Toosii – 2021 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: Nau’Jour Grainger
- AGE: 21
- REPPIN': Syracuse, N.Y. and Raleigh, N.C.
- TWITTER: @toosii2x
- INSTAGRAM: @toosii
- TIKTOK: @toosii
- NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “Truth Be Told,” “Love Cycle” featuring Summer Walker, “Sapiosexual,” “5’5” featuring Latto; Projects: Why Not Now, Who Dat, Thank You for Believing, Platinum Heart, Poetic Pain; Guest Appearances: Lil Tjay’s “Love Hurts”
- LABEL: South Coast Music Group/Capitol
- CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Self-titled album due out this summer.
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “Blacc Zacc, ’cause he’s that nigga.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “Musically, I ain’t really influenced by nobody... I like Nipsey Hussle, though, as a person. I don’t really listen to rap music, but Nipsey was somebody who I watched interviews on. Just studied him as a person. I always told myself I want my legacy to be like that. I listen to pop. A lot of people think I make R&B music, too. If you really listen, I be talking about having sex and guns all in one song. I mean, they just gotta pay attention. I don’t know. I be all over the place... Nipsey one of them ones, though. I listen to pop, though… I like Billie Eilish, Tim McGraw, Jason Mraz, John Legend and Lewis Capaldi.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “[I was] always fighting. I used to have little people syndrome. I grew and I still had little people syndrome. Yup, it ain’t go nowhere. I was a good kid, though. I used to do my work. I used to like all the girls. I used to flirt. That was me. I was funny. I never used to start fights, though. I was defending myself.”
TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “I had found out [I was a 2021 XXL Freshman] from my mom. My mom told me. I was at my mom’s house for Mother’s Day. My manager had told me. He like, ‘Yo, I need you to go to your mom’s house today. She got some news for you.’ I’m like, ‘What you talking about?’ I go to my mom’s house. We all sitting around and she’s like, ‘I got something to tell you.’ I’m like, ‘Wassup?’ She’s like, ‘You been working hard. You made XXL.’ And she just told me right there and I was like, ‘What?’ So, fasho, that’s how I found out. Ain’t nobody gon’ tell nobody, though. I was like, Damn, this another milestone. I accomplished something else I wanted to do.
[I bring] diversity, versatility. I feel like, and this doesn’t go to nobody, but a lot of artists got a lane. And with me, it ain’t no lane. I’m on a six-lane highway. I can jump in anybody’s lane that I want to. Real talk.
[I think my fans will be most excited for my] freestyle. I wonder what they’re gonna say about the freestyle. I wrote that song for my mom. That’s my baby. I don’t play about her. I don’t play about my mom. I’ll hurt everybody.
[When the cover comes out], I might go crazy. I might go get a [Rolls-Royce] Cullinan. A Rolls truck.”—Aleia Woods
TOOSII'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
The Syracuse, N.Y.-born and Raleigh, N.C.-living artist has been a part of the close-knit South Coast Music Group family for over two years now. His tales of heartbreak and street life, heard on projects like Poetic Pain, led Toosii, born Nau’Jour Grainger, to a joint deal with Capitol Records last year. However, success stories don’t always come glittered in gold, or in this case, luminous and crystal clear like the diamonds in the 21-year-old's rapper mouth and on his neck and fingers.
Toosii faced and overcame several hurdles during his adolescence, from homelessness to relocating from upstate New York to North Carolina to live with his grandfather. And this regional change was arduous as he often had to defend himself in school against classmates who presumably provoked him because he was from out of town. Though this particular incident resulted in him having to change schools, this only prepared Toosii for the adjustments he’d have to make to become a flourishing artist. Better yet, a 2021 XXL Freshman.
An overnight success is everything Toosii is not. He began freestyling in his car and his tenacity transformed into an innate ability to make both rap and melodic records. Songs about love and his struggles, a duality that captivates several audiences. Hence his songs like “Truth Be Told” from his 2020 project, Platinum Heart, and “Love Cycle,” which has a remix featuring Summer Walker and is also on that same project, but the version with Walker appears on his follow-up offering Poetic Pain. His most recent release, Thank You For Believing, serves up this two-fold balance as well, containing songs like “Greater Storm” and his interpolation of 2000's R&B group City High’s “Caramel” on his buzzing joint “5’5” with 2020 XXL Freshman Mulatto. He also has a track on his latest effort with SCMG labelmate and 2019 XXL Freshman DaBaby called “Shop.”
