$not Is One of Gen Z’s Most Mysterious Rappers. Now He’s Dropping His “808s Album”

The internet darling has a new song with A$AP Rocky out today, and his long-awaited third album Ethereal out next week.

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$NOT.Courtesy of Sam Cones.

For a few days in early December, $NOT came home again. The rapper and singer has been one of hip-hop’s most exciting, charismatic and likable young guns for nearly three years now. He spent most of his life in Lake Worth, Florida, and still resides in the Sunshine State. But $NOT was born in New York to Haitian and Dominican parents 24 years ago as Edy Edouard, and lived in the city until age 7. He returned this time around to shoot “Doja” – a hard-charging video, out today, in which he teams up with Harlem’s A$AP Rocky.

At the chilly chilly early December shoot outside a housing project, $NOT stood out in a bright yellow hooded jacket and a mask by Brooklyn’s Mercy Mankind. While hanging on a makeshift rope swing, he barked lyrics – “Fuck this! Fuck that!” – to camera while extras raged on the ground below. Rocky pulled up to shoot a quick scene, clad in a yellow-and-orange ERL lightning bolt jacket with purple hoodie. “Doja” was directed by visual artist Hidji, a frequent Rocky collaborator and member of the rapper’s creative collective AWGE – over two days at multiple locations, including an apartment sporting a painted mural tribute to the late Virgil Abloh (it appears in a coda to the video, set to a snippet of a mellower new track, “5:00 AM.”)

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The new video is one of at least four being filmed for Ethereal, $NOT’s much anticipated third album that now has a drop date of February 11th. “Doja” sports a spacey, spooky synth loop, and other tracks include the moody, acoustic opener, “My World,” and the piano-led, introspective, and fully sung closer “Once Upon a Time.” Kevin Abstract lends some of Brockhampton’s breezy abandon to a joyous “Eye Eye Eye”; and on “How U Feel,” featuring the suddenly resurgent Joey Bada$$, standard-issue boom-bap is given a shot of eccentricity with a cartoon-y backing sample reminiscent of Kanye West’s “Bound 2.” $NOT calls Ethereal “the most 808’s $NOT album yet”: Kanye’s seminal 808’s and Heartbreak has become shorthand for a record that throws fans an electronic curveball, awash in emotions.

In only a few years, $NOT has logged some memorable career “moments” – co-signs by Chief Keef and Billie Eilish; the TikTok stickiness of his breakthrough hit “Gosha”; two acclaimed albums in 2020; and the dramatic video “Revenge,” marking the first in a string of collaborations with Lyrical Lemonade’s kingmaking videographer Cole Bennett. But musically, Ethereal may be his finest chapter yet: alternately dark and light, dreamy and menacing, dismissive and romantic, evoking angels, demons, winter and summertime. GQ talked to $NOT about where he’s headed, the importance of versatility, “Doja” with Rocky, and the excellent, eclectic and emancipated Ethereal.

$NOT.Courtesy of Sam Cones.

This video is a little more fashion-forward than you’ve done in the past. You’re wearing Moncler, Rick Owens, and Diesel.

There’s more fashion, it’s definitely kind of different from most of my videos. It’s kind of getting out of my comfort zone, and wearing like more crazy shit – just shit I would never normally see myself wearing. But the video looks cool. It might look crazy, but – I like the crazy shit too!

Tell me about the song, and how Rocky ended up on the track.

I was in the studio, and I had been making a whole bunch of chill songs. And one day I was like I gotta make some more hype tracks. And so I came up with that, it was pretty easy to make. And then, I was like, I can’t hear anyone else on it but Rocky. I don’t know how I’m gonna get him, he’s hard to contact. But I knew Hidji, so I told him I want to get Rocky on it. Hidji sent him the song, and the same day he was like, Rocky wants to get on it! Hidji really put this whole thing together.

You say you had been working on more chill tracks, and with a name like Ethereal that’s kind of what comes to mind. Some songs on here, like “Blue Moon” or “Once Upon a Time” fit that theme, but others, like “Go” and “Doja” and “Attachment,” are more turned up, harder songs.

I mean, to be real – we needed a cool name. That’s really it. And I don’t know – “ethereal,” it means like, out of this world? And to me I felt like a lot of the songs are out of this world, they’re different. It sounds cliché, but it sounds to me like shit that I made that nobody would fuck with….

You’ve put out more sentimental songs in the past – “Fall in Love,” “Moon & Stars,” the last track on the Beautiful Havoc LP, “Horizon” – but honestly you’ve never put anything out like “Blue Moon.” The acoustic nature of it really stands out. And those lines, “Pretty lady, pretty lady” and “I don’t want to waste your time”it sounds like you’re talking about a specific relationship.

Yeah, I was in L.A., in the room with the producer that made it, and I felt like, Yo, this is different. Let me try this.” At first it was straight acoustic, but we added drums.

