Kevin Abstract Faces The Dilemma Of Rappers Who Come Up On The Internet

Kevin Abstract is good at the Internet.

Last year, he released MTV1987, an album that navigates the entanglements of a digitally consumed young life—one where your iPhone has an iPhone. With lyrics like “Cold morning I wake up on/ Someone turned their back on me I can feel it,” and “I died in the past/I live in the present/I brag about the future/Imma die any second,” Abstract stirs clouds of iMessage-centered paranoia, relatable to anyone with a Twitter account.

But the thing that makes him truly worth investigation is less about his music, and more about what Kevin Abstract represents.

His success has been fueled by digital maximalism and an immersion in a URL-based subculture. He’s built his empire entirely online, but now he’s dying to get out.

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Kevin Abstract’s e-presence is both peculiar and inspiring. He has a charming vulnerability—he frequently deletes Twitter statements, which often brings attention to his loneliness and fears. His profile image is the default egg avatar that comes with an account, teaching “Be judged off your content, not your face.” His Tumblr posts are a pot of edgy messages, like an image of a notepad with the scribbled words “Born into a world where dreams are torn right in front of you” and a blocked-out Twitter feed with overlaid text, “Everything you were into yesterday will be minimized tonight and forgotten tomorrow.” On these digital platforms, Abstract points out the fast-moving Internet’s harsh downside and making it impossible to ignore.

For a generation whose identities are almost entirely created online, Kevin Abstract stands as a beacon for those crossing their fingers for change, for the tired creatives and progressive minds who have nearly given up on the digital era’s deflating pace and intoxicating self-absorption. He preaches the importance of banding together a generation to rewrite its own narrative.

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Enter Death of a Supermodel, Abstract’s long-awaited sophomore album.

Conceptually, it will point to an alternative to the traditional life course—where college and a 9-to-5 are standard—and will symbolize possibility for shut-in rappers and Macbook artists everywhere. With it will come a Kevin Abstract that nobody’s seen before, one who’s shedding his digitally saturated branding experiment to assert a more tangible existence.

Slowly, he’s been downloading himself back into offline world. At a show alongside Allan Kingdom and London O’Connor in Brooklyn last month, he stood motionless on stage for five minutes with a bag on his head—maybe as an artistic notion, maybe because he didn’t give a damn. He’s walked into the offices of major labels in hoodies, hair dyed pink and nails painted black, and has gotten daps from execs for his winsome carelessness. He’s been augmenting his presence via his boy band, Brockhampton, who just won VFiles’ prestigious talent contest. Kevin Abstract is learning his timeline weirdness is absorbing enough to construct a successful business model.

The Internet plays an essential role in Abstract’s complex relationship with himself; the favorites and reblogs have aided his rise, but the unavoidable pretentiousness complicates his self-perception. It made him, but it also destroyed him. At some point, it becomes time for the bedroom artist to leave the bedroom and step out into the world that’s been waiting for him.

Images: Franklin Mendez and Julia Updegraff

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