Drew and really excited to go make more. He’s gonna be involved way heavier in the next one. 

I really want to get down with the visuals I want to give people a lot of visual content. I’m trying to get as many videos off this project as possible. I’m trying to see what this tape can do. I’m writing more raps and making cooler sounding stuff and going even harder, I feel really hungry right now.