“How the fuck could I say that I am me without rapping?” says the stylish Atlanta artist
Destroy Lonely is in his signature all-black attire when I meet him this spring, except for his hot-pink Marni slippers. His close friend Ken Carson lights a blunt in the studio where they’re currently cooking up something new. “Where else would I be?” asks Lonely. “This shit always going to be important. How the fuck could I say that I am me without rapping?”
Lonely broke out on TikTok last summer with his super-catchy, fashion-forward single “NOSTYLIST.” A few weeks after we talk, he’ll release his debut album, If Looks Could Kill, to the delight of his nearly 4 million monthly Spotify listeners. At just 21, he’s already one of hip-hop’s flashiest rock stars, following in the footsteps of Playboi Carti, who signed both Lonely and Carson to his label, Opium. In not much time at all, he’s cultivated a devoted fanbase for his music and the culture that surrounds it.
Lonely grew up freestyling — his father, who’s also a rapper, was signed to Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace imprint in the late Nineties — but his influences are far-ranging. He draws inspiration from Southern icons like Lil Wayne and Young Thug, but also from Deftones and the Cure, resulting in a distinct sound that he refines every day.
He says that going on tours has enriched his life with new experiences that are showing up in his music already, whether he’s recounting his overseas shopping adventures or embracing his identity as a self-described “rolling stone” (on “how u feel?”). He now selects only the beats that embody and capture the essence of what Destroy Lonely sounds like. But he’s making more music than ever, pumping out an estimated 140 tracks in less than a month.
For Lonely, this journey is just beginning, as he continues to witness firsthand how his music and style have the power to touch people from all around the world. On a recent tour stop in Thailand, Lonely was surprised to find plenty of local fans. “We are really from the south side of Atlanta and be going all the way across to the other side of the globe, and these people out here talking about ‘Your music changed my life,’” he says. “Then you look at them and they got on all-black or whatever. That shit is crazy. It ain’t really no way to put it into words.”