Houston’s BBY Kodie is an artist whose vision aligns with words like “pretty,” “boujee,” and even “Kardashian,” as his 2019 project Kodie Kardashian and former Instagram username can attest. He’s the in-your-face author of a prolific number of Southern-flavored, Houston-centric raps, and an advocate for a blended focus of artistic integrity and simply put, getting rich.
Last Halloween, Kodie poured $10,000 of his own money into a show in Houston, celebrating the release of his then-new album Vogue. Over one thousand people attended, including friend and collaborator Lil Yachty. The show was free. In the same breath, Kodie plots on becoming a billionaire, using rap as a way to grow his name until he can quit in pursuit of several other long-standing interests: fashion and art, as perhaps the highest priorities.
Kodie doesn’t smoke or drink, he was an exceptional student in high school, and as his lyrics can attest, he’s dead set on becoming the next big name out of Houston. “I’m a really big advocate of people who can talk shit and stand behind it,” he says. “I’m okay with the fact that sometimes you gotta take an ass whooping and sometimes you’ll win.”
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before the uprisings across the world in response to the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others.
How’s quarantine been?
It’s been quarantine, I just been playing baseball.
Have you still been able to record?
Yeah, I been had everything I need. I think I only have one song recorded in an actual studio. Everything else I recorded at home.
You put out “Korleone” recently. How did that come together?
That was a statement, honestly. I don’t like working with people, not off the fact that I don’t like showing love, but just because if I want something done, I want it done right. My name is on that shit. “Korleone” was like, “Okay, we got bread now, let’s go invest in some equipment and shoot some crazy shit.”
Everything falls in line together if it’s done right. With Vogue, we didn’t have the name or the cover art until a week before the album came out. It was similar with “Korleone”—the song was saved as “2020,” for some reason, and when we left to do the video, we didn’t know where we were gonna shoot. We just drove to Rice Village in Houston, shot some shit, and in the middle of the shoot I decided to call it “Korleone.”
Do you like mob movies?
I watch all mob movies, my favorite movie is Scarface.
I finally saw the first Godfather this year.
It’s amazing, it’s dummy long, though. I own the whole [Godfather] collection. I have it on Blu-ray, I’m the n***a that still watches Blu-rays.
Before we get too far into this, what’s the whole story with you? Were you born and raised in Houston?
Nah, I wasn’t even born in Houston, I was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 2000. In 2002, my mom gave me to her adopted sister and I moved down to Houston. But every weekend or every summer up until I was 10 years old, I would go to Louisiana. Then, I decided to just stay in Houston. I would do regular shit, I wasn’t no street n***a. I was just a regular fucking kid. I’m 19 now.
When do you turn 20?
In July. I don’t want to though. When you’re 19, you feel like you got a lot of time because you’re a teen. But I’ve also been doing adult shit for a long time now. I grew up fast.
When did you start rapping?
When I got to high school, I met Gio (Houston rapper HVN) and we linked up and used to listen to Yachty, Key!, Chris Travis, Xavier Wulf—all that crazy primetime SoundCloud shit in 2016. I used to design too, not even printing anything, but I’m the kind of kid that just wants to learn and get good at everything. So I was learning to make beats whenever I was bored with making clothes.
One day, I was with Gio, and he bought a mic. So I decided to start rapping. It wasn’t to make money or anything, it was just fun. I still remember making my first song. At the time, Gio had this fucked up ass Impala that we used to slide in, and I would make music in the car. I made a song, and it was alright, but then a month later, I was at Gio’s crib recording and we made this song called “All About Money.” At the time, it was insane—we played it for everybody, they was all fucking with it. I don’t even think we posted the song, we were just sending the file to everyone.
I made that shit, and then for a time period, Gio let me borrow the mic so I could make music. When I turned 17, right before Kodie Kardashian, I was making songs with a loud-ass 808, no hi-hat, and a clap. Just basic shit, and everything I said was just to make me laugh really, talking about looking good, being cool. I was making bullshit music and eventually started coming home and dropping a song every single day after school. I was staying up until 2 every morning recording, announcing new songs on Twitter with 100 followers, no fanbase. It was just fun as hell.
