Bhad Bhabie Has Figured Out the Formula for Becoming a Rapper
From Dr. Phil memes to rambunctious raps, Bhad Bhabie has blazed her own trail in hip-hop by breaking all of the genre's rules. Is the fouled-mouth 15-year-old here to stay?
Words: Kathy Iandoli
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
On Labor Day 2018, while most people were soaking in their last moments of the de-facto end to the summer, Danielle Bregoli—better known to the world as rapper Bhad Bhabie—was downstairs in her Los Angeles home, sleeping. “My mom had a barbecue,” she recalls. “There was 30, 40 people there. I decided to get my ass out there and be civil. Everybody started coming in and I was like, ‘I want to go to sleep.’”
A short slumber is well-deserved. Bhad Bhabie spent her summer performing at live show dates and preparing her mixtape, 15, the first full-length release from an artist whose loosie cuts—including “Hi Bich,” the Lil Yachty-featured “Gucci Flip Flops,” “These Heaux,” “Trust Me” with Ty Dolla $ign and “Yung and Bhad” with City Girls—have already amassed 10s of millions of plays.
The 15-year-old phenomenon first gained recognition two years prior as the problem child on an episode of Dr. Phil, birthing the since-fizzled phrase, “Cash me ousside, how ’bout dat?” Discussing her appearance on that daytime TV show is a moot point by now, considering that small stepping stone pales in comparison to the viral reach that Bregoli has obtained all on her own. Known for her brash personality and overdeveloped sense of humor, the fire-haired teen has remained a polarizing figure at the nucleus of hip-hop’s new era. Her beefs with viral miscreants like Woah Vicky and infantile scallywag Lil Tay became hilarious footnotes in her story, while her unrestrained charging at the equally polarizing Tekashi 6ix9ine made her something of an unfiltered hero. But even when she comes with a message (see the video for “Trust Me,” in which actress Bella Thorne helps her nab a pedophile), there’s still a constituency that doesn’t understand that not only does Bregoli take her music very seriously, she’s also playing the long game. Despite modeling gigs and acting offers being waved in her face, Bregoli is most excited about recording with established acts and other new artists (she’s hoping to collaborate with upstart YNW Melly).
Yet in the wake of any criticism or dating rumors, the Boynton Beach, Fla., native takes her success (and backlash) in stride. In a musical climate drenched in feelings, Bhad Bhabie remains emotionally teflon and keeps her given fucks to a sharp minimum. “Either you’re going to accept the fact that you like me or you’re going to not accept the fact that you like me,” she says coyly. “That’s all it is.”
FaceTiming via her security guard’s phone, the Atlantic Records signee checks in with XXL to discuss her life in the spotlight, defying her age and how she’s cracked the code to becoming a hip-hop star.
XXL: What made you decide to pursue a career in music?
Bhad Bhabie: You know, this whole new era of music like Lil Pump or [Lil] Peep, 6ix9ine, X [XXXTentacion], all of these muthafuckas... I just kind of looked at it and I was like, “It’s so simple.” All of these colors that are added, all of this jewelry, all this whatever, makes it seem richer or more put together than it really is. And it’s just like, “I can pick this apart and figure out the real formula to it.”
I was just looking at pictures of Kim Kardashian. She had on sweatpants that looked like they belonged to a homeless guy but she had on a cute little top, some nice heels and her hair and makeup was done. It looked good. But if you take that wig off her head, that makeup off her face and [you] give her some slides, she ain’t going to look that good. It’s all about how you put things together. It’s all perception. That’s all it is.
Girls that you’ve beefed with like Woah Vicky and Lil Tay seem to be replicating your appearance on Dr. Phil, taking one tiny part of your personality that you’ve outgrown and trying to make that go viral.
That’s why if you ask girls these days who’s your inspiration, they’re going to either say Cardi [B], Nicki [Minaj] or Beyoncé because those are bitches who did what they had to do to get where they are. They had the right blueprint. Bitches think that they could take that blueprint and use it on themselves. You’re never going to hear no girl say she wants to be like Cuban Doll. You won’t even hear a girl say she wants to be like Asian Doll because [she] hasn’t made it like that yet.
And social media is so, so horrible but so great at the same time because anybody can get put in this industry today. All because of social media. It has nothing to do with your ability to rap, sing [or] write. None of that fucking bullshit. All you have to do is color your hair some stupid-ass color, tattoo some stupid-ass shit over your forehead... Congratulations, you’re an artist! Now put a “Lil” or a “Young” in front of your name and pick a number. That’s all you have to do. [Woah Vicky and Lil Tay] are the bullshit, but I’m like the borderline between bullshit and seriousness. Anyone after me is trying too hard.
Did you foresee a music career when you initially appeared on Dr. Phil?
