Updated: Nov 5
I don’t know about you, but when the pandemic first hit and we were forced into quarantine, my motivation went to shit.
How could anyone be productive in a social apocalypse like COVID-19?
Enter 23-year-old rapper Blvck Svm, real name Ben Glover, who capitalized on COVID harder than every toilet paper company combined.
When he dropped his single 'Bleach' in March of 2020, Blvck Svm was like many of us: He had a lot of free time on his hands. The kicker? He has something to show for it…
As 'Bleach' sits at just over 3 million streams on Spotify, the Florida native’s following has skyrocketed since the pandemic, soaring from a modest 300 monthly listeners to over 125,000 strong as of today; all during a global health crisis.
So how did the kid who lived off PB and Js as a broke college student evolve into an 808-slaying hitmaker?
By studying idols like MF Doom and Lil Wayne, the slick-rapping shogun's student-of-the-game mentality is evident in each and every syllable of his fast-growing discography.
Weaponizing a smooth cadence, biting lyricism, and a cerebral-trap aesthetic, Blvck Svm wields his pen with lethal intent, hellbent on brutalizing any beat flung his way.
In this WaterWaveTV exclusive interview, Blvck Svm delves into the shaking nerves of his first performance, the secret world of industry ghostwriting, and why he thinks 'In-and-Out Burger' is the perfect metaphor for J.Cole...
Growing up, how did your love of Hip-Hop first manifest?
I was exposed to Hip-Hop pretty early on, but around 12-13 years old is when I first heard Lil Wayne, and he immediately became my favorite artist. Just the way he played with language and bars really molded my taste before I ever even considered making music on my own. Though I played around with rap in high school, college is when I started taking it seriously. The first performance I ever did was a poetry slam at a Chicago open mic. I remember I had a crumpled piece of paper with my lyrics that I was trying hard as hell to recite cause I forgot to memorize it; rookie mistake! It came off sort of shaky, but a few of the bars got some good reactions, and that initial response gave me the confidence to pursue rapping for real.
What was your perspective on rap when you first started, and how has it evolved over time?
You often hear from people who aren't super into rap who get glimpses of it from the radio and think it's vice heavy, surface-level, and reductive. In other words, I feel like rap gets a bad rap. There's a sincere lack of appreciation for the craft. If you truly look beneath the surface, you'll find a lot of gems in terms of lyricism and wordplay. Personally, I'm a lyricist. But because a lot of people's experience with rap is just what they hear on the radio, they write off the entire genre; it's a damn shame. There's literally a genre of rap for every type of person. The way that people generalize it is lazy, it's way too diverse a genre to be boxed in. A huge part of my mission is to mend that gap between what people think rap is, and what I know it can be.
In terms of bridging the gap between heavy lyricism and mainstream trap, how would you define your pursuit of that?
If you can make a song that's enjoyable on a cursory level, beat, flow, etc. but at the same time it's cerebral and calculated, you're hitting two huge markets at once. So by fusing them together, you know, make a song that's lyrically tight, clever, has good wordplay, but at the same time it sounds good on a surface level, it's bound to hit the widest demographic possible. That intersection has crazy potential in terms of fusing that gap. Like 'Bleach' for instance: That's a song that checks all the mainstream boxes: Smooth beat, 808s are hitting hard, claps, a clean hook, etc. While at the same time, the lyrics bite because the song has something unique to say.
Other than Bleach, which track do you feel like you best towed that line between Mainstream and Lyrical?
Polar Vortex. It's as lyrically dense as anything I've put out, but sonically it still hits that club demographic.
Which track is your most hype, up-tempo club track?
I'd say Bleach is up there for sure. As I said, it has all the pieces of a classic trap beat, plus I use a sort of triplet, Migos-like flow. 'Possessed' and 'Cactus' also have more of a low-fi-trap feel as I've actually heard those played at larger functions. 'Steam on My Socks' also hits that trap feel really hard.
What's your most obscure influence as an artist?
In the grand scheme of rap, he's fairly obscure cause he's not technically mainstream though he does have a huge cult-like following, but MF Doom was huge on me in college. I was blown away by how easily he was able to manipulate the English language. It's been described as non-sequitur rap. Not talking about anything specifically, but he's just rapping. You always hear when you rap, you have to tell a story. You actually don't have to do anything. And MF Doom is a huge proponent of that sort of creative freedom that really inspired me when I was ramping up my own musical output.
What would you say is a primary contrast between your style and Doom's?
Content for sure. Doom was an older guy when he really popped, so his perspective was different. I rap about fashion, food, and obscure pop culture references while Doom was really all over the place. I'd also say that our cadences are different in that Doom had a very gravelly voice whereas I have a softer, smoother tonality. But I do mimic his flows a lot. I lean on his influences more than any rapper, other than Lil Wayne of course.
On the topic of your voice, how long did it take for you to discover that unique cadence of yours?
In 2019, a lot of my influences were trap-based: Autotune, triplet flows, ad-libs, etc. After a bit though, I realized that it really wasn't me. Sure, it's fun to make, but I knew there was more to my voice than Trap. After I recorded Gristle, that was the first track that I really found my baseline as a rapper. From there, I kept curating, experimenting, and my voice really crystalized from there. Tracks like that were huge in terms of giving me a benchmark for the sound I've continued to cultivate since; that dry, sort of detached, meandering type of rapping. The contrast with faster tracks is the speed at which I'm rapping combined with the casual cadence. That contrast between production and lyrics.I was going to the studio 5-7 days a week cause I just didn’t have anything else to do. My job at the time fell through, so I just locked the f**k in. I didn't even have a blueprint, I just knew that the more time I put into it, the quicker that flash would come. It was around December of last year when that really clicked.
How would you describe the period between your first show and the leveling up you experienced?
I was fortunate enough to go to a school where I could stand out in East Chicago. I felt like a big fish in a little pond. The first open mic I went to, despite flubbing some of my lyrics, went well, and I was kind of on the map from there. Going to East Chicago also pressured me to improve because there were people who were checking on me; which was really encouraging. Coming out of school I had a lot of performances under my belt from performing at clubs, frats, etc. Even then though, I still didn't have the work ethic I do now. When the pandemic first hit, I was touch and go on my music. However, once quarantine went into full effect and I lost my main source of income, I realized that I had a captive audience(literally) and music was all I had. As crazy as it is to say, I'm grateful for the pandemic in that way; it catalyzed me as an artist.
When you first started performing, what was your style? Detached or more energy-focused?
At that point, it was much more energy-focused. More recently my stuff began to morph into a style of "My craft is going to speak for itself while my production will carry the crowd". Back then though, while I was still figuring out my style, it was pure hype.