In some rare cases we find an artist who seems to one day materialize out of thin air and begin making a dent in the industry. Bhad Bhabie is one of those viral phenomenons. Though as easy as it to ridicule the young artist, it's hard not to be impressed by her vigour and adept approach to the game.
In a world where we consistently and unfairly attempt to strip women of their power, there needs to be more artists standing up and delivering despite what any naysayer might think. "When girls do things, it's like damn I didn't know she could do that. Like when people say it's lowkey fire, if it's fire it's fire just say it, why the f*ck it gotta be lowkey for. Or when people say for a girl that's crazy, you should say for a person that's crazy cause I know your ass wouldn't do it. Now it's just Nicki or Cardi, you can't even say both because then they be like who do you like more? No bitch, I like both, period."
With success comes plenty of envy and at the end of the day, who is anyone else to talk down on someones craft? Who knows what's in store for Bhad Bhabie.
With her long, grey flowing hair rolling down her sides, Billie Eilish really does look as if she was born to be a star. Her deep, longing eyes are difficult to escape and her aura is just as equally drawing. The rest of the world feels the same way, as Eilish has had a breakout year as a burgeoning artist with a unique voice.
You can always tell just how special a talent is by their interactions, or whether they respect and get along with their peers. Eilish is just one of those artists that gets along with a multitude of creators from different communites and genres.
"I don't think he was human," she says of the late XXXTentacion, "and he didn't think he was human to be honest.. All he was trying to do was be better, he had the biggest impact on me, more than anybody else did. He was like a beam of light and just tried to do everything for other people. That was the most selfless kid I ever met in my life, hands down."
With young talents dropping off of this realm each day, it's important that their peers keep their energy, spirit and memory alive with by elevating their own stories and voices.
Lil Xan, his infamous tattoos scribbled across his cheeks sits with his grey beanie pulled low over his eyes, occasionally flashing his youthful smile. Next to him is fellow artist Diablo.
It’s mind-blowing how quick we are to dehumanize an artist once they begin to make it anywhere in this industry. We pressure them, expect the world from them and often forget just how fragile, intellectual and vulnerable they can be (just like anyone else.) Like other young artists, Lil Xan has experienced it all first hand yet still he continues to shine and put his best foot forward.
"X was one of the first rappers on this wave of underground shit,” he says, remembering his late friend. “Raw emotions and distorted low bass… This kid went from doing underground shows from like 40 kids to selling out 5000 cap shows with crazy support. I never seen anything like it.”
And we likely never will again.
Gunplay sits shirtless, his tattoos brazen across his upper torso, his big, chunky dreads tied back casually. In the last few years he’s seen his work pay off, and his gradual rise has been phenomenal. Working alongside artists like Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne, he’s been able to carve himself a solid niche nestled inside the industry.
"I love Shrooms, that's actually my favourite,” he notes, “that's something I could live with for the rest of my life… I went into the wormhole, where you go there's no time, you don't feel your heart beat. I seen the plants all connected with each other. It changed my life, it makes you see the world that's here that we can't see, put it that way.”
His unique perspective on being on this planet allows him to think of differing writing styles and eccentric topics. "I feel that we're beings from a certain galaxy that gets a chance to come down to earth plane and experience what love is - and death - and pain. When we leave here, we graduate to another galaxy where there is eternal life and love. But you have to do good here, this is the testing grounds, when you don't get it right, you come back. You have to make it heaven on earth."
Just as important as those who live to create and move forward the craft of hip hop are those that analyze, study and decipher the work of all those talents we enjoy. Adam22 is one of those people. His show No Jumper has garnered over millions of views with some of the most visionary artists of our time.
The importance of having these intellectuals to decipher the works we hear is so we can find deeper meaning, filter out the garbage and find true art. Although at the end of the day, it’s all subjective: art is about connecting and we need to share with each other what we hear, think and feel when receiving it.
