SMILEZ is ready to debut himself as an artist, with a brand unlike any other. Embodying his name and doing everything as vibrant as the color yellow, while attaching a smiley face in any given instant, the Dallas-born, Los Angeles-raised native recently unleashed his first record ever: “Head Shoulders.” The instant banger ensues nostalgia upon all those who hear it, sampling the famed phrase “head, shoulders, knees, toes!”
If that’s not enough to celebrate, SMILEZ also has the ultimate cosign from New York’s own Tekashi 6ix9ine. A friendship that can hardly be explained into words, SMILEZ is actually the only independent feature on 6ix9ine’s debut album, Tattletales. The two created “Charlie” in the comfort of 6ix9ine’s “safe house,” surrounded by FBI agents.
Describing himself as a “new rapper from Los Angeles,” he states, “I’m always trying to figure out who I am actually.” Regardless, SMILEZ has one of the dopest, most lit merch lines we’ve seen in 2020. With each time, he reminds fans to be happy at all times, no matter what life hits you with, “I just want to make every sad girl in the world happy” he says.
Flaunt caught up with Smilez via FaceTime, who was located at his headquarters with nothing but a yellow background and some smiles. Read below to discuss how he got his name, his biggest influences, friendship with 6ix9ine, and debuting himself as an artist.
Growing up in LA, what was the household like growing up?
Well I’m originally from Dallas, so I lived there until I was 12 then moved to LA with my family. Being from Middle America made me naturally rebellious from everything because it’s so clean cut. I really grew up here [LA], I was in love with music since I was 9 years old. I was into punk rock when I was younger. I knew I wanted to be in music somewhere, either be in a band or be a rapper. LA’s more accepted to be weird. Neither of my parents are very musical, they have their favorite artists but it’s not like we’d talk about music all the time. They have their one or 2 favorite albums, that’s it. My older brother was always into hip-hop, would always bump Snoop Dogg and showed me Eminem when I was way too young to understand what’s going on.
Who else were you listening to coming up?
I wasn’t even into hip-hop at first. My older brother’s 10 years older than me, he loved hip-hop so he showed me Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Dr. Dre at a really young age. I knew they existed and I liked them, but it didn’t feel like my own thing. I always thought that’s my brother’s thing. When I found punk rock — Blink 182, Green Day — that’s the first type of music I really gravitated to.
As I got older and started writing my own music, the stories told in hip-hop is why I was so drawn to it. When you hear a song and get hit by a lyric you relate to, it’s like whoa. There’s so many “whoa” moments in hip-hop, that’s what made me go into the scene.
How’d you get your name?
I literally dyed my hair yellow and figured I should do a smiley face on it. I saw something on Instagram and thought “that’d be hilarious to do my hair like that.” Just do it. Literally after I dyed my hair yellow, I figured I might as well embody this character. What name fits this ridiculous hairstyle? Introducing yourself as “hey I’m SMILEZ” is hilarious, it’s all kind of a joke.
It’s all a joke?
Not really. I take myself seriously to a certain extent but the name, I thought it was funny and out there.
Debut single “Head, Shoulders,” out now! How you feeling?
I feel great honestly, I’m so excited about it. We’re working on that song for a minute. The beat’s so crazy, we went to Miami and recorded that with Rvssian. He’s a monster in the studio. Every bit he’s playing was like “what the hell? What are you doing? This is crazy.” I’m excited because it’s the first one out.
How did you originally meet 6ix9ine?
I met 6ix9ine 2 years ago. I’d gotten booked to open for him in Europe for a week of shows. I never actually met him, it was through my agent at the time. Even that too, I wasn’t doing that much 2 years ago. Just got a booking agent, he’d already posted a flyer of the tour. Me being over the top and overly ambitious, I said “try and get me on this tour, just him up.” They said “okay, we can get you a couple of shows.”
