“You ever listen to Blueface before?”
I had only been in Los Angeles for a day or so when my still jet-lagged corpse slid into my homie Miguelito’s car and was asked this question. We had just finished recording an episode of his Disorganized Noize podcast and my mind was running a mile a minute trying to process my new surroundings.
The conversation surrounding the most controversial California rapper since (insert dude here) had just begun to bubble up on the internet—I was only able to put a heavily memed face to a name—so as a Jerseyite visiting California for the first time after years of wondering what it might be like, there was no better time and place to press play on Blueface.
Later that night, I had plans in Pasadena, a world away from the modest, brown-faced Van Nuys apartment complexes inside of which I had just eaten nachos. Handle of Martinelli’s apple juice in hand, I had no idea what to expect when Miguelito hit play on Blueface’s 2018 debut Famous Cryp. Feeling that wavy California bounce on West Coast blacktop was one thing, but hearing Blueface zoom his way across the tops of these beats was another thing entirely.
I could almost feel Blueface racing alongside us as the car whipped down Fairfax Ave, shouts of “niggas wanted beef so I had to bring the taco shells” blaring through the speakers. My first times driving past The Comedy Store, the Hollywood Bowl, and Universal Studios were filled with grandiose promises on the dead locs. I’ll never look at a Minion ever again and not think about eating three-pieces with Colonel Sanders. Not even a mile onto the highway and I was hooked. This is the wordy magic of the former high school quarterback legally known as Jonathan Porter.
To say that the California spitter’s rise over the past 11 months has been meteoric would be a massive understatement. Porter got his start after a rapper friend invited him to a recording studio one night and as he watched the homies writing to the beats, the sense of competition coaxed bars out of his 19-year-old brain. “I felt like I was in an opportunity, and I’m an opportunist, so I took full advantage,” he told Refuse Media earlier this year of his first time rapping on the mic. “A nigga fake already knew himself, so I really just wanted to try it. As soon as I heard my voice, it was a wrap.”
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Porter had caught the rapping bug and didn’t waste any time putting it to good use. He uploaded his first song “Dead Locs” to SoundCloud in January 2018 and slowly began building a following off of his high-pitched braggadocio and devil-may-care bar structure, sounding like a cross between the rush of Vallejo foursome SOB X RBE and the staccato pimp truisms of Suga Free. He doesn’t so much rap offbeat as he does cram his every last thought into the corners of bars, creating energy that informs some of his best lines. “Broke lil baby, get off yo' ass, get a job / On the dead locs, tatted to my face / Fuck a job, if I go broke somebody gettin’ robbed” speaks to the freshness of his fame—and his still deep ties to the Crips—just enough to also be hilariously brash.
Whatever formula Porter stumbled across worked because his following began to grow. Prior to the release of the 10-track, 21-minute Famous Cryp, videos began dropping on WorldStarHipHop, each one making a bigger wave than the last. Say what you will about punchline rappers, but Blueface makes a hell of an impression with some of these gems:
“Play with my respect, leave ‘em wetter than a dream”
“It get tricky, I turn the concert to a Chippendales”
“Welcome to the meatshow”
“That boy got on a necklace, yea aight / Nigga talkin’ out his neck ‘til I leave his ass neck-less”
“It’s two dicks in my pants for a nigga that’s trippin’”
“Bangin’ the set while I’m beatin’ up her guts”
While the above lines straddle the border of good taste, that’s half the fun of Blueface’s raps. He’s LA’s latest savant rapping on the roof of a car to teens, hands outstretched like BTS was beamed to their parking lot. He’ll tell you himself; he’s the next big thing.
As much local fame as he’d acquired, though, Blueface's spot didn’t truly blow up until he released the video for “Respect My Cryppin'” in October. Twitter and YouTube called him the Courage the Cowardly Dog of rap for his high-pitched exploits. Rapper Daylyt even caught his own viral clip saying that Blueface raps “three days ahead of the beat.” His raps and persona are controversial by design, a guaranteed lightning rod for hip-hop purists and anyone else who can’t handle lyrics outside of a 4/4 time signature. He's just carrying on a tradition in the best way he knows how.
As 2018 draws to a close, Blueface has shown no sign of slowing down. The Cole Bennett-directed video for his latest single, “Bleed It,” first previewed in a viral clip with ukulele player Einer Bankz, clocked over a million views in only 12 hours (and yes, he’s rapping on beat this time). Co-signs from Kendrick Lamar, J.I.D, and Ice Cube all trickled in within a week of each other. Songs with Quavo, Trippie Redd, and the ultimate wave rider Drake are allegedly in the can. Not bad for someone who only started rapping last September.
The fickle nature of the internet makes it impossible to predict where Blueface will be even three months from now, but my first trip to Los Angeles wouldn’t have been the same without his music contributing to the soundtrack. Whipping it across LA highways, cheese and jalapeno residue still fresh in the air, while my friend shouts “Where’s the meat?” Thrilling isn’t even the word. This is simply the magic of Blueface, babyyyy.