Speaking ahead of the release of Nibiru Tut, Beans breaks down the inspiration behind the album, talks about how he tried to format it like a jazz project, and explains why he’d snub a conversation with Donald Trump.

Early on in Beans’s new album Nibiru Tut, the former Antipop Consortium MC warns “My friend, the world is fucked again”. The concept of a fraying society that is heading towards disaster incites the rapper to drop a series of telling observations about the socio-political structures and people around him. This is put over expansive electronic beats crafted by Ay Fast, which compliment Beans’s sharp, staccato flow.

What inspired you to start writing Nibiru Tut?

It all kinda started with HAAST, which was part of a trilogy of albums I released last year. While I was putting the finishing touches to HAAST I was gathering beats for Nibiru Tut and a lot of things had happened in the world; I was seeing the climate as it was and Trump had just gotten elected and things had started to accumulate gradually. I wasn’t really hearing any music that was being responsive or reflective about what was happening. I was seeing a disconnect between the art and the times. I’d been observing on the sidelines and not saying anything — but I had to say something and it gave me material to write about.

On the album you mention you’re from “the era where hip-hop held a mirror to America.”

Right, that’s the music I grew up with. It’s always been a reflection of the times, making you aware of what’s happening or giving a further understanding of news and current events. Public Enemy is the template for that. I’m not necessarily saying I’m trying to continue in the vein of Public Enemy, but Chuck D did put it eloquently when he said that hip-hop was the CNN of music. But I wasn’t seeing that in the music. The music was serving more as a distraction. These things were happening but no one was talking about it so I decided to do something about it.

Why do you think hip-hop changed like that?

I think money is a factor. As I just said, I think music serves more as a distraction now. There’s been various gems here and there — Kendrick [Lamar] is always good for it, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” — but on the whole I wasn’t really seeing that. I think the motivation has changed. Music now is about money and it’s really just serving as somewhat of a distraction.

You also claim “My friend, the world is fucked again.” How bad do you think things are?

These problems and the things that are happening have always been there but they’ve been brought to life because of the climate: A fool sitting in the White House has made it a lot more easier for the roaches to stop hiding; they’re not really afraid of the light any more. But I think these things haven’t appeared out of a bubble — they’ve always been there but they’ve started to accumulate on the surface and the floodgates came wide open under this administration.

If you met Donald Trump in an elevator, what would you want to say to him?

I don’t know if I would say anything to him. [Pauses] With people like that, there’s not much you can say. The only thing they’re willing to hear is something that appeases their ego and I’d have nothing to contribute to that.

Going back to the music, Nibiru Tut is entirely produced by Ay Fast. How did you hook up with him?

I met Ay Fast when I moved out of New York to Cleveland and I was looking for people to work with. In my artistic career, people have always said I haven’t found beats to match the pacing of my rhymes. I finally feel with Ay Fast as a producer that I’ve sound someone who can contribute the musical ideas to the way I hear my vocals. I think that really starts to show with Nibiru Tut.

How would you sum up the vibe of the album?

Definitely experimental. My main objective was to take it more to a jazz format where you had longer songs but a shorter amount of songs — so you can elaborate more on various ideas and the music and the vocals have a chance to breath. I wanted that expansive format of having a longer duration of songs. It’s nine songs but under 45 minutes.

On “Running Eagle Go Far” you talk about your daughter not listening to your music.

She doesn’t really like my music. When she was around four-years-old her mother and I had separated. Part of the reason for that was I was really deep in touring and it kinda led to various stresses in the family life. I could not maintain the balance between my artistic and family careers and that led to the separation. My daughter looks at my music as being a part of the reason why I could not be in her life. So she was never really a fan of hip-hop and she blamed that on why we can’t be together. But we still have a very strong relationship as she’s gotten older and that’s more important to me than if she listens to my music.

What does the album’s title, Nibiru Tut, mean?

Nibiru is a planetary object that’s supposedly going to come through and collide with Earth. I got the title from looking at an artist’s website. I thought it would be ill — the colliding of this planetary force with Earth and the accumulation of the planetary doom and the things that are happening now.

How do you view this album in the context of your discography?

I think people who have been riding with me for so long since Antipop are starting to see my growth. I’m becoming more comfortable on my own and more expansive within my ideas. I have a lot of ideas and a lot of things I want to do that will challenge perceptions of hip-hop and move forward with experimentation and the possibilities of what this genre can do. That’s always been my agenda — to push the boundaries and see what can be considered under the umbrella of hip-hop.

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Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée | With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union