Did you like school?
Hell yeah, I fucked with school, I was a good student. I fucked with school because it gives you something to do—you got friends, it builds character, and it’s not hard to be smart.
Anyway, I was just dropping songs with [producer 1431KB] and eventually I got my first show when I was 17. I was at school telling everybody to pull up. I got to the show, it was a tiny ass room, fogged out, on the second story of a building. I didn’t know anybody on the scene, this was my first show, and we stayed there for like three hours. We kept asking the DJ when my set would be and they kept pushing it back. It ended up being like four people left in the room, dead as fuck, and the DJ said if I gave him $20, I could perform. At the time, I didn’t just have $20 to give him. The homie Jordan—I thank him to this day for it—gave him $20 so I could perform, and there’s a video of me performing in front of 4 fucking people, just the homies. I performed one song, it was called “Rockstar,” just screaming. And I should have left that day sad as fuck, but we got back in the car and just headed back to the crib.
After that, I’m still constantly dropping music, starting to get a baby fanbase. Gio would post videos of me performing on Twitter and be like, “17-year old rapper BBY Kodie, he’s up-and-coming.” We was @ing people trying to get shows and all that but nobody was fucking with me. One day, me and Gio was in the car and decided we could just throw our own shows. We didn’t know how and we didn’t know much it would cost, but after that, the Don’t Die events were started.
You go in these functions and start seeing the same people—like these are my people, they’re riding for me and they’re coming to all my shows. I probably had 200 followers, but people in my city were really fucking with me and over time, you start to realize how special that is. I don’t even have 10,000 followers yet (Editor’s Note: Kodie now has 10,500 followers on Instagram) but I’ve built up this weird cult following. That also gave me a realization that I could do this for a long time because I haven’t even gone anywhere yet and there are still people riding for me.
That loyalty is harder to build in the streaming age, too. Did your parents know you were rapping at the time?
They know now. My dad called me in the airport like two months ago while I was on my way back from [Lil] Yachty’s crib. He was like, “We gon’ talk when you get back, but if you’re gonna do this shit, you’re gonna do this shit all the way.” He’s been supporting me ever since.
How did you and Lil Yachty meet?
After “Milkshake” came out, JBan$ DM’ed me asking for my number. He sent me a video of Yachty listening to “Milkshake,” and when me and Yachty talked, he was like, “Your shit goes crazy, I wanna sign you.” He flew me out to Atlanta a few times, that’s my n***a. We haven’t talked in a while but he shows love.
What happened after those trips to Atlanta?
I went back to Houston and started working on Vogue, just working on my own. I really don’t like features, but the Yachty feature [on “Red”] was just me and him sending songs back and forth. I sent him one song but he wanted to take that shit for his album, so I had to make another one. I made “Red,” sent it to him and asked if he wanted to hop on it, and he sent that bitch back like two or three days later.
If he ever reads this shit by the way, I ran that n***a on [“Red”].
So Vogue comes out, and what happens?
I started planning Hollyween. I wanted to throw a haunted house in Houston every year on Halloween, but I ain’t have the money to make it too crazy, so I decided to run it as an album release party since I had just dropped Vogue.
At first, the plan was only to invite 150 people, friends and family, with special invitations that I made. Then, I was gonna do challenges with the fans to try to get invited so that I could build up the hype around it. It was supposed to make people want to come to the show, even though the show was free. So I made 150 invitations, sent them to friends and family, and asked them to post it on their story and @ me, so that everyone would lose their shit over it. I got 150 invitations on my story, I got DMs all day asking how to get invited. After that, I posted the flyer saying that I would do challenges all week for fans to get invited. So we was playing the games with n***as, interacting with people and shit to give out invitations.
The plan was to do all this, then the week before the show, post the flyer for everyone to see, once we built the hype up and people wanted to be there. We stripped away the exclusivity, and that show must have had 1,200 people, it was insane. Yachty hit me saying he was gonna come like two weeks before, and I didn’t believe it, to be honest. Then he hit me up the day of like, “Where you at? I’m here, let’s go to the studio.” He came out with the whole Atlanta family and ended up performing. I spent $10,000 on that show. Every show I’m probably gonna do—or at least every Halloween show—is gonna be free.
