An Interview with Bleach, the gravelly-voiced San Diego rapper making new waves
There's a point in San Diego rapper Bleach's track "4DaBirds" near the second half where the beat cuts out into a short-lived drone of an echo. For three seconds, a silence builds up the anticipation that creates the track's true shining moment: a non-stop, effortless bar-out completely executed over a booming bass that gives enough power and space to accentuate every word spit. There's very few moments that you hear a record, especially a local one, and immediately know there's magic there. That track is undeniably an example of that.
Bleach, a 20 year old rapper hailing from La Mesa, CA, is relatively new to the scene, but the sheer talent and work already produced would never indicate any signs of it. With an almost baritone voice that sounds like gravel over the beat, Bleach carries a signature dry and matter-of-fact bravado similar to the sober deliberateness of acts like Boldy James. In very few words, Bleach is able to show you more in seconds than most of his peers can attempt in a record.
Our field correspondent Mondi recently got a chance to speak with the young talent and talk about his upbringing, dealing with the stigma of being the “white rapper,” and navigating his way out of the crab in a bucket mentality that plagues this city. Read below.
Mondi: So, how old are you, bruh?
Bleach: Just turned 20 in December.
M: How long you been rapping for?
B: I dropped my first song on May 31st, 2016, but I was spittin’ shit for, like, a year before that. Never recorded though.
M: Damn, so you were like 16?
B: Yeah, 16, 17, something like that.
M: Word. What do you think about those songs now? Are they still on Soundcloud or YouTube?
B: It’s on Soundcloud, I think it’s pretty ass now, but I’ve come a long way. Back then I thought the shit was cool cos it got like 15k plays, but when it touched it’s first rack is when I was like, “Damn, maybe I can actually do something with this.”
M: Did it surprise you that it got that many plays?
B: I was lowkey popular in high school, like everyone thought I was funny as shit, so I think that’s what got it the initial plays—cos everyone wanna hear how you comin’ and that’s your only chance. You either catch they ears and they hear potential or they don’t. I just think no one thought I’d come like that, not even saying that shit hard but everyone expect a white kid to come on some nerd shit.
M: Foreal, I’m glad you recognize all this, not a lot of people have that much self-awareness. Have you dealt with any problems being a white rapper or have you noticed that people treat you different?
B: Oh, hella. I mean, not as in like people tell you to stop rappin’ cos you’re white, but definitely more sleepy than usual. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt. I’m chillin’ as fuck though, I don’t even got white friends, so you feel me, they can think what they want.
M: Yeah man, I can’t lie, the night I first heard “Gooseneck,” before it came on I was like, man, skip this shit straight up, but soon as I heard it, I was like, ‘this shit is crazy.’
B: Soon as you seen the white guy huh [laughs], I love it, I love that shit. Honestly, being white in this shit you just gonna get judged about everything. People probably think I never struggled or nothing.
M: Man, I honestly don’t even think it be about struggling, sometimes white rappers come off super arrogant because they stick to traditional rap styles and how it’s “supposed to be,” and they don’t push the envelope, you get me? When I heard “Gooseneck,” it was refreshing, man. Everyone fucking sounds the same out here.
B: Hella, I feel that. Everyone tryna be like someone.
M: Exactly man, everyone sound like SOBxRBE / Shoreline Mafia babies, it’s wild. How did you grow into your sound?
B: My voice highkey deep and raspy from smokin’ a lot [laughs]. I don’t even know vro, I just be thinkin’ bout how I want a song to sound when I hear a beat, and just start goin’.
M: Who inspired you the most to start rapping?
B: Wiz, bro.
M: [Laughs] That’s crazy, I had a feeling you were gonna say that, Wiz’s influence and legacy is super underrated. Did he drop something that made you wanna rap, or was it someone else you heard?
B: I remember sitting in my room hungry as fuck, broke as a bitch, listening to a song by him like, damn, I’m tryna be like this. You feel me, big chillin, smokin’ and shit. Just started talking about how I’m livin’.
M: What part of San Diego you from?
B: La Mesa.
M: Born and raised?
M: Word, East County crazy man, I know El Cajon basically East County, but it’s like the border before El Cajon, that shit feel like a wasteland. That shit feel like Resident Evil sometimes.
B: I live in El Cajon right now. We don’t border El Cajon, we border Lemon Grove. Two sides to La Mesa, we live on the Lemon Grove side, right there by East Daygo.
M: What’s the difference?
B: Aight, I’ll explain it [laughs]. There’s basically two sides—on the El Cajon side, there’s these fuck boas that call themselves 48 and they swear they from the hood, I’m talkin’ Mount Helix suburbs but claim La Mesa. Then, if you come over to the other side of La Mesa, you feel me, 180 flip. We used to be cool with them, but they tried to do me over a $100, and not even that, then tried to bring some gang shit into it. So yeah, it’s fuck them.
M: Before you started rapping foreal, were you in tune with the rap that was coming out of San Diego?
B: To be honest, nah. I was on some South Florida shit.
M: Like Raider Klvn type shit or more of the newer stuff?
B: I was on that old X and Purp shit. Wifisfuneral, Pouya, Fat Nick and them. Their old shit though, I don’t listen to a single one now.
M: Word, I can kinda hear it sometimes, especially in some of your older stuff.
B: Hella, they had a big influence on me. So did Earl Sweatshirt. Their way of saying things—I like to use super close rhymes, like using using the same rhyme hella close together, if that makes sense.
M: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. So, when did you get hip to what was going on in the city?
B: Like, last year, listening to Gee El and Baby Slick. Then I kinda just started finding people on Twitter and shit and now I feel like I’m pretty well-tapped in with a good majority of artists in the city, just from Sly promoting my shit and what not. San Diego definitely got some big potential this year, a certain hand full of people. I hope to be one of them, I think I got my own sound and that’s what will take me.
M: Yeah, that’s what made me gravitate towards you, was your music sounding so different.
B: Yeah, I appreciate that bro, that’s what I’m aiming for: bringing a new sound. I haven’t really heard no one that sound like me and I hope to keep that pushin’.
M: Aside from having a different sound, is there anything else you’re trying to do to separate yourself from everyone else? There’s nothing worst than wasted potential and talent, and unfortunately there is a lot of that here.
B: Shit bro, honestly, I wanna make it big just so I can help people do what I’m trying to do right now. Take my family out these situations. I’m tryna take everyone that’s down with me right with me, make everyone else feel stupid.
M: How do you think you can avoid getting stuck here in San Diego? Because a lot of the time it feels like there’s a crabs in a bucket mentality that I think is not needed.
B: Shit bro, that’s a tough one. It’s hella hard to get people to fuck with you out here. My best advice is keep making music, if that shit finna happen, it’s going to. If you slap, you slap and that shit gon prevail. I almost quit after I dropped my tape, that shit got no love, then I was like fuck it, I’ma go in one last time. That’s when I hit the stu, made “Perc 60” and was like, ‘Oh yeah, they needa hear this.
M: That’s crazy, glad you kept going.
B: I been tryna drop a song every week for now to get my following back up, get people paying attention. My goal is more video this year. That’s the best exposure.
M: Hella, glad you have a plan. 2019 finna be good to you bruh. Last thing, forgot to ask at the beginning, how’d you get the name Bleach?
B: Used to splash Bleach on my clothes [laughs]. And I’m the white kid. It fits.