How did you get your moniker, and is it an acronym?
Bags: I never know how to answer this question because I’m still afraid of my mom finding out what I used to do [laughing]. The name actually started off as "Money Bags" because the friends I had at the time weren't exactly model citizens and we used to sell contraband. As the years went on they started calling me M. Bags, and the name eventually got shortened to BAG$. Still you can find people who call me Money Bags if they've known me for long enough.
How would you describe your music and your brand?
Bags: My music is universal feel good music. It doesn't matter what your race, religion, sex, etc., you can enjoy the music I’m putting out. The records I put together make you want to dance or stand up out your seat at the least. I like to say my records evoke feelings out of whoever is hearing it. If you take the record "Let’s Make Up" feet Lady J, you feel like you're back in the 90's at a house party or a barbecue with your friends and family.
As an artist that has changed his style and image, how does that affect you staying true to the music and who you are as an artist and a person?
Bags: The reason behind the change is that I was growing and maturing. When I started out I didn't know myself as well as I thought. As my music got better and I matured I found out what I was comfortable doing and what didn't sound right coming from me and my brand, so it didn’t really change my image into a totally different person, I just grew.
The friends you have when you're 15 aren't necessarily the same people you keep around you when you're 20,25,30,40 etc. So I’m still true to myself because all this is an evolution of me and the growth of my music.
How important is it to be radio friendly, while still maintaining something fresh and new about your music?
Bags: For me this has been easy, due to the fact that I’ve always enjoyed the commercial side of hip-hop as well as the raw side. When I heard Puff and the whole 96-98 Bad Boy era when he made everything commercial and party like, I can honestly say that’s when I dove head first into hip-hop. With that being said, I can create commercial records as easily as a hard record, which makes it easier for me to transition to commercial success. I've always wanted to make people dance with my music and give them a feeling of happiness.
I believe that feelings are what create classic music. When you hear a song that makes you sad or makes your day better you hold on to that record in your heart and that’s what I’m looking for. I also believe that with always keeping your lyrics close to who you are it keeps the music fresh because people who think like you or are interested in you will relate to your style and that way it can be mainstream as well as still fresh.
It is good to see and hear someone using President Obama's writings as more than a way to push racial apartheid with that being said, "The Audacity of Hope" has a lot to live up to. Will you make any politically charged songs expressing the anger, frustration, and concerns of the American people?
Bags: I've actually had songs like that on other projects and also on this one. I had to remove the record I had which was called "Keep on Moving" because it didn't fit the feeling of the project. With "The Audacity of Hope" I wanted to give people a feeling of happiness through these hard times. They can sit back listen to my music and dream like "Man, I wish I could be doing that right now." That, in turn will either make them work harder or give them a short release that no drug can provide.
Also since you are running with that title what are your thoughts and views on reclaiming the "American Dream?"
Bags: The 'American Dream' is reachable, BUT that same dream means different things for different people. For an immigrant like my father "The American Dream" was to have a house in Dominican Republic and have a house in New York with his family. He kept this dream in focus at all times, now; he may not have had the newest Jordan’s, or been pushing a Bentley, but he made his dream come true. He worked at a job making minimum wage all his life and succeeded because he wasn't afraid to work hard.
For someone else the dream could be something different. Like my boy Jae-Dub says "nothing of value comes without being earned", meaning you can't sit at home all day or at the same position at your job and get ahead. You have to constantly keep the dream in focus and keep bettering yourself as well as those around you.
Hard work has driven you since childhood, what are some of the jobs you've done en route to becoming a successful artists?
Bags: I've done almost everything you can think of! From McDonalds to pizza boy, dealer, to pimp, almost everything; whatever can bring the money in for bills, I have no problem doing it as long as I can respect myself at the end of the day.
Do you produce in addition to writing your material?
Bags: No, my beats are horrible [laughing].
How hard was it for you to break into your local club and DJ circuit? Who were some DJs that helped you the most thus far in your career?
Bags: Extremely difficult, and I’m STILL not all the way in. My problem is that I refuse to pay for play or payola. I don't believe an artist should have to pay outrageous prices for one spin on a national radio show. I understand that the DJs have to get paid, and that’s cool, but if you know the artist isn't on a major label and has good music there shouldn't be a hefty price tag attached to it. The music is what we all want at the end of the day.
Hip Hop and entrepreneurship seem to go hand-in-hand these days; especially with the decline of the major label, what companies and charities can we expect to see from you?
Bags: I'm really interested in setting up an adoption agency and daycare center for single mothers who can't support their children on their income. So many mothers don't have the help they need to pay a nanny or to deal with the situations in their life so I’d really like to help them out. Right now, I donate to "Food for the Poor." The point of donating is to help enrich the lives of those less fortunate them me, even though I’m not filthy rich, I can always make a difference.
New York is a proving ground for emcees, with so many artists vying for attention what sets you apart?
Bags: What sets me apart is my personality. A diamond will shine differently no matter how many CZ's you put next to it. You can put any of these up and coming rappers next to me and they look like dull stones. I’m ready for this I have the right attitude, the music, and the right people around me who are looking out for my best interest. My music no matter who you compare it to is still different even down to my voice and the way I flow.
Are you now or have you ever written for any major artists?
Bags: No, but I’m not opposed to it at all.
What artists and producers are you currently working?
Bags: I'm working a lot of talented indie artists like JUMZ, r.O.b, Earn Money, etc. I've recently done a few records with exclusive beats by Lex Luger for my new project and he produced the intro for "The Audacity of Hope."
What projects do you have out and now as well as upcoming, will there be another installment in the "Bitch I'm A Star" series?
Bags: "The Audacity Of Hope" is out now and is hosted by DJ SussOne from Power 105.1 in NYC, the next project is “The Audacity Of Hope 2” and will most likely be hosted by DJ Lazy K (The original Mixtape queen) who is known all over the world for breaking artists such as Kanye West, 50 Cent, Max B, French Montana, Wacka Flocka, and more. Check her disco! [Laughing]
What is Hip Hop missing and how are you as artist improving on the current status Hip Hop?
Bags: Hip hop is missing creativity and substance right now. While there was a point that no one was doing the same thing, right now it’s hard to tell one artist’s single from the next. The ones that really shine thru are because they have different style and aren't just trying to fit the mold.
How can people keep in touch with you?
Bags: My new website is in development right now, so I’ll keep you posted on that. But in the meantime definitely check out Youtube.com/Bagstheboss, WhatiFeelisHot.com, Facebook.com/bagstheboss, and @Bagstheboss on twitter!