Why Ebenezer Wears His 'Bad Romantic' Label Proudly Through 'His Flaws & All'

ebenezer-2020-cr-Erik-Umphery-billboard-1548-1583765869
Erik Umphery

Ebenezer

Most people might try to hide their flaws, but London-bred Ebenezer flips his imperfections into cathartic bodies of work. After baring his soul with his turbulent life story on 53 Sundays in 2018, Ebenezer returned on Friday (March 6) with the second installment of his Bad Romantic series -- a term he's heard from just about every woman he's dated.

It's not hard to tell that the 28-year-old is inspired by the likes of PARTYNEXTDOOR and Drake with his moody hip-hop that toes the line between rapping and R&B with every song. Look no further than song titles such as poignant 53 Sundays opener "Over My Dead Body" or BR2's "3am in London," and you might mistake Ebenezer for an OVO signee.

But the goal of his new six-track EP isn't to exact revenge on his series of exes. "A few girls I've dated all seem to be echoing the same thing," Ebenezer says of his "bad romantic" label, his London accent much thicker than his recording voice would lead on. "It's not me trashing my exes, but it's me trying to move past it."

Something you might not catch listening to the multi-hyphenate creative is that he suffers from a social anxiety disorder. "I'm quite shy, but in terms of creating, it's my only safe space," Ebenezer explains of using music as his method of self-expression.

Learn more about Ebenezer in our interview, which finds him expanding on being a "bad romantic," his social anxiety diagnosis, writing a song for Beyoncé, and more.

Billboard: Can you speak to Kanye West, Drake, and Travis Scott serving as the main inspirations behind your music?

Ebenezer: They are certainly my biggest influences. I was into hip-hop early and PARTYNEXTDOOR was a huge influence as well. My sister was playing R&B, so I had both worlds of hip-hop and R&B sides in my house. It literally reflects in my music. It's weird because I sound like I'm from London, but when I sing, it just doesn't sound like me. 

Yeah, after running through some of your catalog I thought to myself, "He should be signed to OVO." Then I saw your 53 Sundays opener channels Drake with "Over My Dead Body." 

That project was a time in my life I wanted people to understand where I came from and how my family struggled, was running from immigration, and my mom trying to feed three kids with us sleeping in the telephone booth because we never had anywhere to stay. It leads into the story of who I am with Bad Romantic.

How'd we get here with Bad Romantic II?

[Women say,] "You never make enough time for me" or "You're always busy and all I require is a text." They all just literally say, "You're just a bad romantic. You're trying, but it's not good enough." I thought, "Let me put this into a body of work."

As a fellow bad romantic, this is something I can relate to.

[Laughs] Join the club!

Walk me through "3am in London."

"3am in London" is basically about a girl I was seeing who was very petty. She liked to play these games to make me jealous. Like, "Look at me, I'm out with this baller." Darling, that's fine, but I can do it as well. Everything you can do, I can reciprocate as well and throw it back in her face. I've always wanted to sample that Kandi song. Me and my friends were talking about it. I stayed up trying to make it work and wouldn't go to sleep until it was done. Both women and men can relate to it.

Rolling Stone highlighted your "Never had to whip a brick, but I get the gist" line from "Mariachi." Can you expand on what you meant with that bar?

It's basically to take the piss out of records. Yeah, you're supposedly this kingpin with how much dope you sell, but I don't believe it. It goes with the whole project as well. "You could be with all these guys talking these lies, or be with me, who's honest and admitting my flaws, which are paranoia and trust. If you're not with that, I'm still going to be out here trying to grind and hustle."

How does having social anxiety disorder impact your creativity? Does it come out when you perform?

When it comes to performing, I almost have a second persona on stage. Nothing can make me feel anxious or awkward as long as I'm in the space of a studio. As soon as I'm out, I'm not for the small talk, I'm awkward in big crowds, [and] I'm just almost like a weird kind of person among everyone else. I cope with it and I get by. I try to take every day as it comes.

You've written for Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih, and Stefflon Don in the past. Can you speak to the creative process of writing for someone else rather than yourself?

I used to always try to write like someone or with the hopes of it being for someone, but those songs never used to get placed. One of my friends taught me it's best to write from personal experiences that people can relate to. I just write about my personal experiences, and I found out from Ty to Stefflon, DaniLeigh, and Mahalia, they gravitate to personal experiences they can relate to. I'll ask if they have a specific topic in mind, and I'll work from my own experiences and make it the best possible outcome. 

I read that you wrote a song for Beyoncé. Is that true?

Yes, Beyoncé had heard a record I'd done and they called me in to do some writing and production. Unfortunately, the song I did never got placed on the album, but they were big fans and said they would love to work in the future. I said, "Whenever you need me." It was for the Lion King album. 

You voiced your disgust with the cancel culture running rampant online. What needs to change?

It just doesn't allow for anyone to be remorseful or be forgiven. It doesn't make any sense. That's why we have prison, you go there, do your time and then you come out reformed, but everyone says you're still forever a bad person. The whole point of being human is to grow and learn. Of course, people should be held accountable for their mistakes, but integrate them back into society and show them love. It shouldn't all be hate. 

Why do you feel that rappers need to straighten out their priorities these days?

People used to trap to get their mom out of the hood, but now it feels like n---s trap for designer, so they can show off that they have Louis Vuitton and all these VVS chains, but my friend next to me has none and my mom still takes the bus to work. Where are your priorities? I trap to get my son out of the hood and a nice house for my mom and dad because they've suffered enough. I want to build a legacy for the next generation. It's different in rap, but I'm not trying to knock the hustle, because some people are fake it until you make it. I can't, personally, watch my loved ones struggle while I shine. 

What similarities and differences do you see in the U.S. and London drill rap scenes?

We did that. New York and London cultures are very similar because we're both like a multicultural melting pot of races and cultures. It's crazy because of the way the drill crossed over to NYC was because of artists like Pop Smoke. He had the sound and loved the sound, and I'm just so happy it's translating and people are f---ing with it. DaniLeigh actually played me a record she had with Pop Smoke and that s--t would be epic. I'm happy to see the U.K. scene getting love from everywhere.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.