Why Everyone Loves $NOT

Eric Skelton
·14 min read

Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)

$NOT doesn’t wake up every morning and try to go viral, but it keeps happening anyway.

Since he first started uploading songs on SoundCloud in 2016, the Florida rapper’s music has blown up on the internet in every way imaginable. Tracks like “Case 19” caught fire on YouTube and SoundCloud, before releases like “Gosha,” “Excuse Me,” and “Mean” went viral TikTok and Triller. He’s been featured on major YouTube channels like Lyrical Lemonade and Danny Duncan, ended up in countless memes, and seen his streams spike after landing on influential playlists.

At a certain point, all these moments added up to one undeniable fact: $NOT is a legitimate star who makes music that will find its way to the ears of millions, no matter where it’s shared on the internet.

As we’ve seen over and over lately, having a hot song on TikTok doesn’t always lead to a successful career or attract a real fanbase. Your music can end up at the center of a viral dance challenge and people still won’t know who you are or what you look like, because most of the attention goes to the influencers and dancers who actually appear on-camera in each video. Even though his rise has been buoyed by several songs blowing up on TikTok, however, $NOT doesn’t have this problem. His fans are extremely loyal, routinely mobilizing themselves in the comments sections of influential accounts.

When Trippie Redd recently posted a video on Instagram, asking his fans, “Who should I get on this song?” $NOT’s fans filled the comments and caught Trippie’s attention. He ended up following $NOT, reaching out, and they made a song together. This kind of thing happens all the time for the 23-year-old rapper. Whenever a major rap social media account posts a message like, “What rapper is about to have a huge year?” you’ll see hundreds of $NOT’s fans hyping him up in the comments. His fans actively want him to win, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

So, why does everyone love $NOT? And what separates him from artists who fade away after their first taste of viral success?

There are multiple answers to those questions, but they all revolve around the same thing: his effortless style. $NOT never tries too hard—not in the studio, not on social media, not anywhere. His nonchalant, low-key delivery on songs like “Moon & Stars” creates a sneakily addictive, hypnotic effect that grows more appealing with every listen. Instead of trying to do too much, he focuses on perfecting subtly catchy melodies and writing relatable verses. Songs like “Revenge” might not immediately hit you over the head with excessive energy or flashy touches, but you’ll find yourself singing the words for weeks after first listening.

$NOT approaches other aspects of his life as a rapper in a similar manner. Over the phone, he tells me he’s “really boring,” but a scroll through his Instagram page will reveal a deceptively charismatic personality. Naturally funny in a way that’s attention-grabbing without needing to try too hard, he has a habit of sharing wild late-night thoughts on his IG Story and filling his timeline with not-always-flattering selfies (“I’m ugly asf,” a recent caption reads). He’s found a way to be active on social media and build a large following—over a million followers and counting—without resorting to gimmicks.

“I don’t got to do none of that stupid shit,” he says. “The only thing that’s crazy is me wearing a hoodie. Some people see that as a gimmick.” Ah, yes. The hoodie. Whenever $NOT appears in public, he pulls a hoodie over his head and ties the drawstrings tight. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a few photos of him without it, but 99% of the time you see $NOT, you’ll see the hoodie. Even this, however, is an example of his hesitation to draw unnecessary attention to himself, despite his own admission that it could be viewed as a “gimmick.” He picked up the habit after frequently retreating into his hoodie in school, and now he relishes in the fact that it allows him to remain mostly unrecognizable whenever he takes it off.

After releasing two projects in 2020, Beautiful Havoc and – TRAGEDY +, $NOT’s starpower continues to grow. As each new song lights up everything from TikTok to Apple Music, even he admits he’s occasionally blown away by his own ascent. “Every three months or some shit, I’ll just be like, ‘Damn, I’m growing by the second,’” he says. “That shit’s really crazy to me.” And he doesn’t plan to take a break anytime soon, revealing he wants to release much more music in 2021.

Complex caught up with the man under the hoodie for a conversation about his growth as a rapper, who he wants to collaborate with next, and much more. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.

