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THE B-SIDE
GRAMMY PREVIEW: POLO G
9/25/19

BIG POPPIN'

By: Michelle Santuosso

Taurus Bartlett—otherwise known as Polo G—is from Chicago’s North Side and has seen more than his share of brutality. After experimenting with the drill-rap sound on several tracks released independently, Bartlett switched up to a more emotive tone in order to capture the trauma he was going through—losing loved ones to gun violence. On “Finer Things,” written while incarcerated in Cook County Jail, he spoke directly about his turbulent upbringing. The track ignited, racking up more than 9 million views on YouTube in less than two months and hitting the radar of Columbia Records, where he signed at the top of 2019. His debut album, Die a Legend, released in June, features the mocking-yet-menacing brilliance of “Pop Out” (with Bronx rapper Lil TJay), which has generated more than 100m views on YouTube, vaulting Polo G firmly into the spotlight and the unfortunate position of having to talk to us.


Your album cover is a collection of lost friends and family, a heartfelt tribute to people in your life who were part of your own story. Talk about the point of that album cover, and what those you lost would be saying now about all your incredible success.
The point was to pay my respects to my loved ones while also tying into the title, Die a Legend. The people pictured on that cover died legends. You don’t have to obtain fame and stardom to be a legend. To be a legend means being great at whatever you do—whether you’re a mother, a big brother or a community activist.

How has “Pop Out” exceeded your expectations?
I expected the record to do good, but I can’t honestly say I saw this coming. “Pop Out” was my first song to go Top 5-trending on YouTube, it was my first time getting like 150k views in 2 hours, it made the RapCaviar list and, most importantly, the Hot 100. It took me and the rest of the world by storm.

What would being nominated for a Grammy mean to you personally?
Being Grammy-nominated would mean the world to me. It’s one of those things that helps solidify you as one of the greats in the entertainment business. It’s also a personal goal of mine, not just to be Grammy-nominated but to one day actually win one. Winning a Grammy would be a testament of my hard work and passion for music.

You’ve kept it extremely real about the street violence in Chicago in your bars, about the drug use you struggled with. This album sounds like a way of dealing with that trauma and pain. You going that hard to teach others about that life, or to just express your own truth?
I actually aim to do both. Music is therapeutic for me; it’s like my journal that’s open to the public. I take whatever’s on my mind or however I’m feeling and put it in a song. I also like to speak for the unheard and explain to those who don’t understand the harsh realities of where I come from. I explain that this way of living can be very traumatic and leave a lifetime of adverse effects on you.

What is something a fan has said to you about your rapping that made you realize that your music is truly connecting on another level?
I can’t really pinpoint a specific comment or conversation from a fan, because I’m really connected with my fan base and engaging with them every day. I get a lot positive feedback that lets me know I’m fulfilling my purpose. I see things like “Your lyrics saved my life” or “My friend just passed away; this song helped me get through it.” Things like that ensure that I’m on the right track and I’m making a difference.

Explain how you relate to Nipsey Hussle’s community work and some of the plans you have for the North Side?
I admire his knowledge and the things he did in his community, like the store on Slauson. I plan on doing those types of things in my community to inspire the people where I’m from.

Did you watch the Grammys growing up? Any particular inspiring memory you want to share from watching the show?
I used to watch the Grammys with my family, and as crazy as it may seem, the thing that caught my eye was Beyoncé’s performance skills. The women in my family were big fans of hers. When it was time for her to hit the stage, everybody was glued to the screen. She was definitely good at keeping your attention as she gave great energy and worked the stage.