A starter's guide to Sheck Wes, a raucous Harlem rapper who fuses aggressive trap production with poignant lyricism and infectious hooks.

Welcome to Starter's Guide, the series where DJBooth and All Def gives you the need-to-know details behind the genre's most promising new acts. We tell you why he or she is buzzing, why they'll blow up, and what records you need to hear. It’s quick, it’s easy, it's (mostly) painless, and regardless of your familiarity level, it’s everything you need to know to determine whether you are a fan or you need to steer clear.

Who Is Sheck Wes?

Sheck Wes is a rising, raucous Harlem rapper with less than 10 songs available to the public and a record deal with both Travis Scott and Kanye West. You may have heard his recent riot-inducing guest feature on Scott's superb new album, ASTROWORLD ("NO BYSTANDERS"). If that doesn’t scream potential, then we’re not sure what does. 

A child of African immigrants, Sheck Wes fell in love with making music at age nine. Ten years later, Wes makes infectious and gut-wrenching bangers in the vein of his mentor Travis, complete with the requisite Harlem charisma and a twang of eccentrism that makes every single an instant earworm. His hooks are just that, bringing fans in for necessary subsequent listens to catch his full meaning because, as he’s made clear, Sheck Wes is really rapping.

By 16, Wes was modeling in the Yeezy Season 3 show, alongside Lil Yachty, Young Thug, and countless others. At 19, the video for his breakthrough single “Mo Bamba”—named after Sheck's childhood friend and recent Orlando Magic draft pick Mohamed "Mo" Bamba—has over eight million views (with another 31 million streams on Spotify). The equally impressive single “Live SheckWes Die SheckWes,” which is currently just south of three million streams, could soon follow. When not modeling or rapping, Wes is shooting promotional videos for Jordan Brand

Off the success of his singles, Sheck Wes will be releasing his debut project Mudboy before the end of 2018 on Interscope Records in a joint-venture with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack and Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music labels.

Why Should You Care?

You should care about Sheck Wes because Sheck Wes doesn’t care about clout. The upstart only cares about music. He told The FADER as much when breaking down his rap name and the importance of sacrifice. There are elements of subversion and perspective to his music that force you to think and challenge your understanding of a “banger,” a “conscious rapper,” a “New York” rapper, and every other subdivision of hip-hop. All of this, of course, is in the service of his ultimate downtown takeover.

You should also care about Sheck Wes because some of the most influential hip-hop acts care about Sheck Wes. Travis Scott shouted out "Mo Bamba" on Astroworld standout "WHO? WHAT!" Lil Yachty recently featured on "N**** AINT CLOSE." and when Wes was about to sign to Scott’s label, Kanye West happened to press play on “Mo Bamba” and, as Wes tells it: “He flew me out to LA overnight. I go to this hotel in Calabasas, and I meet up with Ye and Pusha T… [Kanye's] on the phone, calling Trav, like ‘Yo, I heard you're fucking with Sheck Wes, I'm fucking with Sheck Wes too, let's do this shit together.’”

5 Essential Songs

“Mo Bamba” (2017)

That track that forced Kanye West to go halves on a Sheck Wes deal with Travis Scott, “Mo Bamba” is a New York take on 03 Greedo-esque wailing. This murky brand of auto-crooning sets Wes apart as a visionary, allowing him to be the backing melody and the superstar of his biggest single.

“Live SheckWes Die SheckWes” (2017)

He’s said it himself and the bars confirm it, “Live SheckWes Die SheckWes” is the best example of the sly depth of Wes’ lyricism. With an overcast and manic electronic beat, Wes paints a brick picture of Harlem. Making the title and the hook of your single your name, too, is pretty business-savvy.

“Chippi Chippi” (2018)

“Chippi Chippi” is a show of starpower for Sheck Wes, who handles the whacked-out and harrowing production with an attractive flavor of irreverence. The hushed swagger of his delivery ensures he doesn’t get lost behind the busy beat. Sheck Wes is clearing a space for himself on the track, and owning it with ease.

“Do That” (2018)

Sheck Wes brings a muddier delivery to “Do That.” The natural grain of his voice is all the texture we need while Wes rattles off dream cars, girls, and other such monikers of success. The punk underpinnings make this song a raging hit.

“Lebron James” (2017)

Who knew Sheck Wes could hit such immaculate high notes?

Why He’ll Blow Up

Sheck Wes is exceptionally savvy and cerebral. “I’m talking about some shit!” Wes told Pitchfork. The high replay value of his music smoothes over the sucker punch of his messaging, making him all the more accessible without sacrificing meaning. “One thing I did for Kanye is just rap a lot of my songs without the beat; I was teaching him shit, and he was teaching me shit,” he continued.

Though he only has a few songs and videos available to the public, that’s likely working in Wes’ favor. Gone are the days of diving into expansive catalogs of 20-track mixtapes—that’s become too daunting. With five punchy tracks, getting into Sheck Wes is a painless and entertaining affair. Like Travis Scott, Sheck Wes also understands the value of a rage-ready live show

His upcoming debut, Mudboy, is shaping up to be a moving coming-of-age tale. “I make music for anything, n****s can run to this shit or cry to it, it don’t matter,” Wes said, detailing his album. “It’s gonna have all of the crazy shit, all the chill shit, shit where I’m telling my story.” If Wes can continue delivering basement party-ready soundscapes laced with dark storytelling and the realities of coming into your manhood, he’s going to be a New York and hip-hop mainstay.

TL;DR

Sheck Wes is an upcoming Harlem rapper signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label as well as Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack label. He makes raucous bangers that bloom into potent exposés on street life, and life in general, in Harlem. Sheck Wes’ music is infectious, structured for the blown-out bass and repetitive soundscapes that dominate the mainstream, but underneath the grimy veneer, he’s really rapping. 

Bridging the gap between trap stylings, South Florida aggression, and New York rap writing and charisma, Sheck Wes stands to be a prominent voice for the new New York. His passion is his greatest strength, but could also serve to be his weakness if his upcoming debut album Mudboy does not live up to the hype of his A-list cosigns and the high bar Wes has set for himself.

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