When it comes to Minneapolis artists, Drelli is a name that holds a lot of weight. The youngest signee to So Cold Records, he embarks on a nationwide, 12-city tour with labelmates Allan Kingdom and Finding Novyon on July 7th. PIFF sat down with Drelli recently to find out more about his start in music, creative process, inspirations, and more.
PIFF: Drelli, could you introduce yourself to people who aren’t familiar with you or what you do?
Hi, my name is Drelli. I’m an artist from Minneapolis, and I rap.
How did you get started in music?
Throughout high school, my friends and I were always fucking around and making music, but it was like a joke at first. We called ourselves “Wavy Clan.” Freshman year, one of my friends got a mic for Christmas, and on Christmas Day that year, we made our first song as a group.
We would go to all these parties and play that one song! We’d grab the aux wherever we went and put our music on. Then, sophomore year I dropped a song of my own called “More Money I’m Spending.” At that point, I was still kinda playing around and not taking it that serious, but then junior year came around and I met a producer named Danny TV who still does a lot of my stuff now. He was a friend of mine’s older brother, and when I made a song with him, I really feel like I found my style. He’s a big influence of mine!
Was there a specific time when you realized you wanted music to be your profession?
When people actually started listening to the music! At first, I thought I’d just do it and see what happened, but when people started listening to it, I was like “This is pretty cool, maybe I should keep doing it.” Then it really hit me senior year. I realized I didn’t want to go to college, and that music was my thing.
When you were in high school, how did you manage to juggle school and music?
I didn’t really (laughs). I didn’t really get great grades, mostly C’s …
Hey, C’s get degrees! C is for college!
Yeah, it’s hard because you go to school from 8:00 in the morning to 2:30, and I was working at the time too, so I’d leave school and go to work till about 7:00, then I’d have to go home and do homework after that. I tried my best to juggle, but it was tough. Now that I’m out of school, I’ve got a lot more free time.
Is your family supportive of you pursuing music?
Yeah, super supportive! At first when I was still in high school and doing it for fun it was whatever to them, but when things started happening, especially when I got sponsored by Red Bull last summer …
Was that before the Lil Yachty show? (Lil Yachty performed in Minneapolis in the summer of 2016)
Yeah, yeah. I was fucking with Lil Yachty before anyone really knew who he was, and I hit Greenroom and Red Bull up like “You guys gotta bring him here! He’s so dope!” I was talking to his manager too, and boom, 6 months later he blew up and they brought him here, and I got to open up for him. So once that happened, my mom was like “Ok, this is pretty cool. You’re doing something that you like and accomplishing things.”
That was definitely the most lit show of last year.
Yeah dude. And I was TWEAKING on Red Bull the whole time (everyone laughs). I had like 5-6 Red Bulls before the show.
Do you have a favorite flavor of Red Bull?
Yeah, they’ve got some really good ones. The blueberry joints are good, and I like the ones in the yellow can too, but I don’t really drink them too heavy anymore. Like when I first got the sponsorship and got boxes full of free cans, I was going nuts. One day I drank so many, I stayed up for like 24 hours straight. I’ve got a really low caffeine tolerance.
Could you describe your sound to those who might not be familiar?
I make swag bop.
We’ve heard you say that before! Could you elaborate on what exactly swag bop is?
Yeah, swag bop is like upbeat house music, but I try to incorporate as many genres as possible so it’s not just one style of music and people can connect on different wavelengths. People don’t like when something is so different that it doesn’t remind them of anything else, so I try to work a little of everything into my music.
What genres would you say influence it the most? Cause your music definitely has some house vibes, some real soulful vibes, and some hip-hop vibes to it.
Well where I’m at now … the way … like being in Minnesota, for example, it snows a lot. So if I can get a beat that feels like summer, I’ll be like “alright, this is it,” because it feels like it’s not from here. My producer Danny does a really good job of making those kind of beats, and when I hear one I’ll really go for it and make the song.
