When Andre Dontrel Burt decided to release the three-track EP, We Are Aliens, as SoFaygo, a new pseudonym to replace his former rap name, Trvllinese, the reception wasn’t exactly favorable. “I was getting backlash when I made that transition in 2018,” the 19-year-old rapper remembered, “People was not fucking with it. They liked Trvllinese better. I told them, bro, watch, y’all gonna see.”
You make it seem like you knew what was going to happen? “I did,” he replied, “I always felt like I was going to be great, bro.”
Self-assurance doesn’t come in short supply for the Georgia-born teen. His need for a superstar’s resolve dates back to Junior year at Harrison High School. “I started caring less about people’s opinions in 11th grade,” SoFaygo recalled, “That’s when I started wearing different kinds of clothes, dyeing my hair in all different kinds of colors, just adapting to what Atlanta was on at the time.” “But niggas used to try me, bruh,” he asserted. “I don’t know why, maybe because I was different, but they would call me and my music weird.” With a light chuckle, the confident rookie added, “I was having none of that, bruh. I was always getting into fights and shit.”
To say, he told you so, might be premature, but let’s look at the numbers. The Cole Bennett-directed music video for his 2019 single, “Knock Knock,” has passed ten million views since the May 3rd premiere on Lyrical Lemonade’s YouTube. When we spoke in March, “Knock Knock” had seven million listens on Spotify; it’s over 50 million now. The 900,000 monthly listeners from two months ago have reached 3 million and climbing.
The rumor that he signed to Travis Scott hasn’t gotten confirmed, but at most, Scott has shown support by reposting the music video for “Off The Map” on his IG story. That’s a good look, but not quite as influential an endorsement as J. Cole driving J.I.D.’s Pontiac.
If it’s true that everything has been done independent of a record label, then what’s most impressive are the social media engagements. From Twitter to TikTok, but especially on Instagram, SoFaygo has established the cult-like following of an internet celebrity without a major co-sign. His biggest supporter thus far has been platinum rapper Lil Tecca, who produced “Knock Knock” and Faygo’s entire 2020 mixtape, Angelic 7, after discovering him on SoundCloud.
Angelic 7 was released on January 10th, 2020. Without any press from reputable music sites, SoFaygo’s Instagram doubled from 5,000 to 10,000 followers as he entered his senior year at Harrison. The mixtape brought him direct attention from Tecca’s sizable fanbase, but nothing groundbreaking. Two months later, COVID-19 forced his entire student body into homeschooling.
“The pandemic changed my whole life,” he confessed, “It was weird but I took advantage of it. I was outside networking, shooting music videos, damn near sleeping at Deaf Star Studios.”
This was a lifestyle change for the homebody who, a year prior, would leave school, like right after school at 3:15 p.m., and go home to his Mac and make music on GarageBand until bedtime. Not having to be in a classroom granted him the freedom to pursue his passion full-time. The songs he recorded, the videos he shot, the relationships he established, and the audience he cultivated all assisted in the growth of his brand from Angelic 7 to After Me, the second mixtape SoFaygo released in December 2020.
After Me is a strong offering, the strongest he released to date. Both music videos released from the project have over two million views on YouTube with no big premieres or press support. Comparisons to the early offerings of Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti have been fair labels, but there’s more here than who he sounds like. “Chrome,” for example, has such a sharp, rapid-fire delivery. A good contrast to the looser moments, like “Hang With The Goats” and “Everyday,” when the singing and rapping becomes seamless.
In the 8th grade, when he was still Trvllinese, a song called “Push Start (Hurt Heart)” became the first record to bring him recognition. Comparing “Push Start (Hurt Heart)” to the music on After Me shows he always had a catchiness to his lyrics―“One thing I can say about my lyrics, you gonna remember them shits, forever, bruh”― but what’s more distinct is how he’s pivoted from a reserved, traditional song structure to a more adventurous rap style without losing that melodic infectiousness.
Growing up an avid listener of Usher, Omarion, B2K, and Chris Brown, who was like an idol, inspired him to sing. It wasn’t until Chief Keef, and the Chicago Drill movement, Rich Gang era Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, and Y.R.N. era Migos left an impression on the budding singer to rap more. All these influences have been synthesized to make a rap-singer who fits perfectly in the very digital landscape that took Lil Tecca from Queens, New York to The New York Times.
After Me is only eight tracks, but with each repeat listen, the little nuances stand out. He’s crafty, like a collagist, able to choose all the right melodies and flows to build memorable songs. Being memorable is what makes SoFaygo a likely candidate for an industry takeover. This decade is primed for him, an internet-savvy kid who understands social media in ways that labels don’t, and he understands branding, look at how he carries himself like a rockstar even though he isn’t famous. An industry plant who planted himself.
Most importantly, SoFaygo moves with a sense of purpose. The risks he took, the fights he fought, it was all for this. When everyone doubted, he believed. He taught himself to record, mix, master, script, create cover art, and edit videos in middle school, always in search of his individual voice. The artist he was born to be.
“When I started making music, my parents didn’t know what the fuck was going on,” he shared, it didn’t discourage him, it only reinforced his individual taste. What did they envision for you? “My mom wanted me to graduate, so I did, but they thought I was going to college. My dad was always like, ‘Make sure you got a plan B, plan B, plan B,’ but I didn’t have a plan B. All I did in high school was make music.”
He paused, remembering, “I don’t know why, but my dad would always tell me I would have to stand in front of people and speak. I laughed at that, always saying I wouldn’t. I didn’t know what my calling was then. It’s funny to look back at that and see where it’s taken me now.”
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