Yung Gravy keeps rolling with ‘Gasanova’


Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

Yung Gravy released his second studio album “Gasanova” on Oct. 2.

Being a rapper in 2020 should come with some caveats, with each successive chart-topping rapper taking inspiration from each other and creating a lineage of familiar, sometimes recyclable sounds. One of the hotspots when it comes to fresh hip-hop sounds right now is Atlanta, which is home to Young Thug, Future, Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti and dozens of others.

When Lil Yachty began his reign shouting “Minnesota” on his debut album that shook the Soundcloud scene, a Minnesota-born rapper took inspiration from the Atlanta rapper and went even further.

That rapper is Yung Gravy. He went to school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, got a degree, started rapping, and now has multiple RIAA Gold and Platinum-certified hits, collaborations with the likes of Chief Keef and Lil Baby, and is ready to drop his second solo album, “Gasanova.”

At the time, he just went by Matthew Hauri and occasionally a couple of other surnames when he would freestyle with friends while working at a summer camp. A typical, unsuspecting event that planted the seeds of his eventual rap career.

“I worked at a summer camp, and when the kids would go to bed we would go smoke a blunt and freestyle some random shit,” Yung Gravy explained as he sat in his mom’s basement. “I had a few names: Mr. Butter, Lil’ Steamer, Jimmy Continental. But one time, I said a line with ‘wavy’ and ‘gravy’ and it stuck.”

Typically, stating that this virtual interview took place partly at Gravy’s mom’s house would seem deliberately humiliating. But, given the line “nothin’ like a good ole’ party at my mama’s house” from the track “Party at my Mama’s House,” this feels more fitting than anything. The best part is that Yung Gravy embraces this and other atypical attributes for mainstream rappers, like his apparent obsession with MILFs, meme references and soul samples that have the kind of ingenuity to garner the term “meme rapping” for him and others that have followed. When reflecting on this new category of hip-hop, Gravy explained how he even received some backlash because of how rapidly other artists have replicated his sound. 

“I notice a lot of meme rappers using a lot of the same stuff I would use,” Gravy said. “I would just say ignorant things, but people would copy me a lot at this point. MILF references, soul samples that I’d already used. I’d noticed the term ‘meme rapper’ coming up a lot more.”

A satirical approach to rapping is nothing new, from the slight satire of Eminem’s older work to the entirety of ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s career. There is just something about Gravy’s  pin-point accurate references to internet memes like 2012’s “Chuck Testa” meme, used on his song “Whip a Tesla.” It can be hard for the listener to know if this is just a very obscure allusion or one that is crafted to fit this carefree narrative that Yung Gravy so effortlessly conveys. 

“A lot of my lyrics are just what comes to mind,” Gravy said. “For example, the Chuck Testa one. The line seemed so dope and I put out the video with Chuck Testa in it. The people under 21 have no idea who Chuck Testa is, but when I think about it I would rather rap about Chuck Testa and relate to people who get that than try and pull out some current stuff. 70% of people get it, and the ones who get it will really get it. I want to stick to the 2014 era.”

Adding to his consistent relatability is his very typical college student path, where he switched majors, had jobs and managed to hide his rap persona from most of his college circle until Yung Gravy became too big to ignore.

“I was going to University of Wisconsin and had a job working for a startup accelerator, which is like a record label for start-ups,” Gravy explained. “I was working for a company like that and had a job set for after graduation. It was six months to a year where I didn’t show my face. Eventually, I decided to do a music video for ‘Mr. Clean.’ We were thinking about doing a video where I don’t show my face, but that’s too extra. My friends didn’t even know I was making music. When I started popping off I had two semesters left and it was two to three months where I’d get recognized in the street every other day.”

If YouTube was a push for Gravy’s image, then Soundcloud acted as an aggressive catalyst for his music, where the muddy bass and piercing hi-hats felt right at home with the silly soul and oldies samples. But it wasn’t just an algorithmic advantage, as Gravy spent a lot of time promoting and working with other artists and creators. He even met one of his most essential musical collaborators through promotional and business relationships, one whose biggest song has been streamed over 650 million times on Spotify.

“I met bbno$ by promoting each other,” Gravy said. “I feel like the producers I met this way, like Englewood and Jason Rich, totally shaped my sound because they were the best at this sample-banger style. When I got into their Soundcloud DM’s, they helped me pop off. But I also feel like there is a Soundcloud sound with shorter songs and distorted 808s that I still stay true to. I’ll have a song that’s a minute and forty seconds.”

Musical collaboration is only the beginning, as the rapper is hands-on with the whole artistic process, but not in a pretentious manner. He even learned Photoshop to make some of his first album covers and has tried as hard to get samples cleared as he does to get some desirable names on his projects. When talking about his favorite song on ‘Gasanova’ titled ‘Always Saucy’ the artist reminisces on getting the television intro theme song cleared as well as the fellow rappers that he shared the track’s wavelengths with.

 “The song samples ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’” Gravy explained. “I love that concept to begin with and I never thought we would get it cleared but we did. Trippy is a day-one Soundcloud friend of mine. Ski and I also talked about doing the song, but we had to do it remotely because of corona, but we talked a lot about it. I’m the only feature that Ski Mask has had in a while, I guess.”

The music video for ‘Mr. Clean’ currently has 53 million views, and I even remember it coming across my YouTube feed when it dropped three years ago. The visuals made a picture-perfect match with the music, which helps make any piece of media attractive. His music videos have shot up in production value and star power since, with TV shows even being thrown into the mix because, well, why not?

“I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but Thundercat and I have talked about putting a video together with me, him and Zack Fox,” Gravy said cautiously. “Thundercat shot me a DM and told me he was obsessed with my music. I’ve even had two shows pitched. The guys who put together Jersey Shore have a Bachelor Show where it’s me with MILFs. There were multiple concepts going around and Howie Mandell was into it. Another idea was when Trevor Wallace and I were gonna do an Eric Andre type show, a skit show, and that was pretty close to being fully confirmed and put together on Adult Swim, but then, coronavirus.”

The attention to detail dedicated towards the album’s tracklist, cover art, feature list, production and more are just part of Yung Gravy’s well-earned ride to success. A ride gleaming with blunts, Versace robes, and the kind of vibes that will make you want to roll the windows down and take the long route home. ‘Gasanova’ is on all streaming platforms now.