Family has always been the biggest motivating factor for Memphis rapper BIG30. His cousin was the first person to encourage him to get behind the mic before he began recording with childhood friend Pooh Shiesty. 30’s first break came from his verse on Shiesty’s 2021 single “Neighbors,” a turn that established him as a smooth voice within the Memphis scene.
Just four months later, Shiesty was arrested in connection with a shooting in Miami. With his best friend locked up indefinitely, BIG30 has had to carry the Southern torch alone. His 2021 debut project King of Killbranch delivered stories of surviving the trenches and reveling in his sudden good fortune. “King of Killbranch came at a happy point in my life, where things were going so perfect, exactly how I wanted it to go,” 30 tells Audiomack World before diving into his new album, released last month. “Last Man Standing had more of a point to prove. Killbranch was all ups, pluses, and positives. Standing is ups, downs, positives, and negatives.”
On Last Man Standing, the mood is darker and more contemplative, with 30 spitting hustler anthems (“On My Mama”) and snapshots of death and toted guns (“Dead Guyz,” “Protest”) with dead-eyed focus. He was inducted into XXL’s 2022 Freshman Class shortly before Last Man Standing dropped, and he couldn’t be prouder: “They accept me for all that BIG30 is. I’m finna have a long run. I just don’t wanna be that guy that’s only relevant off of features. I wanna have my own thing.”
On his inspirations… My cousin was just telling me that when I was 11 or 12 years old, I was shy. He was rapping and I would only rap for him. A lotta stuff came up where I rapped while I was trapping but I didn’t realize it was my gift. My dad and cousins had me on everything so I listened to some [Yo] Gotti, some 8Ball & MJG, some Three 6 Mafia.
On learning from Pooh Shiesty… Being in the studio with Shiesty, he taught me how to sauce on the beat. He would tell me that the stuff I was saying was hard but it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. You could say the simplest thing but if you hold the words out or put emphasis on it, you’ll catch the crowd’s attention.
On trying new sounds… I’m only 23 and I’ve only been rapping for a few years now and I still ain't discover everything I can do. It’s a lotta stuff I’m shy to do, like harmonizing. I know I can do it because I’m very talented and versatile. But I still ain’t tried making a song about a woman or harmonizing.
On finding confidence in his voice… When I first came into the game, I kept telling myself, “I can’t flop. I’ma do it big.” When I dropped King of Killbranch, I had every feature from every artist I wanted on there, and the song I did by myself was so good, it boosted my confidence. I wanted to test myself and see if they really loved me for me.
With Last Man Standing, I didn’t focus on having the biggest features and all that. I focused on giving them all of me to see if they still love my music. Even the title Last Man Standing—this is all of me.
On rest… I’ve also been hyperactive when it comes to work. I only get that downtime when I’m with my family. I’m a state-to-state, place-to-place type of person. I’ve been up five or six days with 13 hours of sleep, stressed out. I go and go and go before my body just crash. It’s tiring to be like that. I get my business out the way and I just go down when I get a chance. If it’s up, it’s up.
On carrying the torch for Memphis… I’m out here for a reason, and I gotta do something with that. With people going to jail and dying on me, I feel like I’m one of the last ones left. I got a big chip on my shoulder when it comes to Pooh Shiesty. Me and my patna were taking over the world together. I feel like I can’t stop and let the dream die here. If I stop, I’d sink the whole ship.