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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Oh no, I’m with them: my quest to befriend a rapper

If I could charm the guys at my local In-N-Out to sneak some free fries in my order, how hard could it be to become extremely close to the most desirable and famous people in the country?

There comes a time in every person’s life when they are called to do something higher. Many go off to graduate school, fulfilling dreams of becoming doctors or lawyers. Some volunteer their time in inner cities or far away places. Some even decide to risk it all and strike it rich in the big city. I believe my higher calling, without hyperbole, is to be the confidant, right-hand man and best friend to one, if not a multitude of, different rappers. But first, a personal history.

I had my first encounter with hip-hop in middle school, when friends would pass around an iPod loaded up with Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” during recess. It was epic. I had never heard anything like it before, rendering the Soviet cassettes my mom played in the car obsolete. Goodbye Alla Pugacheva, hello “Late Registration.” Suddenly, my fascination with a genre turned into a genuine interest. 

Fast forward to high school. Do you know when people say they fell into the wrong crowd? It was, essentially, the exact opposite for me — and I am forever thankful for it. The band of outsiders I befriended were a hodgepodge of exceptionally strange, exceptionally cool weirdos: people with dreams of getting tattoos of childhood cartoons on their chest who asked their English teachers to junior prom. It was the perfect breeding ground to get even more into hip-hop than I had been before. And immerse myself I did — a policeman once stopped us for blaring Madvillian’s “Accordion” too loud at a public park. We, like deer in headlights, stopped, only to hear him remark, “Guys, I love this album, but you’re gonna have to turn it down.” 

I am now finishing up my studies here at UC Davis, which I tell many is the Harvard of Yolo County. My love for hip-hop and its cultural significance has perhaps waned a bit, bleeding into myriad other genres spanning from lo-fi house to library music. But I see this not only as a strength but as an asset, and it leads me to my first qualification as a potential best friend to any rapper: helping cook up ideas in the studio. 

Picture this: Migos has been sitting on a beat for about a week now. They toil and struggle, giving the track their trademark high energy flair, yet greatness eludes them. This is where I come in. 

“Hello, Ilya?” Quavo says, a smile behind his $10,000 grill. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t my favorite Migo!” I shout. (The phone is on speaker, and Offset frowns slightly.) “What’s going on?” I ask. Quavo explains the situation, and I hop into an UberPool. 

Within less than half an hour, I walk through the gates of the studio. “Mmm, I know what this needs,” I say to myself. I load up a sample of the opening piano melody from Italian lounge legend Enrico Intra’s “Nicole” and splice it throughout the track. “Wait, this is like, really cool, and honestly the sort of energy we’ve been looking for this whole time,” Takeoff remarks. “No worries, guys,” I reply. “And hey, I’ll get out of your way… don’t wanna spoil the magic!” 

This brings me to my next qualification: only sticking around when you want me to. Rappers are modern day painters, and the styles they employ range from the classical style (G-funk, jazz rap) to the expressionist (drill, trap) to the postmodern (mumble rap, industrial hip-hop). Because of this range, and the general nature of an artist, I will always leave room for your own thoughts. Having a fight with a record label? I will egg their building, and then I will go directly home. Want something from Whole Foods? Not only will I text you asking, but I will not stick around for idle chit-chat when I drop off your essential oils. Do you want me to pick you up something from the new Supreme store that just opened? Not only will I go, I’ll even make smalltalk with the braindead degenerates who still stan that brand. And look at that: a perfect segue into my next and final qualification. 

The last thing I bring to the table is my subtle yet keen sense of style. I am aware I am not your typical hip-hop fan. I only have one pair of Jordans, to be fair. But the dominance of a streetwear aesthetic in hip-hop leaves so many doors left unopened. Of course, trailblazers like Young Thug and A$AP Rocky have dipped their toe into escaping the streetwear realm, rocking dresses and babushka scarves, respectively. But what if we went way off the charts here? Dressed like we were in the French Riviera in the 19th Century? Or as characters from biblical frescoes done by the likes of Micheangelo? Or even as something more conceptual, donning plain cardboard boxes to ask deep questions about both the industry and the world in which we live? We would be the talk of the town, and perhaps even win a few Grammys along the way. 

In the original pitch for this article, I told my editor I was going to befriend around one, maybe two dozen rappers. If I could charm the guys at my local In-N-Out to sneak some free fries in my order, how hard could it be to become extremely close to the most desirable and famous people in the country? 

  It turns out it is exceptionally difficult, which is why this piece has pivoted from an account of all the crazy times rappers and I were supposed to have, to a desperate plea asking for any of them to respond to my DMs. If you or someone you know is reasonably close to a rapper, with at least one million Spotify followers, please, send this their way. Things right now are wild and this is all I have. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it’s not about how crazy something seems, it’s about how much work you’re putting in to make it happen. 

Written by: Ilya Shrayber — arts@theaggie.org


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