Kidd G was 11 years old back his earlier brother, Dustin, got his aboriginal car. Dustin wasn’t absolutely old abundant to drive it yet, but he could use it to accept to music, and he and his adolescent brother would sit in the advanced bench for hours, assimilation in Rae Sremmurd, Young Thug, Chance the Rapper. Afore long, Kidd G was teaching himself to freestyle.
By the time he was 16, Kidd G — built-in Jonathan Gabriel Horne, Gabe to his accompany — was autograph his own music: broken emo-rap acutely accountable to Juice WRLD, abounding of affluent melodies and ticked-off lyrics.
Last fall, about a year afterwards he began announcement songs to SoundCloud and a few months afterwards his 17th birthday, Kidd G absurd the Billboard archive — as a country singer. In October, his distinct “Dirt Road” — his aboriginal attack at country music — hit No. 40 on hot country songs carefully off streams, an aberration for that chart, which favors radio hits.
“I don’t appetite to try to accomplish myself article that I’m not,” Kidd G said in a video account in December from his family’s home in Hamilton, Ga., a bright, accessory Christmas timberline in the background. “I came from making, like, these sad rap songs, but I absolutely grew up out in the country. So like, I’m not aggravating to prove myself to nobody.”
Even in the accepted pop caldron, in which performers sample and abandon identities easily, the abrupt acceleration of Kidd G — whose admission EP, “Teenage Dream,” was appear on Thanksgiving and ailing at No. 3 on Billboard’s heatseekers albums blueprint — is a abstraction in fluidity. It additionally poses an absorbing claiming to the borders of country music, an industry still fluctuant with post-“Old Boondocks Road” all-overs about brand and chase and abundantly allergic to alfresco talent. How it will or won’t embrace a sir-and-ma’am baby boondocks boy authoritative country songs with a arch abounding of hip-hop will be an arresting litmus test.
“Teenage Dream” isn’t berserk out of footfall with abreast country music, abnormally in a post-Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt universe, but it flirts with hybridity in a few altered ways. On “Small Boondocks Girl,” Kidd G leans into some of the afflicted sing-rapping that was a authentication of his ancient songs. “Down the Road” does as well, abnormally back he sings about deer season, but it additionally includes segues into added acceptable rap cadences. And throughout, the drums in the assembly owe far added to hip-hop than country.
Before committing himself to authoritative music, best of Kidd G’s absorption was adherent to sports, decidedly baseball and fishing. (He accustomed two academy scholarship offers for fishing.) In 2019, though, he began recording $.25 of songs and announcement them to TikTok, generally sitting alongside in the advanced bench of his mother’s Toyota Camry and rapping to the camera. (“I’m added of a barter guy,” he insists — his own ride is a 2002 stick about-face Ford F-150.)
By Christmas of that year, he absitively he capital to accompany music added seriously, and asked his parents for a flat bureaucracy for his bedroom. In Hamilton, his single-stoplight hometown, there weren’t abounding added bodies accomplishing the same, but Kidd G broke a friend, Nolie Beats, who was one brand aloft him in aerial academy and had some acquaintance with production.
Kidd G began announcement songs on SoundCloud and announcement them on TikTok. “It started with me authoritative songs for myself,” he said, “and me aggravating to accomplish that one song that my accompany are like, OK, I’m activity to get in the car today and I’m activity to accept to Gabe’s song.”
Several of them are great: the able-bodied “Simple Things (Imma Ball Remix)”; the bright “Gravity,” with its Lil Peep-esque plaint, “Told you I adulation you, I didn’t alike beggarly it/Sent me a text, I didn’t alike apprehend it”; “AKs and Glock Nines,” a song about affliction that Kidd G said was in actuality aggressive by a breach with his father, affliction he was aggravating to obscure.
Last spring, he was apparent by Rebel Music, a Miami characterization and administration aggregation with a hip-hop focus (YNW Melly, Hotboii, Kaash Paige, Dominic Fike), which active him. “I’m absolutely absorbed by aloof the genre-blending ancillary of it, because that could cull in so abounding kids that are aloof like him.” said Javier Sang, Rebel’s architect and arch controlling officer. The characterization flew Kidd G and his parents to Miami for affairs and flat time. (At one session, Kidd G’s mother delivered a adoration in the recording booth, which concluded up on “Letter.”)
“At that time, the complete that I’m accomplishing now wasn’t alike an idea,” Kidd G said. He was still a rapper. But again came “Dirt Road,” a austere but active breakdown carol with bright country intentions: “I charge addition beer, don’t appetite my eyes clear/Small town, so I see you everywhere.”
“I wondered, If I did accomplish a country song, how would it go?” Kidd G said of his pivot. He begin the instrumental, by Ryini Beats, on YouTube, advertised as an XXXTentacion-type beat. (It’s abundant afterpiece to an acoustic country analgesic with allurement production.) The aftereffect became a admired for him and his friends, and also, promisingly, his grandmother, who one day agape on his bedchamber aperture to action support: “She goes, ‘Gabriel?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ And she’s like, ‘I absolutely admired that.'”
Grandma’s activity was a proxy for what was to come. Afterwards affliction “Dirt Road” for a while on TikTok, Kidd G appear it in full, and it became his aboriginal viral hit. Soon, he had accumulated 150,000 new followers on TikTok. (It charcoal his best able aperture — now he has about 800,000 followers.) And the song’s accession helped reframe the focus of his music. Songwriter-producer Bonnie Dymond was brought in to advice breeding Kidd G’s still blooming talent.
“He’s got this accent that is actual Juice WRLD, Post Malone,” Dymond said. “But again he can about-face on his country acidity and he becomes like country Juice WRLD. There are so abounding times in the articulate berth that he’s accomplishing article and I’m like, that sounds so good, but you charge to acidity it out, you know?”
Whether Kidd G will abide authoritative country-targeted songs is an unknown. “If he’s activity to make, you know, some country-sounding annal sometimes, and some pop-sounding annal sometimes, some hip-hop-sounding annal sometimes, I anticipate it’s fine,” said Lee L’Heureux, accepted administrator of Geffen Records, which active Kidd G through a affiliation with Rebel Music. He added that for now, though, the ambition is to “anchor a little bit of a basis in the country space” in hopes of “trying to accord a adamant message.”
Now that stars are actuality minted online continued afore almanac labels can accumulate them up and cast them, though, it’s accessible that what a country brilliant agency on TikTok could eventually accroach what it agency on Music Row. And the brand is alpha to accept to accomplish allowance for viral sensations, several years afterwards pop and hip-hop did. Morgan Wallen, who got his alpha on “The Voice,” has become a superstar in accelerated appearance attributable abundantly to the ability of streaming. Last year, Priscilla Block catapulted herself into a above characterization accord off the backbone of able songs that became TikTok staples.
Whether that will extend to Kidd G charcoal to be seen. He is accession from alfresco of the acceptable agriculturalist system. And his access to authoritative music is abiding in hip-hop, too — he annal bound and prodigiously, and releases music frequently. An broadcast copy of “Teenage Dream” was appear on Christmas. His videos are directed by DrewFilmedIt, who mostly shoots for rappers like Lil Loaded and Popp Hunna.
And while he has spent abounding time recording in Miami, and afresh fabricated his aboriginal cruise to Los Angeles, Kidd G is about absolutely the alone aerialist with a contempo access on the country blueprint who — until recently, at atomic — had never already set bottom in Nashville, Tenn.
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