FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week, we hear from Ghana-via-Minneapolis rapper Drelli, whose “swagbop” sound mixes house, hip-hop and surrealism. Rap success is only one of his ambitions however, the Lil Yachty-approved MC with dreams of taking over TV sets tells Stefan Bindley-Taylor.
Must-hear: ‘Chiquita’ (2017)
For Fans Of: Tyler, The Creator, Lil Yachty, Goldlink
You won’t have heard of swagbop before, but that will change in 2018, if 19-year-old Drelli gets his way. “It makes you bop your head and puts you right in the middle between a hip-hop and dance track,” the usually south Minneapolis-based MC says, explaining the genre he claims to be pioneering over FaceTime from his family home in Ghana. It’s an alchemy of sounds that’s helped him check off several milestones across his two-year career to date: already, he’s shared a stage with Lil Yachty and worked with Kanye collaborator Allan Kingdom, and that, he asserts, is just the beginning.
“I’m gonna have my own TV show,” he insists – something that’s actually easy to imagine from the cartoonish frenzy of his N64 tennis game-themed ‘Chiquita’ video. So far, so Tyler, The Creator, you might be thinking. But Drelli has a vibe all of his own. Tracks like ‘Night Owl’ and ‘Oasis’ are perfect examples: dreamy, clubby cascades of energy that make you want to quit your job and trek across the country with your friends in a stolen minivan, driven by housey beats courtesy of main collaborator DannyTV. “I had never really listened to anything like that before, that upbeat type of dance music,” he says of the producer, who he credits with inspiring his genre-blending style.
Like many wonderkids, Drelli discovered his talents almost accidentally. “In freshman year of high school, me and my friends would fuck around and make joke raps, and go to parties and just play our songs loud as hell and super reckless,” he recalls. “By junior year, I was like: ‘damn, maybe I should actually start rapping’, ‘cos I enjoyed it.” Though his sound has expanded, lyrically he remains rooted in the raw adolescence of the parties where his career as an MC first took flight, condensing his experience and the experience of his friends growing up in Minneapolis into smart, debaucherous wordplay. “What you doing tonight? I know where it’s hype”, he teases on ‘16 Ounces’. “We could FaceTime with blunts/Afterwards head out for lunch/Where the meals be gourmet.” “I fuck with a lot of people in Minneapolis,” he says. “Seeing the people around me and the way they were brought up, I just tried put all these different perspectives into one.”
But the rising star’s aspirations don’t end with music. “Eddie Murphy!” he blurts out without a second’s hesitation when I ask which artist he would compare himself to. “If you watch some of his early movies, the way he carries himself is the way I envision myself. What he does is kinda how I see myself ending up, doing shit in a similar way.”
An Eddie Murphy-inspired TV show is certainly something to look forward to, but he’s not losing sight of music, with the rapper’s debut album currently in production. If his new single ‘Know Ya’ (feat. Moise) is anything to go by, we can expect his swagbop takeover sooner rather than later. “Especially now, to be able to stay motivated, I have to find new things to do,” he says. “Being an artist, shit gets old fast. Even just the way I was making music a year ago compared to now, there’s shit I don’t do because it got old.” Like the swagbop sound he wants the world to embrace, Drelli plans to keep on moving.
Stefan Bindley-Taylor is a freelance writer. Find him on Twitter.