Nineteen-year-old Layton Greene became a viral sensation after uploading a video of her singing a cover of Kodak Black’s “Roll in Peace.” The short clip has received more than 250,000 views (and counting) on Instagram and more than 8,000 retweets on Twitter. She recorded a longer version and uploaded it to SoundCloud, receiving 3.5 million-plus views in the first month.
Produced by G-Styles, the song quickly shot up to the No. 12 spot on the Hot R&B Songs chart. She quit her job at a local food spot and put everything on the line to pursue her music career
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Greene told Billboard. “I didn’t even think it was that good, just because I wasn’t really showcasing my vocals. It went viral, and I just started getting followers out of nowhere. It was crazy to me. It’s still crazy to me,” she laughed.
The song is composed of the original version mixed with some original lyrics written by Greene and a softer R&B “Lovers and Friends” vibe.
Born in East St. Louis, Illinois, Greene remixes lyrics from today’s rap songs with an old-school R&B twist and original lyrics about her life struggles. In addition to her inviting lyrics, fans are mesmerized by her raspy voice and her sweet vocalizations.
Next month, Layton Greene plans to release her first official single with original music and lyrics. Billboard sat down with the viral sensation to discuss how she copes with her life struggles, her newfound success and her new music.
How did you start doing music?
I’ve been singing my whole life — since I’ve been talking, basically. I didn’t start taking music seriously until last year. I posted a video and it just went viral. That’s basically it. I didn’t have the motivation or the drive to take it seriously. I was just working and going through stuff. I was in a position to where I had to work so I couldn’t focus on what I really wanted to do. It was hard, but I always knew I would get back to it, some way. I just had to do what I had to do at that time.
But when that happened [going viral], I was like, “I’m ’bout to quit my job.” So I quit my job. I just put everything on the line
You dropped “Roll in Peace Remix.” How did that song come about?
Just hearing what Kodak was saying, he saying some real stuff. I was just thinking, “How would I do it if I was to sing it?” I did the song and I put the video on Snapchat. That’s really where I do most of my singing at, because that’s where I get the most feedback. I never posted on Instagram at all. My Instagram was dead. I posted it on Twitter and it went viral, and then I posted it on Instagram and I just started getting followers out of nowhere.
The song charted on Billboard, peaking at No. 12 on the Hot R&B Songs chart. What was that moment like for you?
I was lying down and my producer/manger G-Stylez, he reads all my emails. We get a lot of emails. He just said, “This dude from Billboard hit you up.” He didn’t really say anything about what he was trying to do, so I didn’t freak out yet. But after we talked to him, I didn’t believe it until I actually seen it, that my song was on Billboard. At home working on music during the time, seeing my name up there with people that’s like big, seeing my name next to Chris Brown, people that I’ve been looking up to all my life.
What’s the craziest response you got from a fan about the song?
Actually, I get a lot of hate. Kodak fans be coming for me, saying I’m stealing his song. I just oversee the hate, because the love is also real. I get a lot of love too, and that’s the best feeling in the world to me. That’s really why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I’ll continue what I’m doing, you know?
Fans tell me how I’m their inspiration and how when they go through hard times and they just listen to my voice and that’s everything to me, for real.
How does it make you feel to know that you’re a role model and that your music heavily impacts others?
It’s crazy that I’m a lot of people’s inspiration. I didn’t think I would ever become that. I didn’t even think I had that in me. The feeling is just crazy. I really can’t explain it, I really can’t. I’ve cried a few times thinking about it. I’m just blessed.
So you write all of your own music. Where do you draw inspiration from and what’s your favorite part about the process?
My favorite part is listening to the beat. I think about how the beat makes me feel, happy, sad. With every beat, you just feel something. The beat just talks to me. Writing is also my favorite part. It takes me a long time, but that’s because I’m my own biggest critic. I haven’t always written because of what I’ve been through in my life, but I’ve got a lot to write about. I’ve got a story to tell. Music really helps me cope with what I’m going through. It puts me in a better place, in a better mood.
In your latest single, “Fed Up Remix,” you talked about being broke, sleeping on the floor and watching your mom fight. Is there any personal truth to those lyrics?
Yes, it’s all true, even though the pre-chorus, which is Derez Dehson’s lyrics. I heard that song and I was like, “He’s going through what I went through so that’s why I picked that song. I’ve been in situations where I couldn’t live with my mama, where I had to sleep on the floor because there was no room in the bed. There were times when my mama couldn’t pay the bills. For two weeks we didn’t have no lights, I couldn’t make that stuff up.
How do you stay motivated with all of your life and family struggles?
The music is really helping me cope with my problems myself. My fans really help me a lot too, because especially when they say I’ve helped them get through certain things in their life, so that’s really all that I’m doing this for. If I can help one person going through maybe what im going through, its humbling.
There’s so much pain and soulfulness in your voice and in your lyrics. Being a new artist, what do you think about the R&B industry today?
In the industry today, I really like how they take old hits, sample them and re-create it. I feel like there’s a lot of sampling going on today. Back then, they didn’t have inspiration and resources like we do now. We can go look up any and everything that was ever recorded and pull inspiration from that but still make it dope.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I grew up listening to that old stuff, old R&B, like Aaliyah. I really love Keyshia Cole, though, her old music. She’s actually my biggest inspiration. Growing up, every time somebody would ask me to sing, I was singing something by Keyshia Cole. Chris Brown too; he’s the best to me. His vocals, his dancing. His music reaches everybody, and I want my music to reach everyone too.
You opened for Kash Doll last month in Knoxville. What was it like hitting the stage for the first time?
I performed “Roll in Peace Remix” and “Fed Up Remix.” I didn’t think people would react the way they did. It was a great turnout. Just to see people’s reactions knowing word for word, the parts that I wrote. They weren’t just singing Kodak’s part. They were singing my original lyrics too, so that just made me feel good.
What do you hope to bring to the industry?
I hope to bring the game some new music, some integrity. I feel like the one thing a lot of artists lack is integrity. I feel like they’re not honest with themselves. We don’t get a real sense of who they are through their music.
I’m excited about my album this summer. It’s all about me and what I’ve been through; so anything you want to know, just listen to it.