A few weeks back, 21-year-old musician ericdoa figured out how to connect his production setup to his computer so he could stream his creative process on Twitch. He decided to test out his method with a more than two-hour livestream where he would rap and sing whatever popped into his head. “I don’t even know what I’m saying,” he crooned over a minimal, wrenching piano melody. Ericdoa’s vocals infuse emotional intensity into the often absurdist raps he delivers. At one point in the stream, he joked about “Jelqmaxxing,” which is a reference to a possibly apocryphal exercise some men do in order to stretch the length of their penis. “Stretching to the max,” he sang.
Then, about 25 minutes in, something transcendent occurred. By then the subject matter had transitioned from silly to deeply personal; ericdoa found himself mining his subconscious, conjuring memories of his grandfather who passed away from Covid. You could see him stop to compose himself before uttering a line that’s been etched into the internet hivemind since like “rizz” or “skibidi toilet,” somehow poignant in its ridiculousness. “Imagine if Ninja got a low taper fade,” ericdoa sang, repeating the line and stretching the words into oblivion.
“It was a moment where I was like, ‘OK, maybe I’m being a little too vulnerable on the internet,’” ericdoa explains over Zoom. “And I literally just said the first thing that came to my mind. I think Ninja getting a low taper fade haircut was the first thing that came to my mind that was silly enough to make me not cry in front of a bunch of people.”
Clips of that line quickly took off across TikTok, with thousands of videos repurposing the audio. Ninja, the immensely popular Twitch streamer whose name popped into ericdoa’s head at that moment, caught wind, too. He went so far as to get the haircut in question (or, at least a close approximation), debuting the look in a TikTok set to the audio from ericdoa’s stream and shared via the NFL’s official account. That video alone currently sits at over 17 million views. “It’s like all a full-circle moment, which is so hilarious,” ericdoa says. “All my activities as a young man had nothing to do with music. It was just video games.”
Having one of the most popular online creators in the world shout you out is probably as good a promo as any artist can have ahead of a new album. Ericdoa’s new LP, D.O.A, arrives this week, and he says he’s already seen a noticeable uptick in streams for his back catalog since the clip went viral. “It’s been so wild, the catalog is definitely being streamed,” he says. “I have a lot of people telling me that they watched the entirety of the stream and listened to the music and they’re like, ‘Wow, like I actually was not expecting this.’”
Those new fans surely won’t be disappointed as D.O.A. presents some of the young musician’s most fully realized work. Ericdoa started out in the hyperpop subculture that emerged on SoundCloud in the 2010s and maintains much of the high-octane style of that era, but with a new layer of complexity.
In the 14 months he spent working on this project with collaborators like the producer Zetra, he began studying the history of his Puerto Rican heritage, particularly the activist movements of the 1970s and the spirit of community and mutual aid. “I listened to a lot of music while making this project and I really fell in love with my own culture,” he says. “I’m Puerto Rican, so I would listen to a lot of old music that my parents would listen to and my grandparents would listen to. I got really obsessed with the Young Lords movement in the ’70s and based a whole visual aesthetic off of that for the project.”
He mentions taking further guidance from songs like salsa legend Willie Colón’s “Oh, Qué Será?”: “There was a part where he says in Spanish basically that the only gesture is to believe or not. That really inspired me and everybody else making this project. If we think it’s gonna be something beautiful, it’ll do what it does, as long as you believe.”
As for the “hyperpop” descriptor, ericdoa says he’s grateful for that period in his life, but wouldn’t want it to be what defines him as an artist. “I wanna be Eric, man,” he says. “That’s the only thing I wanna do. I wanna be a person that people don’t only like for their personality, but for their art and music and for everything that revolves around them.” On songs like “kickstand,” ericdoa makes a compelling case for himself as a straight-up rapper, offering a breezy and melodic flow. Elsewhere, like on “lastjune,” the vibe is somewhere between country, hyperpop, and Yeat, which increasingly seems like the template for artists in ericdoa’s generation.
Speaking of generations, ericdoa has thoughts on his. “We’re kind of omnipotent in a sense, because we have access to all the knowledge in the world in our pockets, so we shouldn’t really be bad at anything. We’re in a weird time for music because we grew up in a sense where we didn’t need no engineers. We didn’t need a studio to go through. All you needed was either your phone, or if you had a condenser mic, you could figure out how to mix yourself at 13 years old.”
That might explain why there’s such an emphasis on honesty in ericdoa’s music. In a world where everything is ubiquitous, he’s chosen to be true to himself. “All of these songs on here are supposed to be the rawest form of myself,” he says. “I went into so many of these songs with no idea — a lot of it is all over the place. And I feel like it’s compacted into a way where ‘all over the place’ sounds harmonic.”