Taking a ride with BXKS
“I’d probably be a Bentley if I was a car,” says BXKS, sitting on a bench surrounded by the retro Porsche and Maserati cars in south London’s ForeverGood. “Because I’ve got a bar that says, ‘Too many thoughts in my head that my forehead looks like the front of a Bentley,’” she laughs.
Through her dexterous wordplay and dulcet rap vocals, Luton rapper BXKS is meticulously developing her own unique take on grime music. From innocently freestyling in her friend’s car, BXKS eventually persuaded herself to experiment in a studio session and embrace her inevitable talent. It wasn’t long until she appeared on a slew of UK rap YouTube channels, and received a promising reception, with praise from the likes of Skepta.
But being seen as an artist who makes grime music is something BXKS has had to work for. Breaking out in 2019 after her ‘Next Up?’ freestyle, she was quickly labelled as a drill rapper. This wasn’t her goal, though – a year-long hiatus from music gave her the space to refine her sound. “It’s not to say that drill isn’t music,” says BXKS. “I just wanted to make music that would make people think ‘This sounds different.’ Like, ‘Packed in!’ sounds like its own thing.”
During her break from music, BXKS began journaling, writing lyrics and laying the groundwork for a successful return. Since then, she’s written through three journals and boasts a weighty discography, including two mixtapes, ‘Full Time Daydreamer’ and ‘Hack the Planet’, in addition to a versatile library of singles and collaborations with artists such as Oscar #Worldpeace and Kish! This work diverts from the past drill label circumscribed to her, as the artist weaves synth-inflected notes with nostalgic jazzy undertones, rapping over melodic soundscapes (‘Work Like’) and gamer-like glitches (‘Must Feel’).
And BXKS’ favourite song she’s written isn’t even out yet. “It’s called Collateral Damage,” she says excitedly. “It’s something very different to everything I’ve put out. It’s where my head is at musically, you can definitely tell I’ve grown up.” And we’re getting it much sooner than we expected: ‘Collateral Damage’ drops on May 11.
Although even now BXKS admits that she struggles to define her sound (“I don’t know…the closest genre for my music is probably grime”), the artist is satisfied that her music sounds ambiguous. She seems nonchalant; as long as it’s different – you can categorise her music however you like.
But behind the ice-cool voice and slick pen-game you hear on her tracks, there is an artist with the energy of a Duracell bunny. When she performs, her infectious stage presence is hypnotic as she bounces from left to right, and this enigmatic personality is no different off stage. BXKS giggles in-between answers and gesticulates with her hands when she’s speaking, sitting wearing a retro track jacket and a pair of black cargoes, not forgetting her signature fisherman style hat.
BXKS’ charm came in handy during her first live show when a technical difficulty arose, which meant she ended up doing a stand-up skit rather than a grime set. “I’m so grateful I’m funny,” laughs the artist, recalling the show. “The mic cut and I had to turn into f*cking Dave Chappelle for like, 30 minutes. And then eventually they got the mic sorted.” Although she doesn’t remember what material she pulled out of the bag on that occasion, her quick wit came out in full force. “All I know is that people were laughing,” she says.
In between doing gigs, interviews, and studio sessions (and commuting to London from where she lives in Northampton), BXKS works a nine to five. Writing down her star-struck encounters and milestones helps her stay on top of her packed-out calendar. And the pages of her journal are getting filled up quickly. “Journaling helps me stay in the moment,” she says. “Yesterday I had a show and now I’m here, it’s almost as if I’ve forgotten what happened yesterday. So, if I write stuff down, it’s like ‘omg that actually happened, I was actually standing next to Mike Skinner yesterday.’”
We take a minute in awe of The Streets’ mastermind before BXKS reveals that Skinner said that her performance was great, “I was like ‘oh sh*t’,” she pauses. “That’s why I’ve got to write stuff down so I can remember it.”
The only time she’s been nervous when performing was when Jorja Smith was in the room, who also told her she was great. And whenever I ask about her inspirations, she has one answer: Skepta. If she was to tour with any artist, it would be Skepta. If she could have someone produce her album, you guessed it, Skepta. I ask if there’s anyone else, and she replies deadpan: “Honestly, no.”
“I’ll think about the other people later.”
Music has been a mainstay in BXKS’ life for as long as she can remember. Her dad was a bass guitarist and engineer in their local church and her mum – a ballerina – had an extensive record collection that would inspire BXKS’ rhythmic versatility and sonic arsenal. Although she doesn’t produce her own music (“I wish I did”), she would concoct beats on an old iMac in her dad’s studio when she was younger. “Day and night, I used to beg ‘can I go on GarageBand’ and I used to make these funky house, Kaytranada type beats,” she says – another testament to her genre warping sound. “I’m sure if I find the time, I’d be able to get back into it [producing].”
While her sound is the product of much consideration, so too is her stage name. “I’m glad you asked me this,” she says decisively like she’s got a point she’s about to make. First using the name ‘Beks’ to put out music in 2018, it was only when she did a collaboration with AB Dollars that she discovered her music was coming up under another artist’s name on streaming platforms.
Like many artists, she mused over how her name would appear visually. She recalls Beyoncé’s 2003 BET performance of ‘Crazy in Love’, where massive, luminous letters spelling out ‘Beyoncé’ filled the stage. “I was watching some old Beyoncé content and she comes down in the middle of the ‘O’. I was imagining my name like ‘Beks’ and thought ‘it doesn’t really look that cool,’ but with the ‘X’ there, it looks cool. I was trying to visualise Beks instead of Beyoncé, but ‘BXKS’ in capitals, now that works,” she nods, grinning.
It was important for BXKS to keep her name, Rebekah. It’s at this point BXKS rolls back the sleeve of the track jacket she’s wearing to reveal her ‘Always be yourself’ tattoo on her left arm. “That’s what I want people to know, to always be yourself.”
Editor – @igweldn
Photography – @rhysbawilliams
Photography Assistant – @stuartnimmo_
Words – @elliefmuir
Styling – @rachel.parisa
Design – @jack___sharples
Production – @pifivy