Big Baby Scumbag is the coronavirus role model Tampa didn’t know it needed

He talks hygiene, the Bucs, new music and more.

click to enlarge Big Baby Scumbag is the coronavirus role model Tampa didn’t know it needed
@franks_been_dead

There are plenty of reasons to be more like Big Baby Scumbag right now, and the foremost is hygiene. The Tampa rapper born Tyrell Williams hasn’t changed his routine too much in the face of the coronavirus because he was pretty damn tidy to begin with.

“Honestly, man,I wash my hands all the time. I’m not saying a lot of people are dirty, but people aren’t as clean as they need to be,” Scumbag, 25, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay as he chuckled over the phone while sipping a cup of coffee.

“Washing your hands for 30 seconds should be like second nature. Don’t touch your face, don’t touch your eyes, you know what I’m saying? Shit that you’re supposed to know already, so I haven’t been taking any extreme precautions as far as that.”

Scumbag—who grew up in Town ‘N’ Country—also stocked up on sanitizer, paper towels, toilet paper, and “hella snacks” like dill pickle chips and his favorite: ranch sunflower seeds. However, as the number of known positive coronavirus cases in Florida races towards its peak, the best way to be like Baby is to stay the fuck at home.

“I’m most creative in my own space, in my own thoughts. I like being comfortable and being able to think,” Scumbag said. “This is no different from what I was doing back in January and February—just locking in, creating shit, man.”

Self-confinement is how Scumbag landed at his 2018 breakout single, “Dale Earnhardt,” which caught fire and commanded attention from Dale Jr. himself, who tweeted, “Them hats man. Do your thingNascar n hip hop. I like it when they cross paths.”

Scumbag even ended up going to the Daytona 500 alongside videographer Pablo Vasquez III. The Big Baby Earnhardt mixtape also caught the ear of famously-finicky music website Pitchfork, which wrote that the songs “overflow with jubilant maximalism and have a proudly Southern bounce… [and] play with tradition as much as [they] pay homage.” The cuts, P4K said, cruise with “the engine of a Tesla in the body of a stock car, with the trunk speakers of the most pimped-out, candy-painted Cadillac imaginable.”

It’s a fitting assessment for a record that saw the Alonso High School dropout leave material like 2016’s “Tha Trenchez” behind for a record where he flexed his muscle by effortlessly weaving together tracks that visited indie-pop and even house music. And for now, with festival sets like Miami’s Rolling Loud pushed back until February 2021, Scumbag is spending his energy seizing the moment.

A forthcoming project goes back to the “turnt, in your face, all types of hype shit,” from 2018 singles like “Bruce Wayne” and “Lucky Charm.” His March single, “Fuck Coronavirus 2020” is a full-blown trap rager where a masked Scumbag passes on dapping people or shaking hands all while spraying them down with Lysol and drinking Bud Light instead of White Claw. In the hook, Scumbag joyously sings, “Fuck coronavirus. I’ll punch him in his jaw.”

As far as streaming stats, the single about current events did “what it’s supposed to do,” but Scumbag cites a friend in A&R when explaining how music streaming numbers aren’t rising during the pandemic.

“You would think since everybody’s home, that they’re streaming hella music, but it’s actually the opposite. People are watching Netflix and Hulu. People go to work, and on the drive to work you’re listening to music in your car. A lot of stores play these Spotify playlists. When you’re at school, you’re listening to music,” he said.

“So when none of this shit is going on, it kind of cuts that whole shit in half because nobody’s in school right now. The gyms are closed. How many people play music when they’re in the gym?”

So Scumbag’s got an entire line of new merch on the way, along with what he hopes is his second signature craft beer (the first was January’s “Silly Rabbit” fruit cereal berliner created by Tampa Heights’ Hidden Springs.) Over the weekend he released a video for “Nutty Professor Freestyle,” and when it comes to his favorite NFL team, Big Baby—who released a song called “Jameis Winston” in 2017—already has a tune in the bag.

“I’ve already already made a song about him, man, I’m just waiting to drop it,” Scumbag said about the Bucs’ new quarterback. “I’m gonna just wait ‘til football season comes back around. It’ll make more sense; nobody’s trying to hear about Tom Brady right now. That’s the last thing people are worried about.”

