S/T 002: Starboi Gabe

It can be argued that the reason rap music always seems to have a deep pool of young, talented artists is similar to why soccer is the most popular sport in the world; an incredibly low cost of entry. Anyone can buy a ball and a pair of cleats and immediately learn to play the beautiful game, and in the age of YouTube type-beats, all anyone needs to attempt an ascension to rap stardom is a microphone. However, that accessibility also makes the community of aspiring rappers an incredibly saturated domain, with tens of thousands of hopefuls trying to make it into the upper echelon of the hip-hop landscape and carve out a place for themselves within the industry. And while there are a million variables, chance encounters, and lucky breaks that factor into an artist’s rise to the cream of the musical crop, sometimes you can just tell that they’ve got what it takes.

Starboi Gabe is one of those artists. An up-and-comer from Maryland, Gabe has both a strong sense of melody and the ability to tap into different sub-genres of rap and R&B, two qualities that have defined the majority of the last decade’s biggest artists. Despite starting to make music only eight months ago, he’s already figured out how to make songs that’ll have you humming the lyrics to yourself after just a couple listens. Sound Over Time sat down with Starboi Gabe to talk about his musical upbringing, his chief influences and taste, and the sonic directions he sees his music taking in the future.

What albums, artists or songs do you remember most from your early childhood, that your parents or other older figures in your life played?

Starboi Gabe: In my early childhood, my parents played a lot of Nelly, Jay Z, and Michael Jackson. Also, a lot of gospel music. My dad is Haitian too, so he played kompa music.

I feel like Nelly doesn’t get enough credit a lot of the time. He has diamond albums, and I think he was one of the first rappers to fully embrace a partying style of rap that wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. Do you think he influences you, even subconsciously, on your more uptempo tracks?

Definitely. For a good bit of my life, growing up, every time my dad would drop me off at school he would be blasting some Nelly at like 7 in the morning. His energy, that’s something I try to bring to my music, especially when I’m doing more rapping shit.

Is there music from something you participated in growing up (sports or art scenes, friend groups) that you believe influenced your taste and your own sound? If so, which albums or artists are they?

My friends definitely influenced my music taste because when I was younger, I didn’t really listen to rap. My parents didn’t like the cursing. Once I started listening to rap, my friends and some of the sports teams I was on really influenced me to listen to a lot of the artists I still listen to now.

What was your go-to artist to get super hyped up for a big game?

Playing lacrosse in high school, that’s really when I got into trap music. The Migos, Bankroll Fresh, the type of shit that just made you want to go out there and go crazy. Before that, I didn’t really listen to that type of rap. I was mostly listening to Drake. And then as I got older, it went from me listening to trap music before games to all the time.

What album or artist do you believe influenced your taste most when you first started really diving into music?

Drake was a huge influence on my taste. The first album I ever bought was Nothing was the Same, and it’s still one of my favourite albums to this day. I also listened to artists outside of rap, like Paramore.

Was there a specific album or artist that really pushed you to want to make music?

A lot of artists pushed me to want to make music… Drake, [Playboi] Carti, [Lil Uzi Vert]. even a lot of R&B artists like Tiller, 6lack and Summer Walker. One album that I remember that really made me want to make music is 1800 by TyFontaine. It came out around the exact time I started rapping.

A lot of the artists you just named have a very confessional writing style. I noticed, especially on Love for Pain, that you write in a similar way. Do you think as you continue to make music, you’ll lean more into that intimate style of writing?

Yeah. At first, I wasn’t doing it as much, because I was just trying to make music I thought people would like, because I thought that when people first discover an artist they usually gravitate to their more upbeat tracks. Love for Pain though, I made it during the wintertime, and it was easier to make more emotional, slower music. I’m from Maryland, so it’s always cold and snowing during this part of the year. So it’s harder for me to get into my uptempo bag, because it’s depressing outside. It’s definitely something I wanna start doing more of though. People have told me they really fuck with that sound.

It’s interesting how you talked about how people are really fucking with the way you wrote on Love for Pain, because I remember Pi’erre Bourne talked about how people said the same thing about his songs that were more confessional, and that’s how he wrote “The Life of Pi’erre 4”.

I’ve been watching what Pi’erre’s been doing since I started listening to rap. When [Playboi Carti] dropped his self-titled tape, that’s when I first heard him as a producer, and I thought his beats were crazy. So I went listened to [Pi’erre’s solo music], and now I listen to it every day. He’s definitely one of my dream collaborations.

