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With hip-hops rise into the dominant culture over the last decade, we are approaching an era of hip-hop reminiscent of the late 20th century with rock and roll. An overwhelming number of rappers are appearing and disappearing before our eyes – one hit wonders. Like Soft Cell and Dexy’s Midnight Runners (or rather “Tainted Love” and “Come on Eileen”), rappers in 2018 only last long as their songs are on the charts, so what makes new artists stand out?

“What planet am I on?” asks Michael White IV, better known as Trippie Redd, on his December 2017 single “Dark Knight Dummo.” White is only 18 Earth years old, however he is not of this planet. Redd takes the David Bowie approach to stardom. He, like many other hip-hop up and comers in the post-Drake era, embodies a character. Watch one of his music videos (below) and you’ll see. In his “Hellboy” video, he is a demon slaying anti-hero video-game protagonist in the vein of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s Alucard. The 2017 music video features 3D graphics reminiscent of PlayStation 2 games, games that Redd grew up playing. In his latest video, for “Dark Knight Dummo,” he and a group of survivors dressed in army fatigues defend a cabin from oncoming zombies with a variety of firearms and power tools. This music video also echoes the culture that Trippie Redd consumed in his adolescence, with its genre-film-like film making and themes of zombie slaying straight out of Resident Evil. His black and sometimes blood-red hair, jaundiced-looking skin, and dark eyes evoke vampiric or demonic imagery. This is where Trippie Redd’s staying power may come from; This sense of nostalgia for mid 2000s video game and genre film violence is what makes his fans – fellow teens – continue to follow him. He is a blood diamond in the rough – a true source of darkness in an age of over-saturation and blinding lights.

But will Trippie Redd last, or will he be another flash in the pan? He has passed the one hit wonder mark – but in a year or two, will he be a mainstay in hip-hop, or just the RnB vampire of memory?

Trippie Redd’s new mixtape “A Love Letter to You 2” is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music

— Written by Nick Amerkhanian