It happens to be a frigid Valentine’s Day evening when Sheff G is posing for a photoshoot in his native Flatbush, but the love in the air for the Brooklyn drill pioneer feels permanent. In the half-hour we’ve been here, five locals have hollered at him affectionately from across the street. That includes two young kids asking for a photo (a request he politely obliged), and a woman erratically pulling her SUV to the side of the street so she could film Sheff with her phone.

Today, the 21-year-old rapper is clad in blue Balmain jeans and a black Moncler jacket, an outfit that looks far more understated than it sounds. Sheff G and his friends exchange daps and speak to one another in Pig Latin, at ease even with—or perhaps because of the—cameras around. Sheff isn’t a natural attention-seeker, and it took some time for him to grow accustomed to this level of recognition in the neighborhood where he’s spent his entire life, but now he welcomes it.

“I want people to see that we’re not trying to stay in the hood and do fuckery. We’re trying to make it out,” he says. “We’re trying to better our lives.”

Sheff’s first big single, “No Suburban,” is an archetypal drill record, bringing together the U.K. production sensibility with the brutal reality raps of Chicago. A response to 22Gz’s “Suburban,” Sheff’s song was instrumental in helping the subgenre both spark national interest and become inescapable in the parts of Brooklyn where it was being made. In the years that followed, he’s asserted himself as one of the Brooklyn drill scene’s most important and consistent rappers. By blending his old school rhyming talent with distinctly modern topics and soundscapes, Sheff G is perhaps the purest link we have between New York rap’s past, present, and future.

“No Suburban” was a local hit before Sheff even dropped it in full. Around the time he first recorded “No Suburban” in a friend’s living room, Sheff was staying in a homeless shelter and battling a gun possession charge. His adversaries leaked an unfinished version of the song in an attempt to embarrass Sheff, but it quickly backfired. Not only did people love the snippet, it created frenzied anticipation for the official release of “No Suburban.” When Sheff put it out in late May 2017, it became Flatbush’s song of the summer.