Destroy Lonely is a deep thinker.
When he’s not orchestrating wild moshpits at his shows (or buying designer clothes), he likes to listen to audiobooks about philosophy and read about theories like the Law of Attraction.
The 21-year-old Atlanta rapper has quickly become one of rap’s most exciting new stars, signing to Playboi Carti’s lauded Opium record label and releasing synthy, high-energy songs like “NOSTYLIST” and “Bane.” And if you ask him, it’s all thanks to the power of manifestation. He says he’s spoken each of his achievements into existence, and he’s currently manifesting even bigger plans that extend far beyond his own rap career.
Destroy Lonely, who also answers to TopFloorBoss, Dark Lord, Lone, and The Look Killer, among other aliases, is a fashion-conscious rapper who loves Rick Owens, but don’t expect him to talk your ear off about material possessions if you ever meet him. He’d rather dig deeper. After politely answering a bunch of questions about himself in the first half of our interview, he finally lets out an excited gasp, exclaiming, “Now this is the type of shit I like talking about,” when I half-jokingly ask him what the meaning of life is. It turns out he has a shockingly detailed answer to that question (more on that later).
Lone, born Bobby Wardel Sandimanie III, is a big-picture thinker who has lofty ambitions that might even lead to him quitting music and moving on to something else within the next 10 years. For the time being, though, he has a lot of new music to focus on. Lone just announced the impending release of a new album called If Looks Could Kill, set to arrive on May 5, and he’s been teasing a collab album with his close collaborator (and Opium labelmate) Ken Carson.
Swinging by the Complex office to talk about it all, he opened up about new music, his cat Ultra, why he hates the term “underground rap,” artificial intelligence, manifestation, Opium, and yes, the meaning of life. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
What would you do on a perfect day?
I’m waking up, I’m smoking a good one, I’m pouring me up a good cup, and I’m going outside and enjoying my day. I might buy some clothes, I might go to the studio, I might pull up on my friends. But I’m just living life like it’s golden. Ain’t that what the song say? [Laughs.]
You spent a lot of time with your cat, Ultra, right?
Yeah. Shit. I love Ultra. It’s like having a little sister, but it’s an animal. She don’t really act like a cat to me. She act like a little person. I ain’t seen her in a minute because I’ve been working, but I do love my cat.
You named your deluxe after her, right?
Why’d you do that?
Shit, because I love my cat.
When you were growing up, your dad was a rapper. Would you ever make a song with him now?
I don’t want to throw my dad under the bus, but one time he called me and wanted to make a song with me—not to put out or nothing, but he just wanted to make a song. But I don’t know, that’s my dad. I don’t really wanna make no song with my dad. [Laughs.]
I can tell you pick up influences from lots of genres, from rock to rap. What genres do you mainly listen to?
Shit. Rock music, rap music, music in general. I like house music—electronic music and shit. When I go to Europe, sometimes I might sneak off to a little club or some shit to hear music.
But rock music is just like rap music to me, in the sense that it’s all a feeling. I just like shit that’s filled with feeling. If I’m on a plane or some shit, I’ll be listening to music that makes me get into a feeling in my head, or takes me to a different place. That shit inspires my music in a sense. I don’t want n***as listening to my shit, just to be listening to it. I want it to be like, “I listen to this to feel like this, or to go to this place.”
Would you ever make music with a rock band?
Hell yeah, but I’ve got to get to that point. I like a lot of vocalists, so if it was a band, it would be with the lead singer. I like a n***a like Chino Moreno and shit like that. People who are really vocally on the tracks. Or like Hayley Williams from Paramore. Shit like that.
You have a lot of names and alter egos, from Destroy Lonely to TopFloorBoss. Can you explain them all?
