When Polo G started planning the rollout of what would become his single “Rapstar,” the song didn’t even exist, at least not in its current form.
Instead, the song’s creation and promotion evolved into a masterful teasing campaign, engaging fans for nearly an entire year. Upon its release on April 9, as the official first single from Polo G’s third album, “Hall of Fame,” “Rapstar” would peak at Spotify and Apple Music on day one and then hit the charts at No. 1. , fending off “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” by Lil Nas X in pole position for two consecutive weeks.
“Nothing can beat this first number 1! Exclaims the 22-year-old Chicago native (real name: Taurus Tremani Bartlett). “It was a great time to see me in the first place, up there with so many great music makers.”
That result was on nobody’s radar when Polo posted a short raw video to YouTube on May 12, 2020, showing him spontaneously dropping bars on viral star producer Einer Bankz jamming a ukulele, this result. which sparked a virtual uprising among fans on social media. media for him to release the full song. He did exactly that, but in increments over almost 12 months.
Polo says the song’s potential hit him when TikTok videos incorporating “Rapstar” soared to over 40,000 posts on the platform. “Knowing the numbers, I went with my instinct,” he explains. “My family told me to turn it off; fans were even spamming my comments, telling me to drop the song. And then those lyrics I said in a freestyle on Twitter became a meme. For a year in a row, fans tweeted the line, “The only bitch I give a talk to is Siri” from this freestyle, so I had to use it. All that was my green light telling me that I should conduct with ‘Rapstar’ as the first single from the album.
At first, his team at Columbia Records was convincing. The label was preparing the track “No Return”, starring other rising stars, Kid Laroi and Lil Durk, as the first salvo fired in the “Hall of Fame” launch strategy. But, as Polo explains, “I knew how much my fan base wanted ‘Rapstar’ and what support he would have. The numbers helped them make sense of the situation, so we changed it. “
Polo continued to refine the trail (then called “Amiri,” after the denim brand shouted in the second verse). He then enlisted producer Synco to pair Bankz’s uke groove with trap beats and put songwriter Alexander Wu on patrol – while also showing off the song’s eventual success in the lyrics. “My dad always said BMW meant ‘Black man win’ so I had that in mind,” he explains. “Visually, I was just thinking about what my life was really about. I was moving from Chicago to Calabasas [out side Los Angeles], collecting bank deposits in my first car, a Beemer X7 truck, so I put that in the lyrics.
“I knew it was going to be huge after I finished the second verse,” he continues. “I walked out of the booth into the studio, and from the reaction there, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be one of those. “I know I have another one very soon!
Indeed, Polo followed up with a big boss move: a deluxe edition of “Hall of Fame” with “Bad Man (Smooth Criminal)” – his 2021 flex on Michael Jackson’s 80s electro funk classic. “I finally got permission on this!” He laughs at the song, which only recently dropped. “I know it’s gonna be a big moment – another ‘Rapstar’ type moment.”
Here, Polo G breaks down the “Rapstar” phenomenon and what it took for his team to live up to their title.
Variety: What was your inspiration behind “Rapstar” and its unique evolution to finally reach its audience?
Polo G: Inspiration conveyed what it’s like to be me, in my position. I wanted the listener to experience what it’s like to be a rapper – the pros and cons.
When audiences first tasted “Rapstar” on YouTube, it wasn’t even really a song then, was it?
Einer was freestyle on the ukulele, and I had a few lyrics from a song that I had already started when I was somewhere in Canada. Einer went crazy on the ropes, I dropped the bars I had, we caught him on video, and the rest is history.
“Rapstar” essentially evolved for fans in real time as you released tunes online to document its progress. How did the song change as you teased it to fans?
I had to redo the second verse completely, then Einer concocted a new beat. Synco came up with the production to bring it home.
What about the song that you think attracted listeners?
I am proud to talk about the emotional and mental battles I go through each day, knowing that other people are going through the same thing. I intentionally put this type of lyrics in “Rapstar” so people know that they are not alone in what they are going through. Singing those lyrics “Anxiety is killing me / I just want to leave Earth” made me feel better about whatever was going on. I keep that in mind when talking to fans.
Where do you think the discovery of music is going today? Where do you find music? Where are your fans finding music right now?
I’m going to surf youtube and check my friends for posts about unknown artists. There are a lot of underground talent and up-and-coming artists. To find new artists and sounds, I’m always tuned in to the raw talent on the streets and the hunger there.
Where do you find artists like Scorey to sign on your label, ODA [Polo’s label partnership with Columbia]?
I just have an A&R ear; I always feel like I know who’s next to explode. I found Scorey on Instagram: I sent him a DM and we stayed connected. He has a story, he talks about what is happening in a corner of the city that you don’t always hear about.
Have you worked with any new songwriters or producers this year that really impressed you?
Scorey, of course, and all the artists on my label. We’ve got a lot of shit on the way! And I rocked a lot with Leilani.
Is there anyone else you would like to shout out for helping to make “Rapstar” the success it has been?
There are a lot of elements that made this song what it was – the video and the team behind it were majors. My mom really thought it was a good idea to shoot the video – that’s when I knew it was gone. It really brought the whole “Rapstar” trip together. Specifically, however, it’s the fans: They put a song I had forgotten on my radar back and brought it to life.
With your mother, Stacia Mac, who has served as your “mom” since the jump, how do you balance the personal and the professional?
She’s still my mom, so I call her on everything in my life. She always has my best interests at heart and would never cheat on me – I can trust her. We do a great job of flipping the switch, shutting down the business, and just being a family.
You’ve come a long way in 2021. Going back to the original story, outside of the recording studio, where did you first hear “Rapstar”? What was it doing?
The only other time outside the studio was in the car. When you hear a song in a car, that’s when you can tell if it’s really a hit.
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