Hoodie-Clad Rapper $NOT Rises from the Underground With Style

Photo: Angela Ricciardi

The first thing everyone notices about $NOT is his hoodies.

They’re a uniform of sorts for the South Florida rapper, who keeps one tightly drawn around his face at all times as if he were the Deep South’s answer to Kenny McCormick, from South Park. Like most aspects of his music career, his signature look came about spontaneously.

As he explained in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he experimented with the style in high school and it just stuck. There’s a similar story behind his stage name: “snot,” which was an Instagram handle he picked haphazardly as a teenager, and saw no point in finding something new once he started releasing music.

$NOT’s “why not?” ethos bleeds over into his music, which borrows enthusiastically from a kaleidoscopic range of genres while remaining grounded in the bass-heavy, blown-out sound that has dominated the last few years of underground rap. “Stamina” takes a tranquil indie piano riff and flips it into a disaffected run-down on his trust issues,  while “Seven Corps” is an understated bop driven by a heavily-filtered Rhodes line.

”Billy Boy”—which was featured on HBO’s Euphoria and cosigned by Gen. Z superstar Billie Eilish—is a warped collision of classical guitar and the chipmunk soul popularized by Kanye West in the mid-2000s. It’s total chaos, but there’s a method to the madness: seething at the centre of it all, he sounds like a desperado standing alone against all those who “want war.”

Most notable of all is his 2018 breakout hit, “Gosha,” named for the controversial and now-embattled Russian streetwear designer. $NOT layers his raspy vocals over a haze of nostalgic, wailed vocal samples and a slow-rolling 808 pulse which lurches in the background, never rising above a crawl. “I know you care about Gosha, and pretty things, but can you tell me what you don’t give a f*** about,” he murmurs in the intro, before launching into a list of the luxuries, hangers-on and rules that irk him. It’s simple, but quietly hypnotic; the track has racked up millions of plays and propelled him into position as one of the post-Soundcloud scene’s leading torchbearers.

The hoodie-clad rapper’s corner of the music industry has seen a swath of deaths in the last few years, and $NOT is acutely aware that having outlived many of his once-contemporaries, it’s up to him and those who remain to push their sub-genre forwards.

Over the phone in mid-January he likens posthumous albums to somewhat of a mixed bag, particularly when label involvement distorts the artist’s original vision. “I don’t really like when labels drop albums after an artist dies,” he explains, “I get it—they’re supposed to make their money back, fans want to hear something—but it’s still weird because they’re not around to have their say.”

He’s not overly concerned with his own legacy, or at least, not just yet. $NOT and his team are currently gearing up for the release of his debut album – Tragedy +, which features “Gosha,” as well as the newer singles “Moon & Stars,” “Beretta,” and “Megan.” The latter is an early standout from the project; “Megan” is a quintessential emo-trap ode to heartbreak, but his deep, raspy delivery gives the ballad just enough edge to sound gritty and anthemic rather than bitter.

– Tragedy + is kind of a sad album, but it’s also kind of lit,” he shares. “Most of the album is just me singing, and it’s heartfelt. It’s something that the kids can listen to and get whatever they want from, you know. People missed my old, rawer sound, from 2017, where I’d just start singing in the middle of songs. I’m bringing that back this year.”

$NOT’s debut album – Tragedy + will be released March 6, 2020.