The past year has been a pivotal moment of change for musical artist Polo G. The 22-year-old rapper born Taurus Tremani Bartlett, better known as Polo G, is currently in his second week occupying the highly-coveted number-one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list with his single “RAPSTAR” which, as if the stars aligned, released fortuitously at the start of Taurus season.
Aptly titled, the upbeat track delivers a sweet, rhythmic flow that grapples with the ups and downs of the indulgent Rap star life. The first day the single was released, it debuted at number one on Apple Music and Spotify garnering over 2.7 million streams on the latter. “It was really the moment I dropped the song that I just knew,” said Polo. “Before it premiered, I had more than one hundred thousand people waiting in the premier line. Also, just the type of interactions I was getting from TikTok and Instagram prepping people that this song was coming, that’s when I knew for a fact it was going to be something big.”
Polo first gained traction in the music world in 2018 where, like many major artists of his generation, he began releasing music on the internet with platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and SoundCloud where his tracks organically generated millions of views. “I realized I wanted to rap right before I started doing it. I had been playing with it for a little while, then I shot my very first video around three years ago. Ever since then I kept on going,” said Polo. He started going by the name “Polo G” homaging his love of wearing Ralph Lauren Polo. “That was always my go to outfit when I went on lunch or anything important related to school. That was a big day for me when I would pop out in a Polo fit,” said Polo.
His most recent second studio album, The GOAT, released in 2020 cemented his presence in music with various tracks making the Billboard charts such as “Martin & Gina” and “Flex” featuring the late Juice Wrld. Polo subsequently earned himself several accolades including a spot on XXL’s 2020 Freshman class and the 2021 Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list under the music category.
However what’s remained a constant since his start is Polo’s dedication to melodic lyricism and unique instrumental beats that have set his sound apart from the rest. “Everyone who knows me who’s a real Polo G fan knows that my go-to is a piano track,” he said. “It’s something that I found a liking to the more that I kept on rapping and found what’s tailored to my sound. I found a few things that I gravitate towards, anything with strings or piano is my main go-to source of beat.” The amalgamation of sounds is perhaps attributed to his North Chicago roots where anything and everything was playing in his childhood home. “The type of influences of music coming up in my neighborhood, everyone was heavily into Future and people like Chief Keef, they had a stronghold on the city. Just coming up from my own household, we listened to a little bit of everything. Whether it was R&B, Neo-Soul, Pop, Rap, whatever registered, we listened to it.”
Displaying his versatility as an artist, the nimble strums of “RAPSTAR” and its cross-genre sound was accidentally created alongside Swiss producer and ukulele player Einer Bankz, known for his videos of rappers performing acoustic versions of their songs over ukulele notes. “”RAPSTAR” was created mainly by me and Einer doing our thing, doing our usual videos and him freestyling the chords to the instrumental. After that, people actually wanted the song and I just recall times in the past where they ask for the song and then the actual song is nothing like the acoustic. There’d be so many people saying that they wish I’d put out the acoustic version. I just really want to stick with that, we just built the beat from there” said Polo.
Initially, Polo and Bankz hadn’t planned on releasing the song to the public. “I originally had I felt like it wouldn’t have registered with everybody who picked up on the song,” he said. “Despite how good the lyrics were, it seemed too much like a pop vibe and at the time I was more so rapping about the struggle stories. So it seemed like this was the better way to still be me but also mix it up.”
On the toes of his forthcoming album (which has yet to be publicly named), “RAPSTAR” has only given a taste of what Polo is ready to put out into the world. “I feel like this album is different from THE GOAT because I am stepping up my production and not only that, but using different beats I wouldn’t use, stepping out of the box with things. I got a star-studded feature list, so it’s really me tapping in with other artists and their fan bases, I feel like this is going to be my biggest project ever” said Polo.
When asked if he’s ready to perform live, the audible excitement in Polo’s tone perks up becoming apparent that he’s more than ready to get back out there. “I can’t wait to perform live again,” he said. “I’ve got 25 songs on my set list right now that I could perform and to mention my whole album that’s about to come out with around 20 songs on that track record. I miss hitting the stage and the type of impact you have on somebody with your music. When you see somebody singing your song word-for-word it means it really touched them in some type of way.”
With a number-one hit single and a new album in the works, Polo is taking the time to enjoy the sweeter things in life; like his two-year-old son Tremani, his new home in the luxurious Calabasas, California, and a prized sneaker collection. “I’m a huge shoe head,” Polo said. Yet the fame isn’t getting to Polo, it’s only fanning his flames. “[The fame] affects me in a positive way in order to see and experience life from a different perspective. Now I feel like I see everything differently, in a good way,” he said. These days, he’s been working on building his self-made brand, including a budding jewelry business and his own Capalot Records where Polo has signed and invested in various artists like Syracuse rapper Scorey and Yung LiV from Philadelphia.
On the verge of becoming one of today’s new music sensations, if there’s a single lesson Polo’s learned in his rise to stardom it’s to follow your instinct. “One thing I learned from my number one song is follow your gut feeling,” he said. “If you feel like something is it or you’re supposed to be doing this, follow your gut.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: JULIEN MITCHELL
STYLING: JOSEPH EINHORN
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