"Challenge yourself and move onto the next project." - bbno$
Alexander Gumuchian, also known as bbno$ (“baby no money”), is a 25 year-old Armenian rapper, singer, and songwriter raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was homeschooled until grade 8 and during this time, his mother encouraged him to play the piano. When he was younger he played the Djembe (a West African drum), and had an affinity for poetry. He grew up listening to Dubstep, house, and hip hop music and was influenced by artists such as: Datsik, Excision, Tupac, Gucci Mane, Chief Keef, Yung Lean, and Pouya. At 15 years-old, he began making music recreationally.
He suffered a back injury from playing rugby which prevented him from pursuing his original dream of becoming a professional swimmer. In 2014, Alex began rapping and producing on GarageBand with his friends, who later became the group Broke Boy Gang. In 2016, Alex continued releasing music on SoundCloud with the name bbnomula, bringing in many followers and millions of streams. Bbno$ really blew up internationally after Jackson Yee, from TFBoys, danced to Alex’s track “Yoyo Tokyo'' at his birthday party. In China, he sold out his first back-to-back headlining tours. In 2017, Alex released his first EP, “Baby Gravy”, as a collaboration with Yung Gravy. He released his debut studio album, Bb Steps, and his second collaborative EP, “Whatever”, with So Loki in 2018. In 2019, his second studio album, Recess was released. Inspired by the 90’s animated show on Disney, Recess features artists such as Y2K and Trippy Tha Kid, and has been streamed millions of times on Spotify.
Bbno$ went viral with “Lalala”, a song popular on TikTok. “Lalala”, peaked on over 20 charts around the world, had over 400 million streams, and 500,000 sales in the U.S.. In 2019, Alex released another album, I Don't Care At All. This album featured various pre-released singles, "Slop", "Pouch", and "Shining On My Ex". In 2019, he received a degree in human kinesiology from UBC Okanagan. Bbno$ music is entirely self-released, and is mostly produced by lentra and Y2K. His success has been astronomical, with some of bbno$’s Youtube videos having streamed over 9 million times and holding 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify. The catchiness and flow of the sound is undeniable, and self-described as “oxymoronical rap” that is "ignorant but melodic".
You just released a new song, “astrology”, produced by lentra, which is described as “the song of the summer”. How do you think you have changed as an artist from the beginning until now?
I try to have fun while I am making music and if it sounds fun then I release it. That part has stayed the same since the beginning. My music is more polished and defined than it used to be; I am in my own lane now. My skills have improved; I am undoubtedly a better songwriter now than I used to be.
Were you creating when you were young? Have you always written rhymes or kept a journal?
No, I was pretty much just an athlete when I was young. Before I got into songwriting, I loved writing poems and was relatively creative with my words. The songs don’t come from that though; they typically come after I have a beat in front of me.
How do you get in the zone and find your flow when you are writing and recording?
To get into the “zone” to write, I just wake up and give it a shot. If nothing comes out how I want it to, I will usually give up writing for the day and go work on something else.
You collaborate with different artists and producers. Is there anything specific you have learned to do to make a collaboration successful? Do you have a dream collaboration for the future?
With collaboration, I would say: just be willing to take critique. Nobody’s perfect and people surely do not expect you to be. Your flaws actually allow you to be more versatile. When you are working with people, be open minded because they might teach you a great skill and you might teach them something cool also! My dream collaborations are Missy Elliot and Timbaland for sure.
You are not only a rapper, but a producer too. What is your favorite part of the creative process?
My favorite part of the creative process is the part right after a track is finished and I have to figure out how to make it into a song. The process of making small little flares here and there in a song in order to keep the listener entertained is an amazing time. Writing lyrics is fun too, although sometimes tedious because I can get stuck on deciding on one word. Also, I like writing vocal melodies because there are endless possibilities with what you can come up with.
Your humor is a big part of your lyrics and your style. Have you always been funny? What is your favorite line out of all your records?
I wouldn’t say I am funny, but I am certainly not serious all the time. I try to just have fun as much as I can. My favorite line is without a doubt: “y = mx + b - e, I want slop”. If anybody reading this knows the slope formula...when you minus the “e” you have slop (laughs).
“Lalala” was a massive hit played millions of times all over the world. Not many people can experience that. How does it feel to have that kind of success? How has your life changed after that?
You know, I was expecting that my life would change a bit more after “Lalala” but, nothing has changed (laughs). It is very cool to be successful in something that I am extremely passionate about. Trust me, it rings every “happy bell” in my life. I still work every single day, I still never take breaks, and I still love what I do. So, after “Lalala”, my life hasn’t changed at all!
How has your Armenian background influenced you and your creativity?
I love this question! I would love to say it has, but truthfully I am not sure if it has or not. My grandmother and my father have always been very kind-hearted people, and that is a trait I tend to find in other Armenian people I’ve met. And maybe my Armenian background has influenced my great food taste (laughs).
You had a serious back injury, and have said that music helped take you out of the depression that followed that. You really took a tragedy and turned it into a triumph. How do you process this and the emergence of your music career?
The back injury was a monumental moment in my life without a doubt. I used to be an athlete so I immediately lost everything and it was really difficult (thus studying kinesiology to give back to other people suffering with trauma and physical injury). I remember the first song I made, I instantly fell in love with the craft and haven’t stopped it since. I just stayed true to myself, kept my honesty, and hoped for the best. I am still amazed with how many people listen to me. Being successful in music is emotionally taxing, but if you set your mind on anything you can do whatever it is that you want to do. There is no doubt in my mind that statement can resonate with anybody.
Your flow is super authentic and honest. How do you find ways to make sure you stay yourself in the music industry? Any final words or advice for up and coming artists?
Just don’t take crap from anybody (laughs). Challenge yourself and move onto the next project. My final words are: just work hard, hard work will prevail.
Interview by Hannah Kazanjian Brewster