“Iiiiit’s … Bibi on the beat!”
Bianca Andreescu dissolves into laughter when asked to demonstrate her producer tag – the catchphrase with which rap producers commonly ‘stamp’ their tracks, which often become fan-favourite hooks in themselves. But as a nascent beat-maker herself, she understands their importance.
“It’s so corny,” she says. “But it sounds good! It gets stuck in your head. That’s why they’re so good.”
Two years ago, as the tennis world shut down as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Andreescu’s dormant Soundcloud account quietly came to life. In contrast to the maximum cross-promotion with which tennis players usually launch new ventures and side projects, Andreescu has so far uploaded a handful of tracks with little fanfare.
It’s less a part of her personal brand, more of a personal outlet for Andreescu.
“When Covid hit I was like, I can’t play tennis, I can’t see anyone, what do I do?” the Canadian recalls. “So I made a list of things I could do with my free time now that I had it, and one of them was to do something in music. Singing was not it. So what’s the other thing I can do? To make beats, to make music.
“It was a way to express myself, as well, because I was going through a hard time. I was injured, then I was ready to play, then Covid hit, then some other personal things were going on. The songs you hear are based on what I was feeling in that moment.”
In another unusual twist for tennis players dabbling in music, Andreescu’s beats are also good. She says she’s drawn to harp and acoustic guitar sounds, and uses them to bring a dreamy melodic sensibility to tracks such as ‘a new start’ and ‘me n you’. But she leavens this with stuttering snares, gnarly bass and, on ‘real sh*t, no?’, some excellent funk synths.
“I want to balance out the different moods,” says Andreescu. “I did a lot of research on how to produce a song – when to put the bass, how to combine it with the melody. I think it all came together well.”
In the current music scene, Andreescu’s inspirations include the Canadian rapper Roy Woods and H.E.R., the Grammy-winning R&B singer. Drake and Lil’ Wayne are long-standing favourites, though with true hipster spirit, she prefers their “classic” older material: “Lil’ Wayne’s music is too mainstream now, and the same with Drake a little bit,” she says. And if she could pick one artist to hear over her beats, it would be the Canadian singer Jessie Reyez: “I think my music would definitely fit a female artist, and she has such a smooth voice.”
But Andreescu has also been going deeper into hip-hop history of late, and picks ’90s legend 2Pac as an artist who’s had a particularly significant impact on her.
“I feel like 2Pac’s songs are very poetic,” she says. “He really speaks from the heart and talks about important issues in his songs. I’ve actually studied him and his interviews – I love what he stands for, and what happened to him was just terrible. But his legacy lives on forever, I’m sure. And he has a beautiful voice – I love his flow.”
Growing up, Andreescu played both piano and guitar, and she now creates her instrumental tracks in GarageBand. Her process, which she describes as therapeutic, is a contrast to the self-imposed pressure with which she approaches tennis.
“I’m a perfectionist – but only with tennis,” she says. “Outside the court, ultimately I’m a go-with-the-flow girl. Kind of two different personalities. With the music I did not feel I was a perfectionist. I just let things go as they were.
“My attention span is really short – I’d work on a song for an hour, then come back the next day. And the good thing about that was, when I came back the next day I’d think of something different than I would’ve thought of in that moment. But each song took four or five days overall.
“Doing that helps me stay grounded, and to not think about tennis, and to focus on something else. I’ve noticed that I can’t be the type of person who’s always tennis-tennis-tennis, I always have to have other things. Now, one thing I have is music, and I really, really enjoy it.”