First of all, how do you pronounce your name, Bekim Taci?
Like Beckham. I’m the only Taci in my family. My father decided to change our last name to Taqi. He wanted us to move to Canada or something. Or maybe he did something illegal [laugh].
Where are you from?
I was raised in Kew Gardens, Queens. But if you want to be technical, I wasn’t born in Queens, my mom had me in Long Island at LIJ hospital.
Where is your family from?
I am of Bosnian, Kosovar and Albanian decent. My father was born in Bosnia but lived his earlier childhood in Italy. He moved with his family to Brooklyn when he was about 12 years old. My mom was also born in Bosnian but lived the majority of her childhood to early adolescent years in Germany. They met in Bosnia one summer when they were both on vacation around the same time on some straight romantic love story shit.
Where did you go to elementary, junior, and high school? And college?
P.S. 99 was my Elementary school. I went to Russell Sage for junior high and Forest Hills for high school; Queensborough.
In your song, On the Blvd, you say “you rep 119”? Is that a street number?
Yeah, I’m from 119th street on the boulevard.
What does it mean to be from Queens? How does it contribute to your craft besides reppin’ it in your lyrics?
Queens is so multicultural. There are all walks of life here. When I traveled in Europe or within the states, that is when I realized the diversity of Queens. Like when you go upstate, sometimes all you see is one race, predominantly white, but it’s not like that in Queens.
I always said I wanted to move out to the West Coast. It’s really chill there. But at the end of the day, I prefer coming home to Queens. This is home. It’s comfortable. This is what I know.
What are your childhood memories of growing up here?
It was really school and soccer for me. I was part of a travel soccer team called the Auburndale Allstars. I was also on my high school varsity team, the Forest Hills Rangers. Aside of that, just hanging at my friend’s houses in Queens like around Whitestone, Glendale and Bayside.
How do you think Queens is represented? Such as when you meet people who aren’t from here?
People who aren’t from New York think Queens is the ghetto, that kids are dodging bullets left and right here. And New Yorkers think of Queens as the suburbs, where we are all holding hands—oh so happy, frolicking in the grass.
Why hasn’t Queens gotten the respect or “cred” that Brooklyn has?
When I was growing up, Queens always had to work harder for recognition and acceptance in the game. The scene was out in Long Island. Those kids had money and their parents were able to buy them equipment, pay for their studio sessions and so forth. A lot of us out here couldn’t afford that shit so we had to really save up for it. Many of those Long Island kids moved out to Brooklyn in these past 6-8 years. A lot of hipsters from Brooklyn came from Connecticut, Jersey and other neighboring states too; by ways of their parents money, not all the time but most of the time. I got mad love for Brooklyn, I just strongly dislike a lot of the new posers that inhabit it today. They’re the ones that tend to dictate what’s cool and what isn’t for some reason. Like why the fuck are we listening to them? Queens has always been the shit. Look at our history, don’t front.
In this day and age, does it matter where you come from?
When I was a kid we didn’t grow up with computers and cellphones. I remember watching a tv commercial for nba.com. That was the first website I went to when we got a computer. And I was like wow. My parents would only let me use the internet after 9pm. I think we had that 56K dial up modem so you weren’t able to use the phone and the internet at the same time because you would hear that dial-up screeching if you were on the phone. Kids are now growing up with Facebook and sometimes they care more about their digital identity than their real one. And they are losing their social skills and losing touch with the outside world. You can’t touch somebody on the internet and smell them. At least not yet. Go outside.
You know how sometimes you get a text and misread it? Possibly mistake the tone of the message when you read it to yourself out loud? Nowadays we get offended by a text message because we don’t know how the other person said it or how they meant it. This wouldn’t happen in the real life; outside world.
Just last week, I was thinking about getting a beeper. Just for the hell of it. Pull up to the club with the aqua green Motorola pager on some OG shit.
Does one identify with their birthplace versus where they currently reside as an adult?
My DJ and best bud, Scotty, grew up in the Bronx up until he was in 2nd grade before moving to Queens. He’s always repping the Bronx like OD and we make fun of him for it because how could you represent a place you barely even remember? I could understand if you grew up in the Bronx, until you were into your 20s, and then you moved to a different place. At that point, naturally, you’ve got to identify with your original birthplace because you lived their for so long. I believe Freud was the one who realized most people develop their lifelong personalities in their first few years of life and development. Your natural surroundings and life at home are very important and crucial at those tender and naive ages.
