Photo: Daniel Prakopcyk
Polo G Talks ‘Hall Of Fame,’ Fatherhood And His Plan To Be Legendary
Polo G, the 22-year-old rap star from Chicago, spoke with GRAMMY.com about longevity, his third studio album and collaborating with his heroes
Polo G is forging his own path to greatness, one goal at a time. The 22-year-old Chicago native started off 2021 with a major milestone: his first No. 1 record. “RAPSTAR,” his guitar-laced, flex-filled single, debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in April.
“I had put that on the list of things that I need to accomplish this year and s*, the year [had] just started, and I already scratched that off,” he tells GRAMMY.com.
But Polo’s goals loom larger than a hit record. He’s after longevity and he makes it known on his newly released album, Hall of Fame. It may seem like a lofty title for a rapper’s third studio album (or not because after all Polo did name his sophomore LP The Goat), but Polo can back up his confident claims. After breaking out in 2019 with the now quadruple-platinum single “Pop Out” featuring Lil Tjay, Polo secured his rising status with the release of his debut album, Die a Legend. By the following year, Polo moved his family to Los Angeles and released his chart hit, sophomore effort The Goat, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Chart.
Now, Hall of Fame sees Polo share the stage with some of rap’s biggest players. The 20-track offering features hip-hop icons like Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj; fellow buzzing artists like DaBaby, Roddy Ricch and Rod Wave; a posthumous verse from the late Pop Smoke; and several other collabs. More importantly, though, Polo maintains his magnetism on the album. Rather than being overshadowed by his star-studded list of collaborators, Polo shines alone–a further testament to his rising star power.
Before releasing Hall of Fame, Polo caught up with GRAMMY.com about his new album, how his almost-2-year-old son inspires him to work harder and what it was like collaborating with his heroes.
You got your first No. 1 hit in April with “RAPSTAR.” Congratulations!
Thank you. Yeah, I had put that on the list of things that I need to accomplish this year and s*, the year [had] just started, and I already scratched that off.
You manifested it! What else is on your list?
My other goals on that list are just to still be here a long time from now.
Your son was featured in the “RAPSTAR” video and you rap about him and fatherhood a lot throughout Hall of Fame. How did being a new dad influence the making of the album and your music overall?
My drive, my work ethic and how hard I go. I’m always thinking about my son.
Speaking about building a legacy, I saw that you tweeted about admiring JAY-Z’s lyricism recently. Is he someone whose career you aspire to?
Definitely. Him being the first billionaire in hip-hop, I know everybody aspires to have that much money. So, I definitely look up to him and rock with him for his business mind.
You worked with a lot of great artists for this album–Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Roddy Ricch. Was there anyone, in particular, you were really excited to collaborate with?
I can’t really put a finger on just one, but actually, the person that I was most excited to work with was Rod Wave because I know how anti-social he is and how he don’t really co-mingle with other artists. So, to be a fan of his music and now to have a song out –a song that I put together with him–really felt like a moment that I was waiting on.
Did you feel like he was a kindred spirit to you in that way?
Yeah, I feel like that’s definitely the exact same way I am. So, I can respect him for that.
Pop Smoke posthumously appears on “Clueless.” When did you guys record that song and how important was it to you to have his verse on the album?
The crazy thing about the Pop record is that it became special to me even more because we had recorded that the night before he passed.
Wow, that’s crazy. And your songs with Nicki and Wayne – I know you’ve mentioned Wayne to be a major inspiration in the past, and Nicki showed you lots of love before the album dropped. What was it like working with both of them?
Wayne is a legend. It didn’t even feel real to me that he was on the song until I got back home from the video and realized that I really just shot a video with Lil Wayne. Same with Nicki because everyone in my family is a Nicki fan –my mama, my sister, grandmama. Everyone congratulated me for getting her on the album.
Lil Tjay’s not on the album, but you guys always have great chemistry when you collaborate, and you featured on his album earlier this year, Destined 2 Win. Can you speak about that relationship a little bit?
Me and Tjay definitely got a lot of music in the works. We got a lot of music that we’re locked in on. It’s really just a matter of picking what songs to put out at this point.
Would you ever consider dropping a joint project together?
I don’t know. It would have to make sense. Like, both of our situations would have to line up. I know he just dropped his second for-real album [Destined 2 Win] and I’m dropping my third one, so I don’t know.
You recorded both The Goat and Hall of Fame after the pandemic hit. How were the two recording processes different or similar?
