Yung Gravy Knows Why You Love Him
Music

Yung Gravy Knows Why You Love Him

Story by Josh Svetz / Photography by Savanna Ruedy

Before TikTok and streaming were around to hoist old songs from obscurity, propelling underground darlings into the mainstream, there was LimeWire. For music fans of a certain generation, it was the gateway to the kind of eclectic taste we take for granted nowadays — the site where you might stumble onto the next great rapper. It’s no surprise Minnesota rapper Yung Gravy was an avid user of the service, building his own digital treasure trove of musical history. His omnivorous taste shows in his music, a mix of self-described “hard ass trap,” soul, SoundCloud rap and samples of oldies music, all filtered through a relaxed, goofy attitude that makes Gravy the next great college circuit rapper, much like Asher Roth and Mac Miller before him.

Speaking with PAPER over Zoom, Yung Gravy, born Matthew Hauri, sports a black T-shirt and gold cuban links; a gold watch sits on his right wrist alongside tattoos scattered across his arms. He’s laid-back and friendly, the chilled-out personality fans gravitate toward on full display as he speaks with me from Boston, lounging on the tour bus couch ahead of his show later that night.

“I will get swarmed if I go to my actual hometown of Rochester, Minnesota,” Gravy exclaims. ”It's crazy because everyone knows that I went to high school there so I have to take a lot of pictures. But I'm nice. I can't say no.”

Yung Gravy is both an earnest lover of music and a smooth networker with a shrewd understanding of how artists need to approach branding themselves in the social media era. Throughout our conversation, Gravy brings up several in-the-works collaborations and expresses admiration for powerhouses in separate industries, such as YouTube’s MrBeast: “Those kids are sick. Really cool, interesting and [a] successful business model.”

Gravy, who has appeared in MrBeast videos before, is particularly prolific on YouTube, having collaborated with creators like penguinz0, Cody & Ko and H3H3 Productions. NBA YoungBoy will never be in a Danny Gonzalez or Drew Gooden video, but Yung Gravy just might. He’s a rapper first, but he’s also a personality, a part of the game he embraces wholeheartedly.

“I definitely learned how to make music over the years, whereas I knew how to brand that shit from day one,” he says assuredly.

That intuition for branding has paid off, with Gravy selling out shows across the country, becoming one of the most in-demand acts for colleges in the United States and notching his first entry into the Billboard Hot 100 (the “Never Gonna Give You Up” interpolation “Betty (Get Money”). His status was propelled even further after he performed at the VMAs — which is also where he and Sheri Easterling (AKA Addison Rae’s mom) had their first date. When the pair kissed on the red carpet, it sent TikTok, Twitter and her ex-husband Monty Lopez into a frenzy. Gravy has since moved on to a new flame, Lisa Ann, with whom he recently shared a date in New York.

Gravy is in demand in every aspect of his life, courted by brands, vloggers and porn stars aplenty. It’s all just another day in the life for “Mr. Clean."

PAPER caught up with Gravy as he embarked on his sold-out tour with BBno$ to discuss MILFs, his new album Marvelous, cuffing season and flaking on Cheech and Chong.

Let's go back a little bit. What were you listening to as a kid?

The first song I ever downloaded was “Grindin” by Clipse and then something by T.I., and some OutKast because southern rap has always been my favorite. I'm talking 6th grade, the MySpace days where you could have a homepage song. Then as the years went on I had a stoner phase. I was really into Three 6 Mafia and Curren$y. And I really like Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa also.

And then I started discovering and downloading more funk and soul and Motown. I would just go through YouTube and LimeWire to find and download music, and soul music became my favorite genre. Then in college, I got into the SoundCloud scene and it really started popping. By then I had sort of acquired this whole library of stuff I was listening to all the time. Anything from ‘50s rock to Young Thug.

I was also a LimeWire kid growing up. It was the Wild West. You’d either be downloading the new Kendrick album or 50 viruses to your computer.