Given that you make a very modern style of rap music, are there any older rap albums or artists that you take influence from?

I wouldn’t say I really take influence from older or older-sounding rap albums, but I do appreciate what they did for the culture. I can see how those artists influenced the style, music video concepts and subject matter of today. I listen to it from time to time, too. 4:44 [by Jay-Z] is one of my favourite albums ever. Ready to Die by [The Notorious B.I.G.] as well.

What are some artists or albums that you think people would be surprised to hear influenced your music?

After Laughter by Paramore, Currents by Tame Impala. Colours 2 by PARTYNEXTDOOR. Over It by Summer Walker… I can’t even choose one. I listen to a lot of different music.

You seem to have a lot of different genres of artists you look up to. When you look to collaborate, are you trying to find people who have a similar style to you, or artists like those, who can push your sound to new places you haven’t been before?

I’d say both, but I’d lean more towards people who can expand the type of music I make. I already have stuff in my discography that people who like artists like me would fuck with, but if I was to make a song with Paramore, there would be a whole new fanbase of people I’d be opening up. I love experimenting with new sounds. On my hard drive, I already have EDM songs, pop songs, all types of stuff. I don’t even know if they’re gonna drop, but I’ve made them. So people who could help me get to somewhere sonically that I didn’t even know I could go or sound like.

Is there an album that you just recently heard that you feel will eventually influence your music?

After Me by SoFaygo and Teen X: Relapsed by Ken Car$on.

Listening to “Lead”, the production really reminded me of Ken Car$on’s beats on his Teen X EP and it’s deluxe. Are you looking at rapping on more stuff that sounds like that.

I definitely wanna rap more on that production. I only started getting into Ken Car$on in late 2020, beginning of 2021. I love that style, the stuff that the Opium [Playboi Carti’s record label] guys have been rapping on. I don’t even know what to call it. I feel like it’s gonna catch on, and I already have some shit like that in the vault that’ll drop at some point.

With both “Love for Pain” and “Lead”, it feels like you’re already moving into different sounds. Do you see yourself eventually settling into one sound and slightly branching out, or are you consistently going to keep trying different things?

The way I see it, whatever beats or genres I choose, I want to be known by my voice. I want to be able to get on anything and people will feel like it’s unique within that sound, but also different from anything I’ve done. A lot of artists, when they switch things up at a later point in their career, all their fans get upset. It seems like a terrible spot to be in, because as an artist, what you want to make can change on a day-to-day basis. One day you might feel like making the same shit you’ve been making, and then the next day you might want to get on a completely different wave.

But at the end of the day, [your career] is based off of what your fans want. That’s how you make money and survive in this business. So I want to keep changing up, so that the people that support me know it won’t just be one sound. I want to be “the sound”.

A lot of the visual art associated with your music, as well as the overall production you choose to rap over is very futuristic and space-themed. Was there an album or artist that influenced you to take an intergalactic theme to your image? If so, what or who was it?

Having a futuristic aura, as an artist, has always been cool to me. Even before I started making music. It’s probably because I used to watch a lot of Superman movies and obviously, he’s from Krypton. I always thought that was the coolest thing. As far as artists, Uzi has been the one who influenced my image the most. You can definitely tell by listening to my music. But that space themed influence is more based off TV and movies than any artist.

You’ve mentioned about Drake and Lil Uzi Vert a few times when referring to big influences. Give me your favourite song from both artists.

For singing Drake, I gotta go with “Fire & Desire”. Amazing song. But my favorite rapping Drake song is “4 PM in Calabasas”. He went stupid on that.

My favourite Uzi song is either “Feelings Mutual” off Luv is Rage 2 or Chrome Heart Tags from Eternal Atake. I just started rocking with [Chrome Heart Tags] more recently, because I found out Chief Keef made the beat. It just made the song better for me. I think there’s actually a version with Chief Keef on it. But I don’t think Lil Uzi has ever made a bad song.

Which album of yours do you feel people will most likely use as inspiration and influence in the same way that these other albums have influenced and inspired you?

Out of my current projects, I feel like Starchives will be the one that inspires people. I’ve already had other artists that support me, send me snippets of them making stuff similar to Starchives. Love for Pain might also be used as inspiration in the future, but who knows. Time will tell.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Follow Starboi Gabe on Twitter and Instagram @starboigabe

Follow Sound Over Time on Twitter @soundover_time and on Instagram at @soundover.time.

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Dedicated to learning about the music that inspires the musicians.