22Gz can’t stop smiling. It’s a vast and cheesy grin, and if you look closely enough, one corner of his mouth stretches a little longer than the other. It’s the kind of expression you’d expect to catch on the face of a buzzing young artist who is just now growing accustomed to his budding celebrity for the first time. Or, depending on the angle, it could be perceived as the smirk of a villain whose plot has not yet been revealed. On this overcast Thursday afternoon in early February, 22Gz’s confident mug fits both descriptions.

A rainy week in New York City has confined the rapper to an apartment in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. It’s a cozy multi-bedroom space that belongs to his producer, TeddyDaDon, adorned with family portraits and furniture only a mother would purchase. In a bedroom tucked around the corner from the front door, 22Gz balances on the side of a bench, carefully rolling a blunt. He’s deep into a passionate discussion with TeddyDaDon and his nephew about scamming. Specifically, they’re talking about using fake dollar bills to score ounces of marijuana. They’re careful not to implicate themselves in these amateur heists, but their deep knowledge of the topic betrays their innocence.

“Don’t worry, we’re not doing drug transactions in here,” 22Gz says, smirking. 

Moments later, posing for photos for this story, 22Gz shields his face with a BAPE hoodie as he cracks up between takes, poking fun at the sheer awkwardness of the moment. His smile is even bigger and more mischievous than before.  

“I’m happy, because I know what the worst could be,” he says. “Shit can always go left. So I thank God and I’m happy. I work hard to make sure shit will never turn left again.”