Blxst is Taking L.A. With Him on His Way to the Top

The L.A. native is injecting a fresh sound into West Coast hip-hop and R&B—and he's taking it to the world.

Blxst performing in Melbourne
Complex Original

Blxst performing in Melbourne

Blxst performing in Melbourne

Blxst doesn’t particularly enjoy interviews, he tells me. This isn’t because he’s arrogant or thinks he’s above them—he’s just shy. But it’s part of the job, so he does it anyway. “I struggle to elaborate, but I still put effort into it,” he says. We’re sitting in Red Bull’s Port Melbourne office, as their music division handles the distribution for Blxst’s label Evgle.​​​ Blxst is so quiet, initially, that I slide my phone a bit closer to make sure the mic picks his voice up, and I ask if he can speak a little louder. He shifts forward in his chair and lifts his voice. While his shyness remains a feature of our interview, as time elapses he becomes more comfortable.

It’s been a colossal 18 months for the L.A. rapper, who’s gone from a city legend to a star who’s garnered international acclaim. Blxst has a longstanding history as a producer, but the buzz around him began to take root in 2019 following the release of his joint project Sixtape with fellow L.A. native Bino Rideaux. The juxtaposition of Rideaux’s coarse flows and Blxst’s velvety tones across the project injected a fresh sound into West Coast hip-hop and R&B that captured local and international attention.

Blxst in Melbourne

It was in 2020, off the back of Sixtape, that Blxst’s co-owned record label Evgle partnered with Red Bull Records to release his debut EP, No Love Lost. In 2021 he followed up with his debut album, Before You Go. Blxst is in Australia totour the album, after roughly a month off since a North American leg that saw him perform 32 shows in about six weeks. He seems like someone with a calm, steady demeanour, so I wonder how he coped with the acute, immense stress of doing a tour that often involved back-to-back shows in different states and in such a short period.

He tells me that life on the road hasn’t been without its challenges. But the challenges he speaks of aren’t to do with the physical and mental exhaustion that inevitably come along with a rigorous touring schedule. They’re to do with missing people—his family—while he’s away.

“I try not to think about [the stress of] it.” He pauses to find the right words before continuing: “You kinda have to mentally tap out of your personal life. Sometimes I have to ignore calls from my family while I’m on the road, because I know if I hear their voice, I’m gonna miss them, and it’s going to make it hard for me to focus on what I’m doing.”

It’s not uncommon for Blxst to stay in his hotel room in any given city while the rest of his team are out partying. The confines of his hotel room offer him a space to privately decompress as well as avoid the temptations that perennially surround him on tour. “I like being in different cities, but there’s a lot of temptations. As soon as you step out the room, you wanna get into so much, so I just stay in the room a lot of the time.” He doesn’t give names to these temptations, and I don’t press him on it. I’m left to infer.

Blxst performing in Melbourne

In some ways, Blxst is one of hip-hop’s anomalies, most notably in that he doesn’t fit into any of the conceited, boastful archetypes exhibited by many of his peers. He tells me that being humble is something he values, and I’m curious as to why and where it comes from. He’s somewhat stumped by this question, which in turn catches me off-guard. He takes another pause but eventually credits his dad. “My dad is [humble], he’s non-confrontational, he’s chill, he just wants to see the best for everybody, he’s not selfish.”

Nonetheless, Blxst’s humility shouldn’t be mistaken for diffidence—he’s quietly confident, and a self-proclaimed underdog. He tells me that he usually gets what he wants, and it makes me wonder whether he always knew he’d achieve this level of success.

His answer reveals that his conviction is tempered by a healthy dose of realism—he did have doubts about achieving mainstream success. “Before I even took a solo journey, I was a part of a group of like 10 artists and I was grinding with them for around eight years, and we had a big fall out.” It was also around this time that Blxst had his son, now four. “I was in a real dark space,” he tells me.

“I didn’t know how I was going to get to the place I’m in now, but I just kept going. I think I just had to figure it out, for my son. I started learning how to monetise music, instead of just putting it out for recreation. I started hustling, selling beats, recording other artists and, just by the grace of God, things started working out.”

Blxst performing in Melbourne

Sound check is at one of Melbourne’s epochal music venues, 170 Russell. It’s a venue that local acts dream of playing and where international artists, typically early in their ascent, have their first headline shows. When I arrive, fans have already begun queuing up outside.

Blxst is running late for a sound check due to start at 5pm. Members of his production team have already settled into the venue and are awaiting his arrival. When he does, he slips on stage quietly, accompanied by his backing vocalist, Cheyenne Wright. The set commences and Cheyenne’s voice comes first, opening with ‘Sky Lounge Music’, the first track on Before You Go. Her voice, ethereal and resonant, fills every corner of the venue.

As they run through sound check, it’s clear that at this point on their second tour together they’re seasoned professionals. They need only run through a couple of songs to get a feel for the space and check their sound levels before calling it quits.