Do you think you have friends of all nationalities because you are from Queens, that this borough contributes to your circle of friends?
For sure. I have all kinds of friends ever since I was a youngin’ growing up. If you’re cool, regardless of what race you are or how much you weigh, we’ll be cool. Leave the discrimination to all the older and bitter folks. They’re usually the haters. Besides, they’re almost on their way out. We’re a new generation of love, peace and higher knowledge. We have very little to no tolerance towards racism and prejudicism nowadays. Swat that shit outta here like Dikembe Mutombo, no no noooo, finger wag.
What do you do in Kew Gardens besides being from here. How do you spend your free time? Hanging out at Dani’s Pizza?
[laugh] Yes, Dani’s Pizza. Just last week my friends and I were stoned and went to Cherry Valley and drove through Malba. The houses there were crazy. They have so much money over there. I’m struggling paying for my electricity bill here and they have extravagant Christmas lights up. Malba residents better make sure their front doors are locked b.
Do you think it is hard to get around Queens without a car?
No, although I think it helps, but you don’t need to have a car. You can hop on the 7 train and take a bus or two if you’re trying to reach areas where the subway doesn’t travel into, no biggie. Whenever people come to visit New York, they’re always willing to trek all over the place and find it some convenient. On the other hand, we New Yorker’s have become so comfortable and lazy that hopping on a 30 minute train ride for us is too much to deal with. Sometimes I try to think of it in that way, with a different perspective.
How do you feel about all the hype around Queens as the best borough these days?
Was that the Buzzfeed article? The 50 things about Queens? Honestly, they’ve run out of lists to do at this point, they’ll post anything.
And that NYMag article, how gentrification is coming for Queens. What does gentrification mean to you?
Forcing all of the poorer people out of the neighborhoods where they grew up in and raised their children in. This happens because of the current developments in those areas where taxes are raised, as well as property value and rent; making it unaffordable for all the people who were once able to afford living there for so many years. Where are you pushing them? Sooner or later, we’re going to rebel. You can only push someone so far. Everyone wants a better quality of life, not just the rich, but only the rich can afford it. All those new tall buildings and douchey condos with their Starbucks lattes and tiny dogs that look like rats being carried inside of their designer bags. Pretentious bastards.
What do you think of the young rappers from Rockaway rapping about FEMA and Gentrification? Is this what you would called lyrical rapping?
That’s cool. Honestly I’ve never heard of them. Lyrical rapping to me is just being conscious with who you are and your surroundings and being able to poetically put it all down in lyrics for people to relate to. A lot of people think lyrical rapping is specific like some Twista-esque rap or using scientific terms and any big word you can find in the dictionary. I mean, essentially that is lyrical rapping but that’s not all it is. Being lyrical is being able to get your message across in your music efficiently for your listener’s to understand, relate to and enjoy.
In an interview you did on WHATZ REALLY HOOD, you said you battled Joe Budden in High School. Tell us that story.
I was 15 and a few of my friends and I went to Flatbush in Brooklyn to hang out and there were dudes battling on the corner. I was wearing my HS soccer jersey because we were supposed to be at practice, but we cut, and I remember Joe spit something about how I kick like a bitch or some shit, because he noticed I was a soccer player. I responded with this one line that was like, “I don’t kick like a bitch, I throw a punch in it. Your nose is so big you can pack your lunch in it,” and everyone went ape shit crazy, I don’t know why. I think it was because I was this little skinny ass white boy who could rap and they liked it. Joe didn’t approve however. He left me hanging when I went to give him a dap. Whatever.
You said you want to bring back lyricism and how it won’t ever be like the 90s. What did you mean?
People see the 90s as the golden age of rap. Today rap is about the club bangers. And I understand that, when I’m at the club [which I’m never at because I hate them], I want to hear those songs, but not all the time. Lyricism is about rapping what is real, stories that people can relate to.
Two years ago, Rise and Grnd asked you where you would be in two years, you said it would be up your listeners to determine that. What is the same and what is different for you today?
