A Musical Mission
BB4: A Musical Mission for Brooklyn
There’s something very different about BB4 Studio, and you can see it from a block away: a huge, vibrant sign proclaiming its proud presence in South Williamsburg.
Traditionally, New York City audio facilities like to fly under the radar, a discrete secret behind an unmarked door. But that wouldn’t make sense for BB4 founder Rafael Planten, who doesn’t want to just make music at his unique new studio – he aims to sing the praises of this evolving Brooklyn neighborhood that he comes from, with everyone in the community joining in.
“Deciding on BB4’s façade was a big conflict for me,” says Planten. “I thought, ‘Should I keep it quiet like most studios?’ But then I thought I should make it bold, because everything else about BB4 is like that – all the work we did to make this room sound the way that it does. I plan to be here for a long time, and I feel like this sign said that.”
To say that Planten’s roots run deep in this culturally rich section of Williamsburg is an understatement. He’s not just from the area – Planten was literally born in the building that he chose for this unique mixing/mastering/recording facility. And he wears the love for his hometown borough on his sleeve, inspiring the name for the studio he long dreamed of building: BB4 is shorthand for “Brooklyn Born Brooklyn Bred.”
Planten has always embraced these blocks of South Williamsburg, where the gritty beauty of working-class homes and businesses are becoming increasingly interwoven with new culture and commerce – adventurous restaurants, bars, coffee shops and craftsmen are also a welcome part of the fabric.
But long before this stretch of Bedford became fashionable, Planten looked for ways to make the neighborhood a better place. Drug dealers, crime and blight were a common sight, but Planten was determined to grow in the urban jungle. While still a student, his initiatives included repurposing wood thrown out by a nearby shipping crate factory, then converting it into bookshelves. Later came a local vendor’s market he helped get off the ground.
“We did a 500-person survey of this community,” Planten recalls, “and realized that there was a lot of talent, but the people had nowhere to go with it. So we got the permits, made a market where people could sell artwork, and it started to survive and grow. I also did some urban farming here, selling locally-grown food and produce. My love for the neighborhood really springs from when I was a kid growing up here, even when it was dangerous.”
Planten’s career path saw him develop into an experienced audio engineer, and in the process saw an opportunity to bring something even more substantial to South Williamsburg. “There are so many different types of artists right here,” he explains. “I love art, I love community organizing, and music mixes all of that. BB4 stands for building bridges, breaking boundaries, creating a connection between the past and the future: A music studio, coming from someone born and bred in the neighborhood, has the power to do this.
“And we’re not the only ones accomplishing it — the energy on Bedford and the surrounding blocks is constant. The pulse is there at 3:00 in the morning. It all makes things more nourishing for a creative environment – outside and inside BB4.”