HomeFeatureEXCLUSIVE: Columbia BT Outlines His Past, Present, & Future as Pioneer of ATL Street Rap Ms. Bels Monday, October 27, 2014 Feature, Music, Studio Xclusive, The Studio, The Vault Fans of southern rap music are familiar with the heavy 808s, slurred lingo, and soulful essence of most of its artists. Aesthetically, it is their hard knock upbringing and rags-to-riches life story that intrigues us most. But, while most fans idolize or get inspired by their lifestyles, there’s only a few whose lives mirror what they talk about. So, it is fortunate when you find an artist who does what they say they do. In the South, one rapper’s real life experiences coined him as one of Atlanta’s early street lyricists. His name is Columbia BT. Formerly known as Mr. Bigg Time, Columbia BT has returned to the music game determined to pick up where he left off. After taking several years off to focus on family, Columbia BT has evolved as a man and as an artist. One of his first changes was his name. Back in the day, when he went by Mr. Bigg Time, his counterparts looked at the name with a financial eye. “Everybody was worrying about what I had financially, more so than the music. When you go to DJs, or anywhere you go, everyone is looking for a check. Now, they think you got a check. Mr. Bigg Time was for the struggle and Columbia BT is for the hustle,” he says. When he returned, he knew that changing his name was important so that DJs and everyone else could just focus on the music and not the person. Secondly, as part of his overall transformation, Columbia BT shed 40 pounds and cut his braids. This he says was just a way to show everyone that he was able to compete with today’s rappers. Past… In 2007, he scored a huge hit with the song “Check My Footwork,” which he performed under his old name Mr. Bigg Time. The song became a club anthem due to its catchy hook, in which he contributes to a joking session between him and his brother. “Me and my little brother was in the studio we were joking (joanin’). He was coming from work. He had some Walmart boots on, so I said, “Man check your footwork.” Then he said, “You don’t have these.” Then, the song came up…laughing and joking.” By then, however, Columbia BT had paid his dues with the work he’d put in with the group Diablos. “No, I had an album out back in the day it was called Mr. Bigg Time: Rapper for Life and I was rapping with C.M.P. (Causin Much Pain)/Diablos. We had this song out before “Check My Foot Work.” It’s actually called “It’s Dem Damn Diablos” and I was doing promotion then. I was an artist with the Diablos. I was also doing all the promotion and all the club work because I knew how to market at an early time in the game. I knew how to market and get the music heard.” Columbia BT had created a decent level of success on his own. The music put out with the Diablos and his own album, Mr. Bigg Time: Rapper for Life, went on to move close to 100,000 independently. He also put out other projects like Worry Man and Independently Major. But, he blames his name [Bigg Time] as a hindrance to his growth. “I had a lot of good music but people just wasn’t accepting the name Mr. Bigg Time. They were judging me off what I had vs my talent. Everybody worried about if I made it already and what I got vs the music. I been doing music for a long time. Loved music even back in elementary school. I use to rap on the bus. So, I been love music,” he explains. His love for the music game can’t be denied. Throughout all of this time, he’s established relationships with many artists and DJs. It is because of the respect he’s given in the streets, his hustle, and industry relationships that Columbia BT is finding it easy to become relevant again. Present… In June 2014, Columbia BT released Southside Jefe. The mixtape created a big buzz in the streets and helped create the stamp for his new brand. Rocko, Gucci Mane, Shawty Lo, and Young Scooter were a few of the popular features on the project. DJ Greg Street and Hoodrich’s DJ Swamp Izzo co-signed it. After its release, Columbia BT hasn’t stopped grinding. His most buzz-worthy singles has featured Future (“Day 1”) and Rich Homie Quan (“She Crazie”), which quickly became one of the summer’s hottest new records. Columbia BT explains that it’s easy to create a hit, which is what Quan and himself was able to accomplish. “Quan dropped his verse and I dropped my verse and it was done. It don’t take long to make a hit. You have to talk about sh*t people want to hear. So many people degrade women all the time. Like they degrade them! All you hear is that b*tch ain’t this, that b*tch ain’t that. But when I did the Future song I was uplifting woman kinda like submitting to a woman seeing it from her point of view. Then, when I came back with “She Crazie,” I wanted people to see it from my point of view. From the sh*t she do to be crazy. The crazy sh*t that women do is like she want to check my phone. She want to smell my d*ck and asking who I’m hoeing with. That’s real life sh*t people really go through that sh*t. I went through that sh*t, so I know it’s real.” When asked if he’s in talks with any major labels, Columbia BT is still standing firm as an indie artist. He’s made it to MTV Jams as an independent and was #2 on the indie charts; #66 ranking as of August 2014. Columbia BT also confirmed that “She Crazie” was up to 200 spins a week and on 32 radio stations. That’s