[Those lines are] just flexing. You know, you talk to a girl, and you don’t wanna waste their time, you just tell ‘em straight up, “I’m not really looking for anything.” Or it could be vice versa, a girl doesn’t wanna waste your time.

A$AP Rocky on the set of $NOT’s “Doja” video.Courtesy of Sam Cones.

And you’ve got “Euphoric” which is such a bright and upbeat track, definitely not “dark” in the way that some people have tended to refer to a lot of your music in the past.

My biggest songs are not even dark! Some of it is pop, some of it is hype.

Well definitely “Like Me,” that you did with iann dior, that’s not…

That’s a whole pop song! Yeah that’s not dark, people just want to say shit. I mean it’s a whole album, and I want to show people that I can be on this hard shit, and then do more romantic shit. Some people know me for dark music, or sad music – I can make anything, really. There was a time where I felt like I can’t hear myself on pop, but now that stuff is so easy to get on. When I record you might not even know that it’s pop until I’m done making it. And also, that’s how you get fans. For a lot of new artists, that’s what helps get you out there. Every artist – or at least some artists — will go through a little pop phase to kind of get some fans in, and then you show em your real shit. It’s just versatility.

That title “Euphoric” reminds me of how you had a song back in 2019 – “Billy Boy” – end up in an episode of Euphoria.

I still haven’t watched the whole show. I know it’s good, I just – it was a bitch to get, cause you gotta get a subscription, to HBO and I was like, “Fuck this – I just wanna see my little part!” I never thought I would have a song included on an HBO show – especially with Zendaya and all that. That was crazy.

Did you decide to drop “Go” and “Doja” first because they were more what people might expect, and not left turns or more experimental songs?

I just needed some hard songs! ‘Cause I notice that when I perform live, they get lit for hype music. At festivals? Nobody wants to hear sad shit in the crowd. If I am going to see an artist, I don’t want to hear sad, I wanna hear lit, you know?

So some of these new, softer songs like “Blue Moon,” you think you might not do live?

I mean, if it’s a big song! Yeah, I will do “Blue Moon.” I like that song, actually – I like it more than “Moon & Stars,” and it’s that same type of romantic stuff.

I saw you played “Moon & Stars” at one of your shows, where a guy proposed to his girlfriend?

I thought it was only right to play it then. But that’s not really my favorite. Some of the songs I’m performing, it’s really for the fans. They paid to see me, so I’m gonna play what they want to hear. Some people are just really deep into what I’m doing. But personally, I like playing lit. I gotta make more lit music, more rage.

The set of $NOT’s “Doja” video.

What happened in the fall in Minneapolis when you cut the show short? Someone threw something?

Someone threw a bottle. I left, and didn’t perform the last two songs. But then I thought, maybe it was an accident. But it shouldn’t be happening. I’ll be in the mosh pit, I’ll go into the crowd. So if a kid really wanted to do something, that woulda been his chance. I don’t know. And they put it on YouTube?

Yeah. Then a couple of weeks after that I saw a video of Lil Tjay, in the U.K., where he got hit by something and fully stopped the show and…

Yeah, he was tryna fight.

It got rough.

Yeah, it don’t look good when you do that. And that’s for any artist, including me. It just looks corny. From a fan’s point of view?

So is it better to just walk off at that point?

If you don’t like it, then walk off. You can’t fight ‘em! It’s gonna be a kid, what, are you gonna fight a kid? Most of my crowd, they’re just kids. So what, you’re gonna hit this kid? Then you’re gonna get sued. Better to just walk off.

Cole Bennett, who you’ve now made five videos with in just a year and a half, said that he has met very few young artists who are as focused and committed as you are. He said you’re always willing to give more, that you have a great work ethic. And he also pointed out that you don’t drink or smoke.

If I’m with friends and they’ve got alcohol or a blunt, I’ll try it. But it’s not something I do every day. Sometimes I get paranoid, smoking. And drinking, I don’t really like the taste. But Cole, I wanted to work with him, and he’s doing his thing, so I gotta make sure that what I’m about to present to him, that I’m real serious.

Your clothing line Yordie takes its name from your often-repeated philosophy, “Get Busy or Die.” Is your success down to that hard work and dedication? Or is there luck involved? And what would you say to a talented young artist who maybe feels they just haven’t gotten a break?

I mean, it’s not even luck. It’s really how you move. There’s a lot of kids with talent, but you’ve got to be smart. I’ll hit up whoever is behind a label – 300, Warner, whoever – you’ve got to find the people who are really behind it, get to them. And as for competition, I don’t really care about that stuff, for real. I mean, maybe sometimes. You get a song with a video that hits like, 10 million views in a day? That would be crazy. But I don’t really like to look at what other artists are doing, and try to compare it to me. Cause everyone is making like different things, you know? So I don’t really like to watch all that.

$NOT and A$AP Rocky on the set of “Doja.”Courtesy of Bladi Corniel.
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