Birmingham, Alabama rapper YBN Nahmir's rise to fame has been rapid. While he first gained an audience among gamers for rapping while playing GTA V, the 17-year-old's career exploded with his viral hit “Rubbin Off the Paint." Its accompanying video, which features Nahmir waving around a gun while sporting an eye-catching pink MCM backpack, has over 43 million views as of this writing. He will also be on his first headlining trek, the Coast 2 Coast Tour, starting Nov. 24.
Today, Complex premieres Nahmir's video version of his freestyle over Lil Pump's “Gucci Gang.” You can watch it above. We also spoke with YBN Nahmir to hear about the ups, downs, and complicated legal issues arising from his newfound fame.
First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on having a Billboard Hot 100 hit. How did it feel when you first found out about that?
Appreciate it. It kind of felt like a dream to be honest, because everything happened so fast. It still don’t feel real. It’s going to hit me soon, but it still feels like it’s fake. It happened so fast and it’s going too good. Everybody is so surprised that it happened, and I’m just happy that I made it. I’m glad, and everybody is proud of me.
I know you're in your senior year, but you don't go to an actual school anymore right?
Yeah. Right now I got online classes. I started them a little bit, but I’ve been working so I haven’t really been able to get to it.
How is it not being in school everyday and doing this full time?
It’s not really too bad because the work I be doing out of school feels just like school—rehearsing and writing songs. It’s not like I’m just sitting around and being bored all day and watching TV.
You have kind of a funny story about where your rap name comes from. It goes back to your gaming days?
Right. “Nahmir” comes from one of my homeboys named K-Mort and [his brother] Nassir. [K-Mort's] real name is Shamir. They had some cool names, you feel me? I was cool with them back then. I was real young and always hanging with the older group. They always treated me like the little bro so I was just like, I want to be like these niggas. Shamir and Nassir, that shit sound cold, so let me think of something I can put my name as. That’s why my name is Nahmir—because [it’s] Nassir and Shamir put together. And then my real name starts with an N, because my real name’s Nick. So I was like, yeah, this shit hard, let me stick with it. I was thinking about changing it, but then I had too much fame on my name already.
What does YBN stand for?
YBN stands for Young Boss Niggas.
Your very first song you put up on SoundCloud was “Mopsticks.” What is that slang for? Is that a term you came up with?
“Mopsticks” is not really my first song. It’s just the first song I uploaded on SoundCloud. But a mopstick is a pistol or any type of gun. It means you got it on you all the time.
Is that a term that you heard around or that you came up with?
Mostly everybody down here say it.
You've been rapping for a long time—there are videos of you rapping when you were 12, 13 years old. How have you gotten better? Are there particular aspects of what you do that you have tried to improve in order to get where you are now?
The stuff that I really worked on was slowing down, not rapping too too fast. Keeping my pace. Not rapping about the same shit all the time, be different and come up with my own style. I came up with my own style now.
If you had to put it into words, how would you describe your style?
One of the things that really blew the song up was coming out on WorldStar. How did that all get started?
First, I uploaded the song and the music video to my YouTube. Then next thing you know, Elevator hit me up and they uploaded the audio. It was going crazy on the internet. Then WorldStar just DM’d me and was like, “We want to fuck with ‘Rubbin Off the Paint.’” In my head I’m like, what the fuck, WorldStar just DM’d me! Who is going to turn down WorldStar, you know? They uploaded it and it goes crazy and in one day it got a mil.
What do you think when you see these numbers—40 million views? Does it even seem real?
It don’t seem real, to be honest. I try not to look at it because I try to keep my life the way it was. I don’t want to get too big-headed or too cocky and shit. I try to keep everything normal. I try not to look at my views or look at my videos. I got a bunch of clothes that I've bought already, but I’m still in the same clothes that I already had. I ain’t changed nothing for real. When I’m in L.A., I have a house out there now, but I keep everything smooth when I’m in my home campus. I don’t want to move wrong.
You shout out your friends Lil Corey and Lil Christian in the song. From the way you talk about them, I assume they’re locked up. Have they heard the song?
Yeah, I think they heard the song. I don’t know how the fuck they got iPhones in there, but mostly everybody I know, they got iPhones in there, so they probably heard the song already.
You have an idea of how they feel about getting shouted out on one of the most popular songs in the country?
I really didn’t talk to them. I can’t talk to them because they’re in a jail where they can’t get phone calls because they're in there for murder charges. Christian got 23 years and Corey got 22, so it’s hard to speak to them. So I haven’t spoken to them about it, but it’s probably a chance they heard it.