Yeah, man, and then DatPiff, you’d download a Trapaholics mixtape and all the titles would be messed up.

I noticed that you split time between LA and Minnesota. What keeps you around Minnesota?

It's the friends that I have there and my mom. I like going back to visit. I had a condo up in Minneapolis that I got rid of, though. I think I spent like twelve days there because I just got so busy with new stuff. And LA is more invested in making music. I would go back to take breaks. Most of my friends that I grew up with that I’m still super tight with aren't in music, and it's nice to have people that are doing something completely different to balance things out.

And when you go back, do a lot of people recognize you? Do you have the ability to chill?

No, no ability to chill in Minnesota. Most places I can’t chill.

Yeah, I mean, you pull up in Minnesota and see some 6’7” white dude with a blonde top...

Exactly, I stand out at airports and everything. After the VMAs, it hit a new level because everyone had seen my face all over these news outlets. If I wear a hat, it helps a little bit.

From the past interviews with you I’ve seen, it seems like you've taken a lot of random risks where you're just like, “Oh, let me just move out to Montana and hang out with the homie out there.” What are some of the craziest risks you’ve taken?

The whole rap thing to me was a big risk at first. I didn't show my face on my songs. I had a job lined up for after school. I was going to open this office in Atlanta for the company I worked at.

And then taking the L when I got on probation in Georgia. I was like, “If I want to be a rapper, I need to get off probation.” Because if I got pulled over for a speeding ticket in my plea deal, I was going to go to jail for 18 months. From there, moved out to Montana and did a shitload of community service every day for 24 days.

I haven't really stayed put for longer than a couple of weeks at the time. Like going out to Atlanta and staying with 2 Chainz’s crew. They invited me out there to stay with them and make music. I think to have success, you just can’t be afraid of meeting new people and trying new things.

You’ve become synonymous with taking older songs and adding trap and distorted SoundCloud flare to them. Where did you get the idea to do that?

I heard a lot of music coming out that was sampled but didn't have hard drums on it. Like Kanye songs, Action Bronson songs. People like that would sample, but whenever they would use the sample, it would be some chill shit. But I thought, “yeah, what if I used hardass trap?”

There’s this genre called Phonk that formed on SoundCloud. It's inspired by Memphis Rap. And I just started making this music and instantly got grouped in with them. And then I was like, “wow, this is my style.” Found a bunch of producers in the Phonk space and I still work with some of them today.

I heard that you were more involved with the production on Marvelous. What was that like?

I learned how music works more, man. I used to just get the beats and rap over them. But I learned partly because I can't clear samples that often ‘cause of my explicit lyrics. So now I'll usually start sessions where we make it completely from scratch. A lot of the beats we make I'll go in with some references or inspiration or an idea, but then I actually know the notes now and all the keys. I had a lot more input on this album.

With “Betty,” where did you get the idea to use the Rickroll sample?

I thought about using that for a long time, I just didn’t think we could clear it. I recorded the song but one of the writers wasn't down with it. It's actually not Rick Astley’s song, he just sang it. We made our own version of it, copied it and then sampled that so we didn't have to clear the master. But one of the writers didn't like the language I was using, so I had to rewrite the whole song. That’s why it’s completely clean. I kept the same flow mostly and just changed a lot of words. But it's my first time I've ever dropped a clean song. It worked out fine.

What was your favorite song to make off the album?

I really like “Mrs. Worldwide.” The production on it is really Y2K, and I got into a zone when we were making that song, and the production is really, really in-depth. We were adding the littlest things to every part of the song. And I love the bars on that song. One of my favorite verses that I've written is the second verse. We were just hyped the whole time making it. It’s a classic Gravy-style song.

My brother is actually a huge fan of yours. He put me on you. So his question was: What's your favorite song that you've ever made?

I think my favorite song is probably “Gravy Train.” Because I love the Maxine Nightingale sample. If you had to hear what my style is, that's a perfect representation.