Yeah, I’ve got a new one, actually. This year, I’m The Look Killer. So, there’s Lone—that’s just my name. I honestly gave myself that name when I was younger, with Destroy Lonely. Destroy Lonely is me. TopFloorBoss is me as well, but that’s me when I’m on my bullshit, when I’m just with my friends or kicking what I like to kick. Dark Lord is some shit that I created for myself because I feel like I be on some evil shit, and Dark Lord is the most evil person. Then I got The Look Killer, which is who I am for my album, If Looks Could Kill. It’s just when I’m popping shit. N***as gonna be fashion killers and fashion icons. I’m The Look Killer.
How did signing to Opium change things for you?
Signing to Opium and becoming a part of something, just kept a n***a motivated. You know, you start doing some shit, and you feel like, “Damn, am I the only n***a doing this shit?” But when I met my brothers on my label, it’s like, “Damn, there’s n***as just like me in this world, doing the same thing.” So it’s like a communal thing.
I could look to the left and see Ken [Carson], and ask him for help, or do something with him. Or I could look to the right and fuckin’ talk to my brother [Playboi] Carti or whatever. So having that family helps a lot, rather than feeling like you’re just in it [alone] and you can only talk to the world, I’ve got people in my corner, for real.
What do you think you guys in Opium are bringing to rap that sets you apart?
We just give a fuck. I feel like a lot of people stopped giving a fuck about what matters in music. N***as want to be the coolest or the most followed or get the most likes or have the biggest song. But we care about how we’re doing things and what we look like and how we sound. And it ain’t really for the extra shit. We just like what we’re doing and we want to provide that to the world. It’s not really for no incentive or nothing. We’re not trying to get nowhere or be a certain way for a reason. We’re just doing what we do.
“‘Underground rap’ don’t mean nothing to me at all. I actually despise that word. I don’t like ‘SoundCloud rapper.’ I don’t like anything that puts music in a box, or even an artist.”
What is Carti like as a leader?
Carti’s like Carti. At this point, n***as could say however many ways he’s like, but you just got to meet him. That n***a’s really focused on what he’s doing and it helps n***as stay focused. Honestly, Opium is all of us. But when you’ve got somebody like that on your team, that person’s got to have a good head on their shoulders. Carti’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s got a vision. A lot of n***as be trying to lead shit and don’t even know where they’re going.
Obviously you and Ken Carson are really close. But fans like to compare you to each other and argue over who is doing better and shit. How do you feel when you see that?
I hate that shit. It’s fucking trash. I don’t like it, because this is my real brother. From the fan perspective on the internet, a lot of relationships be so fabricated and be just for the music and for the hit song, so that’s how they’re looking at it. And at the end of the day, to them, we’re just two separate artists. That don’t make it an excuse, but they don’t realize this is my real friend. I’m not here to be bigger than fucking Ken Carson. I don’t give a fuck. I want to see both of us go however far. I hate when people do that shit. That shit is dumb.
Since you spend so much time with him, what’s your favorite thing about Ken? And what’s the most annoying thing about him?
My favorite part about Ken Carson is I’ve never seen nobody on Earth who only do what their mind is on. No God can even tell this n***a that he’s doing something wrong or he can’t do this. And not in an arrogant way, but he’s 10 toes in whatever he wants to do, and that shit gets him far as fuck. And the most annoying thing? He don’t really annoy me. I’m not a person—I don’t have to tolerate people. I only put myself around people who I fuck with. So, if Ken was to annoy me, I wouldn’t fuck with Ken.[Laughs.] He cool. I love that n***a.
You’ve hinted that you two have a project together, coming soon. What can fans expect from a Ken and Lonely project?
When we’re in the studio together, we’re completely the best versions of ourselves, rapping or whatever. So y’all are going to see that, fully enhanced. It’s fun, though. It’s not going to sound like n***as trying to make a tape. Our music is just like us hanging out, because we hang out every day. Just like how we’re kicking it right now [motions to Ken, who is standing 15 feet to his left]. Later on, we’re going to go to the studio and the day will end up in the song. So you’re all just going to get a full glimpse of me and Ken. It’s a whole different thing when we’re together.
You named your biggest song so far “NOSTYLIST” and you’re very hands-on with your own style. Why is that important to you?
