All aboard the Yung Gravy train. The Minnesota MILF hunter Rickrolled his way to his first Billboard Hot 100 entry with “Betty (Get Money)” in July, and the laid-back rhymer is enjoying seeing his career taken to another level — although he doesn’t want to get too famous to the point he can’t step outside without a crowd forming, à la Drake or Kanye West.
The catchy Rick Astley-sampling anthem sits at No. 65 on this week’s Hot 100, and has been inescapable on TikTok. Yung Gravy estimates that over 500,000 TikTok videos have been made using “Betty” as its soundtrack.
Between his golden wavy locks, flamboyant style, and deeply hypnotizing voice — all while standing as tall as LeBron James — it’s tough to look away from the University of Wisconsin alum.
The Republic Records signee somehow managed to push a leaked sex tape from earlier this summer to the back-burner amid the “Betty” madness and his friendships range from Chief Keef to Martha Stewart. Yung Gravy’s publicized courtship of Addison Rae’s mother, Sheri Nicole, even caused the paparazzi to run up on the social media personality’s father, Monty, who challenged Gravy to a fight earlier this week.
It’s never a dull moment with the 26-year-old — as Billboard caught up with Gravy to hear more about his upcoming project, which is expected to arrive in September, getting the “Never Gonna Give You Up” sample cleared, and much more.
How are you reacting to the newfound success with “Betty?”
I’ve been known for a while — but this is like a new moment, and this is spreading a lot, especially since it’s been on the radio. Every day there’s something new. I woke up and Guy Fieri’s posting with it, and Skittles tweeted about it. It’s just the most random little things like that. It’s cool to see a new little tier hit.
I’ve heard you say that you don’t want to reach that Post Malone level of fame and recognizability.
Yeah, obviously I want my music to succeed and I love seeing the numbers, but it would be kinda nice if you were a DJ or producer where not everybody knows your face and you were that popping. Like, anywhere I’ve gone recently, I just get recognized immediately. It’s not like I dislike it, but it’s stressful sometimes. Let’s say I’m hungover and don’t wanna talk to anyone and I get run up on at the airport. Overall, can’t complain.
Has TMZ run up on you yet?
I went to BOA steakhouse, but I found out it’s a steakhouse where all the famous go in L.A. to get noticed. I just got invited to a birthday party, but they ran up on me with the cameras and the flash. I just made up a story.
They asked me about how “Alley Oop” with Lil Baby came together and I told them with the most genuine serious face that we actually were hanging out and decided to go on a boys’ trip to Tibet. We hung out at the Everest base camp and Baby and I plotted for a while and “Alley Oop” is the best thing that came out of it. They were like, “No way, you were with Lil Baby in Tibet.”
How did you get the Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up” sample cleared?
I always thought that sample would be sick to do something with. I just never figured it was clearable. Somebody who had part-ownership of the rights to the sample hit me up like, “We f–k with you, you should try it out.” My boy Nick, who does a lot of sample replays and recreating original samples, we basically remade the whole song. Had a different singer and instruments, but it was all really close because it makes it easier legally.
We said, “Let’s try to clear it and see what happens.” At first, two of the three writers that had to approve it, approved it and one guy wanted us to make it a little bit cleaner. So then I had to go back and change lyrics, so there is an earlier version. Overall, it’s kinda the same thing, but there’s a dirty version that sounds like a Gravy song with more cuss words. I love how it turned out.
So there is a raunchier version out there somewhere.
A raunchier version, but also the chant section at the end that’s the most popping of the song that everyone knows — that section got added at the last minute because there was a four-bar section of my verse that was just like nothing on here is gonna be able to be cleared. “I can’t make this clean, so I have to completely change it.” I was like, “F–k, maybe we’ll add a bridge.” So I had the idea of doing the chant because I was listening to some Three 6 Mafia that day and that had a chant. I wrote it and had my homegirls come over and they sang it and it worked out. I tried something kinda new and it came out dope.
Were you a Rick Astley fan, or a fan of the song? With our generation, I feel like sending that is more a troll with “RickRolling” someone.
The song became a meme. I’m sure that’s probably how I first heard it in middle school, in meme fashion, but I actually really like the song. I listen to it and I think it bangs. I’m sure a lot of people do, even if they don’t admit it. I always thought of it as a good possibility to sample as an option, but I didn’t expect it until that guy hit me up.
