"It was a full circle moment for sure," says Blxst. "'Cause people mainly around the city knew me for producing. So when my artistry caught up, now I'm able to work with my favorite artists that I've been listening to as a kid, which is dope. It give you that extra boost of confidence that you're on the right path."
From producing to singing, Blxst navigated every lane of the music industry he could. He founded his own record label, Evgle, in 2018 and partnered with Red Bull Records for the 2020 release of his debut EP No Love Lost, which peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart. The highly lauded project, featuring the Tyga and Ty Dolla $ign-assisted "Chosen" -- which is currently in the top 40 on the Rhythmic Airplay and Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts -- and the Aaliyah-sampling "Be Alone," reflects how Blxst had to spend time away from loved ones to work on his own growth, but he never neglected those ride-or-die individuals who stood by him nor the city that gave him a foundation to stand on.
He recently dropped Sixtape 2 with frequent collaborator Bino Rideaux, the highly-anticipated sequel to their 2019 EP, and paired it with a mini documentary about the recording process. While the two made the first Sixtape by virtually sending vocals and beats back and forth, Blxst and Bino were able to physically meet up in the studio in Miami, Fla. and Malibu, Calif. for Sixtape 2 -- the camera capturing their on-screen chemistry, while the mic picked up their vocal chemistry.
Blxst is being honored with the Rising Star Award at Billboard’s virtual R&B/Hip-Hop Summit on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Billboard spoke with August’s R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month about how his upbringing in Los Angeles shaped Blxst to be the man and musician he is today, how he got to work with East Coast legend Nas, and the direction he’s headed now.
Your music constantly pays homage to LA In shows like Issa Rae’s Insecure, the city is known for being a hard place to date or even just catch up with the homies because people can be really flaky. What has been your experience in maintaining solid connections with people, either in relationships or friendships, and how did that shape you?
For me growing up in LA, I feel like it was very easy to be distracted. As soon as you step outside, it’s right in front of your front door -- whether it’s gang culture, or whether it’s just hanging out your homies, or Hollywood is right down the street. It’s like the celebrity lifestyle, everything is all in one pot. So to be able to focus on one thing, it was a challenge.
And I felt like what was unique about my situation was when I moved in with my dad -- which was like an hour away from the city -- he gave me that time to really focus on what I loved, or fought to even help me find a passion for anything. I just so happened to fall into music. That isolated time helped me hone in on the craft, for sure.
As ‘90s babies, we’re able to remember what kind of music the older generation loved while still keeping our fingers on the pulse of what’s currently popping with millennials and Gen-Zers. Growing up, what was the music that was playing in your household, and how did that influence your approach to music?
My mom always played -- because she had a record player, she would play neo-soul, as far as like Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, like the smooth type of vibes. So I was attracted to that early on as a young kid. And then, as I got slightly older, my dad would play like, Nate Dogg and 2Pac and DJ Quik. So I just blended both of them worlds unconsciously, I would say. And that was the creation of Blxst.
You just dropped Sixtape 2 with Bino Rideaux, and you two actually broke down the recording process in a mini documentary, which debuted at the official LA release party in July. Why was it important for you to record the recording process and show people what went down behind the scenes?
Initially, we was just recording. It wasn't set in stone when we started recording the tape to actually make a documentary simultaneously. But as we got like 80% done, my guy Direct Dev -- who works with me behind the scenes a lot -- he put together like a small piece, it was about 10 minutes. And I just got super inspired -- like dang, I never see myself in that light, actually creating a sound and actually being an executive producer. So seeing myself kind of made me look at it on a bigger scale. And I was like, "Bro, we got to, we got to max it out. Let's make it a full experience where we get a theater." And we all teamed up, just kept brainstorming ideas. And that was the manifestation of that.
Speaking of movies, you co-wrote Jack Harlow’s "Yikes" on the SCOOB! movie, and also worked on the Fast & Furious soundtrack. You already make music that sounds like it belongs in a movie, but is there any shift in your process when it comes to making music for actual movies?