Even like I said about my label, we all give a fuck about how we’re perceived, and we want to be in full control of that. So if it’s me controlling how a music video come out, to me controlling how I look on Instagram, my swag and my music and everything is me. I don’t want that to be messed up by having somebody else’s opinion on it. So if somebody was to come in the room and style me, they’ll be styling me off of how they think I should be styled, rather than myself, because they’ve got their own brain. So how the fuck is somebody going to style me? Or how the fuck can anybody tell me what to do in the world? That’s really what it means to me. No stylist is just, like, have your own brain.
You dress very well, but I’m curious: Do you have any style regrets? Do you ever see photos, and you’re like, “What the fuck was I doing?”
Fuck, yeah. [Laughs.] You know that saying, “Even players fuck up”? Bruh, sometimes I might put on some shit I think is crazy, then look back after I’ve evolved in taste and be like, “Yo, a n***a was trippin’.”
I remember I used to be in high school and I used to put a lot of bleach on my clothes and shit. But I would never wear no damn bleach shit today or nothing like that.[Laughs.] I don’t know, sometimes I might pop out or pull up on my boy or something and he’s going crazy, then I’m looking at myself like, “Damn, this is what I chose to wear today?” It just be little shit like that.
“My whole album sounds like ‘If Looks Could Kill.’ My album don’t sound nothing like f***in’ ‘NOSTYLIST’ or anything before that. I’m on some new sh*t.”
Tell me about your song “If Looks Could Kill” that dropped a couple months ago. What’s the story behind that?
I was out in New York working on my album, If Looks Could Kill. That shit’s hard. I got really in my mode on that. On a bunch of the songs, I’m talking about how I’m The Look Killer and a whole bunch of shit.
So one day in October, I had woken up, like, “I’m finna go get a Halloween mask.” And I was in the studio, recording with the mask on, smoking and everything. Then I was just like, “Fuck it, if looks could kill.” Like, how the song starts off, that’s how I started it on the track [sings: “If Looks Could Kill...”] and I just kept going. That song started my album. But if I’m being honest, I’m not an artist who’ll be like, “I’m making this song because I feel like this.” I just go in the booth and do it. I’m just talking about my life on every song.
I really fuck with the sound of that song. Like, the production and everything. Is that a signal of the direction you’re headed on the rest of this album?
100 million percent. My whole album sounds like that. My album don’t sound nothing like fuckin’ “NOSTYLIST” or anything before that. I’m on some new shit.
Is there anything else you can tell us about that project and the new lane you’re in?
Hell, yeah. N***as need to go listen to it. That’s it. Just play that shit, and play it until you can’t fucking play it no more. And shut the fuck up after you listen to it. [Laughs.]
How would you describe your fans?
I don’t know if it’s because of how I carry my music and shit, but my fans be 100 with themselves. They be like a reflection of me, or a reflection of what we’re doing as a label or whatever. People who fuck with me, I can tell that they listen to my music, because it actually resonates with something they’ve got going on. So when I see them at my shows or whatever, I can just look at a n***a be like, “Oh, this n***a’s just like me. I know why he fuck with this shit, because he on the same thing I’m on.” And they understand what I’m here for. I’m trying to inspire people to do what the hell I’m doing, and better. So a lot of people that listen to my music, they on whatever they’re on, whether they’re painting, fuckin’ making clothes, working a nine-to-five, or whatever. N***as just trying to get some money, keep going, and just trying to make it out of wherever the fuck they’re from. I’m the voice for that and they’re listening, so they’re in search of something.
I’ve seen sometimes you jump in Discord and interact with your fans?
No. All that shit is fake.
Bro, on God. I’ve never fuckin’ talked to nobody on the internet. I might DM a fan one day or something on some joke shit, but I don’t be in no damn Discord, no Twitch stream, no comments. I don’t do none of that shit. No Reddit. I might read stuff, but I’ve never been on there talking to people. That’s fucking strange.
Are there any other misconceptions about you? What do people get wrong?