It wasn’t like, “Okay, I’m going on this show, I’m going to get famous and then I’m going to be a rapper.” No. This has been so placed together. Just throwing shit on as we go. It’s just a blind path and shit pops up as you keep going. That’s really how it’s been for me. I don’t want to toot my own horn or be rude but it’s just like... I happen to be able to do a bunch of different things. I can do advertising like for FashionNova because I can model. I can do different types of videos because I’m decent at acting. I can clearly do music. I can do everything that makes people famous.
How has your music evolved from when you first began releasing tracks to creating a full body of work with your project, 15?
It’s just getting more serious. At first, I was kind of like, yeah, whatever. Now it’s like, “Okay, this is actually working.” I want to see what songs catch [on] the most, what features. And then go from there.
Is there anyone in particular that you’d like to work with in the future?
YNW Melly. He does numbers on WorldStar. I like Florida rap but I don’t necessarily like the ones who sound identical to Kodak [Black]. I like GlokkNine. He’s cool, but [Melly] has the personality that I’m looking for rather than the sound. Because nobody can be like Kodak. I’m not dissing GlokkNine. Nothing against him, and I’m not saying he’s trying to sound like Kodak. I’m just saying because of where he grew up and how he was raised, he sounds like that. If you look at Kodak, that’s how mutherfuckas from Florida sound. All of them sound the same.
Do you think Kodak Black invented that sound?
I don’t think Kodak invented that sound because before Kodak really popped up, there were muthafuckas who sit around and [only] listen to their friend’s music. The only other people that they would listen to would be Kodak, Peep or other Florida artists. They weren’t listening to no Lil Pump [or] Smokepurpp. When Kodak really popped up, I realized that people from other states were listening to him and they were so shocked by it. I was like, “I’ve been hearing this type of sound for years.” Kodak is [ just] the first one to break out with that sound.
You and 6ix9ine traded some shots earlier this year. What happened in that situation?
See, I never hated 6ix9ine. I never had nothing against him. I don’t believe any of his accusations, this rape shit. His music is cool. It was just weird to me how people want to pin people together. It’s always about Bhad Bhabie versus Woah Vicky, Nicki versus Cardi B. I don’t get it. Why does it have to be like that? Why can’t we all just do this? Well, except for Lil Tay, Lil whatever-her-name-is. But I’m not worried. 6ix9ine is taken seriously in the music industry. It doesn’t make me look like a smaller person talking to him, but it makes me look a smaller person talking to [Woah Vicky].
Is it difficult to be part of the hip-hop scene while you’re underage?
I don’t get myself in those situations to be treated like that, for anyone to even think that’s okay. No one is going to try me like that. But girls that go out wearing little tops like that—they want to go out like that, you’re going to get treated like that. And not everyone is going to make it awkward and be like, “Oh, let me see your ID.” No.
Rumors about you fly around quite frequently. Do they bother you?
I don’t care about all that he-said, she-said. Even when that whole [dating] Trippie [Redd] shit came out—it doesn’t bother me because it’s not true. If I was really doing that, you’d see it. You’d see it in my face. I wouldn’t even sit here and bullshit you because first of all, it wouldn’t get him in trouble because he’s young. And it wouldn’t get me in trouble because I was young. Why do people always think I have a reason to lie to them? I’ve been doing this shit for two years. And I never gave a fuck about nobody’s fucking opinion. Why do you think I’m going to start now with my own problems and my own relationships and the people I fuck with? I’ve never given a fuck. I always spoke my mind.
I’m an honest person... Except if I’m lying about sneaking out or some shit like that. I’ll lie about that stuff. I’m not going to sit here and lie about who’s dating who. I don’t even be doing that. I got bigger shit to deal with. I’m at the studio, I’m doing photoshoots. I shot three music videos and six mini music videos in the span of three or four days. I don’t have time to be dealing with nobody’s bullshit. I don’t have no boyfriend. I don’t talk to no guys. I don’t associate myself with no guys. I don’t deal with it.
Do you think you’re going to venture more into the modeling world?
I don’t think so because I don’t want to be a model. I don’t mind doing it here and there, but that’s not my real thing. I want to do music.
And that’s how you know you’re really about your music.
Yeah! It’s not like I’m out here like, “Let me do whatever gets me money.” No, I have a real thing that I like. Now I started doing music. I like it and I want to keep doing it. I don’t want to get carried away doing acting or modeling. It’s cool to do it once in a while. If say, somewhere down the line, there’s however many albums out, however many mixtapes and my manager’s like, “Hey, you want to do this movie? It’s going to take two months.” Sure, that’s fine. I can deal with two months out of my life to do that. But I’m going to be in that studio every fucking day when I get back because then I need to catch up to what I’ve been missing. I’d honestly rather make $1 million in music than $3 million a year doing acting. I came here with a purpose and I’m going to live out that dream I had.
Check out more from XXL’s Fall 2018 issue including Meek Mill's letter to his younger self, Show & Prove interviews with Gunna and City Girls, Lil Durk opening up about his Signed to the Streets 3 album and more.
See Photos of Meek Mill for XXL Magazine's Fall 2018 Cover Story