BT Rockwell is perhaps best known as the producer of the legendary Hip Hop group The Wu Tang Clan and Raekwon. Now he has written his first novel, BURN ME UP FAST. The book provides readers a glimpse of what the darker sides of urban youth culture is really like from an author who has seen it firsthand from his success in the music industry.
Scott: Why did you decide to write a novel?
BT: The purest reason is that it was a calling from deep within and I think that all aspiring artists can attest to this. I love being creative--using my imagination--and I had a story to tell. When I typed the first words there in front of me, nothing could feel better.
How did you come up with this story?
Burn Me Up Fast was an easy story to tell. I've lived in the city for almost half my life and there were so many past experiences and stories I had heard that were ready to be converted into a fiction piece based in one of the Meccas of the world. I wanted to write something that I would love to read. Something New York City-centric. Something that authentically represented a current counter-culture going on downtown and in Brooklyn.
Can you summarize the book plot and the three main themes?
Burn Me Up Fast is a classic coming of age story about a twenty-something high-grade pot dealer and closet author named Byron Bella. He loves music and the city life is the only one he knows. He also has a love- hate relationship with drugs as well, as he tries to navigate his way toward the unknown future. The three biggest themes of BMUF are simple: Don't let your fears hold you back from your dreams. Be wary of hard drug abuse and gun play as they can often lead to negative effects. And, thirdly, self- love in addition to the love you give and get from others will hopefully protect and guide you toward personal success and inner peace.
Is the book based on real people and/or real events?
The book is not based on real people per se, although, I would say real events have been used as a basis for certain chapters and then tweaked and embellished upon. A delicate balance of where reality and fiction meet.
Is the New York City portrayed in the book close to reality?
I think so, most definitely. New York City, specifically the East Village and Lower East Side, are a main character in this story. Real places i.e. clubs, restaurants, parks, as well as real musicians, are mentioned throughout. Ironically, though, because the city is ever changing and evolving, some of the places mentioned have sadly closed. At least they are put down on the paper of this book for posterity's sake.
What do you hope people will take away fro this book?
My goal was to make Burn Me Up Fast a cult classic--something this generation and future ones could relate to. Youths around the world share common feelings of angst, confusion, and dreams they hope to one day live out. My aim was to connect with these youths and show them that they are far from alone. Others before them have had the same feelings. It's universal.
Why did you decide to tackle, in the novel, the topic of the negative effects of hard drugs and drug dealing?
I have just seen these negative effects from near and afar. They've always intrigued me. I felt that maybe I could show the underbelly of these issues while many others tend to glorify them. Not that drugs can't be fun and exiting, but if you're not careful they can get you. One day I had an epiphany: Hard drugs aren't the answer. They are an escape and coping mechanism for things such as boredom and depression.
What are some of of the similarities you discovered between making an album and a novel?
Although I did not know this when I started this project, and I wish I did, I came to realize there are many similarities between making an album and a novel. A song is a scene and an album is a story. There is an incredibly exhilarating and creative part but there is also grueling and tedious part. It is so paramount that both of these parts are equally handled with love and care.
How did you get into producing?
Thanks to my brother, I was introduced to DJing. Well, KRS-One's brother, Kenny Parker, lived next door to my big bro. One day he told my brother that if he got an SP-1200 beat machine that he would teach him how to use it. The next week I bought this machine (now no longer in production) and lent it to my brother. He learned from Kenny and I then learned from him. The rest is history.
What's next for you?
First, I have a screenplay written for Burn Me Up Fast. I think the story could easily and smoothly translate into a movie that righteously represents New York City. Besides that, I have a second novel pretty much finished called Blood Sucker. If people like my story telling style--grit, drugs, parties, and sex, mixed with deep existential thought about life and love, all taking place in NYC--then they will love my sophomore project!