In the space of just a year, genre-defying artist midwxst has gone from leading the digicore/hyperpop explosion to signing with a major label and positioning himself as a name to watch in the US rap scene.
While the glitchy video game sounds of his earlier releases ‘SUMMER03’ and ‘Secrets’ remain, the South Carolina-born, Indiana-raised teenager (real name Edgar Sarratt III) bridges the gap between hyperpop and hip-hop more than ever before on his new EP ‘Back In Action’. Featuring collaborations with Slump6s, KASHDAMI and BabySantana across its eight sonically heavy tracks, moshpit-ready singles like ‘Made It Back’ and ‘All Talk’ showcase his penmanship as much as they do his flow.
Compared to the more braggadocious rappers out there, midwxst’s wide-ranging lyrical content is refreshingly honest, open and playful: the hook on ‘Made It Back’, for example, is about wanting to make his mum proud, while ‘Tic Tac Toe’ is about Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb. “A lot of people expected me to be a trapper, rapping about guns and all the generic mainstream stuff,” he says. “But when I talk about how your own mental health and emotions can be the most dangerous thing you possess, especially as a teenager or a young adult, people get such a different vibe from me – and that is what I strive for.”
For the latest in NME’s In Conversation series, midwxst tells us about how getting online and meeting like-minded kids on SoundCloud helped him fit in, why he now wants to break free from the hyperpop scene and the story behind ‘Back In Action’. Here’s what we learned.
His first track landed him in trouble at school
After uploading the song to SoundCloud in the middle of a “diss track war” at his school, the track started “spreading like wildfire – everybody was posting about it on Snapchat”. While the aim was to “demonstrate my capabilities” to his friends, it quickly caught the attention of someone midwxst didn’t really want to hear it – his vice-principal. It’s safe to say that she wasn’t best pleased and actually ended up pulling midwxst aside. Although he tried his best to deny any involvement when he found himself sat in her office, she was having none of it. But what about it caused the commotion? “I namedropped the school in it and made a comment about another student, but it was all out of fun,” he says. “It was a fire-ass song in my opinion, but I went on my SoundCloud and made it private.” Interestingly, it’s one that he comes back to whenever he needs a little boost. “I listen to it whenever I’m feeling unmotivated because the comparison from then to the stuff I’m making now is crazy”.
midwxst thinks the ‘hyperpop’ tag is thrown around too much
“With my recent stuff, I haven’t even been doing anything hyperpop-related – I’ve been making rap music,” midwxst tells NME, adding that the hyperpop tag is a difficult one to shake off. “I’ll drop a regular pop or rap song and people will be like, ‘This is a great hyperpop song’. But I’m like, ‘No!’” He thinks it’s partly down to the ambiguous origins of the genre: “People would constantly be like, ‘Oh, hyperpop came from PC Music’ when, actually, I haven’t listened to an A.G. Cook song in my life,” he says, suggesting that hyperpop instead “came from all of our different influences coming together and putting them into a song”. “That’s why you hear 808 bass plugs and synths on an EDM song. It just infuses everything,” he theorises.
He never expected to sign to a major label so quickly
Being on the same label as Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish might be a daunting prospect for some, but not midwxst, who always envisioned himself getting a deal – just not this quickly. “I always thought I’d be 20, just turned into a junior in college, vibing things out and just taking time with my music, and then one song would pop off and things would fall into place from there,” he says. “No! Didn’t happen: it’s senior year, and I guess we’re doing the damn thing.” He also remembers the surreal moment when he got signed. “I’d been working for so long to get the smallest smidgeon of attention.”
midwxst wants people to feel free to be themselves
“With the music I make and the things I say, so many people can connect personally with the shit that I’m doing and what message I’m trying to spread,” midwxst says. “Individuality and creativity is what I’m trying to push into people. And if that means dropping out of school, painting your nails or wearing a skirt – anything that allows you to express yourself – do that, because I’d rather have people do that and make others mad or insecure about what they’re doing than never have done it all.” He cites guys who paint their nails as just one example. “Why the hell not?! Lil Yachty does it, Playboi Carti does it, Lil Uzi Vert does it and I do it! Everybody that you listen to and love are all comfortable in their own skin and expressing themselves in whatever ways they could.”
He can’t wait to go out on tour and play his new “punch-each-other-in-the-face” songs live
When it came to making ‘Back In Action’ midwxst realised he didn’t have any “concert songs”, so this new EP is designed primarily for live shows. “They’re all tracks that will make people want to punch each other in the face,” he summarises. “Not violently, but there’s a really hard, chaotic energy to it”. With his own run of US dates coming up – as well as support slots for glaive and ericdoa – he’s keen to make the most of being able to get back on stage. “I’m going to be jumping in moshpits, crowdsurfing, keeping the same energy throughout the set… it’s gonna be hectic but great fun!”
midwxst’s ‘Back In Action’ EP is out now.