Rapper BdotJeff wants you to feel a little bit less alone

The Maryland-born, Columbus-based MC’s new record ‘What a Mess’ releases today (Friday, May 6)

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive

Rapper BdotJeff wrote the bulk of the songs that would come to form new record What a Mess in the midst of a two-week manic episode last summer, a mental lapse he described as the culmination of a series of personal relationships coming unraveled, including a romance in which he said he sustained months of financial and emotional abuse.

“And it came with a mixture of feelings, like … I wonder if any of my friends actually care for me the way they say they do, and there was a lot of impostor syndrome happening and things just piling on top of each other,” said Bdot, born Wade Blair II, whose new album releases today (Friday, May 6). “And [the songs] ended up coming from that place of loss, helplessness and feeling in general like I’m not doing what I need to be doing, and where everything I am doing, I feel is wrong.”

These ideas calcify in songs such as “Identity Crisis,” where Bdot raps, “I used to know what I want,” and “pkmn sapphire, fair warning,” on which the MC labels himself a “depressed mess,” stressing a need to improve on everything from his work situation (“Need a better job”) to his personal hygiene (“[And] probably a shower”). On “error 404/wade not here,” the rapper most explicitly addresses his toxic romantic entanglement, recalling how communication only happened on her terms, going on to realize that he was beginning to adopt similar traits in his other relationships. Then there’s “FreeFall (IDBH3),” where even Bdot’s flow feels stretched to a breaking point, his voice braying and cracking as he recaps his mounting frustrations.

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For Bdot, music has functioned as a space of release from the age of 13. But while it still serves a role in helping him maintain balance, it’s no longer therapeutic in the same way. “For that, I started going to actual therapy,” he said, and laughed. “Now I have this new knowledge of music where it can be both fun and therapeutic, and it doesn’t have to all sound exactly how I feel. I can make it sound a little more upbeat and up-tempo, even if I’m feeling down.”

With What a Mess, though, the rapper lingered longer amid this internal world — a move he said was driven in part by the ongoing pandemic. “I’ve had so much time to just sit down and think about, like, you did this, and this is how it’s affecting people, and I was able to digest past actions,” said Bdot, who was born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and moved to Columbus in 2013 to attend school at Capital University. “Because I didn’t have as much to distract me, I would just sit in my room. … And it became one of those things where I realized I needed to start analyzing who I am, why I do things and what I’m feeling in a more healthy way instead of being like, oh, I have this feeling but now I have to go to work and I can’t deal with that right now.

"The ability to sit down and meditate on what’s happening and what’s going on internally with me has helped me rationalize my own feelings and thoughts when it comes to both my everyday relationships and the actual expression of my art.”

This evolution has helped shape everything from Bdot’s lyrical approach to his core reasons for creating — a motivation he untangles in a brief spoken word interlude dubbed “Success Talk.” “What does success look like to you as an artist?” an interviewer asks, to which Bdot replies, “I want to be able to eat off my music.”

While this still remains the goal, the rapper, who currently works as an audio engineer at Dreamcatcher Recording Studio, acknowledged that even as recently as five years ago he was more driven by a desire to land a label deal, where now it’s more about creating moments of connection with the listener.

“If I can help someone realize that they are not alone, or they can take their hardships and move forward with them in a positive way, that’s all that matters to me,” said Bdot, recalling a 2017 open mic at the Metropolitan in Annapolis, Maryland, where a woman approached him after his set to share that she had struggled with mental health issues similar to the ones he had just rapped about. “Being signed would be cool. Touring would be awesome. Being able to eat is still one of the main things. But still, at the end of the day, if I have someone I’ve never met come up to me and tell me that my song made them feel less alone … then I did my job.”