It is officially the summer of Lil Mosey.
Over the past two-plus years, the Mountlake Terrace teenager has become the face of Seattle hip-hop for a new generation. After a string of successful singles clocked millions of streams and YouTube views, the melodic rapper — who now counts those streams by the hundred millions — has landed his first crossover smash: the aural pool party and song of the summer candidate “Blueberry Faygo.”
The glossy earworm — that’s as sugary as the soda it’s named after — has given the career of Seattle’s biggest new star since Macklemore more of a rush than guzzling a 2-liter of the stuff. At only 18 years old, Mosey has literally his entire adult life ahead of him, and he’s already notched an achievement some of Seattle’s most prominent acts like Brandi Carlile, Soundgarden and even Quincy Jones (as an artist) can’t claim: a Top 10 hit.
(Note: The video contains explicit language.)
After spending weeks on the cusp, Mosey’s mainstream breakout single wiggled into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this summer, peaking at No. 8. Although this week his former tourmate, late emo-rap star Juice WRLD, bumped him out with five new Top 10 entries, the accomplishment put the young sing-rapper in elite Seattle company with the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Heart and ‘60s instrumental rockers The Ventures — all Rock & Roll Hall of Famers.
To boil it down further, “Blueberry Faygo” places Mosey among a lineage of Seattle rap greats to have penned (or typed on an iPhone) massive pop-rap crossover hits. In 1992, a 29-year-old Sir Mix-A-Lot landed a No. 1 hit with his salute to healthy backsides, “Baby Got Back.”
Wrapped in a playfully lusty dance floor jam, “Baby Got Back” was a jubilant rejection of a waifish image of beauty perpetuated by the predominantly white fashion industry around the time so-called “heroin chic” became en vogue during the grunge era. Whether or not the average fan considered all the subtexts when blowing up DJ request lines, the song’s cultural significance is greater than the average entry on a “Now That’s What I Call the ’90s” CD.
Understandably, “Baby Got Back” has almost single-handedly defined Mix’s career to outsiders. But for Seattle hip-hop fans, his earlier minor hit “Posse On Broadway” — on which the rapper coolly narrates a night cruising around the city with his friends — has a deeper, more endearing resonance as a classic hometown anthem. (It would have been a perfect fit for last month’s All In WA concert, that was equal parts fundraiser and Washington state love fest.)
Similarly, Macklemore was a dues-paid indie rapper when he and Ryan Lewis improbably stormed the pop world with “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us.” Mack, who became a household name around his 30th birthday during the summer of 2013, was already a Seattle fixture and had a growing reputation among national hip-hop circles. Even if his marriage-equality anthem “Same Love” (which barely missed the Top 10) wouldn’t have kick-started his Top 40 takeover the way it did, the song’s deployment during Washington’s push to legalize same-sex marriage would have been enough to cement his place in local music history.
Unlike his predecessors, Mosey never really had the chance to belong to Seattle before he belonged to the rest of the world, having decamped for Los Angeles before he was old enough to drive as his SoundCloud-simmered “Pull Up” gained steam. For Mosey’s generation, the seeds of grassroots support are increasingly planted online instead of on show flyers plastered on Capitol Hill telephone polls — and the flower bed is bigger than their own backyard.
Though it’s largely water under the bridge at this point, his relationship with the local hip-hop community got off to a bumpy start when a number of Seattle artists and fans bristled at comments he made that seemed dismissive of (or at best oblivious to) the local scene. He’s since worked with several hometown up-and-comers like Jay Loud and Lewie, a Tacoma-area talent that Mosey was set to bring on tour this year before COVID-19 hit. Due for release this Friday, a new song with Central District rapper 28AV (formerly Avatar Darko), who had previously taunted Mosey online, feels like an official hatchet burial, suggesting the teen star took the high road for a collaboration that doesn’t necessarily do anything for his career.
While it felt like Mosey blew up almost overnight, “Blueberry Faygo” has been a slightly slower burn than his earliest singles — or it at least climbed a few more stairs en route to mainstream success.
Mosey was already a burgeoning rap star when the song leaked online last year and a TikTok dance challenge accompanying its official release in February got the track off to a fast start. The music video, shot at the Hype House — an infamous L.A. mansion inhabited by a collective of young TikTok celebs — has amassed more than 100 million YouTube plays, and the song was picked up by traditional radio, starting with contemporary hip-hop stations. As the sticky single’s popularity surged, it became too much for pop radio to ignore, giving “Blueberry Faygo” another boost.
Even as rappers rule the Billboard charts thanks to a youthful, heavy-streaming fan base, it’s a rarer feat for young SoundCloud meteors to crash Top 40 radio. Most impressively, Mosey got there on his terms with a song that, at least lyrically, is more in step with his melodic trap peers than typical pop radio fodder.
Mosey’s already played big local shows at the Showbox and Showbox SoDo since his ascent began. A Seattle date that almost certainly would have been added to his itinerary this year could have been a homecoming blowout after reaching a new peak in his young career and fortifying his connection with his hometown. That will have to wait. But whenever Mosey’s able to return to a local stage, they might need to find him an even bigger room.
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