Yvngxchris Has the New Energy Hip-Hop Needs, According to Pusha T
Show & Prove: Yvngxchris
Words: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
After changing the game in the mid-to-late 2010s, SoundCloud rap might be coming back to the forefront of hip-hop. One of the people to thank for the reinvigorated movement is Yvngxchris. The 17-year-old rapper has separated himself from his rhythmic-based peers thanks to his jackhammer flows, gruff tone and jigsaw cadences. With that secret sauce, Chris confidently sees himself at the crown of that scene. Yvngxchris maintains he is: "The most viral. The littest. [And] the most lyrical."
His proof is in a string of songs he’s released over the last few years, including "Kyrie Irving!" in 2020, the 2021 release of "Bitch I’m Joe Biden," which features an updated flip of Lil B’s 2010 track "Bitch I’m Bill Clinton," and this year’s Tana (formerly BabySantana) and Luisss-assisted "Off the Leash!" Millions upon millions of SoundCloud and Spotify streams combined with his talent amount to an undefeated formula that Chris has been flexing with each release. "[I’m] the one that can actually rap, but that can actually make hits at the same time, too," he explains.
Yvngxchris, born Christian Williams, calls Portsmouth, Va. home, but his family was always on the move due to his father being in the Navy. At 4 years old, Chris, his parents and little sister Kyra moved to Florida before heading back up North to Chesapeake, Va. four years later. It was there in the Old Dominion state that Chris spent most of his time and experienced the best of both worlds, bouncing between serene and savage environments on the daily. "I used to live in the suburbs but literally across the street was the hood," he shares.
When he wasn’t outside with his friends, partying, playing video games like Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto or macking with girls, Chris was getting used to capturing life’s moments as he attempted to blow up as a YouTuber. "I used to be shooting YouTube videos with my friends, like rapping and shit," he remembers of his early 400-views clips. Inside the house, his father filled the atmosphere with the holy trinity of Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj. Then-9-year-old Chris fell deeper in love with music. He stamps Young Money collabos like "Knockout" and "HYFR" as "classics" that soundtracked those memories.
A few years later, the pre-teen artist made his first track, "It’s Fricken Lit Broski," on the family computer by using the same recording software that his father once used to record back in the day. "I downloaded a beat from YouTube, uploaded that bitch and I just dropped that bitch on SoundCloud," Chris recalls. The track had about 1,000 plays and 30 likes, though it wasn’t necessarily truthful. "I was cap rapping a lot," he laughs.
After tasting success in that instance, Chris started to release music "every goddamn two weeks." He also grew an appreciation for XXXTentacion and changed his rap name from King C to Yvngxchris as a result: “I knew this dancer called Yvng Swag, and I just liked the Yvng in front of it. So, I took the Yvng and then I put X in the middle for XXXTentacion because he’s a G.O.A.T.”
Throughout high school, Chris was known by peers as the "pretty boy that was rapping." He regularly collaborated with other artists on the internet who were "hard as fuck." At 15, Chris’ 2020 breakthrough track, “Kyrie Irving!” featuring Thrxsh, Geno W.I.P. and Yung Dastard, dropped. The Crisis-produced record samples PartyNextDoor’s "Persian Rugs" and also drew inspiration from Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert’s "Cartier." After being uploaded to TikTok, the track climbed to nearly 24,000 likes on the first day, further proving how undeniable it was. "Even if you don’t like Yvngxchris, you at least like 'Kyrie Irving,'" Chris swears.
That same year, the new artist released his first three EPs: Everybody Hates Chris, KennikaForever! and Levity. By 2021, loosies like "Bitch I’m Joe Biden" and "Blood on the Leaves"—a track initially met with controversy due to fans questioning Chris’ decision to record a drill record over a sample of Billie Holiday’s famed record "Strange Fruit"—helped him secure a Columbia Records deal last year. Chris was hesitant to sign at first. "I feel like I was too small for all of that shit," he recalls. "And I ain’t wanna be no industry plant." Though his A&R Lamont "Mont" Brown was able to convince him sooner than later.
Fully investing in what felt special, Brown connected the dots between Chris, Pusha T and Heir Wave Music Group partner Dre The Mayor. The latter two were looking for local talent in Virginia at the time to link up with. Push and Dre were moved by Chris’ self-sufficient attitude and began managing him together.
"I felt like his numbers were a strong thing to see," Push divulgues. "Especially coming out of Virginia, where we’ve never had a real infrastructure for independence. He had sort of cultivated that following. We [other hip-hop elder statesmen from Virginia] made it and we always went away [from the state] and found a way for people to take to us. So, he figured something out that, again, I was impressed by."
Deeming Chris as "the new energy," Push adds, "He’s taking the SoundCloud sound and he’s curated it a bit more. He’s really putting and formulating these songs together. He’s sort of updated the operating system or is gonna update the way that people see that sound. Chris is next, for sure."
With support from a music legend and major record label, Chris continues to elevate. His 2022 hitters like "O Boy! (Cxdy)," a feature on Tana’s "Off the Leash!" and the Lil Yachty-featured "Damn Homie" caught fire. The rapper also embarked on his first national performance trek earlier this year as support on Lil Tecca’s We Love You Tour, alongside fellow SoundCloud leaders Tana and Bktherula. This past summer, Chris delivered the seven-song EP, Virality, which reflects the notion "all hits, no misses." He’ll bring those tracks to the stage at the Rolling Loud New York festival this fall.
"I’m trying to be the biggest-type shit," Yvngxchris declares. "I’m just trying to evolve, you feel me?"
Best believe that the work won’t stop until he gets there.
Read Yvngxchris' full interview in the 25th anniversary issue of XXL, on newsstands now. Check out additional interviews in the magazine, including our cover story with Eminem, Bobby Shmurda, Yung Miami, JID, Yvngxchris, GloRilla, SleazyWorld Go, Styles P, Jim Jones, Symba, Reason, singer Jessie Reyez, actor Trevante Rhodes and music executive Katina Bynum. The issue also includes a deep dive into a narrative piece on the U.S. court systems' battle against rap lyrics, rappers’ longstanding connection to anime, the renewed interest music supervisors have in placing 1990’s hip-hop in today’s lauded TV series and the 254 past covers in XXL history.