When I was younger, I was lucky enough to see Scroobius Pip perform at a local venue here in Portsmouth, England. His support that night was B. Dolan, a rapper from Rhode Island. He came on to the stage and blew me, and arguably the whole crowd away. The rare trinity of cutting edge lyricism, meaningful subject matter and production that will blow your ear drums. I was hooked and was lucky enough to meet him afterwards, where I picked up his album. B. Dolan’s music has continued to blare out of my speakers and headphones ever since that night. If you want to witness this firsthand, I strongly suggest you get tickets for his upcoming trip to The Fringe Festival and his UK Tour. When I thought about people I wanted to interview for the website, he was near the top of my list. He didn’t disappoint. It is with great excitement that I give you, my interview with B. Dolan…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
“I’m a rapper.” Then they say: “Oh wowwww… I would not have guessed that!”. I’m usually eyeing the exits around that point…
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. I read that in first grade and never looked back really. Plowed through most of Stephen King’s early books by 6th grade.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A writer. Never had any question. I was lucky in that regard. I wrote my first poems and raps around age 12.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I imagine he’d be pretty fucking pumped. Sometimes I question his judgement, as I live a life that was entirely constructed by him, but for the most part he had his shit surprisingly together.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
As I left education? Like when I dropped out of school? I feel like all I was doing was giving myself books around that time. Around then (age 18 or 19) I was really digging into all the beat writers, particularly William S. Burroughs. I was also into Theater of the Absurd, both the book and the movement. I read Ionesco’s journals and plays by Samuel Beckett and those were really making gears turn… I think that influence later showed up in some of my spoken word and recorded material.
I’d also become lifelong Philip K. Dick addict by then. VALIS by Philip K. Dick had me reading all kinds of follow up weird religious stuff.
I realize this is far from a good answer to the original question. A single book? The Bible. If I could only have one, there’s enough hallucinogenic imagery, incest and blood to keep the engine fed for years.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Reading starts to feel like a huge luxury with all the work I’m doing generally… so I tend to stop and look at a book when I need to press pause on life… that might be at 3am or 9am depending on what I’ve been doing in the past 48 hours.
I also have gotten really into audiobooks on tour. Good way to make a plane ride or long drive pass.
That’s a tough call. I actually read On Writing by Stephen King somewhere in my adult life, and ‘hearing’ the childhood hero that sort of lit the spark talk about his process was helpful. I just remember him talking about how he sat down every day to write like someone clocking in at work.
Once I tried that, it worked. That was sort of the end of me waiting around for inspiration. I learned that if you show up consistently, eventually the muse shows up too, as the saying goes. That was an important step that directly impacted how I work, distinct from other books that have inspired me more indirectly.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
I associate Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger with my father, since it was the only book he ever admitted to reading and liking. I still have his copy of it, which I read every few years.
I associate God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens with my epic beard brother Sage Francis, as I had the pleasure of reading his copy complete with underlined passages. He’s also been pushing Tom Robbins and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole on me quite aggressively lately.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Depends on my mood or the mode of life I’m in, I think. If I’m in a writing place, I prefer fiction… the punchier and more atmospheric the better. I keep a pretty big library of stuff around that I’ve picked up at book sales, and sometimes I just read a little of something to either clear my head or put myself in a desired kind of headspace.
When I have more room in my brain to absorb and retain information, such as during a long drive on tour, I’m probably more into non-fiction.
Do you think reading is important?
I definitely think it’s important to me. I find that ‘garbage in’ often equals ‘garbage out’, and staying inspired is a full time job. Books are an important part of how I manage my brain and creativity in that way.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Probably Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis. Ant recommended it to me and I really got a lot out of it. Aside from being intensely entertaining, it was really interesting to hear how Miles thought about different players and arrangement. It also oriented me a bit better in jazz. I spend a lot of time digging for records and seeing some of these names, and this provided context and more of a timeline for that.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I’ve never read a book on a digital reader and don’t have much desire to, honestly. Getting away from screens is a big part of the appeal at this point.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
I used books to wrestle with my place in the world for a long time when no one in the world wanted to talk about that shit. Dostoyevsky… Nietzsche… Kafka… all that heavy shit. I also used them to educate myself about politics and inform my views. It’s hard to put a finger on any single book, so much as the combined effect. In most practical ways I was able to determine my own education thanks to a love of reading… even while I was failing in school I was devouring books and following my own personal interest at home. My ability to do that had the biggest impact.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I had a copy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare I used to read constantly and sort of act out in my head. I’ve never actually seen a production of Hamlet, but I’ve watched it countless times in my mind. For some reason I feel like that was really important in those formative times.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is obvious, but bares stating just in case some people reading aren’t hip to it. Killing Hope by William Blum is a less obvious joint that Zinn readers would probably dig.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’m looking forward to reading Have Gun Will Travel: Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records by Ronin Ro. I’m also always reading something by PKD. I recently found a bunch of his old out of print pulp stories and have been making my way through those.
During crazy political times I often take solace in Hunter S. Thompson’s work. I will probably need to do that again soon.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
“If I Die, Who’s Going to Read/Watch/Listen To All Of These?” Too long. It’s a working title. I’ll let you know.