Polo G | Growing Pains

Via Issue 175, The In The Garden Issue!

Written by

Shirley Ju

Photographed by

Ian Morrison

Styled by

Ani Hovhannisyan

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LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S jacket and pants and AIR JORDAN shoes.

Polo G can’t help but yield a lit harvest again and again. Hailing from the streets of Chicago, real name Taurus Bartlett, the 22 year-old has already achieved what most aspiring artists can only dream of: boasting nearly 30 plaques, repeated viral hits, and an incredibly dedicated fanbase that supports his every move.

Exploding onto the scene in 2018 with his breakout single,“Finer Things”, Polo has since catapulted to being one of the hottest rappers in the game, creating what he calls “pain music.” His braggadocious bars and vivid storytelling speak volumes to his come up, inspired directly by real-life experiences growing up in The Chi. From poverty to millions, fame has yet to phase Polo—his priority is to do what he loves and take care of his family.

PRADA tops.

Polo G’s most recent release, “RAPSTAR”, debuted at the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, earning him the highest streaming debut of 2021 for a male artist and the second highest streaming debut of the year for any artist in the States—56 million streams. The record stayed #1 for two weeks in a row, an accolade that only 22 before him, including Childish Gambino and Drake, have accomplished.

The “RAPSTAR” official music video earned over 41 million views in its first two weeks and sees Polo living the fast life on his private jet, flexing his drip and chains while still show-casing insecurity, vulnerability, and a layer of realness. He spits on the second verse, “They say I’m Pac rebirth, never put out a weak verse”—all facts as showcased on his critically-acclaimed sophomore album,THE GOAT.

Beyond the numbers, the attention, and the endless career highs, Polo is a proud father with his son Tremani turning two years old in July. From doing his first feature for $200 to now commanding $150K a go, Polo proves his international presence, with “RAPSTAR” even top trending in the UK. Plus, he manifests every goal he’s ever had, speaking it into existence and seeing it through each time.

We spoke with Polo G about the continuous success of “RAPSTAR”, the meaning behind the record, being called the voice of the next generation, his cars, coming out with his own line of jeans, his mental state, new project Hall of Fame, collaborating with fellow Chicago native G Herbo, and more!

PIERRE BLANC top, BOSS pants, and AMIRI shoes.

How does it feel to be seen as the voice of the next generation?

It feels like I’m finally getting the recognition or respect I should be getting. It’s more widespread. Where it was just a fraction of people saying that back then, now it’s more common that people feel that way about me. It’s something I feel good about. 

Why do you feel like you’re the voice of the new generation?

I don’t necessarily deem myself that, because there are a lot of artists that’re around my age doing their thing. You got Rod Wave speaking on pain and dealing with issues in day-to-day life, then you have an artist like Lil Baby who’s poppin’ his shit. [Lil] Durk’s doing his thing. I know by me being one of the youngest in that crowd, speaking on what I speak on, and how versatile I am as an artist, I stand out. That’s why people say shit like that.

Every time you drop, it’s a crazy impact. How’d it feel to have ‘RAPSTAR’ debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100?

Shit, it was a great feeling. It’s something I had listed as a goal of mine, so to see that actually happen for myself... I spoke that everyday saying my positive affirmations: ‘I’ma do this, I’ma do that. I will go #1.’ To see that was crazy to me—the shit pulled through. 

Bring us back to when you made ‘RAPSTAR’?

I made that shit last minute. My little brother and a lot of homies were telling me I should record the song. I looked it up on Twitter, looked up the lyrics on Twitter. A lot of people tweeted out: ‘Only bitch I give a conversation to is Siri.’ I saw a version on YouTube with a beat over it, so that’s what made me jump on that. The recording process was pretty easy for me, because that’s the normal music I always make. I didn’t do anything out of the norm. It went #1 on the Hot 100 for two weeks straight, only 22 people in history have done this—and no rapper since Gambino and Drake. 

How does that feel to accomplish at age 22?

It feels crazy. Those are definitely some powerful names to accompany myself with. Seeing that and knowing how hard I worked, how much overtime I put in, to see it unfold the way it did is crazy. I can’t put a specific detail on that feeling—it’s just a great feeling to me. 

DIOR MEN jacket, AMIRI top and shoes, and SXL pants.

What’s the reality of being a ‘RAPSTAR’?

Going through the motions, ya feel me? Being lit, a lot of people knowing you. The pros are living this lit life: you’re going out,you’re having a good time. Then the cons are sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes a lot of anxiety comes with being a man or being a rapper, whatever the case may be. It’s a lot of pros and cons to that, but essentially being a ‘RAPSTAR’ is being a lit rapper for real.

What were you trying to convey in the video?

I sat with Arrad and came up with the video scheme. I gave him a million and one ideas, and he shortened it down to a few scenes and takes. [laughs] I came up with the video thinking of a lot of shit I go through on a day-to-day basis, or shit a poppin’ or popular rapper goes through on a day-to-day basis. Giving people an outlook, because, normally, nobody ever really made a song about being a ‘RAPSTAR.’ It’s always pop star or rockstar, shit like that. But if you check the details and stats on what music is today, rap is the most poppin’ genre. It was best that I shed light on something like that.