Definitely. A lot of people perceive me in a certain way. A lot of people think I’m dumb or something. Some n***as be thinking I’m rich because of my dad or whatever. Bro, I got this shit out the fucking mud. Everything I’m saying in all of my music is facts, bro. And I hate when people think that I’m like the other n***a who’s just trying to make fucking whatever because they’re not who they really is. But me and my friends are really on whatever the fuck we say we’re on. We’re just here because we’ve got people to feed and shit. There’s n***as who are really just in this bitch for shits and giggles, bro. That shit’s lame.
Are there any misconceptions about Opium and the whole movement? Any narratives that people get wrong?
Honestly, it’s not even too much I can say, it’s just some people are fucking smart, and some people are not as smart as other people, bro. And people that are less smart, irk me a little bit.
Recently there’s been a whole conversation about artists who use dark and satanic imagery. Like, Uzi has been getting a lot of backlash for that. What do you—
I don’t know nothing about that. I can’t even answer that question. I know what I believe in and I know what got me here, and it don’t got nothing to do with nothing. So everything is opinions, whatever. I like wearing my upside-down cross. I don’t give a fuck.
What does the term “underground rap” mean to you? Do people misuse it? Does it mean anything?
“Underground rap” don’t mean nothing to me at all. I actually despise that word. I don’t like “SoundCloud rapper.” I don’t like anything that puts music in a box, or even an artist. I’m going to keep saying this shit, bro. In 2023, you can’t say that somebody is lesser than anything, because we’ve all got the same phones, the same internet. So the n***a that’s looking at Drake—or whoever the fuck, not even to use a n***a name—they’re also looking at the n***a who got 60 followers or the n***a who got 10,000 followers. Because everybody got the same phone.
So it’s honestly just a matter of: Is a n***a playing your song or not? Do people actually know you outside of that fucking phone? And that’s what’s going to determine if you exist in this world or not. It’s not a level to it. There’s no mainstream or underground. It is just: Do you exist or not? In the real world, though, not on the phone.
Very well-said. I feel like people try to describe and label things, but at this point, it doesn’t even make sense anymore. It might have made sense 25 years ago, but—
It never made sense. Even 25 years ago, the n***a rapping in his room is the same rapper as a n***a who got a record deal. It’s just a matter of time. It don’t matter. I feel like people just try to dumb people down, bro. And honestly, the underground n***a probably way harder than the biggest n***a on Earth. Y’all just keep calling him underground. Now this n***a can’t get no damn money.
“I don’t want to be rapping in 10 years. I don’t want to be in front of these cameras, telling you all what the hell I’m finna be doing. You’re all going to see it.”
Have you been paying attention to the artificial intelligence music that’s been going viral lately? What are your thoughts?
I’m a person of realism, bro. So anything artificial or fucking cooked up in a lab, I don’t like. And it’s not to be pessimistic or nothing. It’s just like, bro, the shit we’re talking about in music started from people having feelings. So how could a robot make some music? Robots don’t got feelings. I’m not going to listen to the fake song that this thing made off of the whole vocabulary in the world, rather than… I’d rather listen to a n***a make a song about drinking Coke all day, [rather] than an AI song. Because the n***a really love Coca-Cola, bro. That has more feeling than AI music, bro. Anything artificial is trash. I’m all for real shit. Ban that shit.
How would you describe the Atlanta rap scene right now?
Right now, in 2023? It’s just a new type of Atlanta rap, but it’s all the same shit. Because a n***a like me, or a n***a like Ken, or a n***a like Carti, we’re all from Atlanta. So the way Atlanta’s set up, everybody that’s on some shit, you kind of had the same experiences, you’re just from different sides. So with that, as time go on, it’s just new people that tell the same story from their sides. A couple years ago, you had a Bankroll Fresh, and years before that, you had a Shawty Lo or a Gucci Mane. Then you get Migos and shit, Lil Babys, and shit. Now you got fuckin’ Opium. It’s just n***as from Atlanta, talking about Atlanta. Atlanta don’t change, it’s just the people that’s in it, but it’s the same shit.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
I ain’t going to lie, I’ve got big ambitions and big goals. In 10 years, I should have my B. I want a billion. And I want to be on some, like… I don’t want to be rapping in 10 years. I don’t want to be in front of these cameras, telling you all what the hell I’m finna be doing. You’re all going to see it. I want my impact to be in the world, not through music or whatever. I like things that enhance how people live. So if I’m making fuckin’ music now, then in five years, I’ll be making headphones, so people could listen to music better. Shit like that.