As soon as I put out The Goat, I started working on my new project, Hall of Fame. The recording process for Hall of Fame was flowing steady, though. I was in the stu’ every single day. Every single day I went to the stu’. Sometimes I may have took a shot before I went in the booth. I was just locked in and freestyling some of these songs, which is really not my forte. You know, I did a lot of things out of the norm just working on this album every day.
By doing that, did you get more comfortable freestyling songs in the booth?
Yeah, I’m getting better at it. The more I just keep rapping, the more I keep getting used to saying just what’s on my heart.
Musically, we hear a lot of classic Polo G on this album–storytelling, melodic production and some heavy-hitting tracks. With “GNF (OKOKOK)” being one of the first Hall of Fame songs you put out, was drill music an inspiration on this album?
I’ve got a lot of different music on there: chill music, turnt music, drill music. Some samples here and there. We’re playing with some popular samples and just a lot of different types of music. I wouldn’t say I really got a drill influence, but I feel like that’s my roots, me coming from Chicago. But I don’t necessarily deem the music I made drill, it’s more so like straight rap. Like, rap without the auto-tune.
You rep your hometown heavy and you also helped organize a traveling youth basketball team, the Chicago Grizzlies, for kids in the community. What inspired you to give back in that way?
It was something that was around when I was younger and that’s what made me want to make sure that the newer generation of kids have that for themselves, ‘cause I know we had that coming up.
What made you choose Hall of Fame as your third album’s title?
It was really just lining things up with me being legendary. I know I’m gonna be a legend in the game when it’s all said and done. I’ll definitely be one of the greatest rappers to ever do it. So, I feel like naming my album Hall of Fame was just me foreseeing the future.
Kind of like how you did with The Goat?
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup
Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December
Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.
This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, Young Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.
L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.
The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.
Some of y’all not ready for these moshpits https://t.co/3nlaudjapq— Randy (@randyt0321) October 1, 2019
DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs
DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards
DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.
"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."
After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.
DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle."
Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."
Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.
Will Smith at the 1999 GRAMMYs
GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Will Smith Dedicate His 1999 Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY To His Son
In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith"
Today, Sept. 25, we celebrate the birthday of the coolest dad—who else? Will Smith! For the latest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we revisit the Fresh Prince's 1999 GRAMMY win for Best Rap Solo Performance for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It."
In the below video, watch rappers Missy Elliott—donning white leather—and Foxy Brown present the GRAMMY to a stoked Smith, who also opted for an all-leather look. In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith." He dedicates the award to his eldest son, Trey Smith, joking that Trey's teacher said he (then just six years old) could improve his rhyming skills.
The classic '90s track is from his 1997 debut studio album, Big Willie Style, which also features "Miami" and 1998 GRAMMY winner "Men In Black," from the film of the same name. The "Está Rico" rapper has won four GRAMMYs to date, earning his first back in 1989 GRAMMYs for "Parents Just Don't Understand," when he was 20 years old.
Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"
The Recording Academy celebrates the life of Nipsey Hussle, the late Los Angeles rapper, who earned two posthumous GRAMMY Awards this year
Since the tragic loss of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and activist Nipsey Hussle on March 31, 2019, his motivational music and inspiring message of investing in your community are continued by the many lives he touched. Here in L.A, you see countless murals painted in his likeness, his inspirational words reminding us greatness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.
In 2018, after a decade of perfecting his storytelling and flow with hard-hitting mixtapes, Hussle released his victorious debut album Victory Lap. It earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Rap Album, at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The week following the show, he released his final single during his lifetime, "Racks in the Middle," featuring rising L.A. rapper Roddy Ricch and powerhouse producer Hit-Boy.
At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards this year, he posthumously earned three more nominations and took home two wins. "Racks in the Middle" won Best Rap Performance and "Higher," a track he was working on with DJ Khaled before he died, won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher." Khaled released the uplifting track, which also features John Legend, in Hussle's memory on May 17, 2019.
Hussle's family, including his grandmother and his partner Lauren London, took the GRAMMY stage to accept his awards in two tearful yet celebratory moments. Khaled, Legend, Ricch, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin and YG also celebrated the rap hero with a moving tribute performance during the show.
"The biggest thing that he left behind in his legacy is to go the extra mile for other people and be aware of your community," singer Tinashe said in a recent interview. "That spirit is really important. It's important to bring people together. I think that's part of his message. It's looking out for one another."
That message of hope and community is echoed in so many others' words about Hussle; his positive impact is immense and immeasurable. It is reflected in a message from none other than former President Barack Obama. Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager Karen Civil read Obama's powerful words about him during his moving memorial service:
"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."
The Marathon Continues.