In the age of Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and ever more dating apps, thirst is a pervasive part of the culture. Thirst for attention and affection, be it romance or physical connection. But that hunger, that insatiable desire, can take on other forms.
“We are all, in some way shape or form, thirsty,” explains Lazy JP, one half of the alternative hip-hop duo BBGuns.
Thirst is the title and theme of BBGuns’ debut full-length. “This record is about being physically, mentally and spiritually thirsty,” explains Barz Blackman, the other half of the duo.
Barz was feeling all those types of need when BBGuns started working on this project a little more than a year ago. “There was a lot going on emotionally,” he says. “It stopped the fire I had for [rapping]. I questioned if I wanted to even make music, but over time, music became the emotional outlet.
“Music fell in place as the tool to bring balance about. If I was feeling a type of way, I was able to write a song about it. It helped me move on and be able to focus. It became more than words on paper, it became a savior.”
This was the perfect project to explore emotions, as the duo shifted from performing fun bars over indie-rock songs and transitioned to writing their music over homegrown beats. Either JP or Barz would bring a hook or verse to the table, and the other would be challenged to take the subject matter and approach it from a different perspective.
“There was a time when I treated rapping like a sport, trying to come up here and up my skill set, so I could be the best,” explains Barz. “In a way, [writing Thirst] was relearning how to rap — having actual subject matter, and not just writing in a stream of consciousness style, which I liked to do.”
Lazy JP (Justin Pitkavish) and Barz Blackman (Joel Carter) went to the same high school, but they didn’t connect until JP got into hip hop after he graduated. JP knew that Barz was involved in hip hop and talented, and he wanted to learn. The two hit it off, and dove headfirst into collaboration.
“Neither of us were very good in the beginning,” laughs JP. “It’s taken time, it’s been a process, and we’re learning on the job.”
For a duo that’s been collaborating for a handful of years, the creative process hasn’t changed much, but the two now have much higher standards for themselves.
“We started judging ourselves like we would an artist we’d listen to, judging ourselves against our local peers and people we’d hang out with. We started taking cues from our favorites, and that’s when we figured it out,” explains JP. “I remember the day it happened, it was like unlocking something.”
This album’s creation and release shows the duo’s entrepreneurial growth. They learned lessons by releasing music without built-in buzz, deciding to build hype in creative ways.
“We tried to figure out how to build interest while saving money. We performed on Facebook Live in front of a green screen in my bedroom, and it looked really cool,” smiles JP. “It was one of the things we could do to get people to talk about the new release without spending any money.”
JP designed the cover and directed the videos, which were filmed by his videographer brother. Barz and JP had a vision in mind for Thirst, and were determined to have all their ducks in a row before the album was released on Feb. 14.
BBGuns’ Thirst is an expression of the duo’s musical growth, too. It’s a record that builds on the accessible theme of desire, using multiple genre crossovers to keep listeners on their toes.
In addition to having a clear vision for the content, BBGuns leaned into its genre-straddling sound, incorporating alt-rock and pop hooks over beats that tapped everything from old-school hip-hop vibes to the energy of techno and house.
“We always felt like something in between [genres,] like we’re on the Island of Misfit Toys,” says JP. “I feel like [when we started] we didn’t have anywhere we belonged, so we’d go to whoever would have us.”
Both JP and Barz listen to a wide range of music — from Brockhampton and Brit pop to Wu Tang and Japanese new-age music. Given their wide set of tastes, it’s only natural that variety defines the music they create.
“On this project, we’ve managed to find that sweet spot, where the rockers can find songs they enjoy, and the rap fans can, too. Anyone can find a song they rock with, and that’s the beautiful thing about it,” says Barz.
But the duo knows when they have a hit on their hands because of one fan in particular —Barz’ son.
“Anytime we make a song, I play it for him, and if he hums and dances around, we know it’s good. He’s the litmus test,” says Barz.