Thinking about the team reminds Scumbag of his dad, whose gig driving trucks for the Tampa Tribune earned the family free suite tickets. Pops used to tell baby Big Baby to watch the players and use their moves in his pop warner games.

Scumbag, who hasn’t been to a game in years, said he’s definitely getting his father tickets to see The Goat in action this fall.

“I fuck with Tom Brady, man; he’s a legend. Tom Brady got six rings with the Patriots. A lot of diehard Bucs fans hate Brady,” Scumbag said. “But at the end of the day, do you want this ring, or do you not want this ring? Nobody is a sports fan just to get to the end of the season and be like, ‘Oh, well, we almost made the playoffs.’ No. We’re trying to win.”

In some ways, Scumbag has already earned a few victories. He makes a living off his music.

His parents are his biggest supporters, despite not learning about his job until his girlfriend at the time showed them a video of him rapping at last summer Rolling Loud, which has become the world’s biggest hip-hop festival.

Scumbag planned to keep his career choice tucked away from his parents.

“A lot of times when you tell somebody you’re a rapper, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ But what other way for them to find out that I was a rapper then to see me perform at Rolling Loud,” Scumbag said.

“So that was pretty cool. I was hiding that shit for so long. That was the perfect time right there, so shit happens for a reason.”

And maybe Big Baby Scumbag is beginning his rise—and bringing national attention to the local hip-hop scene—right now for a reason. Tampa Bay might need a hero like him these days.

Someone who’s OK with staying inside and trying to find the best ideas to turn them into something productive.

“Every day is what you make of it. There’ve been a bunch of times where I didn’t feel like writing music, but once I got to it and applied myself, I felt better about that shit,” Scumbag said of his choice to stay at home and find a vibe.

“I would have eventually made a song about Dale Earnhardt, but it was just that right moment at that right time—it made so much sense, so I’m grateful for that.”

Read a full Q&A below.

click to enlarge Big Baby Scumbag is the coronavirus role model Tampa didn’t know it needed
Design by Conrad Garner

I know you have your own signature craft beer at Hidden Springs, so I didn't know if you drank the fancy hipster coffee, too.

Nah, I'm pretty simple when it comes to the coffee, man. Just cream, sugar—that's it, man. But I've had a lot of good tasting coffees. Like, I got friends that are into all that, my friends in L.A. got me on that oat milk coffee, that shit is fire. I just gotta get put onto it.

I was wondering, how old are you?

25.

You've busy, man. It's not surprising that you're working because you have that same work ethic as your two sisters, your brother and your parents, so I was wondering about this new project you've been working on? Who's in the studio with you? What do you have up your sleeve here? Is it a Tom Brady song?

So, this project I've been working on. Honestly, this has been an idea since last year. I can't say too much about it, but it's, oh my gosh. So I feel like Big Baby Earnhardt gave me the platform to showcase what I can do creatively. I can make different songs; I can make rock songs, I can make indie-pop songs. I had a house song on there, house music and shit.

This project is coming back to my roots basically. Why people like Big Baby Scumbag. It's the turnt, in your face, all types of hype shit. Features are gonna to be a surprise, too. Can't let out too much info, but during this quarantine thing I've been talking to my videographer every day. We've been planning shit out as far as what singles we're going to run with, what videos we're gonna do for which project. Just trying to plan out this summer, while everybody is home chilling—it's the perfect time.

And that's Pablo, right?

Yeah Pablo.

OK. The "Dale Earnhardt" project, like you said, definitely did have a multi-genre feel, and you kind of effortlessly bounce between all those things. I know you don't wanna give away too much, but are you saying this is kind of like a return to "Tha Trenches" type stuff and Scumbag World, things like that?

Not really. I would say more 2018, with the "Bruce Wayne," "Lucky Charm," "Dale Earnhardt." I feel like with "Tha Trenches," I didn't know what I wanted to sound like as an artist. I was just making sure that I thought sounded good, so not that far back. Artistically I didn't know what my style was, what my brand was back then, but, I feel like I feel like a lot of artists are doing this now. Like Uzi was tweeting about like, "Oh, I'm bringing back 2016 Uzi." A lot of artists go back to their roots creatively because that's what the fans want. That's what the fans like you for. So definitely going to give fans what they want with this new project.