I don’t really care about being, like, “Yeah, I’m going to be the biggest rapper,” or, “I’m going to have multiple platinum albums,” or whatever. That’s something that a n***a should do if a n***a’s good at what he do. But I just want to be beyond this shit and have shit already implemented here that people know, like, “Alright, Lone did this, and this is actually helping us.” Like, if music helps people how they feel, I want to help humans keep going, too. I got other thoughts in my head.
It sounds like you’ve always had big goals for yourself, and you’ve put those into action. Do you believe in manifestation and thinking about these things so they turn into reality?
Hell, yeah. Everything I ever did, I spoke on it or wrote it down and then did it. I feel like that’s how you do it. And then you got to believe in it wholeheartedly. I completely believe in manifestation. Like, I told myself I was going to do every single thing that I’ve done, and I already did it. So I’ve just gotta keep saying what the hell I’m going to do, and I’m going to get it done. But a lot of people, they’ve got goals and shit that they say they’re going to do, but they let the outside world and people next to them get in their ear and take them off that course. You’ve just gotta be really locked in on that and don’t think anything can stop it, or don’t believe nothing else, and that shit’s going to happen regardless.
If there’s a 15-year-old kid reading this right now, and they have big goals but don’t know where to start, what would you tell them?
To start. A lot of people be scared to start. Let’s say, if a n***a wanted to start modeling, and let’s say the whole world is wearing a certain brand, and they said, “To be a model, you’ve got to wear this brand,” a n***a would be like, “Damn, bro, I can’t model because I don’t got that brand.” Fuck that. Go wear another brand and make your own brand and then you done started your own modeling shit. People think they can’t start nothing because they don’t got the resources or they’re not where they want to be at. But you’ve got to start from nothing, and then the snowball starts rolling. Just start. I don’t give a fuck. Anybody who I ever helped, they be telling me they scared or whatever. I’m like, “You already lost right there. You’ve just got to jump into it and then figure it out while you’re doing it.”
You seem like a deep guy, so I’ve got to ask… What’s the meaning of life?
See, you’re asking me some shit I like to talk about. So, I feel like the meaning of life… I feel like I’ve been here before. So I feel like this is either my next life from my last one, or my last one. But I feel like your purpose, when you come to this Earth… One, you’ve got to figure out what you’re supposed to do. And then once you figure it out, you’ve got to live your life to complete that. And then once you complete that, you completed your life. And then once you go on, you’ll never come back. But a lot of people have a purpose that they don’t ever figure out or they don’t ever complete. So then, let’s say, if I’m Destroy Lonely now, the next life I might come back as a n***a who work at McDonald’s or something. Or if people treat people trash or whatever, and negativity or not nice people, a n***a might come back as a fucking cockroach or some shit. Your purpose in life is just to live in love and live in your purpose and complete this shit. It ain’t nothing more or less than that. That’s what I think.
Hell yeah. What’s next for you?
Shit, I’m finna drop a bunch of music for y’all folks, then get the fuck up out of here. Go onto something else, get some more money. And it’s not in the sense of, like, I’m quitting or nothing, but I’m trying to go, go, go. Y’all ain’t never seen a n***a, like, let’s say how Allen Iverson was rapping and fucking playing basketball and shit. Or like a Master P or something… Y’all ain’t never seen a n***a be good at shit and be done. A lot of people live in their career and live in it forever, and be like, “Damn, if I quit, I ain’t going to be nothing.” Nah, I’m going to have a whole bunch of shit that I done did and finished and was fire at. And then n*** going to be like, “Damn, this was a crazy ass human.”