In the first five minutes of Insecure’s season four finale, the focus shifts to an LA barbershop. The editing creates a seamless transition, but nothing sets the tone more than the song playing in the background: We Don’t Sell Dope by Drelli.
I only needed 10 seconds to recognize a certifiable banger and ran the shit back while I pulled up Shazam.
I shoulda won an Oscar, my ni–a said I had a couple of offers
I cannot hang with imposters, these ni–as fuckin up all of my commas
Straight A’s lil baby, I graduated with some honors
Shawty wanna tip the waiter, I ain’t even eat the pasta
If you’re unfamiliar with Drelli (as I was) these four bars are delivered with a Swag Bop braggadocio that asks you to visualize someone much different at the other end of the mic.
Upon further inspection, you’ll find Drelli’s discography brimming with frivolous confidence that belies how hard this track goes. Imagine my surprise in seeing this same man spitting bars in a bucket hat with blank CDs randomly taped over his body for his music video, Sandbox.
Given that Drelli is only 22, I can’t imagine a more apt title for a single. While he was cruising the Slauson Mall, we spoke.
KH: I read an interview you did with DJ Booth two years ago where they asked if you knew your audience and you said you didn’t but that you were hoping to have a better idea after dropping Hey Drelli. Do you feel like you have that now?
Drelli: You know, my manager has been asking me that too. I honestly would just say kids in high school for the most part. Around 15, 16 years old. Up until about 23.
KH: So obviously I heard your song on Insecure. Can you share what that process was like in getting your music on?
Drelli: One of the [script] supervisors follows me online and we set up a meeting in November. And he told me he was working on that show at the time and I had this song then that I thought would be good for it.
I ended up dropping it in February and found out a month or two ago that they were going to use it, so it was pretty cool to hear that.
KH: Yeah, that must’ve been exciting—that show has such a huge following.
Drelli: Yeah, it was super cool. I love the show.
“It was definitely a moment I’ll remember.”
KH: With songs like The Internet and Chiquita, they’re more light-hearted. And then you have something like We Don’t Sell Dope which is more of a banger. You’re already pretty versatile and it also comes across in the direction of your music videos. How involved are you in the creative direction of them? I noticed you work with the same director, Gabe Hostetler, for a lot of them.
Drelli: I normally sketch out the ideas and what I want to happen. And I’ll bring it to him and we’ll talk about the themes. We’ll also draw inspiration from movies and how certain shots are captured. Like how they used certain angles and we’ll try to experiment with how it looks.
Do you have an example of something you borrowed?
Drelli: Yeah, for the Ice Cream video. Do you know that song Hollaback Girl? One of the parts when she’s inside grocery store inside the shopping cart, I thought that was really dope and had the kind of energy I like.
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I normally will put my song over another video that I really like and mute it and follow along to see if it captures the same energy that that music video makes me feel.
KH: With the commercials and the movie trailers, is it usually people reaching out to you? Or do you seek out those opportunities to pitch people?
Drelli: My manager is great at knowing the companies that have a really good sync department. And it really is a mix of both.
KH: Is there a specific show you’d love to hear your music on?
Silicon Valley. But they’re done. Or Dave.
KH: I remember you were talking about how you got into music, it started just with you and your friends messing around, but I was curious if you could share a little bit more about who put the mic in your hand.
Drelli: I’ve always been pretty big on music. Do you remember the show MTV Jams? I used to watch that show a lot with my brother. BET, all of that. I’ve always loved music and my mom used to always listen to music.
“When I got to ninth grade I ended up getting a microphone on Christmas. And I really like the process of making music. I thought that was cool. I was like ‘oh dang, this is actually pretty fun.'”
Just messing around with my brother and not judging each other so it was like “whatever you come up with.” And I remember I just started taking it more seriously during my junior year of high school.
KH: Outside of music, where do you find yourself gravitating towards as an artist?
Drelli: I’d be down to make clothes and stuff like that. I’d want to act.
KH: Yeah, you called yourself rap’s Eddie Murphy right—so can you see yourself doing comedy?
Yeah, definitely. I think it would be super dope to do something like that. So hopefully sometime, you know?
KH: I think it would be interesting to write something based on your life, being this young up and coming rapper in LA during the quarantine. Especially because your music is fun and makes people want to dance but motherfuckers aren’t getting together to dance right now.
Drelli: That would be dope! I actually love that. That shit would be hard.
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KH: What’s something that people say about you that you wish you could change?
Drelli: I haven’t heard much! I don’t know anything that people think of me yet.
KH: You don’t read the YouTube comments?
Drelli: Yeah, I haven’t heard anything. Hopefully, it’s good, whatever they do say.
KH: People are always trolling.
“People definitely troll a lot. I like to troll too though, so I won’t get offended.”
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KH: ’ve heard you say that you pride yourself on being unique and not adhering to a normal path of success. Is there anything you wish you could change about the industry?
Drelli: I would say… who knows? All I care about is making good music. And everything else? Just forget it. I feel like people get caught up in the “industry game” and want to change the industry, but they can’t.
“The only way you can really change the industry is by you making good music and choosing how to use your success.”
I was just thinking on that tip, instead of just changing the industry you can look at someone like Lil Yachty. He came up in such a cool way, which I definitely respect. And he changed the game.
Most people who play the industry game don’t win like that. You’re not gonna change the industry. You win by making good music.
KH: Do you have an album coming out soon?
Drelli: I’m thinking in the fall time, I will. Probably in September.
KH: Cool, is there anything you want to plug? Anything you want your fans to know?
“Just continue to be yourself and never let people get the best of you.”