Right. And I like that we're talking in the context of the Big Baby Earnhardt project because "Dale Earnhardt Jr." the song, was one that you ended up writing on a night that you decided to stay in, when you had an option to go out.

Yeah [laughs].

And right now we're all being forced to stay in. You've always been really good at keeping yourself at the house and working on stuff. Is it any different working on music, now, since you're being forced to stay in?

Honestly, no. I like being inside the crib, man, for multiple different reasons. I don't stay inside all day long, but for one, we live in Florida, it's so hot. Like, oh my God—for the past for the past two days, it's been unbearably hot. It's been scorching hot. Global warming is real, man, because this is ridiculous. Two, I'm most creative in my own space, in my own thoughts. I like being comfortable in being able to think. Eventually I want to just have my engineer come into my crib and record. I want to have a whole new room setup for my studio and have my engineer come through and record me at the crib. This is no different from what I was doing back in January and February— just locking in, creating shit, man.

With artists, it's different from people that work 9-to-5 jobs. People with 9-to-5 jobs look forward to the weekend. Like, "Let's go out to the club Friday, Saturday." When you're self employed—not even just an artist—but when you're just self employed, every day is your Friday, Saturday. Every day is what you make of it. Sometimes homies that aren't into the whole music thing hit me up on a Friday night, or Saturday, and be like, "Yo, let's go to the club, bro." I'm like, "I'm writing music right now." It's a vibe. Sometimes, you get some good ideas out of it, man. It's been a bunch of times where I didn't feel like writing some music, or I didn't feel like doing some shit, but  once I got to it and applied myself, I felt better about that shit. Like with "Dale Earnhardt." I would have eventually made a song about Dale Earnhardt, but it was just that right moment at that right time. It made so much sense, so I'm grateful for that.

Yeah, that was an incredible timeline. Releasing the song, it taking off, Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself taking notice, you ending up at the Daytona 500. There's this arc for your career—you mentioned that you make a living off of music, there isn't a 9-to-5—in the past, you've talked about this domino effect as far as a rise in popularity goes, but how has the coronavirus pandemic affected that? Has it affected release schedules?

Obviously it messes up touring schedules. How has the pandemic and the fallout in reaction to it affected that domino effect that you kind of alluded to, and your plans for releasing music or getting out in the world? Obviously you put out "Fuck Coronavirus 2020," but I would imagine things changed a bit.

You know, it's kind of weird man cuz I'm still seeing artists out there still dropping music like in the midst of all of this shit. One of my homegirls, she's in A&R; she had posted this, and said Spotify streams are actually decreasing. You would think since everybody's home, that they're streaming hella music, but it's actually the opposite. People are home watching Netflix and Hulu; people are at home visually watching movies and shit. There's not as many people streaming music, you know what I'm saying? People go to work, and on the drive to work you're listening to music in your car. A lot of stores play these Spotify playlists. When you're at school, you're listening to music. So when none of this shit is going on, it kind of cuts the streaming. It kind of cuts that whole shit in half because nobody's in school right now. The gyms are closed. How many people play music when they're in the gym? That affects a lot of shit streaming-wise.

I've been saying this shit for the past two weeks: I know a lot of freelancers. The best way to support an artist right now is to buy their merchandise, stream their music. Do all that shit. I was booked for a few shows for SXSW, and then they shut down SXSW at the last minute. I am scheduled for Rolling Loud in May. Rolling Loud said they was gonna keep the ship going; they said they was gonna keep the shit rockin', but at the rate that this corona thing is going, I don't know. They might have to postpone Rolling Loud, too. I feel like, for Rolling Loud to be the only festival to happen in the midst of all of this corona stuff it's like, "Damn, yo. That's a big risk factor." It's not like there's a bunch of other festivals going on right now. You're talking about the biggest hip-hop festival. Hopefully, this whole thing will blow over by May. You got, like, a month and a half left. We'll see.

I like talking to you about that streaming concept because you're one of these artists that sees that data. Have you been able to look at the data on "Fuck Coronavirus 2020"? How's it compared to other singles that you've released? Does the data on it speak to what your friend in A&R said?

Ah, honestly, yes and no. Of course with the coronavirus song... any song that you make that's about current events—it's gonna do what it's supposed to do, it's going to gain some traction. I haven't put out any music recently, besides that song, so I couldn't even say, honestly. But it does make a lot of sense as far as people not going to work or the gym, all that shit.

