Offset didn’t feel like having a birthday party this year. But after Cardi B insisted her husband celebrate turning 29 years old, Offset graciously agreed to let her throw him a Belly-themed party, in a break from “Set Gala,” the Met Gala riff that he usually hosts in Los Angeles. He budged because he wanted to give his friends the chance to come together safely before the end of the year; yes, Cardi gifted him a rare golden Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, but other gifts will be donated to children at Care4All Children Services in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Why Belly? The 1998 Hype Williams–directed movie was a childhood favorite of Offset’s, and as the “Reverend Saviour” played by Ben Chavis cautioned, aptly for 2020: “The world is now feeling the heat from flames it has kept burning since the beginning of civilization.”
“Dealing with this year, it took a little bit of the soul out of the birthday,” Offset said from Rodeo Drive, where he was picking up his Belly-inspired blue leather outfit. “But it is a blessing to be here. People have lost their lives to something that hasn’t been fixed. I lost a great-uncle to COVID. I never thought in my generation, we would go through this type of time.” (Safety procedures for the party were extensive: The venue was sterilized beforehand, there was on-site testing on arrival, and masks and hand sanitizer were provided.)
Offset rose to fame as a member of hip-hop powerhouse Migos, but he has since established his own identity, releasing a Grammy-nominated solo album, Father of 4, in February 2019. He’s stepping into fashion design with a capsule collection within Chaz A. Jordan’s Laundered Works Corp. at this upcoming Paris Fashion Week. And he will make his film debut as a computer engineer in American Sole, a Pete Davidson and O’Shea Jackson Jr. vehicle about two friends who turn to the resale-sneaker market to absolve college debt.
If Offset playing a computer engineer sounds unexpected, that’s by design: “When you’re a rapper, a lot of times people just think you have to be the gangsta in the film or some mob boss,” he explained. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t play that role, but this is my debut in film, so I wanted to challenge myself. The first time I got into acting was on NCIS, as a seasoned agent. Not the stereotype of what artists usually do. And I shocked the world.”
Of course, music is still the main thing. Offset estimates he’s been in the studio recording Migos’ fourth album five or six days a week—considerably more than the two days of recording the group usually fits around their touring schedule in non-pandemic times. He acknowledges that Migos hasn’t dropped an album since 2018’s Culture II, and he’s optimistic that this slowed-down time will produce even better work.
“We’ve been shooting videos, behind the scenes,” he said. “We’ve got four or five in the vault already. When you’re moving fast, you don’t get to prepare for two years. Most of the time, we do a year rollout. But now it’s a two-year rollout just in case [touring] doesn’t come back for two years, and then, it might be the best [work] of your career because you had the time.”
Offset also began to find his political voice in 2020: He encouraged people to vote in the Nov. 4 election, admitting it was the first he’d ever participated in, and delivered free food to Gwinnett County voters waiting in line. Back in April, when COVID-19 began surging, he organized an “Offset and Friends” charitable livestream benefitting the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
“Before, my mistakes in life held me back from being a part of voting and being able to have a voice in the community,” he said. “Being able to vote opened my eyes up to letting the world know that we should do this. We should participate in it because it actually changes things. Ain’t nobody telling you you should vote for the senators because they make the decisions, while the president is really the face of the country— being educated on voting and who really makes the big-dog decisions, nobody [taught] that in [our] school.
“When somebody tells you you can’t vote because you’ve made a mistake in your life, it takes the encouragement from people,’ he continued. “You feel like you don’t matter, and that’s what a lot of our youth say. Now that I can, I’m gonna go all the way with it because I was told I couldn’t.”
Originally Appeared on GQ