quite an accomplishment from an artist who’d vanished from the music game. But, he attributes his hustle game and different approach to production as reasons why his new music is being well-received. We did it all ourselves. I got a T-shirt machine. I have all the cameras to shoot videos. I have a studio. I have six promotional vehicles. I have big stand up banners and I have backpack banners. People didn’t know what backpack banners were, now they all over it. I went and bought this motorcycle, it’s a three wheeler. People didn’t even know you could get them here. I ordered it from Germany six months before they could get tags here. I like to do shit exclusive. I have a different sound but I can hear people hear my songs. I can hear them trying to remake my shit or people going back to my old shit trying to remake my shit. That’s why I’m in a lane of my own with it because I have a whole different sound. You can tell my tracks. Everybody get their tracks from the same people because they all have the same fucking drum pattern. When I heard Jeezy song “Me Ok,” I like the song but I done heard the beat fifty times. I like the song, but I done heard the beat a thousand times. So if you listen to a beat and you know the beat a hit right? It’s the same pattern. When will it ever change? What rapper will make their craft? We talking about the same drugs, we talking about the same guns, we talking about the same shit. It aint going to never change. It aint changing. Atlanta gone lose it in a minute if someone don’t change it. We gone lose it. We gone lose our heads because that’s how we got our heads from our fans…being different. Future… With music being technologically-driven now, some have to wonder if Columbia BT’s guerrilla-marketing tactics are outdated. Coming from an era when hand-to-hand was the only way to get your music heard, he says the transition has not been difficult for him at all. In fact, the hardest aspect of the rap scene now is the artist/DJ relationship. It’s not hard now and it wasn’t hard then. The only thing that changed is a lot of DJs help break a lot of dudes music and the dudes’ music they broke didn’t come back and show that love to the DJ. So it’s hard to get with certain DJs when you go into the club to play your music. Now, the DJ is bigger than the rapper. So it’s like you are looked down on, kind of, in a sense. You ever rocked with a person and you been supporting this person over the years and the security is like “you can’t go up there.” The person look at you and they look and turn their head and continue doing what they doing. That type of sh*t. As far as it being hard, I don’t think it’s hard. I didn’t think it was ever hard because I never went; it’s hard when you just trying to go give DJs your sh*t like “play my song on the radio”. Now, that’s hard. But once you get people [the fans] to like you, it’s a no brainer. You don’t need – out of a million people – you don’t need but a hundred thousand to love you because that hundred thousand gone grow. Out of fifty million people, you gone have two million people on your team. That’s how you have to look at it. So, in any game you gone have haters, that’s how you have to look at it. We look it at as guaranteed business. If a person not playing my sh*t, I’m not going to get mad at that person. When I get my sh*t, how’s that gone show? He gone get the voice mail or he gone have to pay the same price everyone else that showed me love get. He gone need me in the end just like I’m going to need him because what goes up must come down. The game comes back around, it comes back around like a full circle. You can be big headed, but everybody doesn’t know how to manage money. So just like I can fall off, these people can fall off who aren’t playing my sh*t. He might not be in a good club no more. He might not be on the radio no more then his head is going to unswell. He gone have to humble back down because now his finances not like they were. You know what goes up comes down. What he eat don’t make me sh*t, so I don’t be worried about that. I just promote my music with my vehicles. I go to barber shops. I go to gas stations. I go everywhere and take my music. If one person hate me, plenty people hate me but I still love them. I still approach them with love as long as it’s not them being disrespectful and talking fly at the mouth now that’s different. I’m not going to let anybody disrespect me, but as far as him not playing my sh*t he has a choice to not too or to. If he miss the bandwagon, he just miss it. At the end of the day, Columbia BT is for the people. He understands that he is human too and that sh*t happens at any given moment. But, what makes him stand out is that his music reflects his true lifestyle. Unlike other rappers who portray or rap about things they don’t live, this Southside-Atlanta artist is the opposite. In time, people will reveal themselves. He doesn’t need to need to expose them. Instead, Columbia BT focuses on the music and staying true to himself. People digging into these perceptions of they [rappers] doing things they have never done. So, they are believing in false hope at the end of the day. When people expose them, then what. I just want people to know I’m here to stay. Support real music and get it back to how it used to be. For more information on Columbia BT, visit www.columbiabt.com or follow him on social media @ColumbiaBT !