A Deep Dive into the World of Lil Mabu
Who is Lil Mabu?
In 2020, a 15-year-old kid from New York dropped “Miss Me,” an autotune-heavy bubblegum rap song under the name of Lil Mabu. The track amassed a total of 300k views on YouTube, but a few years and a style change later, Lil Mabu has become one of the most polarizing and viral artists in 2023.
Lil Mabu would go on to drop “Trip to the Hood” and “Mathematical Disrespect” within a few months of each other this year, raking in over 50 million views on YouTube and over 150 million listens on Spotify.
Clearly, Lil Mabu is turning enough heads, but who exactly is he? How did he go from a relatively unknown rapper to one of the biggest rap sensations of the year? These are some of the questions we’ll address in this article so you can get a clearer look into how artists go viral.
Lil Mabu’s Origin Story
Born Matthew DeLuca, Lil Mabu grew up in New York’s Upper East Side in his parents' condo. Following a relatively normal upbringing, DeLuca attended Collegiate School, a private school that John F. Kennedy Jr. attended.
He started making music back in 2019, but only started gaining popularity in 2020 when he dropped the aforementioned “Miss Me.” The track is a far cry from what the New York Drill he’d be making just a few years later, but his sing-songy flow mixed with trendy production made him a relatable artist for younger people to get into.
Before focusing on his music, Lil Mabu was apparently a model student. He had previously won the 69th Annual Jack Woodruff Memorial Public Speaking Competition and the Jamie Porter Cup for excellence in writing, paving the way to a career in the public sphere.
That same year, Lil Mabu would hop on WMSC Radio 90.3 to talk about what he believed sets him apart from the competition and his career trajectory. Though this came long before his virality, the brief chat saw him tease the imminent launch of a drill track he had been working on.
In May 2021, Lil Mabu switched courses and reaped the benefits of it. He released the drill-inspired “Demon Time” to moderate success, garnering just under 2 million views since, but it was really “Trip to the Hood” that changed his trajectory.
The controversial song saw Lil Mabu escape his upper-echelon lifestyle to go visit, well, the hood. Its humoristic vibe painted him as comic and charismatic but it also sparked up debates on his background and authenticity. He followed up that track with “Mathematical Disrespect,” a single whose live performance got more views in two months than his previous single has in four. His latest single “Rich Scholar” amasses 6.3 million views in 3 weeks.
Clearly, Mabu is doing something right for his popularity to continue surging even after one viral single.
While drill is among the most popular subgenres of hip hop right now, Lil Mabu’s style represents a wholly different take on it compared to his peers. Before he passed, Pop Smoke was deemed to be the one to change how drill music would be perceived in the city, but it’s clear Lil Mabu isn’t picking up where Smoke left off.
Specifically with “Trip to the Hood,” Lil Mabu was able to get everyone watching thanks to its comedic storyline and competent production. Lil Mabu aggressively rapping in the streets of New York with a group behind him contrasted his cheery life with some of the difficulties many people live with.
Thus came the controversy, sites like New York Post, Pitchfork, and Complex all tried to put into words what made Lil Mabu so popular and why some didn’t like what he stood for. Despite a litany of reactions, Lil Mabu’s blueprint could offer other artists another way into public stardom.
Lil Mabu Leaned Into The Controversy
The controversy surrounding Lil Mabu isn’t all that dissimilar from white rappers with a jokey vibe that preceded him. The Lonely Island basked in humorous raps with aggressively 2010s beats backing them, while Lil Dicky survived mainly off of lewd jokes and playful bars. Sure, Lil Mabu’s raps aren’t as blatantly satirical, but they do offer something wildly different than everyone else in the city, regardless of perceived quality.
If there’s a lesson to learn from Lil Mabu’s ascension for aspiring artists, it’s that jaw-dropping decisions and controversy are easy ways to get noticed. That’s not to say artists should be leaning into gimmicks and blatant PR moves, but the music (and visuals) should tell a story that makes people want to learn about them.
Making a good song is one thing, but giving listeners a reason to dig into your life or catalogue will go a long way in keeping people interested.
Think of Ice Spice as a local comparison. “Munch” isn’t a world-changing track, nor did it flip New York drill on its head, but thanks to a creative music video, ear-wormy hook, and mesmerizing personability from the rapper, it’s easy to understand why people didn’t dismiss her as a one-hit-wonder.
The same could be said about Lil Mabu. His origin story remains a hot point of contention, while his songs and videos are wild enough to entice more people to tune in.
Capitalizing On Virality
Lil Mabu doesn’t have an album out yet, but he does have an EP from 2022 that serves as an important stepping stone for what he achieved in 2023. Striking while the iron is hot will help the 18-year-old rapper maintain his popularity and could even result in a hit bigger than both “Mathematical Disrespect” and “Trip to the Hood,” which furthers his mythos without compromising what makes him who he is to his fans.
Consistency and originality are key, especially when that turns into articles from other publications covering why someone blew up and why certain people are either happy or frustrated with them. Even some of the more critical press can be useful as not everyone thinks unilaterally. Take Pitchfork, for example. Even if the publication isn’t that impressed with Lil Mabu’s antics, a readership level similar to Pitchfork’s could help draw even more eyes to an increasing pool of fans.
If you have an idea and think it’ll turn heads, then it most likely can if you find a way to get it heard by the right people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Lil Mabu from?
Lil Mabu grew up in New York’s Upper East Side.
How old is Lil Mabu?
Lil Mabu is 18 years old and was born on April 4, 2005.
What is Lil Mabu’s real name?
Lil Mabu’s real name is Matthew DeLuca.
Who is Lil Mabu signed to?
Lil Mabu is currently an unsigned artist operating independently.
What was Lil Mabu's breakout song?
Lil Mabu gained recognition with his track "Mathematical Disrespect" which quickly became a hit among hip hop fans. The track showcased his raw talent and unique style.
Who influenced Lil Mabu's music style?
Lil Mabu draws inspiration from various artists, genres, and personal experiences. He has cited Jay-Z, Tupac, and Eminem among his influences. However, he's managed to carve out his unique style that sets him apart.
What's next for Lil Mabu?
While we can't predict the future, if his past work is anything to go by, Lil Mabu is bound to continue making waves in the music industry.
How can I stay updated with Lil Mabu's music?
The best way to stay updated with Lil Mabu's music is to follow him on his official social media accounts. He often updates his fans about upcoming projects and performances through these platforms.
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