bbno$’s life changed forever in 2019 on the day he walked across the stage to receive his college diploma. To be clear, graduating didn’t do anything for him. On that day, he released “Lalala,” a cheeky earworm of a rap single that nicely encapsulated his “ignorant but melodic” approach to hip hop and erupted on a global scale. To date, “Lalala” has racked up over 800 million streams worldwide, and bbno$’s extensive catalog of music has amassed over 2,000,000,000 (yes, two billion) streams.
“I would say that I’m pretty stoked on life 24/7,” says bbno$ (pronounced “baby no money”). His baseline enthusiasm spills out into his music, his colorful music videos, as well as his growing online identity as a gamer under the moniker bbnogames. His raps place an emphasis on creative melodies, humor, and mischievous wordplay, and his philosophy of avoiding overthinking at all costs allows his true personality to shine through. bbno$ is a renaissance man in the age of the internet, and his career, a story of both virality and sheer persistence, is just getting started.
A former competitive swimmer who gave up athletics after he broke his back, bbno$ decided to give music a serious shot while he was earning his kinesiology degree at the University of British Columbia. He gave up alcohol and partying, took up consuming “an excessive amount of coffee at 3 AM,” and in 2016, he started to post his own music to SoundCloud. His setup has evolved only slightly from those early years, when all he had was a mic, an audio interface, and a blanket and two pieces of foam he would put over his head while he recorded. (“I’ve probably downgraded, to be honest,” he says of his current recording setup.)
bbno$ got his first break when a popular Chinese dance crew called the TFBoys used his song “Yoyo Tokyo.” Despite minimal clout in his native Vancouver at the time, that exposure enabled him to sell out back-to-back tours in China in 2017. In 2017 and 2018, he toured extensively in North America, Europe, and Australia with his frequent collaborator Yung Gravy, first in support of their joint EP Baby Gravy and then for bbno$’s debut album Bb Steps. Bbno$’s musical output was (and is) prolific; during this era, he often released singles on a weekly basis, and he organically grew his audience until he crossed the threshold of one million Spotify monthly listeners in late 2018. His fan base has only expanded since then; in early 2019, bbno$ self-released his sophomore album Recess and booked his first headlining American and European tours.
“Lalala” gained immediate traction on social media and TikTok and accumulated 12 million streams within a couple of weeks. Three weeks after its original independent release, Columbia Records stepped in to license the single and re-issue it. From there, things went ballistic. Enrique Iglesias and Carly Rae Jepsen appeared on the official remix. The track went double platinum, spent 21 weeks on Billboard charts, and was featured on over 350 Spotify staff-curated playlists.
In the following year, bbno$ became the 84th most-streamed artist in the world across genres on Spotify and received two JUNO Award nominations. He continued his upward trajectory with the release of his third album i don’t care at all, produced entirely by “Lalala” collaborator Y2K. The album’s 53-city, 4-continent world tour was cut short due to Covid, but undeterred, bbno$ put out his fourth full-length good look have fun in October 2020 to see it debut as the #8 album in the world on Spotify.
For all his success, bbno$ has retained the hands-on, DIY mentality that shaped the first couple years of his career. Take for example his 2020 single “quarantine freestyle,” produced by lentra. The music video, which depicts bbno$ bopping around in his Vancouver apartment, where he still records the bulk of his work, was also filmed by lentra. To this day, bbno$ has never paid for studio time and records his own music. “Without being able to mix and master and record my own vocals, I don’t think I would be nearly as successful,” he says. “The slow grinds always works if you don’t have to rely on anybody. It’s up to you to take it far.”
bbno$ says his primary artistic mission is to have fun and pursue the indelible satisfaction that arises when he makes something that he loves — though he may email it to his mom to get a second opinion. “I’m most happy when I make a song where I’m like, ‘Damn. this is good as fuck.’ Right at that moment where I’m like, ‘this is it. This slaps.’ I think that’s like the point of bliss for me.”
bbno$ plans to put out a series of singles and music videos leading up to the release of his fifth full-length album in fall 2021.