Many artists create as an outlet for expression. For Los Angeles rapper 03 Greedo, making music is a means to temper his demons. He wields his penchant for singing, rapping and producing as a route to self-improvement. The Alamo Records signee has always created from the heart, and his music is resonating beyond California.

Hammering out his craft in Jordan Downs Projects in Watts, Greedo's music reflects the darker periods in his life. “This is a new shell, over my depressed, stressed-out, when-is-the-pain-gonna-end mind,” he tells XXL. "Emo music for thugs."

The inner anguish dates back to Greedo's youth—his mother kicked him out when he was a child, due to their strained relationship. “Being the youngest, I was over-sheltered, and me and my mom would bump heads a lot,” he says, adding that they've since buried the hatchet. “Shit, you can’t raise no man treating him like a bitch.”

Greedo was enamored with his uncle's piano as a kid—an early sign that the troubled youth would pursue music. And while he's been exercising his talent for quite some time now, his calling card has been both the length of his projects (most exceed 30 tracks) and the variety of sounds that he brings to the table. He easily slides from thumping odes to pimping (see his 2016 Purple Summer cut “10 Toes”). On the passionate, piano-driven “If I, Part 2,” from 2017’s First Night Out, he pleads with the love of his life to stick with him through serious legal troubles.

With his career picking up, Greedo has the self-confidence of someone whose always known things would work out. "A lot of people be tryna teach this,” he delivers deadpan. “This is a skill. Like how niggas can run fast, people like me can make music.”

Name: 03 Greedo

Age: “I’m 03—my age don’t matter.”

Hometown: Watts, Calif.

I grew up listening to: "The first music I could listen to was Stevie Wonder ‘cause I wasn’t really allowed to listen to rap. I was young, so I was over-sheltered.

"The first CD I listened to was B.G.'s Checkmate or Chopper City. My first CD that was mine—not my brother’s—was probably Nelly's Country Grammar. But I grew up off of Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. I never grew up listening to West Coast music. Everybody used to say that Dr. Dre was the biggest guy where I come from, but being the age I was, I just listened to what I listened to—Timbaland, Pharrell. I was more worried about the beats than anything, because I knew I was gon’ be drippin’ all that flavor myself."

My style’s been compared to: "No such thing [pauses]. Honestly, I respect everybody I’ma name—these are just examples. Michael Jackson did not write his own music, or make his own beats, or direct his own videos, or style himself, you know what I’m saying? Maybe Prince had his lil guitar, but he wasn’t doin’ all this.

"Bob Marley was what he was to his area, and I feel like I have that same... If you come to L.A. and see a show, I have a cult following like that. And the only reason that I am this way is because I watched everything good that these people did, and every mistake that they made and learned from it."

Most people don’t know: "I really was in the streets, I started as a battle rapper and I still will slap the shit out of people—but the industry is helping me become a better man.

My standout records to date have been: "[I released 'Sweet Lady'] strategically, I knew that everybody does what the women do. Before I made it outside of my section, I had to make it in my section. At the time, they weren’t playing my music in my projects.

"'Never Bend' and 'Mafia Business' are tight as fuck. But when you play "Never Bend," after "Mafia Business," you be like, 'Oh, I see how he grew.' Or when you hear 'Run For Your Life' after 'Never Bend,' you’re like, 'Outta there!'”

My standout moments to date have been: "Getting the biggest deal in the city and having control of my situation. Being considered by the people the West Coast Gucci Mane, the head honcho, the nigga that’s finna change the whole shit. When I got that deal, that let everybody know, 'The nigga we needed to make it, made it.'”

My goal in hip-hop is: "To be here talking to you, period. The goals in music have already been accomplished."

I’m going to be the next: "My thing is to be like a Mahatma Gandhi or Malcolm X for the slums around the world. Which may not mean that it’s as bad as the Jordan Downs Projects. Skaters relate to a nigga and they ain’t shooting no guns. But that same homeless, dirty, I-ain’t-coming-home, I’m-doing-me [mentality], I want to be the leader of that. I want to be the person that showed no matter what they talking about, the world is magic.

Follow 03 Greedo on Twitter and Instagram.

Standouts: Purple Summer

Money Changes Everything

"Mafia Business"

"Never Bend"

"Rude"/"Zoning"

"Tricc on Just Anybody"

See New Music Releases for January 2018