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Interview

yvngxchris Went From Recording on Earbuds to Viral Star

By Dylan Green on

Artists who blow up while they’re young tend to have a difficult time adjusting to fame, but yvngxchris was born for this. After only a year of proper recording experience, the Virginia rapper born Christian Williams would experience his first real taste of viral success with the single “bitch im joe biden,” a breathless display of bars both funny and menacing. The song exploded when he was just 16 and attending school virtually, but he was immediately ready to reap the benefits. “I couldn’t wait to get to school so I could get the attention,” he tells Audiomack. “If I got all this attention, I’ma ride this bitch.”

Chris grew up listening to everyone from Ski Mask The Slump God and Pusha T to Mary J. Blige but didn’t think about making music himself until he saw the video for Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”: “I was attracted to the lifestyle. I was like, ‘Bruh, n***as can make money off this?’” That lifestyle was all it took for Chris to start recording through iPhone earbuds, mutating the styles of rappers like XXXTENTACION and Comethazine into a relentless flow completely his own. VIRALITY, his debut project for Columbia Records, is a primer for this flow and style, populated with the type of bludgeoning beats (“Forrest Gump,” “DAMN HOMIE”) that helped him standout.

Full of kinetic energy, he’s already started to expand his scope. A handful of the last songs on VIRALITY—like “Giig” and “Red Lyte”—experiment with new pulsing sounds. Closing track “Serenity (Letter to X)” glides by on a rap-R&B hybrid of a beat produced by Dylvinci that sees Chris revisit the day he learned XXXTENTACION was killed during an attempted robbery in 2018. The passion and influence is clear, and it’s something Chris wants to pass onto his fans as he prepares for the next chapter of his career: “I feel like I’ve had a crazy come-up—I came from recording off my headphones to signing to a fucking label, bruh. The possibilities are endless.”

I was listening to “bitch im joe biden” earlier and love the parallels between that and Lil B’s “Bitch I’m Bill Clinton.” Was Lil B someone you listened to a lot growing up?

Not even, bro. I feel like I just got hip to Lil B. I started checking out a couple songs and then I came across “Bitch I’m Bill Clinton.” When I did, it was over, bro. I thought that beat was insane—I had to use it. I knew I was gonna use it for a song. Lil B is a big inspiration. I haven’t met him in person, but I’ve texted him a couple times and he seems like a real genuine n***a, bruh.

What did he tell you?

I literally sent him “bitch im joe biden” and he said, “yo this is fire,” and I was like, “Yooo, I fuck with you Lil B.” It was cool as fuck honestly.

You grew up being influenced by artists like XXXTENTACION and Ski Mask The Slump God. When did you first go from listening to rap to actively wanting to make it?

I think it literally happened at the same time. I was like, “Bruh, n***as can make money off this?” I was attracted to the lifestyle. I was watching Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” video and he walked outta his trailer and said, “Nah this n***a too hard, bro.” Once I found out about all that, it was a wrap. It all kinda happened in unison.

When I first started, I thought I was hard but I really just sounded like an X clone. This was 2016—I had my first little mic and recording software. I wrote down some lyrics and shit and recorded on the “YuNg BrAtZ” instrumental. That song will never be on any DSPs, none of that. That shit was trash. But at the time, I thought I was the greatest, and that’s how you gotta be. The words literally just flew outta me.

You started recording music off your phone while you were still in middle school. What was your first reaction to that recording process when you would play those early songs back?

Bruh, I knew all those songs were gonna be hits. When I made “Kyrie Irving,” I knew I needed to get all my n***as on this shit. Shout out to those boys, I still fuck with them to this day. I had only recorded the hook for “Blood On The Leaves” and I already knew that was a hit just after I had released the snippet on TikTok.

You never officially released “Blood On The Leaves” but it’s been inescapable for the entire year. Is there a reason why you never put it out?

I couldn’t get the sample cleared. But the song is insanely big now. I sometimes forget how big it is. People just be scrolling TikTok around me and I hear them playing it near me and that’s wild.