After that, life went back to normal. Shit slows down, you gotta be consistent because the world don’t stop. I took a little break after the tape though, I had also gone broke off the show so I was kind of mad. I got back into recording, and me and No Friends dropped a tape on New Years.
When I first started rapping, the plan was to rap, make some money off of that, and then try to become a billionaire—it wasn’t like I’m going to become a billionaire off of rap.
You went on that Texas tour earlier this year, too.
Yeah, I got kind of bored, and someone @’ed me on Twitter like, “We turnt to your shit, we need you out in SA.” I’m looking at the video, and I had never done a show outside of Houston. When you do shit in your city, it’s cool, but once you get out of your city, that’s when you’re really taking over. Before that, the only shows I had done outside of Houston were when I went to LA and New York, like art gallery shows that the homie hooked up—Despot, who’s now my manager.
After the first time I got paid from Vogue, I was like, “Damn, I could actually be a rapper.” I got that whole, “I might not just be a SoundCloud n***a” out of the way. When you’re in your city and your city is fucking with you, you get so in tune with being that n***a in your area because there’s a solid amount of people in that box hyping for you. And then, when someone finally expands that box and shows you how much room is in there, you realize, “Fuck, I’m really not that popping because there’s not that many people in this bitch.”
When I first started rapping, the plan was to rap, make some money off of that, and then try to become a billionaire—it wasn’t like I’m going to become a billionaire off of rap. But now, I took the initiative to take my shit a step up, and after I released “HNYTMO,” it was an introduction to a more grown-up sound. Even though it has that Southern swag to it, it’s more grown-up than my old stuff, like I’m putting more time into the production and everything.
Did you listen to a lot of Houston rap when you were younger?
I honestly don’t remember listening to that as a kid. My parents weren’t playing that—if anything was playing, it was jazz. But you have to pay homage, so I took time to learn the culture. I’m a big Lil Flip fan. He was 18, shittin’ on y’all. You love a cocky n***a, but a cocky n***a who can back some shit up.
You’re into punk rock, too, right? A lot of times in the past, you’ve used non-rap openers at your show like Fade Em All.
I’m a big punk rock fan. My stage presence is very punk rock just because that shit is more entertaining. Shows are really important because you can be a rapper, but you gotta give something else to your fans at the end of the day and you’ll always remember a good show. That leaves a mark on people.
I wanted to ask about the one-liners, too. Do you have any favorites?
I don’t know, it’s a lot. The first thing I say in a song is a very important statement piece for the song, it’s usually some boujee or motivational shit. I used to rap about Teslas at 16 and I ain’t even have fucking credit to go get a Tesla if I wanted to. It was to build up the confidence to go get that. I also treat my music like first-person raps, so when you rap it, it makes you the rapper, talking about not letting bitches touch you and boujee shit like that. It makes you feel as if you are in the same position as the rapper. Even if you may not be, it will motivate you to get in that position.
I’m not trying to be the Lil Wayne of rap with the bars, but they’re very culture-oriented. If you know, you know. I rapped about [the band] Ace of Spades, I rapped about Mötley Crüe, I rapped about Illegal Civilization, I rapped about that band The Garden. With a lot of the bars, no one will ever get the shit, but that’s okay.
Where did the “Kodie Kardashian” name come from?
I love Kourtney, I fuck with the Kardashians heavy. I was always a boujee kid, though. I always wanted to look good and smell good all the time, just be better than everybody. I was more in tune with bitches plus I was a pretty n***a, so it was just fire to me to be a Kardashian.
It’s interesting how you’ve built this whole world around really bold things, like the idea of the Kardashians, “teen icon,” ..
I don’t even know how it happens. It’s organic. I love . especially, though, that’s why my number is a . number, not a Texas number.
Do you think you’ll move from Texas to . at some point?
Fuck no, I threw out my dreams of going to LA after I went to LA. I’m a Texas n***a, I like the South. I’m also a country n***a. I’m cool with having a dirt bike and a truck. I’m okay with that.
A lot of the stuff you sample is that bold, early 2000s pop production. Is that what you usually listen to?
