In today’s age of clout-chasing, trolling, and plain old social media fuckery, Polo G stands out by using great music and an authentic story to propel his budding stardom. The 20-year-old’s raps are filled with emotion and pain stemming from first-hand experiences, walking away from the streets, and the reality of being raised in one of the worst projects in Chicago.
When I first heard his breakout single “Finer Things,” I was sold.
“You got God on your side but it’s hard to do right / Don’t pay them haters no mind, you can be what you like / Tryna leave this in the past grinding for a new life.”
As much as these lines relate to Polo’s testimony making it out the mud, it also speaks to the majority of us pushing through adversity in an attempt to make something of ourselves in this thing called life.
All of Polo’s music videos rack up millions of views within days of release. His ability to create positive, motivational music disguised as trapped-out bangers yields an incredibly loyal fanbase and inspires hope for the state of hip-hop today. Strategically planning his every move and holding himself to the highest standards, Polo refuses to put out a mediocre song. The criteria is simple: each release has to be a hit — an agreement he has yet to break.
Polo G describes himself as versatile, effortlessly switching between conscious records and turn-up. Most recently, Polo enlisted Lil Tjay for their collaborative record “Pop Out,” which currently sits at almost 50 million views on Youtube alone. The visual sees him rocking a glistening Capalot chain, which he also wore to our interview and serves as a reminder of how far he’s come.
From having spent time locked up in county jail to moving his family to Calabasas, Polo G now spends the majority of his time locked in the studio — by choice. I spoke with him about his forthcoming album Die A Legend, 50 Cent’s influence, the term “capalot,” and more at The Hundreds HQ.
Hailing from one of the worst projects in Chicago, what were you seeing every day?
It was a really humble beginning. It was a family sense. Although a lot of things go on, we’d still show love off the strength of our parents, etc. I was seeing the typical things every Chicago kid sees but more up close and personal. You see the average things: drug dealings, drama, violence, things of that sort. I was just maneuvering, trying to survive, becoming a product of my environment, but also being able to quickly pull myself away from that.
How were you able to do that?
Staying out of the way, staying lowkey. Growing up in the hood, that’s the hardest thing to do is stay out of the way, to not go outside sometimes, to not incorporate yourself into a lot of the drama that’s going on, parties, etc. Because one thing can lead to another.
What did your parents envision for you?
My mother personally knew I was very well-spoken and articulate, so she always wanted me to be a lawyer. My pops always told me he didn’t care what I did. If I was a janitor or whatever the case may be, as long as I was happy with what I’m doing and I was the best at it. He said he always had this feeling that I was gonna be somebody big.
How does he feel now?
He called it! [Laughs] He called it and it really happened.
You say you make heartfelt music. Was it hard for you to open up at all?
It was hard but it actually came naturally at first. Starting out, I used to be a straight hardcore rapper. I wanted to rap about gangbanging. When I made attempts to switch my lane up, it didn’t work. Over time, it was something I did consistently. Music’s been a coping mechanism for my pain. That’s the only way somebody can get the inside scoop of what’s going on with me. That’s my only way of letting that out. Other than that, it’ll be bottled in.
Your journey was so organic. What was it that the people were drawn to you?
Really my humble image. I could go hard with this music. I tell my story but I’m really vivid with it. You going to damn near feel like you were there in the situation I’m talking about. You going to feel it on a personal level no matter what it is you’ve been through. People connect with it that way.
I took off with the music by being consistent and being humble, too. That’s the biggest thing because I was always grateful for every step it took. When I first got 1,000 views, when I first got 10,000 views, when I first got 100,000 views, every step it took for me to get where I am today, I was grateful. I stayed consistent.
What are some goals you have to check off now?
To be the biggest rapper in the hip-hop industry one day, that’s my main goal. Drop nonstop music that’s going to reach the masses, that everybody’s going to rock with. Become bigger and bigger every day. I want a lot more Billboard records, platinum records.
How do you plan on doing that?
Simply staying creative and pushing out that content I know is going to be well-received. Because as an artist, you always know what song is going to be the hit song. You see the signs within it. You get that feedback, you can’t stop playing it. All I know is to keep doing what I’ve been doing, but getting more creative and evolving.
I feel sometimes the records artists don’t think will blow up, blow up. The ones that take 20 minutes in the studio.
But that’s never the case for me because I’m really intentional with what I do. I’m not the type of person to go into the studio and make 20 songs. I probably leave with 2 songs and both of them I know for a fact I rock with, rather than having all these to choose from. Everything I end up putting all my time into is it.
What sets you apart from other street rappers?
The script, the storytelling, the approach I take with music and how I take it seriously. I know a lot of rappers — I wouldn’t frown upon it, but they freestyle lyrics or go about it a different way. I like to write all my songs and don’t release songs I don’t like. Everything I make is hitting.
You say, “I was still hanging in the hood before I got the deal.” How hard was it for you to walk away from the streets?
It was hard considering that’s something you do every day. It’s almost like a habit, but it’s easier knowing it’s either this or that. This is benefitting me more, whereas that is gonna leave me in the same spot for the rest of my life.
Talk about linking with Lil Tjay on “Pop Out.”
That came along because both of us were up onto each other’s music. Both of us respected each other musically. Baroline [Polo’s A&R] put the icing on the cake when she linked us up. We instantly made the song.
How has your success affected your outlook on life?
My success changed my outlook on life for the better. It made me see that a lot of things ain’t worth it. A lot of things I could avoid if I switch up my mindset, they’ll be better for me rather than worse.
On “Battle Cry,” you talk about remaining the same person you always were. How do you stay the same?
Never losing sight of what got me here. Also realizing that as quick as everything came for me, it could be taken away. I don’t want to take it for granted at all.
How would it be taken from you?