I still believe that. It’s about the people. I want to talk to as many people as I can. After performing, I stay until the very end. I go out into the crowd and talk to people, not just to say hi. I make sure to watch the other acts and hang out with the people who have come to show support. One particular fan is driving from Connecticut to see me play my next two shows, it is going to be a 2 and ½ drive for her, that is 5 hours total back and forth.
You said in one of your video interviews that you feel like you are trying to get respect. And how it’s all about progress. How do you feel about that now?
It still is the most important thing to me. A dude like me just has to work 10 times harder to get that respect from people who tend to view white boys as corny rappers.
I know and I’m sure you are tired of telling this story, but I have to ask, how did you get your name YOUR BOY FOR LIFE?
It was an inside joke with my friends. When we would see a herb or a bird on the street, my friends would say yo that’s your boy for life. Or the Halal guy because you see him everyday, I would be like he’s your boy for life. It’s a really long name. People always ask what they can call me for short. I don’t know. I just tell them “Life” or Bekim, I guess.
Who is Vin Envy?
Vin Envy is my boy from Queens. I’ve known him for a little over 10 years. He engineers a lot of my music and produces as well. His studio is out in the Bronx. We’ve worked together on my new album and on my last mixtape too. It’s crazy because we’ve been getting even better working with each other and we have even bigger projects lined up for this year and the near future.
You say in a lot of your interviews that the Triumph video by Wu-Tang Clan inspired you to rap. But what about about that video?
It was just so raw. Here are these groups of guys dressed in black. They came with their own flows and styles too. And the storyline for the video is awesome, shot around New York City. Easily relatable because it was so mean, I loved it. I wanted to emulate it.
Your YouTube channel, what does the 16 stand for?
At the time I didn’t make the YouTube account for Your Boy For Life. It was just for personal use. But that was my Jersey number in soccer.
I feel like this album, New Yerr City, sounds more of a chill album than your last album. Like the song PLW. First what does PLW mean?
You’re the first person to ask me that in an interview. It comes from the hook, “Peace, love, break open the bud out”, so essentially it stands for Peace Love Weed. But the album definitely is a bit more chill and easier to listen to than my previous work. I would normally spit super fast but people only want to hear so much of that. I think sometimes it goes over people’s heads so I wanted this album to be digestible. It’s still lyrical, but there are songs that possess that catchier, mainstream vibe here and there.
Nowadays, like on Facebook, photos do really well because it’s so easy to just like it. It’s incredible how short our attention spans have become. Blame it on the Vine.
One of your Facebook status was: Whenever I tell my mom about me being on the radio or how I just played a sold out concert, she always asks “why are you not millionaire?” – then proceeds to send me to the store to buy milk and bread. #immigrantparents Do you think your family keeps you humble?
I’m not big enough to think that way. My family is definitely the motivation that drives me to pursue more and push further. I do this for them. I want my parents to not have to work anymore, you know; I want them to be able to go on vacations and enjoy their time together free of stress. I want my brother and sister to live comfortably as well. This is why I go so hard. I do this for them.
How did you get that Hot97 show with Lupe Fiasco at Irving Plaza?
I got booked by Live Nation for the gig. It was to open for Lupe Fiasco on his Tetsuo & Youth Preview Tour 2013. The year before in December 2012, Taking Back Queens booked me for a show in Queens where I met a talent scout from Live Nation after my performance and we bonded over stories of our personal experiences with hernias. To make a long story short, they booked me a month later at Irving Plaza and a few more gigs throughout the year. Eventually I was booked at Irving Plaza again for the Lupe concert and that shit was dope as hell. Shout outs to Adam too, at Live Nation.
The Funk Volume 2012: “Your Boy for Life” entry video, who did the artistic direction with the rubber gloves? And did you get any flack for the praying scene?
