Bhad Bhabie’s just had her phone ripped out of her hands by her manager. She’s not happy.
The tiny pocket rocket and I are sitting next to each other in a room with a peculiarly low roof, attached to Perth’s Astor Theatre, where tonight she’ll follow up a 25-date US run with her first Southern Hemisphere date ever. Her DJ and co-star on stage are touching their faces up and scrolling Instagram, and her Liza Minelli-lookalike Mom is having a quiet lay-down to our right, occasionally correcting the absurdly hilarious things that come out of the 15-year-old’s mouth.
So far Bhad Bhabie thinks Australia is quite nice, but she is disappointed because she recently “heard Kim Kardashian say you can’t pat koalas here.”
I inform her that they carry chlamydia.
“THEY HAVE CHLAMYDIA?! IT’S ONLY A SHOT IN THE ASS! They should just run little koala stations! You go in, you touch the koala, you get the shot in the ass and you leave!”
It’s one of many things she’ll go on to say & do tonight to prove to me that she is an enterprising, smart, self-assured young individual in many ways. It’s also the first of many things she’ll say and do that make me understand why she’s signed a multi-album deal, why she’s selling out venues on her first ever run, and why she’s just been labelled one of TIME Magazine’s most influential teens of 2018. It’s because Bhad Bhabie is the real fucking deal.
“Wallabies have herpes! Giraffes have UTIs!,” she hypothesises ahead of an impending zoo visit, as I try and start talking to her about the set ahead.
“Tonight’ll be good… I just be going and doing it, I don’t think too much.”
I quiz her on whether she’ll play my favourite cut from her impressive 15-track mixtape of braggadocios call-and-response rap, 15. It’s a song called No More Love – a very seldom moment of melodic vulnerability on a mixtape that’s message is primarily “do not fuck with me or I will punch you.”
She’s not playing it.
“I’ve already got like, a real sad section in my show and I’d like to keep it down to just a little bit of sadness.”
To be honest, I just wanna hear it because she sings. I compliment her singing on the track, but she’s hesitant to take it.
“Eh. I don’t know about that. Right now my throat’s fucked up too, I tried to sing some SZA song and I sounded like shit. I think my tone kinda fits it a little bit though. Obviously I can’t hit certain notes, I’m not fuckin Mariah Carey.”
Bhabie has a delicate, controlled approach to singing – in stark contrast to the aggression in her rapping. But she’s quite philosophical about why she doesn’t believe she was made to sing.
“I should start taking like, vocal lessons or some shit. But, I don’t give a fuck, because I know I could bring it out in me if I wanted to, but it’s just like, I’m not meant to do that. If God wanted me to be a singer he would have blessed me with able to do that on my own. I can rap… kind of. That’s my little gift. Everybody can sing. I mean everybody thinks they can sing… some motherfuckers be tone deaf as fuck.”
When she later jumps into the hook of her Ty Dolla $ign collab Trust Me though, you can hear it comes naturally to her.
On the wall behind us is a mural of four men. Robin Williams, who Bhad Bhabie thinks is ‘Walt Disney’. Jim Morrison, who she identifies as Ashton Kutcher. Bowie, who she cannot name one song by, and someone else we couldn’t quite work out. She loves the concept of the wall.
“Let me say something. Come back in ten years when the next generation is on this wall and my face is right there.”
I quiz her on who would join her replacing the men.
“Me, Pump, Asian Doll, and X.”
XXXTENTACION seems to mean a hell of a lot to Bhabie. Her ‘real sad section’ in the middle of the set turns out to be a two-song cover tribute to him. The crowd becomes a sea of arms making an X, whilst images of the late rapper cycle on the projector like a primary school graduation slideshow. It seems no amount of negative press affects the way these young people interact with his legacy and she’s certainly carrying it with passion and dignity.
She’s eager to tell me her two best friends are Australian. Some famous twins I’ve never heard of, but she has them tattooed on her. Bhabie then gives me a tat-tour, showing me the latest addition to her ankle. The word ‘Savage’, stamped in a fiery, sharp red, which feels appropriate. A stark juxtaposition is her Great Grandmother’s birth year & name on her other ankle. Recently she’s peeled off the ‘eternal life’ symbol she had on her finger. Midway through our journey of her ink she’s distracted by a beat her manager is spinning off a laptop, and begins rapping along to something before requesting that the laptop blast a new cut of hers. An artist she adores is on it. She just got their vocal back. She seems really pumped and engaged about it – even to the point where she drops it towards the end of the show.
The floor of the hundred-year-old Astor Theatre houses a room of kids with no idea what’s about to happen, half there as fans and half there for curiosity, who begin their night bouncing around to new rap standards from Kodak, Cardi, and that Sheck Wes song, being spun by Bhabie’s touring DJ Asia Shabbaz. The front of the crowd is pretty much exclusively 16-20 year old girls and gay boys. On the peripheries are the odd parent or two who aren’t ready to relinquish their kids to the future of music. To summon Bhad Bhabie to the stage, we’re demanded to yell ‘BHAD’ if we’re on the right side, ‘BHABIE’ if we’re on the left.
From the moment she launches into the show with Juice, it’s instantly obvious she is born to be at the front of a stage. She has the crowd in her palm, every head bouncing to the beat as she spits about diamonds she doesn’t yet own. A fan is brought on stage for an extremely physical moment on a chair, apparently an ode to something Ty Dolla $ign does in his shows, and leaves a new woman. But it’s the volume at which her fans chant along to her key hit Gucci Flip Flops that’s the strongest proof of her ability. They get so loud, she plays the song twice. Once in the middle and once as the encore. She leaves the stage with a massive smile on her face and a buzzed crowd in front of her, all 100% now fans for life of not only the music, but the way she presents it and the new generation of self-loving young people she represents.
Along with dropping a new song, Bhabie’s looking forward to one more thing. She’s getting her teeth ‘done’, although her team are trying to get her to get braces.
“Adam won’t let me, he says it fucks with my ~brand~,” she says with an eye-roll.
“Let me go in, get my shit grinded, get my shit nice looking. Listen, I’ve had this talk with five million bitches, don’t try to tell me. I’ve been dealing with this for three years now. I’m getting veneers.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Bhad Bhabie this weekend, it’s that she knows what she wants.
Any aspiring artist with a strong sense of self has a good chance of getting ahead of the pack, and after that show there’s no doubt she’ll be a frontrunner.
See Bhad Bhabie on her Australian tour, hitting Sydney tonight, Melbourne on Wednesday and Adelaide on Thursday. Tickets are still available here.