The 25-year-old rapper grew up in Watts.
I drove to Watts during Easter weekend for an exclusive interview with Lambo4oe, a 25-year-old R&B singer/rapper. He’s been going viral on social media with his hit single “Self Esteem” featuring NLE Choppa.
He welcomed me into his neighborhood by showing me around the apartment complex he grew up in as a child. We also went to one of the most notorious public housing complexes in Watts, Jordan Downs. Although he no longer lives there, he reminisced on the memories he created while being there from birth to age 12.
Lambo was born in Lynwood Hospital in Lynwood, California. He grew up in a big family and even though his parents weren’t together, he had both of them present. “I got a lot of cousins and stuff. A lot of aunties. I got my mama, I got my dad, they always been in my life. I feel like that’s the reason I am who I am, because I got a lot of structure. I’m very smart and wise.”
Lambo’s family has lived in Watts since long before he was born. The city has the largest number of public housing complexes, known to many as the “projects,” in Los Angeles County. Lambo loved the area he grew up in and never let the struggles he experienced define him.
“Even though I come from a poverty-stricken environment, I ain’t never felt like I was poor or anything like that. I always felt like I could make it and be something great. I felt like that’s how everyone felt like in the projects,” he says. That’s what I’m tryna uphold and let everyone know that it’s all good. You can make it, man, just gotta stay focused on what you’re doing.”
Watts is known for its large gang culture and the dangers involved with it, but also for the tourist attractions. “You can go into a place that ain’t a tourist attraction though. You gotta know people and you have to know how to move correct and be smart. Watts isn’t a bad place, you just gotta be smart when you go there. These are different worlds you stepping in when you come here. You have to be aware of what this is, cuz LA moves fast.”
Lambo had a lot of freedom growing up and was able to move freely around his neighborhood. “My mom and them grew up there so they knew what went on there. So their mind frame was to let me be how they were and see what they know.”
Lambo was aware of the environment he lived in and was forced to learn at a young age the dangers his neighborhood had to offer. “For me, growing up there was fun, but there was some times where shit would go on and I really wouldn’t understand what it was. I was little as a muthafucka and I was seeing people die, it was really different for me. So I feel like I grew up fast, so I understand shit a little bit different.” Even though he didn’t gangbang, Lambo had friends and family that did, prompting him to always be aware of his surroundings.
“I’m over here with these people but I ain’t grown yet, but these other n****s grown and shit. But I’m standing right here with them. But now my mindset is changing cuz it’s like well, fuck. If they come shooting, they shooting at me too. I had to be more aware. Like, OK, now there’s a possibility that you can lose your life, if you’re not fit for your environment.”
Lambo didn’t allow himself to get caught in the street life and kept busy by playing sports. “My dad had me occupied with sports, because both sides of my family grew up there. I just had different options because my parents lived in it so long. They knew how to oversee certain shit and they never stopped working hard,” he shares. “My parents wasn’t rich, but they had the rich mindset enough to where like they was like, ‘OK we gone treat your life like this, so you can become this.’ I was always focused and determined to be some shit, I just didn’t know what I was gonna be yet.”
At the age of 12 Lambo moved from Watts to Moreno Valley, in the Inland Empire, with his mother. His father still lived in the South LA neighborhood, and Lambo would visit for summers and holidays. That year he was kicked out of school and his mother sent him back to the city of Los Angeles to live with his granny for 2 years.
“I was going around a whole different [set] of people and I didn’t really understand them, and they didn’t understand me because of the environment I was coming from. Eventually I learned that I had to kinda be like, cool. Once I started being cool, my mama came back and got me from my granny house.”
Lambo moved back to the IE at the age of 14. He ended up getting expelled one more time. “Then I was like ‘n***a, I wanna go to school,’ I was like ‘I don’t wanna be here with all these kids that do drugs and shit.’” Lambo eventually straightened his act up and was able to enroll back into regular school.
Around this time, Lambo was introduced to music by his grandparents. “My granny being the head of the church choir, they would be practicing at my granny house sometimes. I would be practicing with them sometimes. Eventually I learned how to sing. One day I remember my granny was playing this Michael Jackson song off this movie called The Wiz.” Lambo studied his mannerisms and was inspired by his confidence and how he commanded the crowd. “I learned who Michael Jackson really is. After that I just listened to all Michael Jackson.”
