Chicago’s Supa Bwe is the most copied rapper of the 2010s. How else to explain the fact that today’s most popular rappers, like Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd, utilize genre-bending styles that Supa was trading in with they were still learning to read? He’s quick to note the similarities, often citing his imitators by name.
During our phone interview, he took care to point out that he name-checked recently incarcerated Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 69, not out of disdain or contempt, but because he made for an obvious example of the phenomenon. “A lot of Chicago artists have been doing this since 2008, 2010,” he said. “There’s videos of Tekashi literally saying, word for word, hella Chicago bars. Like, Rondo songs, [Chief] Keef songs, Taydoe songs.”
Supa, born Frederick Burton in Chicago, is one of the last of the ’80s babies who remember a time before the internet made it possible for a meme to take over the airwaves of rap radio. He came up alongside lyrical Chicago luminaries like Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, and Saba, but approached the music in his own unique way, embracing the molten, slurry delivery that would eventually become the rap trend du jour among the so-called “Soundcloud rap” set.
He also embraced some of the bad habits of his contemporaries like Chance and Vic Mensa, imploding his original trio Hurt Everybody in 2016 and sending him into a spiral of drugs and self-destructive behavior that stunted his then-burgeoning career. He pulled himself out of this nadir with 2017’s Finally Dead, emerging battered and bruised, but with a fresh perspective that refreshed his creative drive.
That newfound creativity has been channeled into his new EP, Just Say Thank You, which emanates the sense of gratitude he cultivated over the past two years of growing pains and maturation. After collaborating with Chance on his ode to public access program Wala Cam, he tapped the indie star again on the nostalgic “Rememory,” emerging Bay Area rapper Rexx Life Raj on “Time For Me,” and returned to his DIY, self-produced process on the EP’s remaining tracks including the punkish “Problem/Fuel” and the keenly emo “I Hate You.”
With a sense of fresh focus and an eclectic style that draws as much from the classic punk and nu-metal his English-born mother exposed him to growing up, as from the more traditionally gangsta rap heritage of Chicago’s early rap scene he learned courtesy of his pops, Supa Bwe is setting up a career resurrection that may find him finally receiving his long-delayed acknowledgment for innovating rap’s modern sounds long before such genre mashing was as commonplace as deep dish pizza is in his hometown.
Okay, first things first. Your name has three different pronunciations listed. Which one is correct?
It’s a Cerberus, in a way. It’s got three different pronunciations: Supa Boy, Supa Boo, Supa Buoy. Whichever one slides off the tongue fast.