Why do you think “Rubbin Off the Paint” has struck a chord with so many people? What do you think it is about the song and the video—other than your pink backpack, which is great?
I mean, it goes crazy. I’m just different with it. I ain't trying to be like nobody. I was rapping about stuff that older people can relate to, younger people can relate to, and it was on an arcade type of beat. It wasn’t on no simple drum beat. I was different with the shit I did. I made sure I did some shit that nobody had done before.
Everything in that video was different. Everybody knew I put the pink MCM backpack on because nobody would think of that with a gun in they hands, on some extra shit. And rapping in the store—it was just a bunch of extra shit I did. I’m smart with my shit. I had to think out the box.
I know one of the things you ran into complications with when more people started listening to you was that some of the beats you used were leased rather than bought. Can you tell me about what happened with that?
You talking about the copyright and money problems and shit like that?
I mean, the only problem I really had was with “Rubbin Off the Paint.” Somebody bought the beat. He actually sold the beat to somebody before I bought it. We tried to buy the beat back, but they holding the beat from us. We trying to get everything straight and trying to get the beat, but I done lost so much money out of the song. I haven’t earned nothing.
And this is “Rubbin Off the Paint” we’re talking about?
Yeah this is “Rubbin Off the Paint.” All my other songs, those are my beats so I’m getting money off of it. But “Rubbin Off the Paint,” I haven’t earned no money off of it. Like, the producer sold the beat, and now the people who got the beat are trying to sell it.
Even though the song just blew up, there are people going through your internet history and doing videos of “YBN Nahmir Before He Was Famous” and finding your old GTA V videos and early songs and all that kind of stuff. How do you feel about people going back through the last four or five years of your life to find out about you?
I mean, it’s funny to me because I didn’t put my real life on the internet, so people really don’t know what’s going on. They just know the gaming side of me. But it’s really funny though. It’s cool and I like how they put the shit up there. It’s cool, but that wasn’t really everything about me. They didn’t get the full background.
I would see if they hit me up and got my real background, but they put it up like I was a gaming nerd or I didn’t go outside or something. But it was cool though. I appreciate everything that they did. I don’t got no regrets about playing the game or nothing, I’m not tripping off none of that.
How are people in Birmingham reacting to your success?
Mostly everybody, they going crazy because I put the city on. I put Birmingham on the map. Nobody was thinking about Birmingham. If they think about Birmingham, they would think about the civil rights movement, or the 16th [Street] Baptist Church, or farms or something like that. I opened that door and put that light on my city and everybody going crazy.
There are a couple people that ain’t really seen me in person in my city that’s like, this nigga not living like that, he a bitch, and all that extra shit. I’m like, my nigga, you would not say that to my face. It’s a little hate going on. My city, it’s a bunch of hate and a bunch of love, but I fuck with everybody at the end of the day. It’s my city and I’m still going to put on for the 205.
You still have any time to play GTA V, or are you too busy?
I’m way too busy. I don’t really play the game no more. Before this rapping shit really popped off, I didn’t play the Xbox for a year or two.
I saw that you remixed Tay-K’s “The Race.” Why that song?
I felt that was mandatory, because on “Rubbin Off the Paint” I said, “Free Lil Tay/Know I keep a K, but he not Tay-K,” so people thought I was dissing him. So in “The Race” I just mentioned at the end of the song. I was like, I didn’t diss that nigga. People thought I dissed him. So to make it clear, I remixed the song and said I didn’t diss him. I got that out the air so people could stop asking me, did I diss Tay-K? It started to get annoying, and I fuck with Tay-K, you feel me? His shit go hard.
Why redo “Gucci Gang’?
I felt like I had to remix that too because it’s one of the most popping songs out right now, so I felt like I had to get on the instrumental. I took the song and made it mine, that’s just a fact. I made it my own style. I put my own swag into it.
Because I never really heard Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang.” I just knew “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang.” I never knew the real words. So I just took my own style to it and my own swag, and that’s why it sounds different from the real “Gucci Gang.” I felt like I had to do that shit.
Speaking of remixes, what did you think of Vince Staples’ remix of your song?
People remixing my song, I fuck with it. But I don’t really listen to the remixes because I’ve been so busy. But the ones that I heard, they go crazy.
What else do you want people to know about YBN Nahmir?
That I’m not going to lie to y’all. That I’m not going to lie to my fans and not going to pump-fake about who I am. Most niggas don’t know me in person. So don’t come at me like, “Oh you not living like that,” my nigga, if you never seen me in person. And I’m out the way right now, I’m not worried about none of that. I’m trying to get some money. I encourage everybody to chase they dreams and don’t worry about status. Just do your thing.