So he hit you up first and then that gave you the idea to go in and record?
Yeah, it wasn’t Rick Astley but someone who helped write the original song. Maybe their son was a fan or something. My publishing company was like, “Yo, there’s a chance that you could clear it.”
Did you hear from Rick Astley?
I tried to reach out and all I know is they came back saying he’s on tour right now. They said he digs the song and you’ll hear more later. He approved it and he’s a fan.
“Betty” cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and sits at No. 65 this week. Talk about your reaction to your first Hot 100 entry and is mainstream success something you’ve been yearning for?
Two of my albums hit the Billboard 200, but the Hot 100 is a bigger deal because your song is really bussin’. I remember when “Oops” was at its peak it was everywhere and it still wasn’t on the Hot 100, so the Hot 100 feels like a way bigger deal to me. The streams I’m getting are crazy so it feels really good. I haven’t had much radio play in the past and it’s cool to see every day I’ll wake up and see tweets from radio stations in Asia or “Betty” became the No. 1 record spun in the Philippines. So that Filipino line really stood out.
Is there any deeper meaning to the song being named “Betty”?
I initially named it that because I have a continuing story with MILF names throughout my catalog. My first song ever was called “Karen.” If there isn’t a part of the hook I need to put as the title, I prefer doing names like “Betty.” So that was next up on the list for MILF songs. I save it for my favorite tracks. After I had named it, then Betty White passed away. So then I thought it had to be for Betty White. It wasn’t initially planned that way, but I dedicate that song to Betty White.
Do you like that “Betty” served as your mainstream introduction so to speak?
Yeah, a lot of these songs that more recently blew up, I’m more proud of. Like “Whip a Tesla” was the third song to go gold after “Magic” and “Oops.” All those songs, I f–king love. Those would be the first ones I would send to someone [as a Gravy starter pack].
“Betty” came out super hot. The lyrics are still really Gravy. I made sure even when I cleaned it up to keep it pretty Gravy. I think it’s a little bit of a surprise when someone hears that and then goes into “Oops,” which has some ignorant lyrics on it. I think some people want to hate it because it’s a meme sample, but you can’t really hate on the song itself. It’s wavy.
Your journey to stardom I feel like is so unconventional. Talk about trying to remain anonymous at the start of your career.
I didn’t show my face at first because I had a job lined up and if rap didn’t work out, I didn’t want anyone out here knowing I was rapping about MILFs and all this sh-t. I hid my face for a year-and-a-half and I didn’t even tell a lot of my good friends. I didn’t wanna be that guy forcing my mixtape on people.
The first person who I knew personally that figured out that I was rapping outside of my roommates was this kid who found a link on Reddit deep from SoundCloud and he heard it and it’s just a picture of a pin-up girl and said, “I know this is you. I can tell this is you, nobody else would be rapping about this.” I knew the kid well, but not super well. That was a good indicator that I really am the same person outside of music. That’s when I was like, “Alright, I should start sending this out to the homies.”
How was your childhood growing up in Minnesota? Can you talk about your dad raising you while he was in his 60s?
My dad came over here from Switzerland when he was like 20. He had another wife before my mom so I have half-siblings that are way older. He passed away when I was 16, so both my parents are older than most. My dad was 63 and my mom was 42 when I was born. My dad had a strong Swiss-German accent. Both of them worked in medicine and my mom was a therapist and my dad studied insomnia.
Where I’m from, everyone works in medicine because we have like the biggest hospital in the world in my hometown. I feel like I had a really good childhood because they were experienced since my dad had raised a kid three times before. My mom is just the sweetest person ever, so I got really lucky with my parents. It was hard when my dad passed, but he taught me everything and inspired me to really work hard to impress him.
Did they have an influence on your music taste?
Interestingly enough, my dad would listen to classical music. Exactly what you’d expect from an old Swiss dude. My mom would listen to Elton John, but my taste kinda developed from me coming home from high school and going on YouTube and listening to soul oldies and going through LimeWire. I was listening to music but I didn’t have a favorite until I discovered soul and funk when I thought this was so much better. I had been listening to Guns N’ Roses and s–t, but my favorite is soul.
How did you start being the “MILF guy,” was that in high school?
