Big30 is gearing up for the release of their debut album


Show and prove: Big30
Words: Peter A. Berry
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, now on newsstands.

Big30 doesn’t rap as much as he shoots. His frantic delivery and scabrous lyrics conjure up a harsh environment as he unloads tales of gunfights and block wars in unsettling detail. The rap world saw the aftermath of a Big30 assault after hearing his ruthless guest verse on Pooh Shiesty’s “Neighbors,” a menacing yet infectious single from Pooh’s Shiesty Season mixtape, released last February. On the track, the bars of the 30s pour out like a death threat: “I’m in the field with choppers, you can’t come up on this turf/And I’m from Killbranch, on sais qu’on tue killers first.

“Neighbors,” which sells gold, has been streamed more than 34 million times on Spotify since its release last February. The song peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. For 30 years, career milestones like that serve as a strike against its doubters. “It’s almost like a slap in the face,” he shares over the phone on a chilly October night. “Like, look at me now.” These days, it’s getting harder and harder not to.

Born Rodney Wright Jr., the rhymer only started taking rapping seriously after signing with Moneybagg Yo’s Bread Gang and N-Less Entertainment in 2019. Between life on the streets and being a student who played a little too much for his teachers’ liking, 30 never got too involved in music at first. While he remembers playing little league football and having fun in his community, older leaders would tell him about issues in the area. It wasn’t until people his age started dying that the warning came. “It got to the point where you had to kill or be killed here,” he recalls.

At 14, 30 owned a Glock 30 – the inspiration for his rap nickname – and was active on the streets. Around the same time, he began engaging in the street rap of the era, although his father was also playing offerings from singers like David Ruffin and Willie Hutch. “There aren’t too many blues songs you could play and I don’t know,” 30 shares. And yet, when his older cousin introduced him to artists like Gucci Mane and Yo Gotti, the rising rhyme caster felt a stronger connection to lyrics that echoed his own reality. “It would be amazing if what happened in my hood happened 1,000 miles away in everyone’s hood,” says the 30-year-old, who is also a fan of Jeezy and Kodak Black. “I fuck with this.”

Heartbreaking and hyper-specific, the 22-year-old rapper’s lyrics are the kind that almost always have to be drawn from the experience of life on the streets. In January 2018, 30 was arrested for shooting a gun at an apartment building. He got off with a community service sentence and the charge was expunged from his record. That same year, at the insistence of his childhood friend Shiesty, 30 began telling his own story in the form of rhymes and songs.

At first, the two were dropping bars on random instrumentals at home. Soon they were heading to a friend’s house in the Walker Homes neighborhood of Memphis to record a song. Using an old Three 6 Mafia beat, they created a track called “RC”, an offering laced with gunfire and inexperience. It was a hit with his friends, who told him he should take music more seriously, which he did. In October 2018, 30 and Shiesty recorded “Breaking News” with fellow rappers Choppa Tee and Kayy Shiesty. Hoarse reported the first time they uploaded a music video to YouTube. “I think we did 100,000 in a month,” 30 recalled. “You couldn’t tell us anything.

A year later, 30 caught the eye of N-Less Entertainment CEO and co-founder Marcus “Head” Howell, who eventually signed 30 to his label as part of a joint venture with Moneybagg Yo’s Bread Gang. Working alongside 30, Head was impressed with both the young rapper’s work ethic and his sharp songwriting technique. “The relativity of what he does is really what sets me apart,” Head says. “It makes you feel like you’re right there with him.”

Big30 gathered more stuff to brag about as he regularly recorded new music with Shiesty. It has earned millions of views on YouTube with visuals for 2020 songs like Pooh Shiesty’s gold-certified track “Allegations” – 49 million views – and “Shots Out the Vette” – 21 million views.

However, legal issues clouded his career in October 2020. 30 was arrested for drug trafficking in Alabama after he was found with $17,000 in cash, a Glock 40, promethazine, codeine and marijuana which would have been packaged for sale. He is still dealing with the charge, but so far he has only had to perform community service for the case.

Since then, Big30 has focused on their rapping momentum by continuing to release their own loosies. Last September, he went ahead with King of Killbranch, his first project peppered with tales of trenches almost as dark as they are inspiring. While rap luminaries like Future, Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo and Quavo are featured on the project, the brand of immediate 30s lyricism ensured it was never overshadowed. okay debuted at number 13 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. A month later, he was announced as an Interscope Records artist through a partnership between N-Less and Bread Gang.

As his status as the next rising trap storyteller solidifies, 30 has brought major changes to his life. He quit smoking in cars and enlisted a security team. “I can no longer move like any ordinary person,” he says. If he wants more advice on adjusting to stardom, he can connect with Lil Baby, Future and 50 Cent, all of whom have given him advice so far. Their most salient input calls for 30 to stay consistent with his artistic output. In 2022, 30 plans to take their advice when he serves up his as-yet-untitled debut album. Looking a little further afield, the 30-year-old wants to launch his own record label while hitting never-before-seen hip-hop plateaus.

And he is just as invested in being a beacon for people in neighborhoods like his. “I just want my fans who are going through what I’m going through to know that they’re not the only ones who are going through this or have been through this. You can get through this. I was one of you. Yeah, you, you’re sitting on the couch and you have no idea what you’re going to do. I was like this once before. I’m a living testimony, brother. I made something out of nothing. “

Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2021 issue, including our cover story featuring XXL Awards Board Members, Juice Wrld’s mother reflects on her son and more.

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