$NOT
Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)

What made you want to become a rapper?
Shit. I would watch a whole bunch of music videos when I was a kid. Lil Wayne, fucking Soulja Boy, Chief Keef. Then there was Tyler, the Creator with Golf Wang, Loiter Squad, and everything. That shit was really cool. I’m like, “Damn.” With Tyler, I ain’t even look at him as a rapper or a skateboarder. I was like, “Yo, this man’s a creator.” That’s what I really wanted to do.

Then later on, I got into the more underground shit. It all started with Yung Lean. I listened to him, and I’m like, “Damn, this is some crazy shit.” Then I dug real deep into it. Back then, people would call shit like “vaporwave” or “cloud rap” rap or some shit. But I dug into it, like, “Yo, this man opened up some doors.” Then I’m listening to [Xavier] Wulf and Bones. I remember thinking, “I ain’t never heard shit like this by artists who are just real emotional with their music.” Their music is very different. Shit inspired me.

What kind of stuff are you listening to now?
Now that I’m a rapper, I’m just listening to whatever pops up on SoundCloud. It could be a kid in the comments talking about, “I’m a 14-year-old rapper,” or whatever. It could be whatever music pops up on my timeline. I [also] listen to a lot of Night Lovell.

The first thing I noticed about your music is how effortless it sounds. It takes some artists a long time to realize they don’t need to rap as hard as they can every time they record. When did you figure that out?
It was as soon as I started singing. That’s when I was like, “Yo, this shit’s fun.” I’m just trying to have fun. When I think too much about it, it starts to just fuck up my shit. The songs that are effortless, they’re the ones that blow up. You see it on TikTok, kids are just finding one little part in a song, and that shit just blows up and goes platinum. I don’t really do it for that reason, though. I just be having fun. It’s always been like that.

What’s your favorite way to make music?
Back in the day, I was really comfortable recording in my room, in my home. I’d get my little laptop and a little USB mic or something, and just record. But now it’s like, if I ain’t got no engineer, I can’t really do shit, for real. But I like recording in the studio, just chilling, with a whole bunch of friends with me.

$NOT
Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)

What kind of music are you having the most fun making right now?
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of Don Toliver. That type of shit. I’m really inspired by new shit like that.

You’ve always had a knack for melody, but I feel like your hooks are getting even better lately. Is that something you’ve been pushing yourself to get better at?
Yeah, I’m trying to get better at it. You’ve got to start off with a hook, something that will catch someone listening. I’m just trying to find good melodies, something that’s real catchy, that people won’t forget.

On “Revenge,” you rap about artists using gimmicks and you say, “If you want some clout, put a fork in an outlet.” You’ve built a lot of buzz without resorting to gimmicks, though. Why did you choose that route?
I don’t got to do none of that stupid shit. The only thing that’s crazy is me wearing a hoodie. Some people see that as a gimmick. But at the same time, it’s like, why do you want to see how I look? Just listen to the fucking music. Stop worrying about what I look like, because it don’t even matter at the end of the day. When you’re listening to the music, you’re not seeing my face.

Do you think the hoodie will always be part of your look?
Yeah. That’s my brand. That’s my shit. People be coming up to me, telling me, “Yo, one day you’re not going to be wearing the hoodie, man. You’re going to be switching up and shit.” But the more they tell me that, the more I want to keep doing it. That’s my brand. That’s what got me fans, and money, and my fucking favorite car. It’s like a stock. It’s like my investment.

And when you walk around with the hoodie off, people probably don’t even recognize you…
Oh, yeah. I be walking around with the hoodie off, and nobody even comes up to me. I just like being private. I mean, some people still recognize me, and ask about photos and shit. But it’s not something I look for. I like being private. I like being low-key.

Why did you start wearing the hoodie like that in the first place?
In high school, I would wear a hoodie. I’d take pictures with it and post it on Instagram. People would be like, “You wear hoodies a lot.” And that’s when I switched it up and scrunched it up around my head. I just made it my shit.

Before you ever started rapping, you had the name SNOT on Instagram. Then it became your artist name. How did that all happen?
I got the username SNOT because some kid gave it to me. And then, that’s it. I just made it my rap name. That’s basically like 21 Savage’s story. That’s exactly what it was.

