It took a few hours, but NLE Choppa finally steps backstage at the Belasco Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. He’s sporting a black hoodie with “Never Broke Again” spelled out in bright neon colors. He’s never officially met YoungBoy Never Broke Again, the Baton Rouge artist to whom he’s often been compared, but the outfit choice further solidifies his ties to another young street rapper racking up hundreds of millions of streams with a cult-like following.
Memphis has seen a surge of rap stars over the last few years, from Young Dolph to Yo Gotti, to Moneybagg Yo. NLE Choppa is the Tennessee capital’s latest sensation. At only 16 years old, the teenage rapper born Bryson Potts is having the biggest year of his life, having reached mainstream attention with his breakout single “Shotta Flow” and released several successful follow-up singles, including “Camelot,” “Shotta Flow 2,” and “Shotta Flow 3.” Oh, and the “Shotta Flow” remix, featuring Los Angeles upstart Blueface.
Fans can’t get enough of NLE Choppa’s energy, encapsulated in records characterized by rapid flows and simple, hard-hitting trap beats. His success online led to a major label deal with Warner Records (following a stint as the flagship artist for independent distribution company UnitedMasters), but it’s onstage where the teen artist fully shines. In Los Angeles for a show he’s co-headlining with Chicago’s Polo G, Choppa has whipped the crowd into a frenzy even before spitting the opening line—“I am a menace, keep me a rack just like tennis”—to his hit single.
Despite the success of “Shotta Flow,” Choppa is focused on creating new music. “It’s cool to have a hit,” he says. “But I’m not in it like, ‘I’m trying to get this hit,’ because that’s when you start stressing. I just make music.”
Audiomack: For those who don’t know, who is NLE Choppa?
NLE Choppa: Just a kid who likes to have fun and make music. To give the best quality music to the fans.
You’re only 16. How do you balance a rap career and being a normal kid?
It’s kind of hard. You just gotta know how to balance business, and then your lifestyle. When it’s business, you gotta handle your business. On your off days, you can be the 16-year-old kid.
What do you on your off days?
Go to the studio. Really, that’s all I like to do. I don’t really live a kid life. I go to the studio or sleep.
“Shotta Flow” was a true breakout moment, and gave you your first plaque. Did you think the song would blow up like this?
No. What I was thinking was that in a month “Shotta Flow” was gonna have a million views. Instead, it did 12 million in a month, which is crazy.
Why do you think it blew up?
I think it’s just the energy I brought on the song. Also, before that, I had dropped a song that gave me some momentum so I could capitalize on the next song.
You’ve said you’re already sick of the song. How does it feel when you perform it now and see fans go crazy?
I am. [Smiles] It’s lit when I perform it, it’s just I don’t listen to it. I damn near forget the words. I only listen to my unreleased music. Once I drop a song, it becomes old to me and I don’t listen to it anymore.
Do you feel the pressure to deliver a follow up to such a big hit?
Nah, I just make music. Because I look at it like, if you can make one, you make another one. I'm not just looking for another hit. I'm looking for me to expand, do other things. A lot of people want me to stay in that same bubble to make the same type of music, but I always want to make different type shit. Reggae type shit, all that. I want to do a lot more.
It’s cool to have a hit, but I’m not just in it like, “I’m trying to get this hit,” because that’s when you start stressing. I just make music.
Do you have your fans in mind when you’re making new music?
Yeah, because there’s a lot of shit they want to hear from me. Sometimes they like when I use Auto-Tune, sometimes they like the aggressive shit. I give them so many different types of music. My unreleased music, I damn near don't know which songs to put out yet, because I like giving so many different flows and sounds.
You mentioned reggae. Who were your biggest influences growing up?
Bob Marley, Shabba Ranks—I’m half Jamaican. My mom’s Jamaican, she was born in Kingston.
Memphis hip-hop is having a moment right now. Why is the city is seeing so much success right now?
A big shout out to Drake, pretty much. When Drake did “Look Alive” with BlocBoy [JB], it put the light on Memphis. Since then, everybody been taking off and really running with it. There’s a lot of influential artists coming out of Memphis. [Yo] Gotti, Key Glock, [Young] Dolph, Moneybagg Yo—it’s a lot. It’s a big spotlight on Memphis right now, and they all of them fuck with me. We from the same city. That’s what I like about it, everybody fuck with each other.
You recently signed with a major label. Why Warner?
I wanted to take everything to the next level. I wasn’t stuck, but I felt like I needed a push behind me. That’s just my decision I made, so I chose Warner/APG.
What set them apart from other labels?
When we sat down and met, it felt more comfortable. It’s all about comfort. For me, it’s never about money or what they can do for me, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with. At the end of the day, they can give you a lot of money, but if you ain’t comfortable, or y’all can’t agree on shit to get your shit out or whatever, you stuck. It’s all about feeling comfortable and going with your gut.
Can you shed some light on what happened with your situation at United Masters?
It wasn’t nothing that really happened. I don’t know. It just didn’t work out.
What advice would you give an artist who is trying to choose between staying independent or signing with a major?
Do what your gut tells you. At the end of the day, it ain’t about one or two or this and that, it’s all about what you want to do. How you want to maneuver, how you want your career to pan out.
There’s a lot of deals you can get. You can sign a deal but at the same time maintain a lot of your music to where it’s almost like you’re independent. You can work with each other to where it’s more like working together.
You recently released “FREE YOUNGBOY,” and you’ve been compared to YoungBoy Never Broke Again musically.
What is your relationship like with YoungBoy?
I never met YB, but we text. I got a song with YB. He sent me a song, we got some heat [in the works]. I never met him, but hopefully we can get in the studio and work.
Who reached out to who first?
I did. I reached out to him in DM.
And he responded?
What inspired you to create a whole song dedicated to him?
Just because the wave of the new generation, he carved the path for a lot of people. He’s a big inspiration for a lot of people. There’s a lot of similarities between me and him. A lot of people make sure they let that shit be known, that it’s a lot of similarities. From the time we both came out, all that shit. We were both 16 when we started doing music.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A big superstar. In 10 years, I shouldn’t just be rapping. I’m putting others in position right now but 10 years from now, when they’re in their positions, they should be able to do shit to help each other. Help me out, so we can all just build. Build something big, like a label or something.