At only 22-years-old, ShooterGang Kony is one of the most prolific rappers to have come out of the West Coast in recent memory. With just over a half-million monthly listeners on Spotify and over 24 million streams on his most popular song “Charlie,” the Sacramento-bred artist has been levelling up in every aspect of his life lately.
With the release of his upcoming album Starshooter — which features artists including Toosii, Kalan.FrFr, Lil Bean, and others — he will have released a total of nine full-length projects in four years. It’s that level of consistency and work ethic that creates stars, and ShooterGang Kony has his sights set on becoming one of the biggest artists in the world in the coming years.
With his album release set for September 9, we spoke with Kony about how he’s revitalizing West Coast gangster rap, becoming one of Sacramento’s most sought-after rappers, and what’s next for the 22-year-old.
You can learn more about Kony through his latest feature with HotNewHipHop’s Rise & Grind, answering ten basic questions before jumping into a more personalized Q&A session, below.
Stay tuned for a new installment of Rise & Grind every Monday.
Photo credit: Gabriel Brown
Growing up in Sacramento is like no other, you know, you grow up with a chip on your shoulder. You gotta learn to grow up at a young age, become old at a young age, you know, realizing life is serious at a very, very young age. That’s the best I could describe it, just growing up fast.
Sacramento made me strong, that’s all I could congratulate it for, you know. It made me the strongest man I could be. I don’t want to be from anywhere else because I feel like my brain would have never developed this way, being from anywhere else.
Mozzy is from my neighborhood. He was the biggest rapper coming up around when I was younger.
I’m a Scorpio. I like to let other people explain what type of dude I am. Everybody says that I give good advice. But everybody also say Scorpios is hella rude and shit.
Yeah I give good advice but I’m a hard teacher, like I mean good but I’d be hard. I’m straight to the point.
I don’t know what they be saying about us Scorpios. I think they damn near spot on unless it’s something I don’t know about.
Top 5 DOA:
I’m really a musichead so I be caring a lot. But when it comes to the general art of music, I’d say Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Drake… I’ma just cut that top three. Influence-wise, I’ll keep Wayne and Kanye, then I’ll add Tupac and JAY-Z and I’ma leave four right there.
My biggest accomplishment in my career is probably just being able to do a complete 180 with my life. Like, if you know me, I was locked up and I didn’t have nothing out but my first tape “Still Kony,” and this was when I was making “March Madness” and I went to jail in the midst of making that. So I just remember calling home and telling my people I was about to get out and drop “March Madness,” and you know that’s one of my most memorable parts of my life, ’cause I was sitting in cells with my dogs and I tell them, like, “Look, when I get out, this what I’m gonna do, I’m not gonna look back after this.” I got out and I showed my dog who still calls me from jail right now, even though I’m down with n***as that’s facing like 20 years, 10 years, like that. So for everybody to see me get out and then they still hear about me in prison and shit. That’s the biggest accomplishment I made to really go from their spot to somewhere else, like, I’m not just talking and saying like “Oh I could do this, you could do this.” I really literally been at the bottom of the barrel to playing a whole different position on the ball court. That’s what I’m proud of.
Studio Habits & Essentials:
I’m kind of a boring stu dude. I write hella fast, that’s what people like about me. I’m just cool, I just sit there. I think my weirdest thing is that I write to no beat. So I’ll turn the song on, and then I listen to the first four bars, then I turn it off and I start writing. Most people be looking at me weird because they’re like, “Is he writing or is he on his phone?” but I’ve got to write to no beat. If I write to the beat, it sort of comes out like trash.
I don’t smoke. I tried to hit the weed before recording but I was trash. On a special occasion, I might drink but you know we drink Anejo, not Don Julio. So, other than that, I used to eat candy and my teeth started hurting so I don’t fuck with that no more.
I was taking a shit when I wrote that song [laughs]. I was going through beats in my emails and J Slappy had sent me that beat. I was just like, fuck it, just writing on the toilet. The first thing I thought of when I was doing the song, for some reason I was just like, whoa, whoa, whoa [Charlie Brown sound effects]. I don’t know why that was in my head, you feel me, but it’s funny because just before that, I was on the phone with my brother ShooterGang Jojo. He’s locked up, like, he started this shit, you feel me. When he was talking, every time he was talking, it would sound like [Charlie Brown sound effects]. BJ was saying it hella funny because we couldn’t hear him so we was saying he sounded like Charlie Brown and shit. I wasn’t thinking about that when I made it, it just came out when I did the song because it’s like, probably in the back of my head, that’s really what I was thinking the whole time, like, that shit was stuck in my head.
I had a rollout on that album where we spent money on three different tracks and videos, and that was probably the cheapest video I’ve paid for, and it was the most random rollout I had. I was just like, I just wanted to put this out with no promotion or nothing, and it turned out to be my biggest shit but I didn’t expect it to do that though.
I just really thought it was tight [so we made “Charlie 2”]. I always used to think it was dope when Wayne or other people would do songs on a tape because it’s not the same, they’ll have the same exact beat so I wanted to change it a little bit but most people, they’ll have a song and then there’ll be like the same song on there with different verses. Wayne did that on “Walk Out” and he’d do it on multiple tapes, and I was just like, shit, it’ll be tight if I just say fuck doing a remix later and just do both of them on one tape. And I needed features and really me, I don’t like to go get features usually. When I do songs I finish them all right here so I was just like, instead of spreading the features out I’m just gonna put everybody on this because I only got one verse on it.