“bitch im joe biden” and “Blood On The Leaves” was the one-two punch combo that ushered you into fame while you were still in school. What was it like adjusting to that level of notoriety while you were still in school?

I ain’t gon’ lie, that shit was pretty lit. I was doing online class and shit, so I couldn’t wait to get to school so I could get the attention. When school came around, I was taking pictures with freshman. That shit was crazy. Someone tried to fight me once, but I ignore that type shit. Everybody else, it was straight love. I’ll be with my friends and someone will come up to me and ask if I’m yvngxchris. Their favorite thing to say is “I know that ain’t yvngxchris” [laughs]. If I got all this attention, I’ma ride this bitch.

You started out recording songs to your software and even recorded them straight to your phone. How do you record songs now?

I’m usually in my room off FL Studio, but this week I’m in LA. Every time I’m in LA or New York, I’m always in the studio. I used to hate recording in the studio. I used to only be comfortable recording by myself, in my room, on my own vibe. But you gotta step outside the box sometimes and start getting more comfortable with the studio.

Why were you more comfortable recording by yourself?

Just because I was comfortable. I didn’t wanna get out of my comfort zone, but I eventually stepped outta that. My A&R be helping me with that type shit. When I hit roadblocks by myself, I can’t pass that. But he be tossing ideas back and forth to me, so that’s cool.

Considering your rapid come-up, it’s interesting that you decided to name your debut full-length project VIRALITY. How did the project initially come together?

I think I knew it was time around the top of this year. I called it VIRALITY because I was looking for an Instagram caption for a picture last year. This was around the time “Blood On The Leaves” was going viral as fuck. I was feeling myself and I thought to myself “What’s the phenomenon of being viral called?”

I just said virality, even though I didn’t know whether it was a word or not. I looked it up to see if it was a real word and it was. I made it my IG caption right after. Since I had hella songs just going viral, I eventually decided to name the album VIRALITY. I just wanted to make a whole viral unskippable tape.

The back half of VIRALITY sees you playing around with some slightly different sounds. They make for a nice contrast against your voice. How did you pick the beats for this album?

Shout out to Dylvinci, who produced both “Red Lyte” and “Serenity.” I met Dylvinci a couple years ago and he started sending me beats. I feel like most of the tape was the old yvngxchris. I think the newest songs on this tape are “DAMN HOMIE” and “SERENITY” But I wanted them both to have different vibes, so I put some different shit in there. It was always gonna be a different kind of transition in “RED LYTE” but I made it more R&B and beautiful and soulful.

As for picking beats, I was just getting beats outta my email. “Forrest Gump” was produced by Finlince, who also produced my song “did you know,” which is how we met.

On “Serenity,” you pay tribute to several different rappers who passed away with strong legacies intact, including XXXTENTACION, Nipsey Hussle, and Pop Smoke. Now that you’ve dropped your debut album, what do you want your legacy to be?

I want the yvngxchris legacy to be about me going from being a regular young kid who went to school and got good grades and was planning to go to college and having a regular life to being a superstar in a couple years. It’s all come with slow buildups and slow progression. You gotta wait your turn.

I wanna inspire the kids, make people happy, and get more versatile and tap further into myself. On my next album, I wanna dive more into myself and my story. I hope that influences people to get more into themselves.

One of the songs on [VIRALITY] is called “Giig” and the definition of that is “get it in gang.” I just love when niggas working hard, so I hope my story can influence people to get up off their ass and be a good person.

I love seeing artists like you and redveil really leaning into that form of positivity to inspire people to do better, albeit in different ways. Where do you see rap music going from the 2020s and beyond?

Weirder beats, for sure. I feel like less lyrical substance—way less lyrical substance. I feel like it’s been that way since 2016 but it’s only gotten worse. Everyone’s loving it, though. It’s a confusing thing.

I’m hoping shit moves in the right direction. I’ve noticed violence is being talked about less now. I hope that continues in the future. I talk about it, but I’ve trying to get away from the violence in my music. That shit is real, bro. Niggas actually die over that shit.

Photos by Sam Balaban.

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