Show & Prove
Words: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Rap is powerful and one hot bar could change your life. For Rob $tone, it was Wiz Khalifa’s message on “Medicated” that inspired $tone to become a rapper. “You can be anything you want,” Rob remembers hearing, while hot boxing in the car with his homie. “I started thinking about rap. I was on my computer a few days later.”

Until that point, the 21-year-old (born Jaylen Anthony Robinson) had little direction in his life. Growing up in Lemon Grove, San Diego, his parents put him on an eclectic music diet including Barrington Levy, Tribal Seeds and Sublime. In high school, he was drawn to emotive rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi. “I’m just really in tuned with my emotions,” he admits. He sold weed but got jammed up his junior year. “I was no trap lord,” he says. “I got snitched on in school!” Following a slap on the wrist (community service), Rob went to Mount Miguel High School where he fortuitously linked with who would become his 1207 crew of artists. “It’s a brotherhood,” he says of the 10-deep-or-so group. “We just happen to be a bunch of creative motherfuckers.”

After his Wiz epiphany in 2014, the neophyte laid down his breakthrough “Chill Bill” with 1207’s J. Davis and Spooks. “It was like a burst of energy came out of me instantly,” says Rob. “I can’t even remember recording until we was done. I knew it was a hit.” The rookie rapper had barely recorded music, but “Chill Bill” and its remix garnered millions of plays online, inking Rob a deal with RCA Records in April. “He has a real laid-back approach to his music, but it still gets people crunk,” says Denzel Curry who worked with $tone on the “Chill Bill (Remix)”. “He floats on records just being himself.”

Rob’s prepping a 1207 album, his solo debut and is on his very first tour with A$AP Ferg and Playboi Carti. “Maaan,” he laughs. “Fucking lit. You really can be anything you want."

Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2016 issue including our Travis Scott cover story interview, Lin-Manuel Miranda's success with the hip-hop musical Hamilton, Eye Candy The Real Chela's Way, Show & Prove with Playboi Carti and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Travis Scott's XXL Winter 2016 Cover Shoot