Have you always been good at social media, even before you started making music?
Yeah. That shit’s just funny. People have a lot to say on there. I could post a picture of a white screen, and people just have some funny shit to say. Because people don’t see their favorite artists doing that shit. People are on the internet every day. Every second. So I’ll just post some stupid shit, some funny shit, and it’ll make somebody’s day.

Your followers are really engaged, and you can tell they fuck with you as a person, beyond just the music.
Yeah. Instagram is just too funny. There’s so many things I can post and get away with. Not a lot of artists could do that, for real. People get canceled for posting some crazy shit, and I’ll post the same shit, and people won’t say anything. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m just saying… [Laughs.]

People associate you with the SoundCloud rap scene. Things have changed a lot from a few years ago, though. How would you describe the scene now?
People always called it dead, even when I was in it. I feel like the more that is, the better, though. You’ll find a lot of gems. You can appreciate the artists for dropping on something people call “dead.”

$NOT
Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)

Are you spending most of your time in Florida or LA these days?
I got a house in Florida, but I’m in LA right now. I’d rather be bored here, you know what I’m saying? I’ve got a lot of work and shit to do here. When there’s interviews or music videos or whatever, a lot of people come to LA. Whenever they call me, I’ll be in Florida, and I’ll be like, “Fuck, I’ve got to go back to LA.” So I just stay out here for a while.

That’s where lots of other artists are, too. I saw you were recently teasing new music with Trippie Redd. How did you connect with him?
It all started when he posted a video with the caption: “Who should I get on this song?” And then people tagged my name and he pinned it. He followed me, and I followed him. Then I hit him up, he told me my shit’s fire, and we linked up two days ago and made a song. It was real organic. There were no labels or managers or none of that shit involved.

You’ve got new music on the way with Lil Skies, too. Is that coming soon?
That’s coming. It’s coming with a Lyrical Lemonade video. It’s real crazy. Cole asked Skies to get on it, and then I heard it. I’m like, “Yo, this shit’s fire.”

Who is someone you want to collaborate with that might surprise people?
I want to make music with the band Papa Roach.

Oh, shit.
That’s left-field as fuck. [Laughs.]

You’re developing a cool relationship with Cole Bennett and Lyrical Lemonade. Doing back-to-back videos with him last year was huge. How has that helped your career?
That shit helped big time. Shit just feels like a video game, man. That don’t feel real sometimes. I never would have thought that would have happened, but it did. I always wanted to work with him, because he’s that dude, you feel me? He’s the man.

You dropped two projects in 2020. Do you want to drop another project in 2021?
Yeah, I want to drop another project. Shit, if I could drop two albums in the same day, I would. I want to keep things moving. There’s no reason to stop. There are plenty of opportunities being left behind by not doing what you want to do.

When you think about the future of your career, is there someone who you want to model it after?
Probably someone like Master P or some shit. I don’t know. Master P is just a legend. I really want my shit to be like Master P.

You have a clothing line. Are you trying to do more things like that outside music?
Yeah, I’m doing my clothes thing. It’s called Get Busy or Die. Well, it’s really called Yordie. I’m trying to do some real exclusive shit. And I’m trying to separate my music from the clothes. But yeah, that’s my next move.

$NOT
Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)

Is there anything else outside of music you want to get into?
Yeah, I want to own a couple gas stations and shit.

Why is that?
It’s cool. There’s a lot of money in it. And maybe own some land. I might want to be in movies, too. I’d be wearing the hoodie in the movie. But with movies, it’d have to be on some cameo shit. Like, they’d see me in a car or some shit, or walking with a whole bunch of people.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
I don’t know what people think about me, honestly. People have a lot to say about me, but I don’t know.

In 2021, what’s one new thing you want to accomplish, musically?
I want to collab with Travis.

What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you right now?
I want people to know that if you want to do something in life, just do it. You hear plenty of rappers say that. But as cliché as it sounds, just do what you got to do.

$NOT
Photo by Jesse Richmond (@jesemrichmond)