Yeah, it’s ironic, I was just saying that to somebody. They went like, “30K I represent/He talking pull up in the whip/The snakes left that n***a limp/You find one n***a sucking dick/Respect, I ain’t earned it yet/We in your house like brother man, on Martin/In your residence, I’m sparking through your letterman/Let’s get it.”
That was the first shit I ever said. I think I was 14 years old.
I thought I was a little weak right there. I don’t think nobody thought I was gonna make it right there, I just was rapping.
I don’t think I know where it was. I definitely remember being nervous, though. And it’s funny because now when I’m going out and I hear people yelling, I’d be like, “Damn, I hope I don’t fuck up,” but back then I never had any recollection of being scared, like, I used to just not even see the crowd. I just used to walk out and look straight past everybody and just start rapping.
My favorite movie is “Big Daddy” with Adam Sandler. Recently I’ve been onto “Lucifer.” That show’s cool like a motherfucker. “Raising Kanan” too but everybody fucks with that shit. Don’t go into it thinking it’s like “Power” though, its just a regular show.
The album pre-order just came out, album about to come out. It’s my longest album, I’ve never done that many tracks. I think it’s 17 or 18 on there. Yeah album coming soon.
Photo credit: Gabriel Brown
HNHH: How’d you get your name? “ShooterGang” feels somewhat self-explanatory.
ShooterGang Kony: Nah, you might be wrong. I’m kidding [laughs]. ShooterGang is whatever a motherfucker wanna think but they call me Kony because of the African warlord Joseph Kony. He was big around the time. I’m African, one of the only Africans where I was growing up so you know I getting roasted, they was just calling me that and it turned out that the shit stuck so everybody else started calling me that.
Starshooter is going to be your ninth full-length project since 2017. What’s your mindset behind flooding the streets with content?
People got short attention spans. The more you give them, the more they listen. When you rap to have fun, like me, you’re gonna prevail harder. When you think too hard, shit, sometimes they don’t give a fuck. I just keep the mindset and be like, man, just put that shit out. But you know I’m really just trying to have fun with that shit, bro.
What’s different about this album, as opposed to your last one?
I grew up. I grow up every album. My n***as tell me I got an old soul but I can feel the age in everything, the cadence, you know, all that shit. I’m just studying the art of rap. I get it a little more and more, you know, I get tips and shit. I’m always on the road perfecting my craft. One little thing that I started to notice was that there was a point where I thought I couldn’t get better. I just never thought in my head, “Oh, I should get better at what I’m doing”, versus the realizations of being like, “Okay, well now I see that there’s not a maximum point.” On some Mamba mentality shit, just keep getting better every day.
You’ve been working closely with Lil Bean lately, what’s your relationship like with him?
It’s just something about dawg like, I just clicked with him. He’s hella talented, you feel me. And I feel like a long time ago, I was seeing that too when I first started working with him before he was catching his buzz, I always used to fuck with him. It’s great being able to see him progress every day, the same way I’m progressing.
You’ve been hailed as one of the next faces of West Coast gangster rap. How do you approach the style differently than those who came before you?
Shit, versatility. I feel like people are just stuck in one lane. I feel like I could do gangster rap but at the same time, every song don’t have to be gangster rap. I also can do funky shit and I could make a love song. I could do all that, so my goal is to be the biggest rapper period, one of the most impactful rappers. To make young n***as my age think like me and think a little ahead of their time and think smarter about the shit that we’re doing because we all kings out here. Energy is hella, hella strong. We don’t understand that until sometimes we’re too old. So I just be trying to teach everybody around me ’cause I like to talk about a lot of different things about prevailing and accomplishments, and how to uplift other people.
Like you said, you’re still really young. You’re only 22 and you’re already well-known for being one of the strongest voices in Sacramento rap. What’s left for you to accomplish?
The whole West Coast got to understand, you know, and then the whole world. The whole country. I got a bubble to break out of. I’ve got a Sacramento bubble to break out of and like, I got all these bubbles that, you know, they could hold some people back but I’m ready to show everybody it’s no limit to what I’m doing, and I’m here to stay. A lot of people have runs, I’ll be here forever.
What do you want your legacy to be in music once it’s all said and done?
Man, shit. The word impactful is, it’s exactly what I told you when you asked me my favorite rappers, it’s the top five. When it comes to being good at rap and then there’s also a top-five for how far you go in generations. And of course, I want to conquer that, but what’s more important to me is to conquer the impact on generations and the impact on decision-making, and you know, sheer awareness and going through shit and telling people before they do some stupid shit too. That shit is hella more important than motherfuckers make it seem. Everybody wants to sit here and watch everybody bump their heads, but I want to be that person that you could come to and learn some shit. I just want to teach and use my voice to really teach young n***as that is more to life.
Is there anything you want to get into before we close out?
Yeah, stay tuned for that Starshooter. One of the hardest albums I’ve done when it comes to hard work and me being in a place where I felt like I was trapped but I worked out that shit. I can’t wait til everybody hears that motherfucker for sure.
READ LAST WEEK’S INTERVIEW WITH DIJAHSB HERE.