Best memory from the video shoot?

Actually shooting it, then seeing the shit on camera. Damn, this gonna be a movie. I knew while we’re on set and they’re show-ing me the playback, ‘nah this shit is going to be lit.’

How many Beamers you got?

Oh, I only got two personally. I got a BMW i8 and I got an X7. I got five cars. I got a Hellcat 2, a Maybach, and I got a bullet proof truck in Chicago.

Who do you see up next out of The Chi?

Trench Baby. He’s raw. He has a lot of ambition, a lot of aggres-sion in him. You can tell he’s serious about what he’s saying.

Three billion streams for your sophomore album, THE GOAT. How does that recognition feel?

I put a lot of overtime into making THE GOAT. That’s the first project I stepped out of my shell, and definitely leveled up from Die A Legend. That’s a great feeling to see all the accolades it got.

Where did you put the plaque?

I put it up in my studio room. I have a room with all my plaques in it.

How many plaques are in there?

So far, I have about 15 or 16. I have about 12 more on the way.

What is it about Tupac you identify with?

I personally fuck with Pac, on a personal tip. The way he moves, the way he thinks, him just being a great rapper. Him paving the way for a lot of other rappers to be great. I have a lot of respect for Pac. Where that correlation came from, I read my YouTube comments, and that’s something that I often see: ‘Damn, he’s the next Pac.’ I don’t like to really compare myself, but I embrace that, because I got a lot of respect for Pac.

AMIRI shirt and shoes and RHUDE pants.

In ‘RAPSTAR’ you say you ‘you make $2,000 a minute’—is that from streams?

That’s with streams, a show, anything. If I do a 50-minute set and I get $2,000 a minute, that’s $100,000. Shit, at the rate this ‘RAP-STAR’ shit is going, it’s gonna be $5,000 a minute.

What you doing with all of this money?

Buying cars. [laughs]

What are your go-to fashion brands?

Off-White and Ralph Lauren. I’m currently working on my own brand, it’s drip. I’m calling it Tremani. I want to launch it this summer, but I’m still working out the kinks. I want to focus on jeans more than anything.

What will make your jeans special?

They’ll be on the urban side, fitted, more affordable—whereas Amiris cost $1,000 a pair. Mine will be more so in the middle where someone can afford it, but they’re still high fashion.

How is your mental health now compared to when you were coming up in Chicago?

I really pay attention to my mental health on a daily basis, which is why I incorporated saying positive affirmations in my daily regimen. When I’m speaking more positivity onto myself, it makes me have a more levelhead. Coming from where we come from, we go through and see a lot of shit. We never go to a therapist, we never sit down and talk about our problems. Music’s my only way and outlet talking about them problems,but when I’m not rapping, I still feel anxiety in my downtime. I still battle with that a lot, but I take the necessary precautions to make sure that’s not overwhelming me all day,every day.

What can we expect from your new album,Hall of Fame?

Fire! All fire, 20 thousand million fire emojis. A lot of versatility. I got some melodic shit,I got some rap, I got some hardshit in general. I got some in love shit, some islander, reggae music, all types of shit. Hall of Fame means to me taking the next step into my legacy. With my third album, the deeper I get into this music game, I’m solidifying myself as one day I’m a legend. I’m on my way, but I got a lot more to do.

You recently did a feature for $150,000—what was your feature price starting out? 

I did my first ever feature with somebody from D.C. I got paid $200. The minimum is $200,000 now.

What did it mean to collaborate with G Herbo on ‘LawyerFees’?

That meant a lot to me. I can vaguely remember—I put a lot of people in my neighborhood onto his music. I used to tell a lot of people he was going to make it when I was young. I got onto his music about 11 years old, so me transitioning from being a fan of his, or appreciating his shit, to being able to make music with him goes to show how far I came.

How is fatherhood? Your son turns two in July. 

Fatherhood’s been treating me well. My son, he’s a bad motherfucker, though. I definitely appreciate the whole experience of having a little me, for real.Talk about your international presence. 

How does it feel to trend in the UK?

It’s definitely a great feeling. I went down there a year or two ago when I did the Die A Legend Tour—I stopped down there.They had told me that my show sold out in minutes, so I can only imagine what it’s going to look like now with me having my Patience record with KSI, then my own music doing well out there. My Patience record was a foot in the door with getting more known in the UK.

What can we expect next?

Next is the album. You can expect a lot of shit from this album—it’s going to be a great body of work

B.JAMES jacket, PURPLE LABEL pants, and AMIRI shoes.

Photographed by Ian Morrison

Styled by Ani Hovhannisyan

Written by Shirley Ju

Digital Art by Isaac Udogwu

Flaunt Film by Greta Lundgren

Location: Hubble Studio

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Polo G, Flaunt Magazine, Shirley Ju,