Don’t be fooled though. Just because Toosii is a melodically inclined rapper doesn’t mean his interest lies in just hip-hop. If you were to check his search history on his preferred streaming service, you’ll likely find artists like Billie Eillish, Tim McGraw, Jason Mraz, John Legend and Lewis Capaldi, a singer from Scotland.
Nevertheless, at Toosii’s core, home is where the heart is. The youngest of five, the budding rapper keeps his family close. In fact, his 2021 XXL Freshman freestyle is dedicated to his mother.
“I wrote that song for my mom,” he tells during his off-camera interview during the Freshman shoot. “That's my baby. I don't play about her. I don't play about my mom. I'll hurt everybody.”
A perfect fit for the newest set of inductees, Toosii's emotion permeates through his open letter to the woman who birthed him.
“I know you love me although we argue, let's just be honest/For me to say you not the best, think I'd be being modest/Five rooms and the trips to banks so I can make deposits/This remind me of being 13 trapped in that closet, writing ’bout the shit I could tell you/Hell, you done did enough/I gave you money to buy a crib, I hope it's big enough,” he raps in his freestyle.
Although this is Toosii’s moment, he shines the spotlight on his mom, the support she’s offered him and shares how he’s indebted to her.
“Still your deacon child in this music shit, it just help me cope/You built one hell of a boat and now the sails will keep us afloat/I just went platinum, that's one hell of a toast (Yeah)/Granddaddy be proud for me, mama/It been a while for me, mama/Just one call, need you to smile for me, mama/Remember football games with jugs and coins was loud for me, mama/Now yo daddy up in heaven, lookin' down on me, mama,” he rhymes.
Toosii closes out his freestyle informing his biggest fan of the changes he’s made because of her, stemming from his intuitive nature.
“Used to be nonchalant, you ain't like it/I get signs/What is pride?/Just be proud when she smile/Almost made me forget about how we down,” he concludes.
Check out Toosii's 2021 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by BODYARMOR, above.
Before Toosii was making hit songs and receiving a RIAA gold certification for his single “Love Cycle,” the Syracuse, N.Y.-born, Raleigh, N.C.-living rapper was making moves on a different field, one with yard markers and green turf. He took that sport of football seriously and also does the same when it comes to his music. Along with his career, Toosii puts weight on financial literacy and longevity, too, but he also likes to enjoy himself, like the time he went to the "best party of his life" thrown by Future. Though his demeanor is calm, Toosii’s perspective on life is insightful, which he gives a closer look at in his version of XXL’s ABCs.
To shift things into gear, Toosii uses the luxury brand watch Audemars Piguet for the letter A. “A stands for Audemars ’cause I want an Audemars Piguet,” he asserts. Then, he humbly flosses his neckpieces for the letter B, using baguettes as his word of choice. “B stands for baguettes for the baguettes in my necklace,” the rapper expresses. However, he still has a keen interest in making sure his earnings are longstanding.
For D, the South Coast Music Group/Capitol Records signee chooses Dogecoin, a type of cryptocurrency. “D stands for Dogecoin," says the rising rhymer, who dropped his Thank You for Believing project in May. "I was thinking about investing in that. When it comes to me and investing, I watch a lot of interviews. So like, I watch a lot of like, Jeff Besos, Bill Gates, Nipsey Hussle. Like, I watch a lot of interviews like that so it's important to me because I want my money to last a lifetime. Longer than a lifetime, you know? Instead of just here while I'm here.”
Jumping to the letter F, Toosii recounts his time as a slotback on his high school football team. He even suggests fans head to YouTube to check out his highlight reel—watch here. K brings up a memorable moment for the rapper that involves Future. After choosing kickbacks for the letter K and calling them the "worst type of parties," Toosii recalls the time he went to the Atlanta rhymer's party: "Funny story, I went to a Future party and, like, that was like the best party of my life. I never seen so many females, ever, like a day in my life. Yeah, it was lit. I gotta girlfriend now though." All said with a smile on his face.
