Show & Prove: SoFaygo
Words: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

SoFaygo knew what his calling was as a preschooler. Likely before he could even spell microphone the young dream chaser told his mother that he was going to pursue a rap career, to which she firmly responded, “Hell no, you not being no rapper.” Mom’s guard eventually let down and considering his recent success, he has her full support.

After building a roaring buzz in Atlanta’s underground hip-hop scene and on SoundCloud through his adolescent years, SoFaygo, 20, released his breakthrough hit, the Lil Tecca-produced “Knock Knock” in 2019. The bouncy record spawned a glut of videos on TikTok over the next two years, which found users bopping to the first few bars in his verse. The track has currently eclipsed more than 125 million streams on Spotify and the additional Cole Bennett-directed music video, inspired by the 1988 classic movie Beetlejuice, is banging on the door of 36 million YouTube views. Primed to be one of the next premiere talents in the game, the newest signee to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack label was right about his childhood vision all along.

SoFaygo, born Andre Dontrel Burt Jr., spent the first two years of his life in Grand Rapids, Mich., before relocating to Cobb County in North Atlanta with his mother, father and younger brothers, Alijah and Alandre. Their parents, who were once a DJ duo in the Midwest, flooded the air with the sounds of Ludacris, Chris Brown, Missy Elliott, Michael Jackson and Prince, helping to grow SoFaygo’s affinity for R&B.

While in the fourth grade, SoFaygo joined the school chorus but soon after, took his talents from the classroom to the basement of his grandma’s house where he recorded his first song—an offering about “kiddy love shit”—on his cousin Lester’s Apple computer using GarageBand. “Most of the songs I recorded from fourth grade to like, sixth grade, I just kept those in the vault and never released them,” Sofaygo recalls. The rap hopeful spent his early teen years sneaking onto his cousin’s computer, eventually releasing “Ball Like Curry” at 14, inspired by his love for basketball. The track racked up a mere 1,000 views on YouTube, but it was a start.

Faygo began familiarizing himself with the hip-hop world after that, roused by artists like Lil Wayne, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert. Under the moniker Trvllinese, he continued to release songs and projects like We Are Aliens and Goonland on SoundCloud in 2017. “People could tell that I really took my music serious,” he shares. During his sophomore year of high school, the then-16-year-old got a job at KFC, but quickly grew frustrated with his lack of time to create and the scent of chicken grease on his drip. “I was going to work, I was dreading that shit,” SoFaygo says. “Coming home, smelling like chicken grease all the goddamn time. I remember sitting in that building, really thinking, Is this really what I’m about to do?”
It was then that he decided to go full force, quitting his job, flipping his style from punchier rapping to the melodic delivery he finesses today.

The 2019 speaker-breaker “Hits on Hits,” equipped with his popular “Let’s go Faygo!” artist tag, helped make his presence felt in the underground scene. As did the 2019 track “Knock Knock,” with production from Lil Tecca, who connected with the then-17-year-old Faygo on the internet in hopes of spreading some “Ransom” good fortune. The song, recorded in just 50 minutes, flew to 50,000 views after being teased on both Triller and Twitter. “That was the last song that I thought would have people,” SoFaygo admits of the track. Lyrics like, “Knock-knock, who’s there at the door right now?/They like, ‘If you don’t open that hoe, we gon’ kick it down’” doubled as his arrival warning to the music industry. The rhyme-slinger dropped projects Delineation, War and Hostility all within that same year.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Faygo used music to fuel his NBA Street gamebreaker, locking himself in at Death Star Studios with his homies to create loosies like “Keep It Cool.” “We was just riding around Atlanta, sleeping at the studio and shit,” he tells. Projects WEB, the Lil Tecca-produced Angelic 7, which housed “Knock Knock,” and After Me followed. Fans gravitated to each drop because of the heavily computerized tunes reminiscent of the rap game in 2016, and Faygo’s ability to mesh singing and rapping with one-of-one seamlessness in a fluctuating tone.

The onslaught of momentum led to Backwoods, one of his producers, connecting Faygo to Barry Hefner, President of SinceThe80s and manager of EarthGang and J.I.D, for guidance. The up-and-coming artist soon locked in with Hefner as his comanager. “If I’m looking at the makeup of an artist, he’s only showing the world 10 percent of who he is and what he can really do,” says Hefner, who is “one of the people who originally found Travis Scott.” “And it’s gotten him this far. I think he’s going to supersede everybody’s expectations.” He adds: “The same thing I saw in Travis when I met him at 18 is kind of the same thing I see in Faygo.”

After getting wind of SoFaygo, Travis told Hefner he was interested in meeting him. In February, SoFaygo flew out West to link with Trav and ended up signing to La Flame’s Cactus Jack despite other labels being eager to ink a deal. “I feel like they understood more of the importance of creativity,” SoFaygo explains.

The rising rhymer is on the right track. Not even old enough to purchase a bottle, Faygo’s forward-thinking mentality has settled his vision on becoming the best artist he can be and being an example for the unapologetic. “I want to continue growing as a person and I want people to remember me as just being a carefree guy,” he admits. “And a guy who wasn’t afraid to speak about how he feels.”

With “Knock Knock” at more than 125 million Spotify spins—fortified by the Lyrical Lemonade music video this past May—and a spot on Trippie Redd’s Trip At Knight Tour, SoFaygo’s heading into his debut studio album with a strong push. Pink Heartz, in line with the flamingo-colored locs he dons, arrives later this year and will be filled with hype music to skyrocket fans into “a whole different universe when you listen to it.”

Buckle up.

Check out more from XXL magazine's Fall 2021 issue when it hits newsstands in October 2021, including our cover story with Tyler, The Creator, Lil Nas X's battle for respect in hip-hop, Wale talks about his new album, Folarin 2, find out more about Maxo Kream in Doin' Lines, Bia reflects on how far she's come in her career after "Whole Lotta Money" success, Isaiah Rashad opens up about The House Is Burning album and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Tyler, The Creator's Fall 2021 XXL Magazine Cover Story Shoot

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