Yeah, one of my earlier experiences was with a MILF in high school, but I wouldn’t say that fully inspired it. It was also just separating myself from other people. I mean, I was into moms — like I thought it was tight and I’ve always been a fan — but it was a little strategic. Like, “Let me rap about moms, with not enough people doing that.” So it was a bit pre-meditated.
But it became a way bigger thing than I expected. It’s gotten to the point people are offering their moms non-stop sending DMs with their pictures and mom’s phone number. Sometimes it’s wholesome like, “My mom got divorced recently and she needs somebody, could you take her on a date?” Sometimes it’s legit.
Everyone’s been asking about Sheri. Is there any update in the courtship of Addison Rae’s mom?
Yeah, we’ve been in touch. We’ll text and FaceTime a little bit. I’ve just been on some flirty wholesome s–t. She lives in Louisiana, so when I have my New Orleans show, I’ll make sure she gets the VIP treatment. Take her out for something fancy.
#duet with @sheri don’t let em get cold
You’ve been able to use TikTok to your advantage with six million followers. Talk about the impact that it’s had on your career.
When TikTok started to pop off, I didn’t want to be part of it. I thought it was goofy and annoying. Just doing these dances and whatnot. Now, I actually can go on and scroll and find funny sh-t. They got a really good algorithm to find what you might like. I was hesitant to post on there because it wasn’t me and I couldn’t do this, but then I realized I could be myself. I could just respond to a hot girl using my song and say some normal sh-t I would say. I got to doing it way more and did a contest for “Betty” and it all worked out.
What can you tell us about your new album coming up? This has gotta be a big deal for you.
Dropping it in September and everything’s pretty much wrapped up with it. It’s bigger than any other project I’ve down. There was a song with Lil Keed that we had to push back because of his estate and everything that’s going on with YSL. I might even try to add another song, but that will drop eventually. It’s fire. There’s not a lot of features and it’s pure Gravy. We did a lot of it from scratch with instruments to make our own samples and tried a lot of new styles. I did a lot of it in L.A. This time, I’ve gotten close to the right people where I got a good set of producers and engineers to work with. I got a really good process now so it’s a lot more locked in.
How was working with the late Young Dolph? I know you were a big fan as well.
I was a big fan of him — still am a big fan of Dolph. RIP. I’ve always loved Memphis music, with Three 6 Mafia being one of my biggest inspirations – Project Pat too. Ever since late high school, I loved everything Dolph. For that song, I knew a friend that knew him. I sent him the song remotely during COVID and met him months later.
I sent it and was like, “If he f–ks with it, let’s get it in. If he doesn’t like it, don’t make him do it if he doesn’t want to.” He f–ked with it hard, and we got on FaceTime to chop it up and arrange everything. [He’s] a mad down-to-earth guy. It’s crazy the people that come from the hood and that dog-eat-dog upbringing, they’re so friendly and charismatic with people they’ve never met.
Was it tough to get people to take your art seriously and avoid the cliche white rapper tag?
So many people are quick to judge and love to hate. I don’t always see the comments, but I’m sure that happens all the time. I’ll see comments like this and notice people talking about it, but when people get past the first two or three songs, they realize this kid actually has sauce. My biggest song is “Mr. Clean,” and that was the fourth song I ever made. It was really s–tty and there’s lyrics I would’ve totally changed up and the beat is simple with a bad mix. I mean, I love the song and I’m not mad about it, but that is people’s intro.
How did your friendship with Martha Stewart come about?
I made a song about her and she’s a good muse. She represents everything Gravy. From just being in the kitchen, hustling and just hanging out with MILFs, cooking up. Within four or five months of the song, someone on her team reached out saying she heard the song and they wanted to use it for a commercial. It was like, in the trailers in movie theaters that was a promo for one of her products. Since then, we’ll link up for dinner if I’m in New York and we’re plotting.
What else do you have coming up in the future?
I’m a big entrepreneur, and I’ve started a few businesses even before music. I’ve thought a lot about dropping my own liquor, but that will take a little more time down the line. I’ve done a little bit of sketch comedy with my homies like Trevor Wallace. I’ll do more of that and I know Comedy Central is interested. I think voice acting will be a big one.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Aug. 6, 2022, issue of Billboard.