So when did you first realize you love MILFs?

My first experience was with this cougar when I was coming out of high school. I felt really cool around my friends. She was a doctor. I just felt extra cultured. I learned so much from this older gal. But I do wanna get it straight, I’m not obsessed with MILFs. I like women my own age, too. Once I started rapping about it and making some videos, the internet ran with it, so I had to show some love.

You do say on “Dancing In The Rain” that Lisa Ann was your first love.

I hung out with Lisa Ann two days ago. We were on a date in New York. She heard that song and loved it. And you could say we're pretty tight now [smiles]. Sometimes you just manifest your dreams with lyrics, that's crazy.

You were in the SoundCloud scene, and now there's a new wave like Yeat, Destroy Lonely, Sofaygo — are you into that new wave at all?

I'll listen to it. I think I became less of a consumer of new rap music once I became a rapper because it just saturated my life. And when I listen to music, a lot of times I like to get away from hip hop and stick with oldies, Rat Pack-type music.

You follow a bunch of interesting people on Instagram. So I just want to throw out a few names and figure out why you follow them. First: Maury Povich.

It's one of my favorite shows I've ever watched. His team just reached out to do something together. So hopefully you see some Gravy Maury pretty soon.

Michael Buble.

I was on a radio show in Canada and they asked who I wanted to collab with. I said Michael Buble. And he somehow heard that immediately. And his team hit me up. We FaceTimed and we're plotting on something. I mentioned a Christmas collab and he doesn't want to get into Christmas anymore. So it's going to be something wavy.

Nathan Fielder.

I put Lisa Ann onto Nathan For You. Dude, it's one of my favorite shows ever. And she'd never seen it. Hilarious. Love Nathan Fielder. I wish I could meet that dude. I think he's one of the most genius people out there. Yeah. If anyone hasn't seen that, you got to watch Nathan For You.

Nardwuar.

Legend. I've always been a fan of Nardwuar. I haven't ever met him. He said that he came to my show one time in Vancouver. He's subtle. If he's not going to do the interview, he doesn't dress up. He just looks regular. Hannibal Burress did the same thing. Nardwuar told me to use less backing vocals, so I did.

Final one. Tommy Chong.

Cheech and Chong, man! I think they must have used my song in a video or something. And then I haven't talked to Cheech but Tommy Chong and I have gone back and forth a lot. They want to link up and smoke. I feel bad. I flaked on them three times because I got busy. Is that fucked up? Flaking on Cheech and Chong? I gotta hit them when I get back to LA.

Is there anyone that you follow on IG who you're trying to get the follow back from?

Sofia Vergara for sure. Need that. That's it. Can't give anyone else attention at that point.

So you're single now, but ladies love you. 6’7 dude, funny rapper. They like you a lot. And it happens to be cuffing season, so help some of the gentlemen out there. Help some of the fellas with some game.

Got to be confident, man. I think the reason that part of why I came into the game with confidence in hip hop was because I had to learn how to have game from an early age. I was in the skater crew in my hometown. All my homies are good-looking, and growing up I had acne and was skinny. I had to learn how to have game in order to mess with the same girls that my friends were pulling. When I went to college, I was like, “you know what? I'm just going to act way sicker than I am.” And then it becomes that way. I literally went to my first college party and introduced myself as Pegasus to everybody, and then it just stuck. That was the first step right there. Come in with confidence, whether you think you're sick or not. It's going to feel hard the first time. But introduce yourself as Pegasus, man, that's the key.

Photography, creative direction and production: Savanna Ruedy
Styling: Emily Bess
Hair: Gabriella Mancha
Makeup: Dennese Rodriguez
Set design: @DripDoMe
Assistant producer: Sarah Abri
Photography assistant: Caitlin Kelly
Models: Polina, August Laines

Music

Tei Shi Takes Us on Tour in Williamsburg

Photography by Andy Martinez / Story by Ivan Guzman