“I didn’t know what kind of sound I wanted to make. I didn’t have no influences,” he said. “I just heard my voice in the microphone and was like, damn, I like that.” He posted a handful of songs to SoundCloud, each with a different style. The one that stuck was “Deadlocs,” a casual, boastful talker with a spooky beat from an old friend, Scum Beatz. He set goals for daily play counts, and for when he would shoot a video. Then he started creating viral moments — taking informal polls on Instagram about which high school’s students were following him the most, then driving to that school and performing an impromptu concert atop his car. Rather than goof off to gain followers, he wanted to be sure his face was connected to his song: “Putting it from your ears to your eyes.”
IN TODAY’S HIP-HOP ecosystem, distribution and starmaking systems are well-oiled; the fans are there before the artist ever shows up. Memes get disseminated quickly (and mostly discarded quickly too). Snippets of songs are used as soundtracks for selfie or dance videos. The music — the musician — is often merely an accent.
That makes social media a necessary evil and a savage tease for upstart musicians of this generation: You have to cultivate a viral-friendly image, but not let it swallow your art. “People be famous for everything other than music and that’s what they really trying to do,” Blueface said. “But they don’t know once you get famous for being this funny guy, nobody’s going to take you serious as a musician.”
Still, if it’s virality the kids want, then virality Blueface will give them. Last year, when he wasn’t yet able to Crip walk (a footwork-heavy dance pioneered by Crips), he was mocked online. So he taught himself, filming his progress. However he doesn’t always identify when the winds aren’t going his way, like when he faced backlash for recently referring to a transgender woman as “it.” He shrugged off questions about the matter.
As for his living-meme Ben Franklin tattoo, he insists he was sober when he got it, not long after he’d decided to become a rapper, but long before fans had really taken to him. “The people that went with me was like, ‘Nah, don’t do that. Do not do that.’” Blueface said. But he was determined: “This is going to be the never-forget-it,” he told them. No turning back.
Eventually, Blueface collected several songs he’d posted on his SoundCloud on “Famous Cryp,” which he initially released independently and has gone as high as No. 29 on the Billboard album chart. He is also signed to Cash Money West, and his new music, including the singles “Bleed It” and “Studio,” will be released via Republic, a division of the Universal Music conglomerate. “I’ve got two labels going full throttle with two singles,” Wack 100 said. Add to that guest appearances on songs by G-Eazy, Tyga and others, creating, he said, “so much traffic.”