We did the shows. Oddly enough me and my crew, him and his friends all got along super well. Way too well. Certain rappers you do shows with, you don’t know if you’re going to vibe with them. Some people have that vibe of “I’m doing my show, I’m not here to fucking chill.” We all clicked, on this “fuck it, let’s have a blast. What the hell, we’re in Europe.” We all became really good friends from that, then stayed in touch.
Can you describe your guys’ friendship?
It’s really strange. Both of us work in similar ways when it comes to music. The way my team’s set up is similar to how his team’s set up. All of our friends being friends brought us together. He’s definitely funny as fuck, I’m out there too. We’d hang out on tour a lot, I’d see him in New York sometimes after we toured. That was 2 years ago, during a big crazy time period for him. He’s in the middle of all that bullshit. We connect because we both don’t take things so seriously. I’m never like “omg hey 69, you’re the shit.” It’s hard to describe, but neither of us care about shit like that. It’s natural.
How’s it feel to be the only feature who's independent on 6ix9ine’s album?
I love it, I’ve been joking about it all day. With him, he’s so sporadic. I knew we had the song together, I’d done a couple verses, but you never know with him. The night before the album, he could say “no, I don’t want this song! Fuck this, we’re redoing it.” Yesterday I’m like “okay, he better had still put me on the album.” It’s obviously a huge look for me and my career. I feel grateful for the opportunity. I’m excited. It’s funny because I never thought I’d be on a Tekashi album.
That’s literally how my life ended up happening, one step after the other. [laughs] All of a sudden, I became friends with him. I was around when he’s recording. He said “why don’t we do a verse?” Alright, let’s go. He let me know he was going to put it on his album, I said “fuck yeah, do it.” It feels great to be among the other artists on the album. Nicki Minaj is the feature on the next song so I’ve been having a field day with that. I’m telling people “oh no, track 6 isn’t me. It’s Nicki Minaj, I’m track 5.” It’s crazy, but it’s cool.
Talk about the fire merch you have.
As you can see, I'm all yellow all the time. We have a lot of cool shit. As an artist, sticking to one color was exciting to me. I was always into fashion. That idea of wearing one color was hilarious first of all, and second actually cool to do. After that, we wanted to make as many out there outfits. We have these great hoodies, we plan to make matching pants with them. We have Corona masks with the smile on them. We have sunglasses. I like it.
Greatest memory on tour?
The 69 tour in Europe, my friend DJ Rome The Emperor is my DJ on tour. Before we played a show in Sweden, 2 of my friends were hanging out with 6ix9ine in his room. 6ix9ine had slipped away from his security somehow. My friend calls me “6 is in the room chillin’, we’re drinking come by.” My friends drink like crazy, 6ix9ine doesn’t drink like crazy. I get to the room, they’re taking shots. I’m sober 5 years so I’m witnessing it all. I see 6ix9ine trying to keep up with my homies like “oh shit, this isn’t good.” I told my friends “remember guys, you don’t have to play to a sold-out arena in 2 hours, he does. Let’s chill.” My friends drank him under the table. Before the show, 6ix9ine was passed out backstage.
His security guards were chasing my friends around like “get the fuck away from him!” Trying to be like ”dude, what did you do?!” That was hilarious. Literally 6ix9ine wakes up 15 minutes before he goes on, splashes some water on his face, goes on stage, and rocks the shit. I don’t know how he did it. You couldn’t tell he was drunk besides when he’d talk in between songs. He kept trying to do super drunk: “I’m not gonna lie, I’m fucked up!” He’s screaming. After the show, my DJ got so thrashed that he lost his passport, wallet, cellphone, everything. He had to stay in Sweden for an extra 2 weeks and wait for the embassy to get him a new passport. That’s the bar we like to set for tour. [laughs]
Anything else you’d like to let us know?
Expect the most. I’m excited, “Head Shoulders” video coming out. When people see the visual, they’re going to get what I’m about. I’m excited about that.