Teachers used to tell BlocBoy JB that he’d grow up to be a failure. Between being kicked out of school in 10th grade, and the birth of his now two-year-old son, BlocBoy says that he had no choice but to focus his efforts elsewhere. “F*ck school, I’ma get rich off rapping,” he thought, as he dropped six mixtapes over the past two years.
Last fall, the independent Memphis rapper had big plans: He was to perform at several high school pep rallies around town. “A lot of just turning kids up for school, motivating them,” he said. But local news caught wind of a video where BlocBoy and some friends shoot dice inside one school’s locker room, without any teachers or administration noticing. One report showed a BlocBoy music video where he helps rob a home. Those reports put paid to his hopes of becoming a role model, but BlocBoy’s reputation is changing at this very moment.
Earlier this month he and Drake released the Project Pat-interpolating “Look Alive” remix, to 13 million Youtube views. Throughout his career Drake has staged chart takeovers via high-profile cosigns, where he hops on songs by promising new talent, from The Weeknd to A$AP Rocky, Future, and Migos. His co-sign has long been considered an indicator of a huge explosion of viral attention — “Look Alive” debuted at No. 2 on the Apple Music charts. But consider “Look Alive” a warning shot from BlocBoy JB, too. “I’m a get the money, Drizzy get the loot,” he raps, speaking their dual success into existence.
BlocBoy often raps as an unflinching stickup kid affiliated with Grape Street Crips, a California gang with a branch in Memphis; a Blac Youngsta remix, “Crip Hopper,” makes for some of his catchiest proof. The violence in his music can be unrelenting, but it isn’t at all surprising; last year Memphis’ murder rate reached the highest levels it has seen since the ’90s. As trap-rap superproducer Metro Boomin once said two years ago, “21 Savage is important because he is one of the last street n—-s left making music.” The same could be said of BlocBoy.