For those of you who describe your music tastes as "everything but country," allow B.B. to help you think otherwise. Short for Babeo Baggins — a stage name associated with their past musical releases with hip-hop internet collective Barf Troop — B.B. is a genderfluid country artist currently residing in Washington, D.C. who believes that experimentation fuels artistry, from music and performing to fashion and beauty.
"I think being an artist is about progression and renewing yourself and being able to change and grow," B.B. tells Fashionista. "When it comes to music, it really is about taking chances and trying things that maybe necessarily you wouldn't try; things that are in your head and trying to inspire you."
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When it came to making the switch from hip-hop to country, B.B. brings up a the song "Country Blues" by Doc Watson to describe their transition. "This is a country song but lyrically it really relates to hip-hop," they explain. "I realized how much classic country's subject matter is really the same. It's about losing love, losing money, people in your family dying — all of the subjects are the same as current rap music."
B.B.'s newest releases — dreamy, banjo-twangy "Mice or Men" and "Transformation" off of an upcoming EP called "Evil" — are evidence that, so far, they're succeeding at bridging the gap between the two seemingly disparate musical genres. (After all, B.B., who grew up in the mountains in Virginia and self-taught themself to play instruments, has listened to country since they were a kid.)
"Sometimes there are stereotypes within the genre of country music where some people just don't feel comfortable enjoying it," says B.B. "I want to be able to open it up to more people. Being a queer person, being a mixed race person, existing in this genre that isn't necessarily known for those things, it's really important for me to be very vocal about that."
As for who else they think is helping to transform the country music space? Kacey Musgraves. "It's a fine line between '70s disco and current contemporary country and also current contemporary pop," notes B.B. "I think she found the perfect line to follow. It's amazing."
During a short stint in New York City, we grabbed coffee with B.B. — and shot some photos of them along the High Line — to talk about their personal style, fashion's current obsession with cowboy culture and how Pepe Le Pew inspired their latest hair look.
How would you describe your personal style right now?
I would call myself 'urban cowboy.' My goal is to take western wear and make it wearable because I think a lot of it isn't. But there are definitely certain pieces that can translate into a more modern sense where it's not so literal or such a very specific thing, like spurs on the back of your shoes.
What makes you want to experiment with different styles?
I think fashion, just like art, is all about expression and being able to experiment as much as possible. Your outfit should express how you feel. I want someone to see me and know what I'm about on that day, whether I'm in full cowboy clothes or whether I'm wearing my grandpa's clothes or I have a suit on. I want people to be able to look at me and understand this is the person I want to represent, this is the person that I want you to see — and so many other things, of course. Everyone's visual before anything else. Fashion is a huge representation of me or of anyone's self. It's what you're presenting and putting forward. I definitely just go off the day. How do I feel? Who do I want to be today?
The cowboy aesthetic is very much a thing now. What are your thoughts on high-end designers seeking inspiration from cowboy culture?
I think it's really interesting. It's cool to see people repurpose things, but I also think it's really important to remember the classism aspect of it. There's definitely a lot of clothes that people where I'm from have to wear because they can't afford high-fashion clothes. It's important to take that into account when you're taking inspiration — in this instance, cowboy clothes — from anything. If you're taking something that certain marginalized communities are used to having, it's important to recognize that and appreciate it and let everyone know you understand. 'Okay, I get it. But I want to show what I can do.' It's definitely important to remember that country culture is definitely poor culture in a lot of places. But overall, it's really fun to see. I just love seeing cowboy clothes and I love seeing people want to wear cowboy clothes. That's so fun.
Are there certain pieces that you find yourself wearing a lot these days?
Anything barbed wire, I have to have it. I love, love, love barbed wire.
What was the last thing you bought?
I'm very obsessed with classic Victorian and peasant wear so I bought a Renaissance peasant dress, a very specific one that's made for Renaissance costumes in white. It's got crazy bell sleeves and is super off the shoulder with crazy ruffles.
Do you look to Instagram or anything else for style inspiration?
As far as Instagram, there's a very big community of queer people from small, southern and rural communities. I'm super inspired by them. There's an artist by the name of @johndeeriere on Instagram. He's really fantastic. I love stuff like that. Definitely classic stuff — watching old Dolly Parton performance videos. Most of my clothes are my grandpa's clothes because there was a moment where I was like, ‘Actually, this is really fashionable, in a weird way.’ I find myself looking at things that I've always grown up around in a new light and using that as fashion inspiration.
I take a lot of inspiration from comic books, too. I read a lot of comic books. I love "Slasher" by Chuck Forsman. I also love this graphic novel that came out recently called "The Pervert." There's a lot of queer-based and trans-focused comic books right now and it's super, super inspiring. And not only that, just seeing the art style is interesting, especially when it comes to doing makeup.
Let's talk about your beauty routine. Do you like to experiment or have a signature beauty look?
I definitely love animated makeup. I like looking as cartoon-ish as possible. I really love the idea of cherubs. I even have a little tattoo of one. I love super pink cheeks, bright eyes and natural pink lips. I don't really wear lipstick or anything because I like the cherub look. I think it's cute.
As far as my beauty routine, I'm into natural stuff. I try not to use too many chemicals. I feel like it's best, from diet to skin care, to stay as natural as possible as you can. There are things that I do love using, like Estée Lauder Advanced Night serum, and as far as makeup, Fenty Beauty, of course. It's amazing. It's undeniable.
And how about your hairstyle?
Okay, so I was watching old Pepe Le Pew cartoons and I was like, 'This would be really cool as a hairstyle.' So I decided to line up the white stripe all the way back. And I already had a rat tail. I had a mullet last year and then I really wanted to shave my head but I had to keep my rat tail. I can't lose it.
Do you approach getting dressed differently when you're performing live?
For sure. I actually bought a huge — when I say huge, I mean six-foot wide — pair of angel wings.
Yeah. They're made out of some sort of foam that's been digitally cut, I guess, to look like feathers. I'm going to wear that for my next performance. When it comes to performing, I'm really inspired by people like Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom, Björk and, of course, Lady Gaga. I'm definitely making a statement when it comes to wardrobe while I'm performing.
Do you see yourself changing up your style anytime soon?
I really love dressing the way I do now, but I also really, really am super into [motorwear]. I have a vintage leather jacket that I got in Toronto at a western store. It has a crazy baby alligator on the back, which I feel terrible about because I'm a vegan. I haven't eaten meat in fifteen years, so I feel terrible. But it was so cool. I was like, 'Okay, it's vintage. It's really old. It's okay if I purchase it.' I can definitely see myself transitioning between how I dress now into [motorwear].