- Words Notion Staff
Jamaican-Puerto Rican London-based artist Bad Bena unleashes an infectious dancehall twist on "Barbie Girl" with AI-generated Dream Verse collaboration.
Who is Bad Bena?
I’ve been using the catchphrase “bad like Bena” since I started taking music seriously. It was inspired by the popular Jamaican expression “bad like yaz” which means that something is really cool. Along with this catchphrase, I was going with my name “Bena” which is short for my birth name “Abenah”.
I’m from Jamaica and the legendary Dancehall icon Bounty Killer put both together and gave me the name “Bad Bena“. It makes sense! I felt like I was officially crowned as an artist. I’m grateful and I went with it! My philosophy about music is to have fun and always slay the game!
Tell us about your song “Yardie Barbie”?
As a child, my parents bought my sisters and me all the Barbies! From Barbie to Midge, Teresa, Christie and Brad. It was my favourite toy growing up. As I grew older, being a slim/ athletic girl in Jamaica that always wore vibrant colours I was often called “slimaz” or “Barbie doll”. When I migrated to London I lost that energy a bit and in 2020 during the pandemic craved being vibrant and girly.
I was inspired by Nicki Minaj to embrace being that Barbie girl as an artist. In 2022 I reached out to dancehall producer Retlaw Tha Future to work with me on a vision I had to recreate Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” into a Jamaican dancehall version called “Yardie Barbie”. After I wrote the song and sent him a demo, Retlaw saw my vision. It took a year to create as he was busy working with renowned Dancehall artist Busy Signal at the time. I finally recorded and released my original “Yardie Barbie” in December 2022 on YouTube.
In 2023, I met music entrepreneur Hot Money who ran a very successful recording studio in London, UK. He helped me take the song to a whole new level. We changed the pitch and speed and re-recorded, mixed and mastered the song. It was also a dream of mine to get a Nicki Minaj feature on this song so I decided to experiment with this emerging AI technology. I studied Nicki’s music and tried to put myself in her shoes to write like her. Nicki uses a lot of puns and she’s an absolute icon. I tried to write like her as much as possible. I gave her verse the finishing touch by using her songs “Barbie Tingz” and “Blick Blick” as inspiration. I also found that I became a better writer by trying to write like Nicki Minaj. I recorded the verse and used the power of AI technology to get a Nicki feature!
Do you plan on using more AI in your music in future?
I hope I will be established and rated highly enough to get all my dream collaborations organically. At the end of the day, AI to music is like processed food compared to handmade home cooked. The real ones know the difference. AI might come close but it’s still not authentic. I think it does open doors though! So it is a great tool to use.
You mentioned that you were part Puerto Rican, do you plan to make music for the Latin audience?
Yes! My grandfather on my father’s side was Puerto Rican. That’s why I have a Spanish Surname González. I love Latin culture and I am excited to embrace my Latin/ Spanish roots more! I’m currently teaching myself Spanish and hope to create music for that audience in the near future.
Who are your dream collaborations from the Latin music scene?
Shakira, KAROL G, Rosalía and Daddy Yankee.