I competed in the Funk Volume “Don’t Funk Up Our Beats” Contest for like 3 years in a row and that entry was recorded by a friend of mine, Jeremy Remix, in his room. The deadline to enter the contest was the day after so I needed to shoot it, have it edited and posted by the following afternoon, the latest. We pulled it off. I was really high when I thought of the concept for the video. It was a last minute, acid-induced creative decision. Overall, the video and song itself was perceived well by people who followed the contest although there were very few people who went on a rage commenting about how I was a part of the Illuminati or some shit. They misinterpreted a lyric and hand gesture I made in the video. Some even threatened me. Yeah. Keyboard warriors who will believe any YouTube conspiracy video they see as long as the background music playing is the theme song from Requiem for a Dream.
I see you try to respond to your fans on YouTube. Do you read all the YouTube comments on your page?
Yeah I read all of them. I try to respond to everyone the best that I can. It’s not as if I’m being bombarded with millions of messages a day now. Fans are human. It’s weird for me to say fans. I rather say supporters and avid listeners; friends, family.
Do you watch the news? You have a song titled NY1.
I’ll read my news online. I’ll only watch the news if there’s something major popping off or for the weather. Actually I’m tuning in to NY1 for weather on the 1’s with Pat Kiernan. Aside of that, nothing else good on the news. Just violence and Hollywood gossip.
Soul Khan, T Mills—you guys don’t look like rappers, or people are surprised when they see a “white boy” (in reference to your interview and freestyle on Showoff radio station).
Being white in the rap game isn’t really that big of a deal anymore. The problem is that there have been a lot of corny white rappers that came out as a gimmick just for shits and giggles so a lot of times some people will overlook me because they figure I’m probably the same cornball type shit. You kind of have to prove yourself in more ways than one or seven. But that’s okay. I don’t also expect everyone to like my shit either. If you don’t, that’s still cool. It’s all about preference. It’s all love.
You rap, but you are a rockhead. Who do you listen to?
I grew up listening to punk rock, metal and ska; still do. Bands like The Receiving Ends of Sirens, Midtown, Boys Night Out, System of a Down, Between the Buried and Me, Catch 22, Big D & the Kids Table. I could name bands I love forever, the list goes on. Rappers like Canibus, Nas, Eminem, Jadakiss, DMX and Cam’ron. A whole lot of New York rap shit.
Canibus pulled out a notepad in his freestyle battle against Dizaster… Where do you write down your lyrics and verses?
I write in a notepad, but then I transfer it to my computer. I use notepad. Who uses notepad anyway? It lets me easily revise and change things quickly. I am usually at my computer desk in my boxers and I play the beat over and over and I zone in to each syllable that I write and literally focus on every portion of the beat. I’m super technical with my work. I am really focused and I might spend like half an hour writing 2 lines of a verse.
Swizz Beatz, in response to watching that Canibus battle, “Every verse isn’t going to be hot, every show isn’t going to be on point”. How do you rise up from that? When you think you are tanking and you are on stage?
I never got booed before, but if I did I would just go with it and figure out a way to counter it on the spot. I don’t really know how to explain it, I just go out there. Back in junior high when I attended Russell Sage, my friends and I were suppose to perform a song from Limp Bizkit for the Talent Show but at the last minute they bailed so my teacher said I could just sing over the actual recording of the original track. My band flaked on me and now having to do this karaoke type shit was embarrassing enough. Earlier that day someone stole my Fred Durst inspired red fitted. Pretty lame I know. Whatever, I was a kid and Limp Bizkit was the shit back then. During the performance, the music kept cutting out and everyone in the crowd fucking laughed at me. It was like some shit out of a teen emo movie. And I cried. I was like 12 years old. I think back on that memory and know that nothing ever could be as humiliating for me as that was.
RapGenius, what do you think of the site? You have your lyrics up there, but without annotations.
I just put up those lyrics a week ago. I didn’t know I could do that myself. My friends sent me the link and I just copied and pasted my lyrics onto the site. My friends set up my Instagram and Twitter a while back and got me to start using it. They told me I should really get on social media because I do music and need to promote it more online. It’s a lot of work sometimes.
You and your brother look really close. He hypes your stuff and drives you around, sometimes down one way streets…
Besim “Bidness”Taqi. He is on stage with me a lot. I tell him if no one else will help us spread the word, we’ll just work harder to do it ourselves. We’re 7 years apart. The age gap mattered years ago but now it’s different because we’re both older. Some people say we look alike. I guess we kinda do. But I’m the prettier one.