So obviously, I love the song, because it leads me to believe that you believe scientists when they talk about the spread. In the song you're definitely not shaking hands or dapping anybody up. What precautions are you taking around the coronavirus, and how scared are you of it? You're 25, but you have older parents, you have other siblings...

Honestly, man, I got good hygiene anyway. I wash my hands all the time. I'm not saying a lot of people are dirty, but people aren't as clean as they need to be. Washing your hands for 30 seconds should be like second nature. Don't touch your face, don't touch your eyes—you know, I'm saying? It's shit that you're supposed to know already, so I haven't been taking any extreme precautions as far as that.

I mean, I'm not afraid of coronavirus—I'll punch him in his jaw.

Of course I did stock up on hand sanitizer. I got soap, toilet paper, paper towels. I got hella snacks, and canned food, and shit. What is very scary is seeing bigger cities like New York and L.A. Every day more cases are being discovered. What's crazy, I had seen a video a couple of nights ago. Somebody was riding through New York City, and that shit was empty, bro. The subway was empty. The video looked so insane man, some movie shit, some zombie apocalypse, "I Am Legend"-looking shit. Even in Hollywood; somebody posted a video of Hollywood Boulevard—not a single person was walking down the long ass strip.

You mentioned being snacked up. Real quick, here's a Tiger Beat-style question: If you could only have one snack during a quarantine, what would it be?

One snack. Oh man. I really like dill pickle chips. Or no, no—ranch sunflower seeds. I love sunflower seeds. It's funny because my girl was telling me the other day, "You look like a gerbil." I'll have  a mouthful of fucking seeds, and eatin' 'em all crazy.

So when you eat the sunflower seeds you keep the one cheek full, and then you eat it. Do you spit it out, or keep or hold the cracked shell in the other cheek?

Alright, so it's kind of like a technique. If you're not able to spit out the seeds, then you've got one mouthful of seats that are uncracked. In the middle you're like juggling around the empty shells, and then on the right side is where you're actually cracking them and eating them. It takes a lot of practice to be able to hold cracked shells in your mouth. Once there's too much in there, you gotta spit them out. It's a science to it.

And back to your music, you have a song called, "Jameis Winston," obviously. What are your thoughts on Tom Brady coming? Obviously Jameis is going to be a free agent now, and I'm a Bucs fan, so I'm with you. What are your thoughts on Tom Brady and a potential "Tom Brady" single” At what point would you attempt to do one of those? Would you have to see him in game before you could commit to doing a song about him?

I've already already made a song about him, man, I'm just waiting to drop it. I was gonna drop a snippet  this week, but I'm gonna just wait 'til football. season comes back around. It'll make more sense; nobody's trying to hear about Tom Brady right now. That's the last thing people are worried about.

Definitely an August, if all of this shit is blown over by then, then definitely by the end of August, I'm dropping a Tom Brady track—for sure. I fuck with Tom Brady, man. Tom Brady's a legend. Tom Brady got six rings with the six rings with the Patriots. A lot of diehard Bucs fans hate Brady, but at the end of the day, do you want this ring, or do you not want this ring? Nobody is a sports fan just to get to the end of the season and be like, "Oh, well, we almost made the playoffs." No. We're trying to win.

Of course there's gonna be a lot of a lot of bandwagon fans that never fucked with the Bucs a day in their life, but now that Tom Brady is the quarterback, they're gonna come to the Bucs. It's just like LeBron, man; I got a few homies that are LeBron bandwagons. They're Cavaliers fans, then they're Heat fans. Now back to the Cavs. Now they're Lakers fans. It's gonna be an interesting season. And honestly I haven't been to a Bucs game in years. My dad, actually this is very interesting. My dad was a truck driver for the Tampa Tribune.

Oh, OK. I know he used to drive for Coca-Cola for a little bit and he drove produce...

Yeah, all his life he's been a truck driver. He was driving for the Tribune for a little bit—probably over 15 years, maybe. But every Sunday, they would give everybody at the Tribune free passes, free tickets, VIP passes, so you wasn't in the stands; you were in one of those suites. We was getting those every Sunday when I was little. Around the same time I was playing Pop Warner football

Was that TBYFL?

