![Vintage coat, shirt, and pants available at Mothfood Shop, JACQUES MARIE MAGE glasses worn throughout, and talent’s own jewelry worn throughout.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472ba5f97640d924a329169_Flaunt-Magazine-Swae-Lee10.jpeg)
Vintage coat, shirt, and pants available at Mothfood Shop, [**JACQUES MARIE MAGE**](https://jacquesmariemage.com/home/) glasses worn throughout, and talent’s own jewelry worn throughout.
Walk through palatial gold doors traipsing into the anteroom of a recording studio. The center of the fractured heart of Hollywood. What does it take to make it? What is success? Wondering while waiting to speak with the global pop musician that is 24-year-old Swae Lee. People are asleep in the anteroom; maybe they are stragglers from the last world tour, daubed in Balenciaga and Cheetos Bags and insomnia.
Mr. Lee can be heard in the distance. He is creating new videos in conjunction with a Social Media app, promoting his new single, “Won’t Be Late,” featuring Drake, out from Ear Drummer Records/ Interscope.
Into another room floating. Labyrinth of sounds, muffled studios in the building trying to eke out platinum and gold, echoing through the walls like melting paint.
Lee stands there surrounded by smiling faces. Everyone wants pictures—now we suck the blood from photographs, not from necks, then ooze the images out onto the Apple screens we cling to like the last remnants of existential (or spiritual/artistic) hope.
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Lee is working this crowd of essentially harmless people asking for his photo. His jacket is open and his bare chest reveals resplendent tattoos, hair moving down his face in serpentine dreads, boots candy-cane silver à la Rick James. He is the image of an unusual erotic symbol. An aura of light exudes. Fittingly, Lee’s other single out from Ear Drummer is entitled “Sextasy,” an ode to saving the forbidden fruits, and then eating them like breakfast pastries.
“I always keep the good vibes,” Lee says through melodic grunts, fast forwarding the tape, on the phone, about to head to Minneapolis on the first leg of a tour with long-time collaborator and beer drinking confidant, Post Malone. “I wanna have high energy. It goes a long way. It’ll make you stand out. It don’t cost anything to be a good person. I focus on the positive. A lot of bad things already happened in life.”
And life has changed for Lee. A long way from his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, grinding at the microphone for an infinite amount of hours as a solo act and alongside his brother, Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd, “I always knew I was gonna’ make it, but I never knew what ‘making it’ was—flying overseas, everyone knowing your name. You can never be prepared for that type of stuff.”
![Vintage coat, shirt, and pants available at Mothfood Shop.](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472ba5f97640d924a329243_Flaunt-Magazine-Swae-Lee2.jpeg)
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The photo vampires ought to check themselves, heed Lee’s sagacious advice; maybe this isn’t the apple you want to bite? Or maybe dive headfirst, skull-cracked in the honey of unknown degrees?
According to The Atlantic, a story was reported on the percent of “famous people” there are in the world, and the number is around 0.0086. Basically, no one is famous, and we also have to consider what “fame” actually is anyway, but this number was based off Wikipedia’s “living people” category.
Lee is famous, though, in many ways; chart topping hits, magazine covers—out of the mud grew this lotus, “For real, for real,” he agrees, the words often spilling off his crooning tongue. The young man is vintage and he hasn’t even broken a quarter century.
“I just be in the studio locked in. I let the creative vibes flow. I stay for 8 hours,” Lee admits, and then regales in what seems like a champagne soaked sound bite, “You gotta’ step up to the plate. \[Social Media\] ain’t gonna’ do nothing but help you. Let people see what you want to broadcast and what you want to stand for. But you gotta’ step up to the plate.”
And the music will not stop, according to Lee. It will only morph into more experience, keeping the sonically salivating tongues happy, the records pouring out for all that radiate, or want to radiate. “I make music for people that like to have fun. Those who have friends and love. It’s for the masses. I don’t make it for one group of people,” Lee states. “When I’m in the studio, I know what type of quality of song I want to make. Turn up song. Love song. Party song...”
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This life is a movie, as the young ones say. Is it _Scarface_? Is it a postmodern _Lawrence of Arabia_? A voyage to the great beyond?
“I’m going to stay working until I level up,” admits Lee, a person more self-aware than most, precocious in bent and funky vibes. “Five years. Ten years. Eventually, if you stay at it long enough, you level up.”
The philosophy dust settles, onto the tops of ears...
Float back. Away from Lee.
The lights shine in the distance, muted glow around the palatial gold doors.
Back to Hollywood streets. People have written about this before.
Police lights now.
Some men are being arrested, scooped out of a glistening Range Rover, they look like would-be rappers...a humbling and heavy reminder that there shall always be that dark along with the light, Yin and Yang, the creatures trying to climb to the stratospheric heights, into pop-stardom, for God’s Sake, into
a sustainable way of making a living, enough oxygen to reach gratitude...
A Biblical culture at vein level, with each and every one living at their own level of awareness, listening to the music, pop or indie, Swae Lee or palm trees swaying and whimpering in wind, trying to see the healthy road map, hoping at the end of the night that there is a map out there, after all, existing not only in dreams but in the waking state…
* * *
Photographer: [Mason Poole](https://www.instagram.com/mason.poole/?hl=en) at [Assignment Agency](http://www.assignmentagency.com).
Styled: [Mecca Cox](https://www.instagram.com/mexco__style/?hl=en) at [The Only Agency](https://theonly.agency/).
* * *
**The Voyage Issue:** _A Fool’s Errand_
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