For the letter T, the 21-year-old rhymer goes with his rap moniker, of course, but also shares the story of how he became Toosii. “Growing up, my sister and my mom, they used to call me Tootabutt and it was a football player on my team who couldn't say my name for real so he used to call me Toosii…,” he reminisces.
Toosii’s intuitive nature kicks in when the letter U comes up. “U stands for underestimated,” he adds matter-of-factly. “I never underestimate nobody.”
Learn more about Toosii in his ABCs below.
TOOSII'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE RAPPERS
Many rappers, old and new, have a deep reverence for their predecessors. This respect and admiration is sometimes rooted in commonalities of upbringings or personal interests that are displayed on wax. But not all rhymers look up to the same artists that are likely on the next person's top rappers list. For others, their musical curiosity can stem from home, be it a family member or a sibling. For 2021 XXL Freshman Toosii, his top five favorite rappers range from blood relatives to heavyweight spitters from the north side of the map.
As said during an interview with The Breakfast Club back in May, growing up, Toosii adopted his tougher exterior from his father and his ability to understand and resonate with women from his mother, allowing him to produce music that speaks to both ends of that spectrum. But don't be fooled, the Syracuse, N.Y.-born, Raleigh, N.C.-raised artist's wheelhouse extends beyond melodic love songs. He raps about his struggles, trials, tribulations and traumas, too, which explains the kinds of rappers he's drawn to for inspiration.
The Thank You for Believing singer kicks off his list with his brother and father. Toosii told XXL last year that his primary musical influences are these two male figures. "If it wasn't for them two, it wouldn't be no Toosii making music," he tells candidly. "Feel me?"
He goes on to name a top-tier, venomous spitter from Yonkers, N.Y. Jadakiss, who amassed success as a member of The LOX and also as a solo artist, flawlessly delivers clever wordplay, using his distinctive tone whether it's on a track for the streets or a joint for the ladies. "Jadakiss... Bar for bar... Ain't nobody messing with Jada," Toosii says.
Next up is a rap great from the Queensbridge section of Queens, N.Y. Nas, a hip-hop veteran who creates introspective songs about adversity and beating the odds. "Nas, too," the South Coast Music Group artist adds. "Same way. Bars."
Lastly, Toosii caps off his list with himself. "And then me because I feel like I'm versatile," he concludes. "I'm ahead of my time."
Check out Toosii speaking on his top five favorite rappers below.
TOOSII'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUMS
Toosii is more than just a melodic rapper. There's a musical duality to his art. He delivers bars for the streets as well as rhymes that cater to the ladies. This is evident in the projects and albums he deems most important, which includes offerings from Lil Baby, Lil Durk, 2020 XXL Freshman Rod Wave and himself.
"Top five favorite albums: Lil Baby, Too Hard, Lil Baby, Harder Than Hard," Toosii asserts. "Ain't nobody have a run like Lil Baby in a minute. Yeah, I know all the songs off both of them projects."
The Syracuse, N.Y.-born, Raleigh, N.C.-bred rapper then gives himself a nod for his own 2020 project. "Platinum Heart by me," Toosii shares. "That was the project that changed my life." That particular offering features his hit "Red Lights," which currently has over 18 million views on YouTube.
Next up, Toosii name-drops an XXL Freshman alumni. "SoulFly by Rod Wave," he says. "A lot people think Rod Wave just sings. He really rapped on that project."
And lastly, the 21-year-old rapper names a 2017 mixtape by Lil Durk, whom Toosii says is practically his family. "Signed to the Streets 2.5 by [Lil] Durk," Toosii concludes. "First of all, me and Durk like family. I know every song off that project."
Toosii's top five projects and albums are a balance of street rhymes and love vibes, which is what he delivers in his music as well.
Tap in to Toosii sharing his top five favorite hip-hop albums below.