Blxst had mentioned to me earlier in the day that he’s a clown, which had sounded a little dubious in the quiet stillness of Red Bull’s boardroom. But he’s at ease with his team at the venue and spends time fooling around with them, at one point spontaneously breaking into a goofy acapella rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ with Cheyenne and his tour manager, Alison. He also spends time up the back of the stage on his DJ’s decks, spinning Musiq Soulchild’s ‘B.U.D.D.Y’. Cheyenne tells me that when a band accompanied them on tour it wasn’t uncommon to find Blxst messing around with the instruments during sound check.

Blxst in Melbourne

It can seem feigned when artists talk about not enjoying the attention that fame brings, but when Blxst tells me he hates being in the spotlight—that it’s often uncomfortable for him—it feels genuine. He’s the guy who blew up, but one can just as easily imagine him having stayed in the shadows, producing for other artists and taking a silent role in others’ successes. He enjoys being part of a group, and it’s apparent from the way he interacts with his team. “I really like teams, I’m about teams, I like being around a group of people.” He also has no reservations about acknowledging the role that his team has played in his success. “As independent as I claim to be, I couldn’t do this without my team,” he tells me.

Indeed, perhaps one of Blxst’s most interesting qualities is his comfort in taking backseat roles and his desire to contribute to the development and success of other artists. In particular, he wants to work with other artists in his city: “I understand what took me from L.A. to a place like Australia, and I feel like I’m a valuable piece to my city that can help other artists do it as well—if I can actually sit down and build relationships with people in my city and be hands-on with how they create.” Listening to him, part of me wonders if his investment in other artists perhaps offers him an oasis from the discomfort he sometimes feels being in the limelight, in being the guy that blew up.

Perhaps the one exception to his dislike of the spotlight is that he enjoys performing. “As much as I hate being in the spotlight, for me, [performing] is one of the freest feelings ever. I don’t know if it’s more like a character that I tap into—but it feels like you kinda put on a superhero suit and become the person you always wanted to be for that one or two hours,” he tells me.

I steal some time with Cheyenne, and I’m curious as to how she ended up being the one to share the stage with Blxst—she’s his only backing vocalist. It turns out that she went to middle school with his manager, Victor, who I’d met earlier in the day. One day, he invited her to come to the studio and she clicked with Blxst. Before she knew it, she found herself taking a month’s leave from her nine-to-five job as a receptionist to accompany him on his No Love Lost tour in 2021. “I came back and couldn’t do that job anymore—I’d found my purpose.” Speaking of their relationship she says, “I feel like we complement each other really well—we have a lot of fun and I love working with him.”

She’s also working on her own music, something she tells me Blxst is always pushing her to do, and she learns a lot from watching him. “I observe a lot, because he’s more of an introvert—I just sit there and observe and store bits of information for my own stuff. I like his workflow and work ethic, and just seeing his process.”

Sound check wraps up as day turns to dusk in Melbourne, and it’s time for Blxst and his team to head back to the hotel to get ready. As I leave, I pass the queue once more, which has now quadrupled.

Blxst performing in melbourne

When I return to the venue for the show, the mood is electric and becomes increasingly charged over the next hour as the crowd steadily swells. The crowd’s makeup is heterogenous—there’s a mix of ethnicities, genders and ages present—which matches my expectations. What does surprise me is the abundance of lovers and couples. Chatting to a fan before the show starts, I ask what it was that made her come out to see him. She tells me she loves Blxst because of the pride with which he reps his city.

When I give some thought to her comment, it’s easy to see why this aspect of Blxst’s music and character resonates with his Australian fans. Repping one’s area—often down to the suburb—and culture is something we’re increasingly seeing from Australian hip-hop and R&B acts. When it comes to the pursuit of mainstream success, the old formula was to tone down one’s Australianness in songs—to conceal accents, to avoid delving into themes that felt too specific to an Australian audience, so as to remain relevant and appealing to an international audience.

However, the tide is changing, and the current culture is marked by an inflection point of sorts, one that has spurred many Australian artists to divert from replicating U.S. themes and instead turn inwards to develop their own idiosyncratic style. Australian artists are now boldly taking this sound to the world as opposed to diminishing what makes us distinct in order to fit in. Blxst possesses this same quality: even if you only hear him once, you’ll walk away knowing exactly who he is and where he’s from.

Still waiting for the show to start, I run into multiple members of his team in the crowd, who all greet me warmly. I’m somewhat surprised to see them and remark that I thought they’d take a more comfortable viewing position backstage. “Nah, we’re always in the crowd,” says Victor.

In some ways, what ensues feels like deja vu. The set starts abruptly and Cheyenne’s booming voice immediately commands the attention of the hundreds of concertgoers, all of whom are momentarily silenced. As ‘Sky Lounge Music’ concludes, ‘Gang Slide’ commences and, just as he did at sound check, Blxst takes the stage once more. Except this time he’s in his figurative superhero suit—he’s free.

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