Blueface never stops performing. As soon as the iconoclastic Los Angeles rapper enters Rolling Stone‘s office, phones begin buzzing with notifications asking who he is and why the men’s bathroom smells like freshly rolled blunts. Strolling out of the restroom, he does an elaborate crip walk, even though his only audience is a reporter and two publicists. Later, he leans close to a senior editor and asks if he knows where to find “any good pussy around here.” The minute he hears a laugh or sees a confused look, he moves on. It’s the work of a man in love with his audience.
“The energy inspired me to do something to get more energy,” Blueface says. “I feed off the energy when I perform.” He’s discussing his live shows, not midday office visits, but the metaphor still works. The man who once rapped, “Tatted to my face, fuck a job,” knows exactly how to entertain and terrorize an office with his charisma. His Ben Franklin face tattoo is an outward symbol of a way of life, he explains: “It was just establishing that I wasn’t going to work no regular job.”
Blueface’s songs are short, surreal and hilarious. His biggest hits — “Thotiana” (which has been streamed 88 million times on Spotify), “Respect My Cryppin’” (12 million), “Dead Locs” (8 million) and “Freak Bitch” (5 million) — are all built using the same unorthodox approach. His flow doesn’t fit into the traditional pockets of the beat, most of his songs are under three minutes and his lyrics concern two main topics: gang life and women. In person, his jokes border on the misogynistic, and weeks after we speak he’s called out for posting transphobic comments on Instagram. It’s difficult to detect where the trolling stops and the offensive begins.
“Once I got to a certain point, I grew to this level of — people say ‘confidence,’ but I call it just not giving a fuck,” he says. “Just don’t give a fuck about what no one think…I’m so established that I don’t care about what nobody think about how good I am at dancing, how good I am at doing whatever I’m doing.”
Blueface began as Johnathan Porter’s hood name, drawn from his love of the $100 bill and his Crip ties. He tripped into a music career in 2017, after ending up in a studio session with a rapper he knew, TeeCee4800, and seizing the opportunity.
“While the beat was playing, I was writing some lyrics down, just fucking around,” he says. “I’m real curious, so I said, ‘Let me get in the booth.’ At first, it kinda stalled me out, because they know I don’t rap. They was like, ‘Hold on, we can do something maybe next time.’ But after everybody stopped rapping the engineer was like, ‘Who’s up next?’ So I got up in there. As soon as I heard myself I was sold on it.”
That same day he created his infamous adlib “Blueface baby” and began working toward something more. On 2018’s “Fucced Em” he taunts, “These niggas been rappin’ they whole life, I just do this on the weekend,” but that line only tells half the truth.
While his weekends were filled with perfecting his craft, his weekdays were split between two different, but valiant jobs: raising his son, who will turn two this spring, and marketing the Blueface brand.
“In the beginning, I was a stay-at-home dad,” he says. “So I could actually focus on being a rapper. I could write. I could come up with ideas.”
Last year, as his single “Dead Locs” took off online, Blueface began traveling to local high schools where he had “the most star power.” The plan was simple — open Instagram, ask his followers what school he should visit, show up and watch the students swarm. From there the movement swelled.
“If it wasn’t that I would’ve came up with something else,” he says matter-of-factly. “That just was what I was visualizing when I was thinking of how I wanted to market myself.”
Blueface is methodical, despite what misleading headlines want you to believe. He describes his decision to sign with Cash Money West, a recent venture between Wack 100 and Cash Money architect Birdman, in straightforward terms. “I connected with [Wack] on a street level and connected with him on a personal level,” he says. “It just made more sense to be with somebody that I could reach, I can call, rather than somebody [in], I don’t know, New York that’s not gon’ answer the call maybe or do what I ask them to do.”
As the conversations winds down, Blueface suddenly pauses. He asks if he can Instagram Live the conclusion of our interview, and instantly checks out his appearance in his iPhone’s reflection. “You want to go viral, don’t you?” he asks, as if the search for online infamy should be the goal of any sane person. From there, he turns the charm on for his 1.7 million followers.
Blueface’s goals for the future, beyond building his brand and earning respect, remain a mystery. “Shit, I feel like my last album was about who I am,” he says. “I’m just young right now, so y’all think I’m just fucking around. You feel me?” He launches into a list of his defining traits: “I’m the next big thing. Respect my cryppin’. I like freak bitches that don’t give a fuck. I love a Thotiana gon’ buss down.”
After the interview, as he waits in the lobby, a shy fan tries to sneak a picture a few feet away. Hours later, I find the same woman — now one blurry photo of Blueface richer — ready to take my order at Starbucks. The barista quickly registers that I was the one accompanying Blueface’s team through the building, and grills me on how I know the West Coast star. Listening to her talk, I get the sense that Blueface was right. Whether his critics like it or not, right now he is the next big thing he dreams of being.