A year ago, rapper Lil Uzi Vert bought a Bugatti and a chrome Rolex for his birthday. In an Instagram video, Uzi flexes his watch, flipping it with his finger to catch the light. An up-and-coming rapper and fashion entrepreneur from Atlanta, called Lil Gnar, loves watches. But instead of just admiring it, Gnar DM’d Uzi took to Instagram, to tell him the watch hurts. Uzi immediately responded. Now, the two rappers are friends and colleagues.
At that time, Gnar was 23 years old and signed a contract with 10K project, an independent record label based in Los Angeles, featuring artists such as Trippie Redd and Iann Dior. He quite liked the label, but after becoming friends with Uzi, he realized he could make high-profile connections in the industry itself. He left 10K Projects and started releasing music independently.
“I’m not against all record deals, but at some point, they took most of the money from my music without providing a connection,” said Gnar. “When I first signed, I was misled. I thought they would put me in touch with other artists, but everything I thought would happen, didn’t happen. “
Gnar’s story reflects many trends among young artists, especially those releasing hip-hop: fame can happen quickly, labels no longer represent the promise of fame, and social media is often the more effective way to find industry connections and audiences. To ensure that artistic production is economically viable, many of these young artists supplement their musical income with other entrepreneurial endeavors. For Gnar, this means channeling his love of skate culture and fashion into his brand Gnarcotics.
Gnar actually started designing before producing music. She grew up on the East Side of Atlanta, and fell in love with the skate culture after Pharrell Williams released her Ice Cream Skate Videos. He admires artists like Tyler, The Creator, who infuses his visual brand with a youthful street style. But not many kids in East Atlanta think skating is cool – it’s a white kid’s pastime. Other kids called him “gnarly”, in reference to the identity of his skater, which led to the name Lil Gnar.
In his late teens, Gnar knew he wanted to turn his love of street culture into a business. But the nearest printing shop was across town, and he didn’t have money or a car. He would carry a box of clothes on a bus, MARTA, another train, and walk a mile, only to reach the shop. Luckily, his persistence paid off. Artists like Billie Eilish and Juice Wrld used his designs, and he made enough money to rest and make music.
Gnar said he loved both businesses equally. “It turns out that my music is supported by clothes, but I like both,” he said. “I love to design, and it’s really crazy seeing someone in the real world wearing something I design. It’s crazier than seeing someone listen to my song.”
He released music on Soundcloud and was soon taken over by 10K Projects at the age of 23. He only stayed with the label for a year before leaving, and recently turned 25. Like many of the young artists working in the Soundcloud space, their journey to fame was accelerated by the streaming ecosystem. And like many other young artists, his marketing strategy is social media, where he posts brightly colored photos featuring fine cars, piles of cash, and carefully planned outfits. Instagram is also where he announces his upcoming single. Recently, Gnar has been teasing a single for his new album, Gnar Life 2. His latest single, ‘Not the Same’ feat. Lil Skies, released April 2. Other songs on the album will feature popular names such as Iann Dior and Chief Keef.
Under the necessary hip-hop ethos, Gnar is a skinny kid from East Atlanta who dances with his feet firmly planted and just wants to make art for a living. He is scalable and understands business. He doesn’t work on two projects at once, to ensure sufficient focus.
Gnar advised his colleagues, who also hoped to make money doing creative work, to trust their instincts. “People adjust to psychic traits: almost always, your initial feelings are the right ones,” he says. Trust your instincts, and you will make the right decisions, most of the time. “