On the first Friday of every month we put the spotlight on one up-and-coming artist; for the first First Look Friday of 2019 we take a look at SADFACETHUGGIN, a young rapper from Dallas, Texas who is trying find his place in the SoundCloud emo rap scene.
Music isn’t always about originality or an artist’s technical abilities. Sometimes it’s about a feeling. SADFACETHUGGIN, a 19-year-old rapper from Dallas, Texas, exemplifies this. Last year, he dropped Sadface and Emotionless – Sadface II, two EPs that channel sentiment above perfection — projects that serve heartbreak and insecurities on small platters, track after track.
“Just say you love me and you need me and I give you hope. Just know my presence, you ‘gon feel it in your fucking soul,” he nearly screams on “IH8Weekdays,” a standout from his Sadface EP. His voice, slightly warped, drags itself over a defiant electric guitar riff. The noise feels cathartic, impatient, vibrant. It’s the last and most energetic song on the four-tracked EP, the rest of which is generally more aligned with standard SoundCloud emo rap.
The main themes from the Sadface EP revolve around love and its loss, and the subsequent vulnerabilities that develop after the fact. SADFACE’s song “Cancer,” specifically, speaks to this — the need to rely on someone and suddenly realizing that they won’t be there. The dream-like bridges in the song, which warp in and out of audible focus before slamming back in for the pre-chorus, brings home this abrupt feeling of inadequacy to save himself: “Please, baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t give up on me you’re the only one who can still save me.” His voice dominates the space just before the hook, declaring himself a cancer that feeds off the sickness in his relationships and his codependency to survive.
SADFACETHUGGIN’s music is not new. He calls to mind a number of SoundCloud rappers who have subscribed to the mumble rap/trap wave, influenced heavily by artists like Trippie Redd, Post Malone, and the late, controversial XXXTentacion. However, there’s a fresh discord intertwined throughout his first EP: his refusal to adhere to only one personality. Whereas “IH8Weekdays” is laced with punk rock qualities, his song “Fuck Luv” is more toned-down: soft, smooth beats overlayed with his heavy, garbled voice. In the former song, SADFACE shouts his frustration in having to wait all week to see the girl he loves; in the latter, over a slower, more dramatic beat, he calmly renounces love in all.
SADFACETHUGGIN’s second EP, Emotionless – Sadface II, dropped on Halloween. That project reflected a slight change in SADFACE’s character, a confidence that hadn’t been present in his debut. Sadface II continues the tone of the first, reminiscent lyrics like “when I’m close to death I feel alive” from his song “Riddle,” or “I’ll be lucky if I’m still here tomorrow” from “Sleepin’ With You.” Sadface II also carries through a lot of the surrealist qualities that make up the majority of its predecessor, a slow electric guitar eerily plucking at a simple chord progression as he uses his voice like a slightly off-kilter instrument in the background of his sullen words.
There are standout songs that diverge from the sounds he’d established for himself in the first EP. The first track on the project, “Worth It,” for example, is a smooth, whispered call meant to seduce more than anything. The beat churns in quick succession and SADFACE rides it, his voice remaining level throughout as he moves through the song.
Another standout is the single “Sleepin’ With You,” which incorporates a balanced mix between his near-screaming vocals echoing in the background and his slightly-mumbled flow in the forefront. A soft horn blares beneath both sounds, tying them together to make what might be SADFACETHUGGIN’s most genuine sound.
Emotionless – Sadface II is a longer, more polished extension of Sadface — the record boasts twice as many songs as the last one — that flexes his lyricism more than his tone setting. SADFACETHUGGIN plays around with different beat combinations paired with his own vocals, his cadence, and his subject matter. The overruling area of importance throughout all of his music, however, is the emotion behind it. More so than understanding what he’s actually saying, SADFACE wants you to share in his anger, his sadness, his confidence as he carries you through his songs. “I want everybody in the room to be feeling the same feeling I’m feeling when I hear it,” SADFACETHUGGIN told me when I talked to him briefly late in 2018.
His enthusiasm in sharing the experience of his music transfers to his live performances — his shows completely countering the melancholy of his recorded tracks. SADFACE takes on an entirely different persona when he hits the stage, no matter how slow the melody or sad the lyrics, he can be found bellowing into the mic, channeling his inner punk rock.
“It’s crazy ‘cause I be screaming,” he said. “I feel like my crowd control is actually better than my music.” A SADFACETHUGGIN concert seems to be a smaller scale event comparable to that of Denzel Curry’s or Rico Nasty’s: mosh pits, lyrical screaming, and energy meant to either tear the roof down or sink the floors in. He uses his presence like a conductor’s baton, swaying this way and that on stage and in the crowd, jumping up and down as he belts into the mic to move the people into action, and the people respond.
It was tough talking to SADFACETHUGGIN; he can be light on specifics. When asked about growing up, he said: “I don’t wanna get too deep into personal shit, cause, like, some shit I’m not comfortable talking about. But, I mean, it was some gruesome shit I saw growing up. ” Or when asked about his name, he gave this dull response: “When shit gets rough for me, that’s how I go through it, I be like, I gotta thug this shit out. So I took it together and put it in a name.”
And yet, at one point, SADFACE told me: “I’m an open book. I’m not gonna hide shit from nobody.” He said this while continuing not to divulge much during our interview.
While his music does touch upon inherently intimate topics — like his character as a whole — it also refuses to give many specifics. A prime example can be found in his choice to withhold his real name from public knowledge. To the world he wants to be known only as SADFACETHUGGIN, and in the same vein, he is equally uninterested in his listeners knowing the detailed intricacies of his life — anything apart from the SoundCloud emo rapper who has had his heart broken and made music out of his heartbreak.