Of course, when it's intentional. Like when they tell you, "Oh, we're about to make a soundtrack for this movie," then it's more so they give you keywords and certain topics to talk about versus just regularly being in the studio, creating in your own space. So it's slightly different.
Nas tapped you on the track "Brunch on Sundays" off his latest album Kings Disease II. How did it feel to work with one of the hip-hop greats?
It was unreal. That's the only word I can think of. Hit-Boy, who is the executive producer of Nas’ album, had called me and I was in Miami. He was like, "Yo, Nas just shouted you out on a song." I’m like, "What? How do Nas even know who I am?" So when I flew back out in LA, I had linked up with them in the studio, and they had me lay my part. It was just unreal to know that a legend knew me, and I was on his radar. Like I said, that extra boost of confidence -- like, everything is aligning, and I don't know what the answer is, but I don't got time to question it. I just keep going.
Just out of curiosity, where does Blxst brunch on Sundays in LA?
It’s a couple of spots. We just went to this spot for my manager’s birthday called Mamá Por Dios. It’s a couple spots.
From your new Apple Maps guide, fans know your favorite vegan spots, shopping spots, even tattoo spots. That activation really cemented you as an LA artist who’s proud to show off his city and the establishments that make it home for you. With gentrification so rampant in LA, pushing out non-white families and businesses who’ve been there for generations, I thought spotlighting specifically Black-owned business in the South LA was key. How did you go about curating the guide and knowing what hot spots you wanted to highlight?
Well, these is actually my go-to spots. And like you said, it's important to highlight these Black-owned businesses and independent businesses overall. Red Bull Records put the idea together -- and luckily, my Evgle team was able to be in the field and actually go to these places and make the connections. But it's just dope. I just like doing cool things, effortlessly organic relationships building amongst the city. I want to continue to do that in the Blxst world and continue to spread light on other entities other than myself.
On top of being a singer, songwriter and producer, what’s it like to work on the music from the label side?
It don't even feel like a label -- it feel like a group of people who are just motivated and inspired. And when we come together and make a task complete, it’s effortless. It don't feel like work sometimes -- even though it is work, of course, it don’t feel like work. Everybody at Red Bull Records feel like the homie. I can text them and just type ‘em a crazy idea, and they're gonna have some type of inspiration behind it. Even if we can't do it 100%, we gon' make a way. And I just enjoy having that extra support system.
Of all the hats you’re juggling, which one do you like wearing the most and why?
I have to say my first love, which is making music. Making something from scratch is really where my passion lies. And that was kind of my point of wanting a team -- because wearing so many hats, it kind of drives you away from the creative. And I want to be able to fully focus on my creative.
I read that you wanted to sample Beyoncé and Andre 3000’s "Party" record on "Gang Slide," but that fell through. What’s another hit that, if everything clears and you get the green light, you’d sample in a heartbeat?
There’s so many songs I'm inspired by just like from the '90s era, it’s just a range of songs to pick one… I'mma say Erykah Badu, "Didn’t Cha Know." That’s one of them ones, a classic record.
You’ve talked about how you manifested working with Kendrick Lamar through replying to his tweets with links to your music. Who else are you manifesting working with in the studio, as artists, songwriters and producers?
I always say Pharrell. That was one of them ones I was heavily inspired by as a kid just because he was in the skate world when I used to skate as well. And he was a producer and he was also an artist, too. So that kind of motivated me and just molded me as who I am today as well.
You’re fresh off the XXL Freshman Class of 2021 list, about to embark on a sold-out North American tour this fall. Where is Blxst headed from here?
Ultimately just building out my Evgle brand and building out that to where I can bring on other artists, other producers and create a legacy beyond just me as an artist. I want to extend my reach to other artists as well.
Do you think they’d be mostly LA-based?
I’m not gonna box myself in -- I want to go international! I want to be global, so if you’re in Africa and I feel inspired by you, come to the Evgle gang.