Rising Artist Evander Griiim Talks Working With Gucci Mane & Lil Yachty, Embracing His Latino Roots
El Paso, Texas’ 20-year-old golden boy, Evander Griiim made an appearance jiggin’ beside Lil Yachty on his “Teenage” Tour -- but his “Right Now” (Remix) fast-tracked him towards mainstream notoriety.
Gucci Mane added a verse to Griiim’s raspy raps, and the single’s video brought this recent college dropout from his skateboard-friendly red-cupped parties to Guwop’s trap house. Within a year’s time, Griiim took his studio equipment off layaway and created soundscapes that went viral across streaming platforms, buzzing him all the way towards big-league cosigns.
The emcee has been in conversations alongside the millennial likes of Migos and Rae Sremmurd. Still, the bidding war behind Evander Griiim continues, as he readies himself for the release of his upcoming EP, Raíces. The project is set to release on Nov. 24th and will include Griiim’s bilingual singing, as well as gritty lyricism from Young Thug, Trae Tha Truth, Gucci Mane, Offset & Lil Yachty.
Billboard caught up for an exclusive interview with the Afro-Latino powerhouse to discuss how he embraces multiculturalism, his overwhelming new musical lifestyles and beyond. Become acquainted with the soon-to-be radio rotation centerpiece here.
How did this all begin for you?
This all started with me always having the desire to pursue music. I just hit 20-years-old and am from El Paso, Texas. Growing up as a student of the game, I wanted to listen to every single artist [on the radio]. I adamantly watched [all their] interviews. It is great, just being this obsessive music fan. I started recording because my friends told me, “Yo! You could really do it.” So I am like, “If I’m going to make music. I’m going to put my all into it.” I spent every single dollar that I had, and each day, I'd take every waking moment to strive toward this goal. [I needed] to get here!
And about what age were you when you began striving towards this goal?
I was about 18-years-old when I started working. I got discovered when I was at 19 years old. I told myself that if by 19th birthday I did not get discovered, I was going to join the Army. Then, I got discovered, two days before my birthday.
You have a parent in the service, correct? Is that where that inspiration came from?
Well, really it was because I wasn’t doing anything with myself. Like, I considered the Army because I wasn’t doing anything at all. My parents were just like, "Well, if you are not going to do anything, you might as well go to the Army." I never played sports. I graduated high school, but was never really that deep into school. My parents thought, “You know what? You’re not just going to be at the house!” But, in reality, I was working like crazy on music.
“Right Now” is the first record that took off for you, where did you get the concept from?
Well, really... I was just so hungry. I wanted [to make] it right now. You know? In the lyrics, I rap, “Throw the cash, all I want it, right now/ All the pussy, all the fame, right now/ All the love, all the fame, right now.." At the time, my friend dropped me off at my producer's house, he was engineering out the basement.
When we arrived, I told him, “Bro, let’s do this man! We gotta make it happen.” He made the beat in 30 minutes -- actually, like 10 minutes. Then I laid down the whole song in like 20 minutes. So, it was fast! We wanted a hit song, “right now.”
Do you pen all of your lyrics?
With my past songs, as far as that [single], it was more of like a freestyle. It was more us having fun with it. But with my R&B songs, I do take the time to write it down.
What was it like to collaborate in the studio with Gucci Mane on the “Right Now (Remix)?"
I wasn’t in the studio with him, but it was incredible. It was kind of a surprise because [my CEO Buck is] respected in the limelight. So, when my team went, and directed, work for Gucci Mane -- [Buck] said, “This is my artist. What do you think?”
Gucci Mane heard the record and he was like, “It is crazy! Let me get on it.” Then, I heard a preview of the remix. It was just incredible. He is such a well-respected artist. Gucci Mane is damn near a living legend. He decided to get on a record with me. So, it’s all surreal. The song is a blessing, really.
How was your experience recording your Teen Mix of the song with Lil Yachty?
It was fun, honestly! Lil Yachty and I were already making a bunch of records together. He and I now have about eight or nine songs together. You know, it was right for him. I told him, "You might as well just get on the song." We just kept it moving. He added that youthful teenaged vibe, and feel to it.
How does being biracial influence your sound, given that you record in Spanish, as well?
Yeah, a lot of forthcoming records have a lot of Latino feels to them. Still, I’m keeping my African roots, you know what I mean? I think being biracial, really helped me a lot. The Black culture is still very strong in me, but, also, the Mexican culture is, too. So, jointly the cultures have really just influenced me. They have inspired me to be incredibly ambitious.
[In El Paso] you see a lot of Mexicans or Latinos on the corner selling fruits or what not, and a lot of people make fun of it. But in reality, that’s their hustle! And simultaneously, you have a lot of African Americans who will really take any type of job, just to make it through. That’s ambition.They are willing to do anything for their family. Both sides [make sacrifices]. Those cultures and that grind are in my blood. It really pushes me to feel like I can do anything. And you can hear it in my music. You know I am biracial. I can incorporate both.
As far as your wave of peers, which artists are you listening to now?
Ah, really? I feel like I am listening to a lot of myself. [Laughs.] I am listening to a lot of Yachty. I am listening to a lot of Migos. I am listening to a lot of... well, I am not going to lie, I listen to a lot of old school R&B. I listen to artists like Blackstreet. Also, I listen to a lot of Prodigy. I [enjoy] listening to a lot of the old s-hool stuff. That way I can keep my own sound. But, I love like the oldies -- I don’t actively sound like anybody else.
What is your message to other 20-year-old artists, or teenagers that aspire to do what you are now making happen?
[I encourage them] to always try! I’d tell them this, you don’t have to wait until you are 30. You don’t need to dream until you are 40 to be comfortable or happy in life. You can make it happen tomorrow! Just because you are 18, 19, or 15 [years old], doesn't block your blessings. It is all about what you want to do. How are you going to do it? [Ask yourself] are you going to wait for someone to make it for you? Or are you going to do it?
You’ve previously highlighted your CEO, Buck, a great deal. What is the dynamic of your interaction with him?
It is just a way deeper relationship than him being CEO. Buck has really helped me grow up. Because from a kid until now, it is hard growing up in this type of lifestyle, and industry. He helps keep me grounded. Buck showed me the ropes. It is basically like Rocky Balboa, and his coach [Mickey]. We have a deeper relationship than that. It is more than music. It is a blessing.
You never really hear about business relationships like that. Like, [it is rare] being really close to your CEO. Usually, people have to send their CEO an email or some bullshit like that. It has been a real blessing to be apart of this. He has really taken me under his wing. It is a super deep connection. It is really tough to explain.
What is on the way from Evander Griiim?
Next? I have a project coming out on Nov. 24th. It is incredible. I have a bunch of amazing features on it. I really put my heart into it. My team did, too. They really pushed to make this project as best as it could be. Yeah, I am really excited for Nov. 24th.
What is the name of this project?
Raíces! It means roots in Spanish.
Will there be any touring for Raíces?
Of course! I know right after this releases after this project is out, we are hitting every single city in America! [Laughs.]