I honestly never listen to that, bruh. Every day I would come home and my dad would be playing jazz, jazz, and more jazz. I hated jazz my whole life. If I was listening to music back in the day, it was just anything that would make me say, “What the fuck?” And it would have been Pharrell and N.E.R.D. and all that, but nobody put me on. I remember when my brother put me on to Kanye, I thought it was the best music I had heard in my entire life.
After Yeezus came out, that was the only album I listened to. I’m a really big advocate of people who can talk shit and stand behind it, and I’m okay with the fact that sometimes you gotta take an ass whooping and sometimes you’ll win. And he put out an album that was bold as fuck. N***as was so mad, like, “What happened to Graduation?”
You’ve been vocal about that, trying not to be pinned as a “SoundCloud rapper” so you can keep growing.
That’s why I go on Instagram Live a lot, to talk to my fans and to play them new music. You have to be in tune with your people, with your fans. So, for example, if I’m sitting at the crib one day and I want to do AutoTune, I’m gonna be smart about it. I might vocal stretch here, and that might be all in the song, but it’s just to give them a taste. And if they like it, now we can move on and I might put a little hook in there with some AutoTune. So later down the line, when I start developing a broader discography with more sounds, those changes are gonna feel natural.
Tyler is someone who’s done that very well.
Exactly. I fuck with Tyler. It’s crazy because I don’t really remember a switch or a turning point, it all just blended together.
With songs like “Milkshake” and “Satisfaction,” what made you decide to start sampling like that? I noticed you also sampled Clipse and Mariah Carey in those two recent snippets.
The first one I did was “Still Pimping Pens” by Lil Keke. The cover art was me texting my manager telling him I had sampled it. After that song went up, I sampled like five more songs. I did “I’m Throwed” one morning, I did “Milkshake,” and I did “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas but that never came out. For the most part, I only want to cover songs by females. If girls fuck with your music, you got it.
I wanted to ask about fashion and design, too—between Vogue and you designing as Ghosthunter, it seems like a passion of yours.
Oh yeah, I was just always paying attention to everything I could. Culture was like an endless hallway where you can just keep going. Everybody you’re inspired by is inspired by someone, and then that person is inspired by someone, and it keeps going. I used to spend all my time on Tumblr and SSENSE, looking at art and brands.
I knew I would eventually come back to designing, and I didn’t want people to think I was bullshitting, like I couldn’t really design. I had this song that got deleted where I said, “Marcelo Burlon shirt on, I’m not tryna fight you.” Nobody even knows what that shit is, but you have to know, to know. I just think it’s a great thing to be mulit-faceted—you’re breeding a billionaire, to be honest. The plan was, when I started rapping, I would get the money, get the clout, then I would just quit and design.
With fashion, I was trying to think ten steps ahead—people would either be like, “This is my favorite designer because he’s my favorite rapper” or, “This is my favorite rapper but he’s not good at designing.” People will always undermine other hustles as your side job but at the end of the day, even though I didn’t come out with Ghosthunter until now, I’ve done all my cover art, all my flyers, and all my videos.
What’s your day-to-day like at this point?
A girl told me one time I was “manic” and that’s probably exactly what it is. I might not do shit for a few hours, but whenever I feel like doing something, I get locked in for way too long, going all night.
I’ve done all this shit on my own and built up the cult following, so when I go to a label, I’m looking for a partnership to take it to the next level.
Are you looking to sign anytime soon?
I’ve done all this shit on my own and built up the cult following, so when I go to a label, I’m looking for a partnership to take it to the next level. Because I’m making money right now, and all I gotta do is keep going on my own. I got no problem with a challenge, I’mma take the challenge every time. If I gotta hire my own PR, my own everything, then I will. But I’m not looking for a label, I’m looking for someone to take the weight off my shoulders and stand next to me.
What’s next for you?
I got two videos I gotta do, looking at my drawing board right now. I fucked my fans over for too long with no videos, but now that we got the resources to do videos, we running them. I’m gonna be mainstream doing the same thing I’m doing right now, but on a bigger scale. I’m gonna make Texas the priority. All love to Travis, but I wanna be the Drake of Houston.