Yeah, so around that same time when my dad was taking me to all these football games, I was also playing little league football I was playing offensive line and defensive line. My dad would be like, "Watch him, and study his moves," shit like that. We would go to every single game. I haven't been to a game in years. Last game I went to was probably when I was 14 years old, so over 10 years ago. Definitely, me and pop is going to this Brady game. We either gettin' front row, or we gonna be in the suites; I don't know yet.

I like hearing about your dad because you mentioned in previous interviews that you dropped out of high school junior year, kind of chilled and played video games but then you got your GED, but your parents are pretty proud of you. I'm assuming that you feel like you never let them down. Your parents are super stoked on your career right?

Yeah, man. They're like, my number one supporters, man. It's funny because initially, I never told them that I was a rapper.They found out through my girlfriend at the time. So this is Rolling Loud 2016. I told them that I was going to be in Miami for five days, and I was like, "Yeah like, ‘I got a friend that's a DJ, he's DJing at this big festival.’" I just ran with this whole fucking lie. And then we came back from Miami, and I guess my girlfriend didn't know that I didn't tell my parents that I was rapping. So my girlfriend, one day, just showed my mom a video, assuming that she already knows. She was just mind blown.

Both parents were just like, "What?" What's funny is that for the next two weeks straight, every single member of my family—literally, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, grandmas, uncles, literally, everybody in my family—was like, "What? This is crazy. Oh my god. Big Baby Scumbag" You're so shy. You're rapping now? You're a rapper? You used to be so shy growing up."

The main reason I kept it from my family to begin with was because I thought I was going to, I was going to keep it tucked away until it was something serious. Where I can present to them, and say, "OK, I'm a rapper and I'm getting paid to do this shit." A lot of times when people say you're a rapper is kind of like, it's not the most... I don't know how to say it. When you tell somebody you're a rapper, it's kind of like, "Oh, that's nice."

People don't really take people don't really take it seriously because there are so many starving artists, so many people that are trying to do it. People don't really take you seriously, like, "Oh you're a rapper." I was just afraid to tell my parents and have them be like, "Really? You're trying to be a rapper? You should try to go to college or something." But what other way for them to find out that I was a rapper then to see me perform at Rolling Loud, so that was pretty cool. I was hiding that shit for so long. Up until the right time to show them and that was the perfect time right there, so shit happens for a reason.

Right on, and I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I kind of want to fill in some gaps that I didn't know about in terms of your timeline in Tampa. I think as a kid, you lived close to the Skatepark of Tampa, and that's how you started skating. I was trying to figure out what high school you went to, if you lived near there, was it Middleton? I know you had some friends who went to Alonso and Gaither.

Oh, OK. So check this out: I grew up in Town & County

OK. So did I, I lived in Sweetwater Cove.

Word. Sweetwater Cove, I know where that's at—damn! So you was right next to Timberlane, right?

Yeah, I went to Baycrest...

OK. I went to Davidsen Middle School. Then I went to Alonso High School.

OK.

I was supposed to graduate 2012, but dropped out 2010.

I've heard you shout out to the GED teachers, but you've never mentioned your GED teacher's name.

I was 16 when I dropped out. I waited till I turned 18 because you can basically pay to take the test. It's not like you had to go to a GED class. And me and school, I was smart, but I hated school. I forgot how much the test was, but bro I passed with flying colors the first try. For me not to be in school for two years, and that shit still be fresh in my mind, I was like, "Damn that shit is easy as fuck." I basically paid for my fucking diploma but it's all good.

I wouldn't say like that. I mean you still have to earn those kinds of things you know what I mean?

Yeah, right.

Anything else you want to say or like put out there before we get off the phone?

A bunch of videos coming soon. A bunch of new music, a bunch of new merchandise. Crazy, crazy out of this world merchandise. New content. I'm working on doing this cooking show. Working on getting this new beer out.

Another beer?

Yeah man. I threw the thought out there about a month ago on Twitter. I want to say that it's gonna happen, but you know  with this whole thing going on, it kind of slowed everything down so, possibly.

Would it be with Hidden Springs again?

I don't want to keep no promises with that. New content. All types of content, not even just music. Just content is coming, man, I'm excited.

And last question, if there was a one Big Baby hook or song that you recommend people wash their hands to, which one would you say it is?

I would say "Hammer Time" because that song is long as hell.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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