Although Lambo had never made music before, he knew it was something he wanted to pursue. He continued to play sports in school and had hopes of going to the NFL until his father passed away unexpectedly. “When my dad passed away I kinda went my own way. I felt like my dad was tryna make me a football player, but I always wanted to dance and see myself being big. He never wanted me to be that, because he was a gangbanger and he felt like that was too soft. But he didn’t get I could turn rich off it.”
When Lambo turned 18 he set out to chase his music dreams. “I started making my own music with my friend and my cousins. We was all in a group. We had my friend’s dad … putting money behind us. He was just turning us up, but eventually we broke up because my friend got into it with the dude. But we said we was gonna keep going, but then my best friend, which was my boy’s cousin, he died. Then he stopped rapping.”
Lambo wanted to continue to pursue his music, but didn’t know how he was going to pay for it. “I was like, ‘I got to actually get a job if I want to become a rapper. I done graduated from high school and shit like that, my mind ain’t really to be no gangbanger. I’ll go get me some money and grind and hustle.’”
Lambo returned to the Inland Empire and continued to stack up his money and create a bunch of songs before actually considering himself a rapper. “I would do little shit to get myself out there, pay to get on shows. Then I said, ‘Man I’m out here rapping but no one I’m rapping for knows who I am, because they don’t know where I come from.’ So I said,‘Ok, Ima go back to Watts, and do this all, my family still lived there.” In 2019, at the age of 21, Lambo dropped his first viral project — titled “Project Buildings.” The video takes place in the Jordan Down projects in which Lambo roamed as a kid.
He continued his rapping career, thinking that’s what his supporters would want to see, but something kept bringing him back to his singing roots. “When I started singing and being me, that’s when I really went viral.” He switched up his whole persona and started making music he considered to be “for the ladies.” From January to December of 2022, he decided to stay structured and only push one song the whole time. “Instead of people choosing if they’re going to like the song, I’m making them like the song.”
Lambo says that everything he went through prepared him to move up to the next level. He studied the business side of the music industry and learned how to properly run his catalog and get paid. His main priority was to save money and put his music first. “Once I did that, I stayed grounded, I left my mama house, because I’m like ‘I can’t pay no rent nowhere, I gotta do everything that tends to me making it’. I had an Audio ’85 Coupe that I had just got. I said, ’Fuck that, Ima go to work and Ima just stay here as long as I can.’”
Lambo worked at the Converse Warehouse and slept in his car until he saved enough money to comfortably pay rent at his mom’s. “But I didn’t have to though. I did that so I could stack every dollar I made. I just had to take a stance I ain’t never did this in my life, but I did this to change my life.”
He started performing on Caffeine TV, an entertainment streaming network, with Tommy the Clown and throwing his own shows. Tommy the Clown is a Los Angeles–based dancer and entertainer known for inventing the “clowning” style of dance in 1992, which later evolved into “krumping.” With Lambo’s new popularity, his songs began to go viral on Tik Tok. With newfound fame comes newfound negativity. But Lambo was able to find inspiration. “I felt like everyone around me was tryna, like, knock my confidence. My self esteem. When I made [“Self Esteem”] I got this imaginary person in my head that get everything about me and I get everything about them and it just makes me wanna sing.”
His single “Self Esteem” went viral on Tik Tok and received millions of streams on SoundCloud. That success gave him the notoriety he needed to get signed. “I had every label offer me a deal, and I had some labels offer me some money that was like WTF.” He says he ended up signing with the label he felt would help build him as an artist and teach him more about the industry. “I chose APG because they had all the things that all these other labels had, but they didn’t have a big roster of artists, to where I would have to come 8th, 9th, 10th to anyone. I wanted the song to get to another level and I knew I could be big, but I knew I couldn’t get big without help. I said if I go with them I get the best deal, a partnership/single deal which is better than a 360 deal or to sign to them for albums.”
Lambo recently dropped a new single called “Tada,” featuring LA artist Blxst, and is getting ready to drop his EP Lambo Baby in June. He encourages his fans to never give up on their own dreams and to always believe in themselves. “I built myself up eventually to where now I’m here, I remember a long time. I just be rappin, but I never would think to myself like ‘when Ima make it,’ I just kept going. … Now it’s like damn, now they know me, I don’t gotta be like ‘I’m Lambo’ or ‘I sing Self Esteem.’ I don’t have to convince people — I walk in the room fully myself. I remember when I didn’t have that though.”