Bazzi’s ‘Soul Searching’ Mixtape Establishes Him As A Crossover Pop Force

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In a post-Drake world, a pop star like Bazzi feels inevitable — but the best part about the 21-year-old hip-hop-adjacent crooner is that he doesn’t take his place in the pop world for granted. His second full-length release, a mixtape called Soul Searching, came out earlier this month and is full of songs that are full of both hope and gratitude about his newfound success as a rising pop star.

Andrew Bazzi is a Virgo (yes, like Beyonce) who moved to Los Angeles as a teen after spending several years uploading covers to Youtube. Growing up as a Lebanese-American in Dearborn, Michigan — Bazzi’s father was an immigrant from Lebanon and his mother is American— he was musical from a young age, learning to play Arabic instruments like the oud and guitar as a kid. Accruing a massive following on the now-defunct video platform Vine, Bazzi eventually caught the eye of Atlantic Records, who scooped him up in the fall of 2017 after a viral smash on Snapchat turned his syrupy breakout single “Mine” into a Billboard hit that peaked at No. 11.

Both Vine and Snapchat success stories might be things of the past, but Bazzi is continually proving he is riding the wave of the future, parlaying his first single into opening slots on major pop tour for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Camila Cabello. Not an avid Snapchat or Vine user, the first time I heard a Bazzi song was when Camila Cabello hopped on a remix of “Beautiful,” a song that also caught my ear for this straightforwardly horny couplet “The way that Gucci looks on you amazing / But nothing can compare to when you’re naked.” Borrowing liberally from hip-hop’s tendency to invoke luxury brands, Bazzi flips the trope on its head by dismissing the Gucci in a tongue-in-cheek way, an interesting songwriting twist that makes the chorus of the song stand out.

“Beautiful” didn’t have as much chart impact on the Hot 100, but the remix became a pop hit and helped contribute to the success of Bazzi’s debut album, Cosmic, which dropped back in April 2018 and debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard albums chart. While there’s been a spotlight on Latinx representation in pop and hip-hop music over the last few years, Bazzi brings a different sound to the charts, liberally incorporating trap and hip-hop beats with elements of the Arabic melodies he grew up learning to play; he co-wrote and co-produced and plays instruments on every song on his debut, and has even written songs for K-pop groups like NCT Dream.

But if 2018 was a huge year for Bazzi, 2019 seems poised to be even bigger. This year he released two massive pop singles in “Paradise,” and “I.F.L.Y.” (as in “I f*cking love you”) to precede his new mixtape, and the tape also includes collaborations with 6Lack and 21 Savage. Both of these pop hits showcase his tendency to combine tenderness and blunt sexuality, while his song with 21, “Focus,” emphasizes the importance of positive thinking for stars who are constantly bombarded with negativity as a byproduct of fame. Bazzi’s ability to draw from both traditional pop and seamlessly move into the hip-hop space feels like a blueprint for success for stars of the future, similar to the lane Ariana Grande or even Drake himself have both carved out.

Of course, the representation that Bazzi offers in the Trump era is another important facet of his popularity and success. As the son of an immigrant, he’s spoken out against the policies this administration has concerning immigration and takes his position as a role model seriously. “It’s so incorrect what’s going on (politically),” he told USA Today last year. “And I think it’s good for Lebanese-Americans to have someone they can look at and let them know that someone’s supporting them.” On the first track off Soul Searching, “Humble Beginnings,” he also raps about how his family struggled with money growing up, and the resilience he learned at a young age — “Lebanese blood / I was born ambitious.”

Soul Searching is only the second full-length release from Bazzi, and it’s clear from listening to the projects back to back that he’s already grown by leaps and bounds since his debut album. Breaking into the industry at such a young age means that fans who first discovered him as a Snapchat filter will get to follow Bazzi’s career from social media viral moments all the way through to working with pop stars like Camila Cabello and rappers like 21 Savage. And no matter how big Bazzi gets, it seems clear that centering his humble beginnings and his heritage will be just as inevitable as his success.

Soul Searching is out now via Atlantic Records. Get it here.

Bazzi is an Atlantic Records/Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.