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4batz Has a Hit. Should We Care How He Got It?

Champagne Papi is at it again: On March 5, Drake’s Instagram story made the rounds, this time for the news that he’d be remixing viral crooner 4batz’s “act ii: date @ 8.” The song sounds like the sort of late-night-vibe, hip-hop-adjacent, alternative R&B popularized by acts like 6lack, Brent Faiyaz, and Bryson Tiller at its most minimalist. “Five hunnid for your fuckin’ hair, two hunnid for your fuckin’ nails,” 4batz sings to someone he affectionately (?) calls “bitch” on the song that’s mostly hook. It’s garnered more than 78 million Spotify streams since mid-December, the most popular of his only three songs to date. Kanye West and SZA have shown 4batz love, and now he’s landed the coveted hallmark of hip-hop and R&B’s Hot New Thing — a Drake feature. If that’s not enough, Billboard reports that three major labels are fighting to sign him. 

Many have expressed excited mystification at 4batz’s seemingly quick success. Others have expressed dismay – and are lobbing “industry plant” accusations. “Only 3 songs and 10M monthly listeners is crazy, 4batz def going places,” one rap-oriented creator wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “That’s mad numbers for an independent artist with 3 songs — it’s crazy how far you can go with just pure talent, hard work and a manager who is a creative director at the RCA,” someone replied sarcastically, to the tune of 50,000 likes. Other TikTokers have shouted down 4batz’s authenticity as well, implying that we’ve been force-fed this phenom through quiet but powerful connections and/or an unannounced deal. The debate may escalate if his star keeps rising. 

When people cry “industry plant” at a new artist’s ascent, they’re often signaling a feeling that we’re being deceived, or that something is undeserved. One TikTok user points to artists “who have been out here grinding that can’t even get 3,000 monthly listeners” in the face of 4batz’s nearly 10 million on Spotify. In the midst of all this, 4batz hasn’t pointed much to his independence or hustle in his narrative. But some listeners are creating their own stories.

One source of ire seems to be that there isn’t much of a paper trail of 4batz’s path to this point. The 20-year-old artist told Genius he’s been taking music “seriously” for six years but “procrastinated” releasing anything until he “got his lil’ heart broke.” His first song, “act i: stickerz ‘99,’” hit streaming services last June rather quietly. A November YouTube video of “act i” for “From the Block,” typically a gritty performance series for rappers, may have brought on the tipping point. The From the Block version of “act ii” dropped in December, this time five days after it was released on Spotify. 

Those videos jarred people with the gentle, gauzy voice that wafted out of his gold-plated mouth. 4batz has the swagger of a street rapper and has had the appeal of one, too. He sang in the courtyard of a humble brick apartment and in front of crews of ski-masked guys smoking in dark activewear. In the months since, streamers like Kai Cenat, Adin Ross, and Fanum have posted shocked and awed reactions to these clips that have circulated widely alongside the reactions and reshares of tons of lower-profile social users. The hard exterior/soft music juxtaposition of 4batz’s videos has clearly been effective. 

4batz does in fact have a manager who works for RCA. According to LinkedIn, Amber Baker is a lead creative manager with a background in video and tour production, and her resume includes generating and executing ideas for brands like McDonald’s and Balenciaga, along with artists like Gunna and Summer Walker. This appears to have taken place mostly outside of RCA, where she’s only worked for a year. (After initially responding to an email sent to her RCA account, Baker offered no further response to a request for comment for this story.) This is all to say: The fact that 4batz generated a buzzworthy video may be more straightforward than is being implied. Is there something nefarious about an artist working with a video producer to market their music? Must she be pulling secret strings from her new workplace? “Amber Ajeé is just GREAT at what she does,” one person wrote online. “Turn your brain on and never discredit a black woman’s hard work again.”

4batz’s buzz may feel inorganic to some because things on social media truly can be. In a TikTok titled “How industry plants are made” featuring 4batz prominently, one user points to the type of bold-text rap Instablogs that have featured him, accusing them of effectively being promo tools hired by artists and labels. “The blog provides social proof, the label provides payment, and the artist gets posted,” the TikToker says. If you search “4batz” on Instagram, the results are populated with tons of flashy Instablog posts from dubious-looking rap culture pages. One example is a graphic from @onnacomeup.ent that asks “Does 4batz have the best [From the Block] performance by far?” In its bio, @onnacomeup.ent lists ways to pay for promotion on its page. (Again, management was unavailable for comment on 4batz’s promotional strategy.)

Marketing — which is literally just spreading the artist’s reputation and music through intentional campaigns — has always been a part of the music industry, and it’s completely fair for musicians and the people on their team to try to widen the reach of the work they believe in. Perhaps we’re just more privy to those machinations now that the biggest marketing platforms, social media sites, are more open to the public than television, radio, film, and magazines. It’s clear that there’s a social advertising economy in which popular influencers and pages openly accept money for promotion, and this, plus unrelated instances of secretly-sponsored content, may be generating the type of distrust that’s bubbling around 4batz’s buzz. 

It also may come down to a matter of taste. That same TikToker who bemoaned the “grinding” artists with less 3,000 monthly listeners punctuated that point by saying that 4batz’s music is “just alright…it’s okay.” His three songs do echo the sort of ghostly R&B that has become somewhat standard in the field after the innovation of folks like PartyNextDoor and the Weeknd in the early 2010s, without the same dynamism. “Date @ 8” features wobbly synths, a steady clap, barebone drums, and a laid-back baseline over which 4batz sings just one verse and a catchy chorus three times. It’s rather monotonous; no peaks, no valleys. His voice especially favors Brent Faiyaz, but sounds so digitized that it’s less convincing as raw talent. And his juxtaposition of hood aesthetics with delicate music has been done before, like by fleeting singer RMR in 2020. RMR, though, donned a ski mask to belt a more harrowing and elaborate country song about hustling, making the contrast much starker. 

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But there’s a reason 4batz is resonating. The power of his brand of dark, alternative R&B can be in its particular mood. It’s syrup-slow; it’s cruising at night; it’s creeping in the sheets; it’s contemplating in the shadows. Timbaland — a trailblazer in the field of highly digitized R&B with artists like Aaliyah and Missy Elliott — personally beckoned Drake to remix it. In a reaction video for “Date @ 8,” he praised 4batz’s tone: “If The Boy get on this, it’s outta here. It’s already out of here.” 4batz’s simple songwriting also seems deliberate. He told Uproxx that the best song he’s ever heard is Sadé’s “Kiss of Life” because “She didn’t say a lot of words but she said a lot of things without having to. She’s the one that showed me you don’t have to put all these words in a song, music is a feeling.” His viral videos may be genuinely surprising to people as a valuable reminder that even the toughest-looking people and places have soft centers.

Without hearing from 4batz, his team, or people with intimate knowledge of either, we can’t know the full scope of what it’s taken for him to get here. But his forthcoming remix with Drake is a big deal. It’s a powerful co-sign to have the most popular rapper in the world share his fanbase with you — and landing the feature speaks to what 4batz has already accomplished for himself. Drake’s features, like the ones he’s done with Yung Bleu, BlocBoy JB, and Fetty Wap in the past, also keep Drake relevant. Then again, his guest verses are a signal that you’ve made it somewhere, not that you’ll stay. Virality is like that.

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