EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Polo G talks about his new album "The GOAT," life in Los Angeles and more.
Polo G's much-anticipated follow up to his debut, Die A Legend, arrives today. The GOAT, as it's titled, indicates the length of Polo's ambitions-- but equally, it represents his astrological sign, a Capricorn. This, in itself, is seemingly an omen of his destined-to-be greatness, as the rapper tells us in our new interview that he's among good company-- Lebron James, Denzel Washington, Martin Luther King, Tiger Woods, are all fellow Capricorns.
It's impossible to be great at your craft without constant practice and study, and this is something Polo G seems keenly aware of, and is continuously striving towards, which is refreshing to hear in such a young artist. He's definitely here to play the long game, and to that effect, he's actively studying the OGs that came before him-- this attitude of course stands in stark contrast to a few other "new gen" rappers that might come to mind. Perhaps Polo's dedication to the game and desire for greatness is also tied up in his upbringing. As a youth in the Northside of Chicago, he had no choice but to mature quickly and now, he sees no other option but to make this rap thing a full-fledged, long-lasting career, in order to fully leave his street life in the Chi behind. He's helping himself do that too, with a move to Los Angeles encouraging the artist to not only focus on his career, but to forge a better life for his family, some of whom moved out to L.A. with him. Of course, having a young son acts as motivation as well.
Polo G's new album is clear evidence of his growth. The rapper shows strides not only in his song-writing abilities, but in his concepts as well, branching out to new territory as he explores a love song or two ("Martin & Gina," "Beautiful Pain"), and even dabbles in social topics like police brutality on the piano ballad "Wishing For a Hero" featuring BJ The Chicago Kid.
When we spoke to Polo G via the phone at the beginning of the week, five days prior to his album release, this idea of growth was one that he pushed forth, whether it be using the quarantine downtime to improve on his songwriting ability or listening to Tupac and Nas as a way to study their lyricism.
Read our full interview with the wise-beyond-his-years rapper below, and make sure to go stream The GOAT.
Edited for clarity
Image via HNHH
HotNewHipHop: This is Rose with HNHH how are you?
Polo G: I’m good.
Good? You sound tired.
Yeah, I’m exhausted
Yeah, getting ready to drop this new album in quarantine. How’s it going? You’re in LA right now?
Yeah, I’m in LA currently.
How’s life on lockdown out in LA?
It’s been cool. It’s bearable cause the weather’s good.
Yeah for real. That’s one thing. Where I am the weather is gross and depressing. So the new album is titled The GOAT. Why did you want to follow up Die a Legend with that? Both are pretty big titles, why did you want to call the second one The GOAT?
It was really like, I knew it would get a bit of controversy, a lot of different opinions, but it was really a play on my zodiac sign. Me being a Capricorn and the goat representing the Capricorn, and I just know all around that Capricorns are one of the greatest at whatever they were doing. Whether it was Lebron James, Denzel Washington, Martin Luther King, Tiger Woods. People who are great at what they did, so I feel like it needs to be great.
Cool, I didn’t know the double meaning. So, thinking about being the best, I wanted to know since you dropped Die A Legend, what’s a positive way that you’ve changed or grown since you dropped that album. How are you continuing to level up and get better? Is there one thing that you’ve done like, "Since I dropped Die a Legend I stopped doing this drug." Something positive in your life if there’s anything you can speak on like that.
I feel like I got better at my work ethic. I’ve spent a lot more time in the studio this time around, so I just got better with my song writing ability and my ability to dish out way more music or create way more music, and really finding my best creative spaces.
That’s dope. I just got the album like an hour ago so I haven’t had that much time to listen it, but I definitely heard-- you’re trying new things. The "Martin and Gina" track I found was so dope but it’s a little bit different for you just in the fact that it’s a love song and a lot of Die a Legend was just you reflecting on where you grew up and your neighborhood and that type of thing. This is actually a relationship song. So, what inspired that record? Was it a new relationship or it’s just you’re now finally able to write about new things, like your song writing has evolved?
Yeah, just me being able to write about more things, and evolving on my sound and the topic that I want to expound on cause I know you can only talk about a certain subject so much until people are like, we get it. You feel me? So I just wanted to switch up my flow so I got more to offer as an artist.
Yeah, it’s dope. I thought that one and "Lose My Mind" seemed kind of like a relationship love song which is new territory for you. What’s your favorite type of song to write?
I feel like it’s easier for me to make heartfelt music because it’s just speaking on what I’ve been through or what I’m going through currently. It’s always easier to make those type of songs cause they flow easier through me, and that’s something I started out with. So, my roots sound or root flow as an artist will always be easy.
Yeah, okay. Your first album you had essentially no features. Lil Tjay was basically the only feature. On this album you have a few more and obviously the Juice Wrld one is gonna be pretty big. When did you get that verse from him, like how long ago was that? How did that song come together?
Me and Juice Wrld we just always used to link up in Cali. He used to stay 15 minutes from me, so we just had that type of relationship where we always link up with each other, if he wanted me to slide on him, we could just be chilling, we didn't even make music like that. But there was a time that I had recorded a song with Hit-Boy and I left an open [verse] on it and he said that he’ll get Juice on it and Juice sent me the verse back within a week or two and I called him back like, 'man, I appreciate you for that,' cause he’s a pretty big artist. Well, to me, one of the biggest artists in the world at the time, so. He just look out for me cause we had that type of relationship.
Yeah. And "Relentless" seems almost-- the hook is almost like an ode to artists like Juice Wrld that are gone to soon. Is that something you were thinking about when you wrote that?