By taking it for granted, becoming lazy or not sticking to the same plans. Losing sight of what the main focus is, the main things to accomplish.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
No matter what, never doubt yourself. You can do this. No matter who’s supporting, you got the willpower to take control of your situation — your life period. Work hard and you’re going to get whatever it is you want. Whatever you set your eyes on, you can get it.
What did you do with your first advance?
I went and got a Rolex. I bought my first chain, then I got a crib in Calabasas. [Laughs] I was crib shopping for a month or two. I was staying in an Airbnb for a minute, then I finally ended up getting my crib. Ever since then, I’ve been chilling. I got my mom a crib and a car. I got her a Mercedes Benz.
What is life like away from the city?
I love Calabasas because I’m not used to this weather. Where I’m from, it’s freezing cold around this time. You only get good sunny days in one period, and that’s the summertime. I’m really receptive towards that. I don’t gotta worry about the same things I’d worry about in the city, running into somebody I’m beefing with, things of that sort.
Are you beefing with a lot of people?
Not really. Everybody got somebody who dislikes them for whatever reason.
What do you say to your haters?
Can’t pay ‘em any mind. [Laughs]
On “Finer Things,” you talk about buying back property in the hood with these millions. What does that look like 10 years down the line?
Something that will be accomplished, that I’ll look at as a big achievement. Put me over the top as far as being happy as a person knowing I really made that happened.
Are you planning on renovating it?
I’ll probably slap my name on a building or something. Polo G Apartments. [Laughs]
“My friends die too, I know that feeling. I pop that ecstasy to help me with that healing.” How has music been a form of therapy for you?
It’s been one of the best forms of therapy. An outlet because instead of doing the other things — like take drugs or be overly indulged in the streets to occupy my mind from what I’m going through — music gave me a way to express myself and get all the feelings I was bottling in off my chest.
Last time we spoke, you mentioned you were sober. Have you been clean?
Yeah, I’ve been clean. For real. I’ve been chilling, been getting my mind right, doing my shows, coming back home, the same thing all over again. It’s been a couple of months now.
What is your lifestyle like now?
Really, I’m locked in right now. It’s time for me to go 10 times harder than I usually do. I got a little bit of pressure on me. Coming up as an artist, there are still roadblocks placed in my way. Because people still look at me as an up and coming artist no matter what it is I do. I gotta keep pushing until I break through that wall.
What do you think it’s gonna take?
Just consistency, that’s all it’s going to take. Gaining new fans every day.
What do you want your legacy to be?
That I was a person that gave my all into any and everything I did no matter what it was. I also want to be known as a person with a big heart. Someone who looked out for everybody and did what he could to make the world a better place.
“Gang With Me” has a sample from 50 Cent’s “Many Men.” Who put you on to 50 Cent and what about that song attracted you to it?
Growing up, I used to listen to the song heavily because my uncle used to always play the song, That was his favorite song. Somewhere down the line, I reverted back to that. Got back in the same mindset. I was doing my own thing then incorporated into this song. It sounded perfect.
Do you ever get as petty as 50?
Nah, 50 a different breed of dude. [chuckles] You can’t do anything but respect him.
Before you were signed, you worked with Young Chop. How was he a mentor to you?
Chop was more a partner rather than a mentor. A partner in this game to get me to see what I had in my hands, what I had available to me. Someone who helped me get what I needed, as far as the opportunities I had that I couldn’t really understand fully on my own. Back then, I used to do my own thing. I was dolo. I met him and obtained new people to partner up with.
Does he still play a hand in your music at all?
I still rock with Chop but we parted ways. People got their own new situations. New things come along, you outgrow each other. Not on bad terms, you can’t force certain things to fit a situation. We just let it happen naturally. It ain’t like “oh yeah you cut him off,” nothing like that.
What was it like working with someone so influential on your childhood & sound?
It was pretty cool to be around him knowing I listened to a lot of his work growing up, considering the Chief Keef records and everything. That’s cool I reached a point in my career where I could be around the same people I came up rocking with.
How’s your fan base in Chicago compare to out here?
They don’t compare. The fan base in Chicago is crazy. It ain’t really nowhere I can go without somebody noticing me. Whereas California is so big, I probably got a group of people that know me right here, a group of people right there, but it’s not as consistent as in Chicago.
Has money brought you happiness?
Money bought me comfortability. Money makes life way more convenient than it used to be. You’re going to still battle the same demons you were battling before you got rich, though. Because if all you have is money, that won’t give you a new mindset really.
What do you have to lose?
I got a career. I got a baby. I got a mama to take care of, a little sister, a little brother. I have to make sure they’re in the best schools. I got a lot at stake.
Your baby is due in July. How does it feel to know you’re going to be a father?
It’s a great feeling. I was pretty happy when I got the news that it was gonna be a boy. Like a little me running around!
Is there a name yet?
Tremonte. That’s my middle name. I always wanted it to be my first name.
Is he going to be a rapper?
I don’t know but whenever I play music, he starts kicking. To get that reaction, he probably will end up coming out rapping. [Laughs]
Your chain says Capalot, I know that’s your brand. How does that compare to Atlanta’s “no cap”?
That’s two totally different connotations. In Atlanta, they saying you’re lying. You’re fronting your moves. In Chicago, that means you’re a stand-up dude. You the person that’s going to react the most in whatever situation.
What can we expect from Die a Legend in May?
It’s the first project I ever did or put together. I’m usually known for just dropping singles. This time, I’m dropping a 13-song tape. Just heat, all Polo G. I just want folks to really get to know me more as an artist, to see I can do more than just one thing. I didn’t want anything to take away from me showing that. I ended up turning around and putting a feature on the record, but you gotta be in tune to see who that is!
Photos by Ben Shmikler