While Victoria’s Secret and smooth R&B may go together in most instances, a quick Google search seems to favor the former over a new artist. While researching Pink Sweat$, I kept getting results for the silky garments, not the silky voice. As I found out, trying to explain this intriguing, fast-rising soul singer can lead to search engine complications.
Sweat$ isn’t exactly what you’d call a conventional R&B artist. In fact, for decades the genre has been primarily coded as almost cartoonishly masculine. Singers with square jaws, washboard abs (often adorned in sweat, rain, or oil for that extra glisten-y effect), and rugged demeanor have long dominated the urban melodic scene. Sweat$ is the opposite of that; he’s husky, as his name suggests, he dresses almost entirely in pink, he’s sweetly sensitive in his lyrics and delivery.
For all intents and purposes, he’s a walking, crooning challenge to the usual mores of masculinity. In that, he’s not just a sign of our changing times, he might be one of the first artists uniquely suited to flourish in them. As “Black boy joy” becomes a rallying cry for gender norm rebels, Pink Sweat$ is a shoo-in to become the vanguard of a new generation of atypical, unapologetic nonconformists. Where Cam’ron and Dipset undermined their dissent by couching it in homophobic lingo and doubled-down tough guy demeanor, Pink Sweat$ doesn’t feel the need to qualify his.
Hailing from Philadelphia, the stubbornly contrarian crooner may have captured your eye on Youtube, where his humorous, laundromat-set “Honesty” video has garnered 1.5 million views, despite the lack of a major label promotion budget or major artist co-sign. The confessional, falsetto-sung ballad comes from Sweat$’ debut EP, Volume 1, which was released in November via the indie label Human Re Sources. The track itself has since racked up well over eight million streams, landing on the top rhythmic sponsored playlists like Are & Be, which itself boasts over four and half million followers
Lest the success of his lead single look like a fluke, Sweat$, who possesses some impressive vocal chops, songwriting skills, and production ingenuity — he’s produced for fellow rising star and hip-hop misfit Tierra Whack as well as his own music — followed up with the lighthearted video for “Drama,” which also displays a gift for humor. Taking some trope-y narrative cues from Disney animation and pairing them with the familiar rags-to-riches story hip-hop loves to exploit, the clip portrays the glow-up of nerdy Hubert Jr., played by Sweat$, to a more attractive, confident version with the exclamation “I’m a man!”
And really, that seems to be his whole point. Where his physical presentation and willingness to poke fun at himself fly in the face of the traditional, muscular, pretty-boy image usually espoused by the urban music marketing apparatus, wrapping the whole thing in the facade of “Pink Sweat$” makes him stand out enough to be undeniable. It looks like a pink wave is coming to take over R&B.