Um, not necessarily. It was actually the record that I got called “I Know”, I basically tailored the hook around the situation with him and our friendship. I was basically having him in my head when I was writing the hook to that song.
To "I Know"?
Oh, okay. So, the other bigger feature that you have is Lil Baby and you guys also just collaborated on Durk’s song. Have you guys spent time in the studio in real like before the pandemic or was that all done online, via email?
Me and Lil Baby got like our third song together. He was in the "Pop Out" remix, he hopped onto "Be Something," and the song with Durk, but we never linked in the studio before, which is kinda-- but I guess that’s just how go business goes in this day and age. I don't recall ever really meet him in person.
Oh, shit. What about Lil Tjay, you guys for sure have been in the studio together?
Yeah, we worked on "Pop Out" in the studio together. All I thought was we were sharing a session just doing our thing.
In New York?
Yeah. When I walked into his session or he walked into mine, we just worked from there.
That’s so crazy. Do you guys have any unreleased songs together? Like how many collaborations do you have total would you estimate?
I think about, in total about three or four. Two of them being out. We didn’t really lock in to work on that much music but it’s definitely a though, definitely something to get going.
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Would you ever do a joint mixtape with him or is there anyone else like is that something that you want to do? The joint project kind of trend?
Yeah I’m definitely open to doing one with him. Some of the other bigger artists that compliment my sound...I can’t really pinpoint one as of right now, but I know that I would be open to doing that with any artist that I enjoy their music too.
That would be dope. Who are some older artists that you do enjoy their music, that you’re listening to right now? Maybe not from your generation but from the older generation?
I could say probably like Tupac. That’s the only person from the older generation that I could say-- that’s honestly the only [one]. Besides him I’ve been listening to Nas. Just trying to really learn my history on hip hop, and just really feel them out as being real lyricists cause I know I pride myself on being a lyricist.
That’s so dope and I noticed that you must study those things, because I found that some of your word choices-- you opt for the less-used word, in rapping but also in conversation. You use words that we don’t always use like, when you say 'embrace' instead of 'hug' and 'expound'-- you just said 'expound' in this conversation-- so it’s cool to see that initiative and that growth.
Yeah, I definitely pride myself on doing that too cause I just try to make myself stand out as an artist.
I mean, that’s how you’re going to get better. Who are some of your favorite producers to work with?
My favorite producer…I actually enjoy working with Taj Money, I enjoy working with 10 Forty and his crew. I like really upcoming producers, more than mainstream producers, because I feel like it’s more of a vibe. I feel like mainstream producers pull a sound out of you that you probably never knew you had, and they give you more of a mainstream sound, because they know what the rest of the world really wants to hear, but I feel like working with the producers who really grinding, like you can feel a hunger and how they’re coming towards the song and I’m trying to produce that same type of hunger.
Yeah, that’s true. In terms of what draws you to a beat I feel like a lot of your stuff is dark and there’s a lot of piano keys in your beats. Are there any specific elements that you look for?
I listen for pianos, I listen for guitar. Like it just gotta have a nice little bounce to the beat, like the 808. That’s gonna sell me every time.
I definitely hear that. It sounds like from various interviews that I’ve heard with you, that your family is super involved in you career. Does every one of your family members have a different role in terms of your career? Like your mom is your manager, is that still true?
Yeah my OG is my manager. She’s been my manager really since the day that I signed, so. We’ve been locked in.
How was your sister and your dad involved or your other siblings? Do they also have a role?
Yeah to an extent. My sister’s like my road manager, and my pops, he does equipment for me when I’m on tour, like setting up. Though I put everybody to play. I know coming around towards the next time, my little brother’s gonna be doing the hype man work for me, so I really incorporate my family, really try to put them on.
That’s so dope. Do they all live in LA with you, like did everyone move out there?
At one point in time everybody lived out there but then after getting a feel for it, other people in my family, they moved back to Illinois.
Oh, okay. What didn’t they like about it? Do you like living in LA or, what do you think of it?
I feel like LA is one of the best places to live in the world. It’s definitely my second home. I love Chicago too, it’s my hometown. I just know that I left Chicago to stay away from getting in trouble.
Right. In terms of local artists and figures in Chicago who are the most important people locally. Like maybe it’s Lil Durk or G Herbo, people like that. Who do you look up to in Chicago?
I don’t look up to anybody in Chicago. I respect all of the artists that’s doing their thing, but I’m really focused on myself and trying to out-do my last achievements, and really cement my name as one of the great artists, so. I don’t necessarily look up to anybody.
Okay. If it’s not Chicago is there anyone you look up to in general or you’re really just like, 'I don’t do that'?
I mean it’s certain people that I respect the way that they move like, I look at Meek Mill and people like Drake, like this is the way you’re supposed to be when you’re thirty years old, and you still doing your thing in rap, like this is how it’s supposed to look. I definitely pay attention to those types of thing.
That’s smart. One last thing I wanted to talk about is when you look on YouTube, a lot of the comments on your videos and your interviews, it's all so inspirational and motivational-- you’ve motivated a lot of your fans, basically. So I just wanted to know who inspires and motivates you in a similar way that you're motivating all these young people?
I would say somebody like Tupac inspires [me], you feel me. In just what it is I’m doing and just standing firm in what I believe in, somebody like Nipsey Hussle, too.
Okay, that’s dope. Do you want to leave the fans with words of motivation during this insane time that we’re all going through?
Just really try to keep your head up and, probably try to stay away from social media cause I know that can bring you down like you having anxiety issues like that definitely doesn’t help your situation. Take a walk, take a breather, you feel me? Just don’t let this whole thing get to your head.
Yeah, for sure. That’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and we’re looking forward to when the album drops.
I appreciate you thanks for having me.