TOOSII AND BLXST'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
2021 XXL Freshmen Toosii and Blxst similarly operate as R&B guys at heart who are good in the streets. The content of their music will zigzag between topics of broken hearts in one bar and focus on spraying heat that pulls back the faces of their enemies in the next. Whether it’s singing or rapping, they can finesse both. The two talented artists hold it down in a cypher together that was initially set to include other switch-hitting acts like The Kid Laroi, who couldn’t participate last minute, and Iann Dior, who opted not to rap on the day of the Freshman shoot. Toosii, reppin' Syracuse, N.Y. and Raleigh, N.C., and Blxst, from South Central, L.A., deliver straight bars to uppercut their haters and flex during their come up.
Blxst goes first with a verse about getting his foot in the door and then putting it on the necks of his competitors. Over a serene, flute-dominant arrangement created by Nick Mira and ThankYouWill, Blxst uses just over 40 seconds to let the out-of-touch folk know that he’s already been deemed as the chosen one to put the West Coast on his back.
“Westside, I gave the heart to my coast/Jump off the porch and they gave me the torch/Two places I won’t go back, of course/That’s broke and that’s forth,” he rhymes, bouncing to the beat. Before the curtains close on his verse, the blossoming artist publicizes that he will in fact be keeping this same big-dog energy in the future. “Foot on yo' neck if you not giving yours/Yeah, I came for seconds and more/Ran up a check, baby, I gotta charge/So, double my exes I’m doing it large, forever.”
Toosii plays the role of a closer, clearing the beat for almost two full minutes. His section is dedicated to the infinitely applauded Ms. Parker from the classic Friday. “How you doing, Ms. Parker?/This the wrong tree you wanna bark up/I turn a grown woman to a stalker/Want a young nigga? That’s gonna cost you,” he spits.
The Down South talent continues to let his thoughts spill out, detailing his ability to take her pain away like a prescription narcotic. He acknowledges what he brings to the table, but shows more admiration than anything else, as he salutes everything from the jiggle in her sundress to the boss-like words of encouragement she offers. Toosii’s confessional closes with a quick mention of being sprung, which real ones never hesitate to admit. “You get me devilish, but you heaven-sent, way you put it on me, catch the holy ghost/We got somethin' special what we got going on, don’t nobody know,” he delivers.
Peep Toosii and Blxst’s 2021 XXL Freshman cypher, powered by FX’s Dave, below.—Kemet High
TOOSII AND BLXST'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW
The XXL Freshman process is an extensive one. It starts with months of artists pitches that includes interviews and listening sessions. Next comes the shoot, crammed with back-to-back activities including the freestyles, cyphers, ABCs, photoshoots and more. The day can truly be exhausting, but at the end of it all, 2021 XXL Freshmen elects Blxst and Toosii finally got a breather and reflected on the busy journey in their roundtable interview following the cypher they bodied.
At the top of the segment, the two genre-blending artists share their thoughts on being a Freshman. For Blxst, the West Coast rhymer whose rapping and singing skills helped build his hype with esteemed projects like No Love Lost and glowing tracks like “Gang Slide,” the honor is “everything.” “It’s like a notable cosign," he explains. "XXL is a respected platform, so it give you that green light for sure."
Toosii, an artist who reps upstate New York and Down South, and rose to prominence with tracks like “Red Light” and “Love Cycle,” agrees with his classmate and speaks about stepping up to the plate when his name was called. “Everybody ain’t blessed enough to have this opportunity,” he expresses. “So I think like, if you ain’t take full advantage of this opportunity, I don’t know how often you’re gonna get too many more.”
In the three-minute clip, the pairing also takes time to divulge their thoughts on comparison being the thief of joy for their generation. And how the camaraderie between their classmates goes against that grain.
“As far as peers go, I feel the love," Blxst starts." I don’t really feel too much hate. And it’s no ego. I don’t know if its just this generation, but I feel like the ego is being taken away. It don’t matter what level you on. If you hard, you hard...”
“I never looked to be in competition with Blxst or be in competition with [Pooh] Shiesty or any of them,” Toosii adds. “At the end of the day it’s enough for all of us. So, we here and we working.”
Watch Blxst and Toosii predict people’s reaction to their spot on the cover, discuss not being distracted by the success of their peers and more in their 2021 XXL Freshman roundtable interview below.—Kemet High