"When you look at Peep and you look at X,” he says, “just look at those 2 side by side and tell me those aren't 2 of the most iconic visionaries of our time. They were the people who could change the conversation, the dialogue, advance our culture. I know how I felt about Kurt Cobain as a kid, Tupac as a kid - X & Peep are those kind of people. X's impact is just like Tupac's impact.”
Like Tupac, X’s impact will live on forever. In times when we lose those that have given us the brightest glimmer of hope before leaving us too soon, we have little moments caught in interviews like that of X’s on No Jumper to remind us of their legacy.
Sitting alongside another talented cat named Ski Mask The Slump God, Juice WRLD bares a shy smile and cool atmosphere, his medium-dreads rolling over his red ‘Supreme’ headband.
The Illinois rapper and songwriter has worked himself up to a spectacular year and shows no sign of stopping. By combining soul-searching, intellectual lyrics with genre-defying instrumentals and vocal melodies, Juice has been able to quickly innovate an already innovative style and garner fans all over the world. His versatility allows him to hit each different pocket and make it his own, allowing an eclectic group of listens find something unique they love about his work.
“I was listening to Thank Me Later the other day, I related to most of the sh*t he was talking about. Drake has a lot to do with the culture. The rap game an Abyss and Drake is the Gatekeeper.”
Juice shows similarities to hip hop’s Gatekeepers already, a versatile sound and the ability to use his voice as the most powerful, evocative instrument on the track. Undoubtedly, the future looks bright for him.
In today’s industry, there’s a lot of definitions going around for what it means to be an OG. Maxo Kream is one of those artist’s that has lived that life in it’s most real sense. The highs and the lows. It’s a life that can make a young man wise beyond his years, or snatch his dreams from him before they can come to fruition.
"Back when a face tat was for OG killers, now I'm seeing teardrops on you Soundcloud rappers. Remember when face tats were for OGs, you couldn't look them in the face, now you see face tats it's like oh he's probably a Soundcloud rapper, with like purple rainbow hair or something… Trap Rap turned into dope fiend rap bro. These n*ggas junkies, this new age shit, they be doped out. They be getting robbed, and falling out, and be in the feelings, and beef on the internet.”
Thankfully we have real OGs like Maxo to remind us how easy it is to market a lifestyle through a phone, but’s it’s a very different thing living and experiencing it for real.
With a pink bandana wrapped around his forehead, Ugly God lounges casually at Rolling Loud Fest. His humorous nature and relaxed vibe make him an easy-going conversationalist who really just says what he’s thinking. At times his mind seems otherworldly, like he’s come from a different universe or world.
“I feel like everybody is a spirit, and when you die you go back up to a realm of a whole bunch of spirits, and they get to choose what they wanna be like. My spirit chose like ‘damn I wanna be a rapper.’ Just for the experience.”
Well, it seems his spirit is on point because Ugly God’s success in recent years has been magnanimous, and it’s only going up from here. A rapper’s best quality can easily be whether they don’t seem to care what others’ think of them. They do themselves and it’s their natural way of life. Ugly God possesses that key quality.
A spread eagle across his chest that matches his gold chain, Night Lovell sits relaxed on the couch towards the back. The young Ottawa artist is one of a few really pushing the scene forward for his city. His energy is raw and youthful, and his drive is focused. Inspired by the one man that’s taken his country to a whole new stratosphere, Night Lovell has similar aspiration in carrying the torch for his country.
“Drake is a huge inspiration based on the fact that Canada's an underdog in the rap game. He's on top and he's from Canada, that just puts inspiration in everyone, whether you're from Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa. I'm trying to do the same thing he's doing, but for Ottawa first. Drake's a legend, he did it for the whole rap game and he's from an underdog country. I love Drake.”
His genre-bending work comes from being inspired by his peers, those that have been making waves in unique ways for the last few years. "I feel like Lil Peep is a legend because of what he brought to the game, he mixed the emo and the punk sh*t with rap, and that opened a lot of doors to people. He was a f*cking legend, I talked to him a few times. Rest in peace Lil Peep, he will live on forever, there's influence of his sh*t in everyone's music.”