American rapper $NOT’s ascension to underground success started in 2016 with a handful of Soundcloud demos. Since first uploading to the platform in 2016, the 24-year-old Florida rapper’s early hits included “CA$E 19,” which went viral on Youtube, while “Gosha” and “Mean” blew up on TikTok and Triller.
While many musicians are unable to capitalize on the spotlight thrust onto them after having a viral song, $NOT was quick to soak in that momentum and create a loyal and dedicated fanbase.
With nearly 2 million followers on Instagram and 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify, $NOT's multi-layered social media support sent his name buzzing through the music industry airwaves. His latest album, “Ethereal” capitalizes on his popularity and further develops his sound while distinguishing himself from the saturated field of rap.
The first song, “My World (Intro)” is a relaxing introduction, with acoustic guitars and snaps propelling the song forward. While many rap albums start with a bang in order to impress the listener, $NOT chooses the opposite technique, but still receives the desired effect.
The first song introduces the listener to the amalgamation of different ideas put into "Ethereal" as an album, and $NOT's more acoustic songs provide an important contrast toward his more aggressive, trap-centered songs.
“Doja,” which features A$AP Rocky, blatantly rips off the production of Travis Scott and the flow of Young Thug, with only a chopped vocal sample and a prominent eighth hi-hat drum pattern keeping the track going. While the chanting of the chorus and the bombastic production are clearly meant to inspire energy within the listener, it feels as though you’ve heard better variations of this exact song type.
“EYE EYE EYE (feat. Kevin Abstract)” is an exciting collaboration with Brockhampton’s Abstract and $NOT trading bars over a song whose chorus pays homage to 90s Houston chopped and screwed remixes.
As Abstract raps, “Better let that plug in, don’t disrespect that plug, man .../These the streets I run, man/You can’t tell me nothing,” and the second half beat switch introduces an entirely new swing to the song, it perfectly balances energetic minimalism with Outkast-inspired percussion.
“Fighting Me” is the most video-game-inspired song on the album, and the different flute and percussion sounds make actively listening to it feel like playing a 1980s SEGA video game. Songs like this often fall into a trap of relying solely on their own nostalgia factor instead of the originality of the artist, but $NOT's adlibs and tone give the song energy and momentum.
As he raps, “In the parking lot, I’m fighting all my demons (F***)/I can't take it anymore, I need a weekend (F***),” his pleas feel both sincere and energetic. At approximately 2 minutes, the song stays exactly as long as it needs to, highlighting $NOT's attention to sequencing his albums.
Since arriving in the music industry, he’s been featured on Lyrical Lemonade and received co-signs from Zack Bia, who maintains an elusive and commanding presence in Los Angeles nightlife. Good publicity comes easy for $NOT as he tends to let his music do the talking.
A viral song does not always guarantee a success story, as many artists either sign to a label immediately following their virality or fall out of favor in the public. With our limited attention span and the constant cycle of artists touring, promoting and creating, artists compete for our attention both digitally and financially.
$NOT's “Ethereal” is clear in its mission statement and diverse in its inspiration. The guitar and percussion-led tracks and soulful vocal harmonies provide duality for his trap-inspired work on the album, and every song lasts approximately 3 minutes, keeping the 14 tracks quick and concise.
His different vocal styles and production work keep the album interesting, and $NOT's fanbase supports him with a fervor rarely seen by rap fans. This album is an important step in $NOT's artistic evolution — and his potential is as endless as what he’s willing to do.