Bidness, Scotty Bugatti, Paulie Gagz, Matty Ice – your Q Crew. How did you come up with that?
Before it was the “KEW” Crew for Kew Gardens, but my friends were like you should use the letter Q to cover all of Queens because not all of us are from Kew Gardens. Q was more unifying and made more sense, shout outs to Scotty for that one.
How did you land the MajorStage Discover series interview?
Majorstage booked a few shows for me in the past through the Overtime Concert Series. They helped get me on the radio as well. Shout outs to Miguel and Marco. They hit me up for an interview and wanted to help me promote my new album. Much respect to those guys, they’re great people. Check them out.
Freestyling versus recorded songs, do you prefer one or the other? And why are you always in a car [freestyling]?
A lot of my more popular freestyles were the ones that were shot in a traveling car so we just kept busting out more freestyles in different whips and locations for the hell of it. Freestyling is fun because it’s sort of like practicing but it’s a different art form. It keeps you alert and on your toes; sharpens up your creative arsenal. Writing songs is a much different process where you have time to sit and think concepts and lyrics through. I enjoy them both. It’s hip hop.
Where did you pick up smoking?
When I was growing up I stayed with my grandparents out in Coney Island when my parents separated for a bit. It was hard time for all of us. I didn’t know how to express how I felt, it came out as anger. I remember stealing two cigarettes from my dad’s stash. And that is how I started. I didn’t even know how to smoke, I was so young. I would take them and go out and try to smoke them. Marlboro Reds, that’s all I smoke. I use to smoke 2 packs a day. Then brought it down to one pack. I’m trying to quit now. I’ve been smoking vape lately. Now I’m on 5 cigarettes with the vape, trying to break this disgusting habit.
And why do you smoke weed?
The first time I smoked weed was when I was 13 years old. I was away on a soccer tournament in Pennsylvania with my travel team. After our game that day, we were all hanging out at the hotel that night. Me and 3 of my buddies from the team walked over to a nearby river to smoke weed that my teammate had brought. We smoked out of a corn pipe. I don’t think I got high that time, maybe I wasn’t smoking it properly. I definitely tried it because I was young and thought it was cool, but now I do it because I genuinely enjoy it and because it is cool. Nah I’m joking. Actually no, I’m not. I like how it makes me feel. It gets me calm and focused.
Growing up, I was in and out of psychiatrist offices and I was prescribed medication for depression. Whenever I would take these pills, I would just stare off at the wall and become emotionless. My parents didn’t like seeing me like that so they wanted me to get off of the prescribed pills. That’s why soccer really helped me, being outside and all, and the weed. It really helped me and still does.
What do you say to people and studies that say weed makes people stupid?
Everybody is different. You have to know your boundaries and understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t. A lot of these said people who might seem stupid because of weed were probably stupid to begin with, for lack of a better word. Most of them are irresponsible to begin with. I think for some people it does if they are easily addicted to things. Weed does make you lethargic and smoking enough of it will make you unproductive and that can be very detrimental in the long run.
But overall, I don’t think weed makes you stupid. I’ve been smoking it for over 15 years and although I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, I’m not a brain-dead mummy. I have a job, I’m pursuing a career in music, I manage and pay my bills and taxes on time and I know how to balance it all out for the most part.
Last question, what’s up with Twinkies?
Basically, at all of the shows I play, I usually toss free shit into the crowd. Most of the time, you can catch me throwing dozens of bags of Twinkies, Honeybuns and other various snacks for people in the crowd to munch on throughout the show. A lot of times, most people at my shows are stoned so you know, I’m just looking out for my fans by trying to satisfy their cravings with these munchies. Sometimes people stop me on the street and they’ll say something like, “Hey, you’re that rapper from Irving Plaza that was tossing Twinkies into the crowd, that’s awesome bro”.
Once in a blue I’ll ask if they remember my name, sometimes they don’t. It’s cool though.
Since this interview Your Boy for Life has played at Patent Pending’s Punk Rock Prom presented by Taking Back Queens and at Gramercy Theatre. He performed live at the QNSMADE exhibition and launch party on Friday, July 18th. Recently, HOT97 played his record NY1. Find out more about YB4L on his Facebook, and listen to NEW YERR CITY.