February's Hip-Hop and R&B Rookie of the Month: Pooh Shiesty

Pooh Shiesty
Zach Wolfe

Pooh Shiesty

Today (Feb.11), Billboard is kicking off a new franchise catering to up-and-coming hip-hop and R&B acts. Titled "Rookie of the Month," we will scour the landscape for young neophytes, but ultimately showcase the one rising star who stands out the most. For February, Memphis upstart Pooh Shiesty will hold the mantle, after his scorching run in the past few weeks. 

Previously named as one of Billboard's 2021 Artists to Watch, Shiesty's husky raps and street bravado have won the hearts of fans and industry peers. His single "Back in Blood' with Lil Durk reached a new peak this week on the Billboard Hot 100, climbing to No. 37. He also netted his second Hot 100 entry with his Chicago co-star, serving as a feature on Durkio's "Should've Ducked" (a No. 53 debut). Don't let the pretty boy look fool you; Shiesty is a real bruiser on the mic, injecting fear with every bar he punches in. His new project, Shiesty Season, is a masterclass in unflinching honesty, as the 21-year-old holds his own alongside street heroes Gucci Mane, 21 Savage, and of course, Durk. 

Get familiar with February's Hip-Hop & R&B Rookie of the Month, Pooh Shiesty, below. 

"Back in Blood" is No. 37 on the Hot 100 right now. Could you speak about your early success thus far in your career?

I just feel like it was destined. I just feel like I had to keep putting work in. It might feel like it happened so fast, but really it's day-to-day action. I'm risking it all day-to-day. It was a long [process], you know what I'm saying? It was hard -- but then it was up to me those times nobody knew I was rapping. I had to still keep going.

I know I can get sidetracked through it all, but it's still up to me to go. Anybody can tell me to keep going and keep rapping, but they can't give me the lyrics too. They can't put me in a booth and pay for my studio time, too. I think just staying down and keeping going was the best thing I ever did. And it's just paying off now -- I'm finally getting the shine I deserve. I feel like I've been an underdog for a long time. I still feel like that, too.

Your father is also musically-inclined himself having built his own label in Memphis as a rapper. What did you pick up from him that you implement into your skillset today? 

That's where I get my hustle from. That's where I get everything from, everything. That's my OG. He a big brother to me. Ain't no dad and s--t, it's on some business s--t.

What kind of advice has he given you as far as handling stardom since you're moving at a quick pace?

Yeah, he gives me advice on everything. Like on how to move, how to exit shows, and how to think ahead of times in the studio. [He taught me] how to put money to the side, to think about longevity, and everything. That's my OG. When I'm high, he's high.

We know your Memphis roots are strong, but you also lived in Texas for a little bit with your mom. What did you take away from living out there that you brought back home?

I wasn't rapping around that time. My mama from Memphis. It was just like living in your homestate, getting some money, but you just wanna switch it up and get a different feel -- so she tried Texas. It wasn't like we had family out there or nothing. We just tried to go out there. That's how my mama ended up moving out there.

I got that struggle life [from Texas], like how they got that feeling of when they're struggling. That's when I wasn't rapping or nothing. I didn't have to rap then, I was still going to school -- eleventh grade. I'm still seeing how the kids operate and [hearing] the music they listening too, you know what I'm saying?

Then, it's like I'm a whole new person. I'm 17 already, been in Memphis my whole life. [I'm] like a whole new person. So I took advantage of that, for sure. Then, I started getting buzz -- like how my Memphis buzz was out there. I was moving around, like I'm outside, moving. The apartments we lived in, I got the basketball courts opened up. Now everybody posting up on weekends. I brought some Memphis s--t down there. S--t is crazy.

I heard you and Gucci first linked up on Instagram DM. Why was signing to 1017 the perfect fit for your career knowing you could have joined forces with Dolph or Gotti out in Memphis? 

[Clanking his chains] I don't know who else I would go to. Ain't nobody was coming at me like 'Wop. It just made perfect sense.

From Gucci to 21 Savage to Lil Durk, you've gotten a lot of strong co-signs so far. Which co-sign would you say has given you the biggest boost in terms of confidence? 

I can't say his name yet. I can't say his name.

I think I know who it is, but I won't play spoiler. Anybody you're surprised about who has been showing you love? 

Damian Lillard. He texted me because he likes my music. This somebody I'm kicking their ass on [NBA 2K] with. I just probably beat somebody ass on the game with him. It's crazy. Damian Lillard is up there. He's an All-Star.

I heard that a big goal of yours is performing at arenas. Which city are you hoping to perform at the most?

Memphis. The FedExForum. It would be the biggest s--t ever. Ever. It would be the biggest. Nobody is going to top that. It's going to be too many people. Folks from Atlanta coming. Memphis needs something to do like that. Ain't no events, no big parties, no nothing. There's nothing to do in Memphis, but kill and hate on somebody really. That's all they do.

Do you feel like you have an extra responsibility to carry Memphis, knowing that you're the latest star to come out of the city? 

It ain't my responsibility, though. There's men that been in the game way before me. It shouldn't take me to do it. It ain't my responsibility. Ain't none of these folks give me a crumb to do nothing, but it's like -- why not if I have the chance to, you get what I'm saying? That's why I want to do this. But it ain't my job to do it. It's just what I want, I always do. This was before rapping. I thought of other ways to get some money.

I been wanting to put everything on. Like buy apartments and stuff. I had that mindset since I was a little kid. We ain't got nothing to do. We ain't got a swing set or nothing. I been wanting to put a pool, a basketball court, or a workout center. Folks need stuff like that. But it ain't my responsibility.

Being that you are our first-ever Rookie of the Month -- what do you think it'll take to grow from rookie to all-star in this rap game?

Patience, for sho, for a man like me. We gonna go all the way up.