You grew up in Minneapolis, and you’re the youngest signee to So Cold Records. How have Allan Kingdom, Finding Novyon, and the rest of the So Cold squad influenced you? What would you say you’ve learned from them?
Don’t wait for anyone to do anything for you. Don’t expect too much from people. If you wanna do something, just do it, because nobody is gonna do it for you. You’ve gotta be driven, and you can’t get too comfortable.
So you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
Sure. Even with the process of making music, I can get pretty bored. Up until recently, I did most of my recording in my room, so even getting out and going to a studio helps keep it fresh.
What’s your process like when you’re making a song?
I try to not think about it too much, because then it gets hard. You get to a point when you’ve made so many songs that you can’t really say the “wrong” thing. Sometimes I think “will people get offended by this?” But nowadays you can pretty much say anything, and if they get offended … then they might even like it more. As long as someone’s talking about it, then you’re doing something right, so I just try to say whatever I want and make it sound as cool as possible.
While we’re on the subject of your process, we were curious about Chiquita, both the video and the song. How did that come about? The video was unique and we enjoyed it a lot.
Thank you! Well, I used to play tennis in high school, doubles mostly. When I made the song, I didn’t think of it having a tennis vibe until later on. Shoutout to Blanda (the “Chiquita” producer), that was a fun song that just kinda happened. I was over at his house, he showed me the beat, and it just came together. Then later on, I was like “damn, it would be cool to be a video.” I figured it would be too obvious to have Chiquita be a banana, so we went to the Minnetonka tennis court, and they let us shoot the video!
Who shot the video? Was it one of your friends?
Yeah, Gabe. I don’t wanna mess up his last name, so shoutout to Gabe. (everyone laughs). He’s still in high school and graduates this year.
You mentioned that Blanda produced the song, and we wanted to ask: you’ve made songs with people like him and Su Na who aren’t traditional hip-hop producers. What other producers are you trying to work with?
I want to work with anyone who can work with my sound, as long as we can make a song that sounds good. At first I was like “I want to work with this guy” and “I don’t want to work with this guy,” but I think that’s a part of thinking about it too hard.
Are there any other musicians that you’d like to work with?
Goldlink, Smino, and Michael Christmas.
Moving to another topic, you’re sober, correct?
Yeah, mostly. I’ll drink a bit here and there, but as far as smoking goes, I don’t do it.
In the hip hop industry, there can be a lot of drug use. Would you say that abstaining has had a positive effect on your music?
Yeah, for sure. Cause if I do, my mind’s just not there. It’s not like I’ve never smoked before, I’ve given it multiple chances. Maybe I’m just tweaking, but I feel so much better walking around with a clear mind. I can get more stuff done.
Have you had any difficulties living a sober lifestyle?
It depends. I hang out with people who respect my choices. I have friends who smoke, but they smoke because they want to smoke. I try to put myself in situations like that, where they’re not doing it just to do it.
Piggybacking on that last question, do you have any advice for young kids that are working in the creative field that would like to stay sober?
Don’t feel like you have to do it just because your friends are doing it. Everyone’s their own person. It works for some people and helps them be creative, but it’s not for everyone. Some people do drugs to forget about their problems, but I feel like if I were to do that, I’d just wake up with the same problems instead of getting through life the right way. If I get to where I want to be, then I’ll probably be blowing back hella, but right now I’m trying to keep my head straight so I can get to where I want to be faster. Not to throw shade at anyone who smokes or anything else, because that’s their choice, but just stay true to who you are. If you feel like you don’t need to be doing it, then don’t. Make your own decisions.
What can we expect from you in 2017 and beyond?
I don’t know … you just gotta stay tuned! Anything can happen. I personally don’t know.
Is there a project in the works?
Yeah, that’s what I’m working on. I wanna do that, but I don’t wanna rush it. I want people to actually want a tape before I drop it. If I can get popping off of singles, then I’m gonna do that. I’ll wait on the full project till it’s actually needed … but I will be dropping more singles.
Any final words before we let you get going?
So Cold & ohkta pa vazu lifestyle, yeah. That’s it.