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NeroYSL Talks Being a ‘Joint’

The Mid-City Los Angeles rapper describes the changing sound of Los Angeles rap.

Mz Free and NeroYSL pose together. (Mz Free)

Last month I got the opportunity to sit down with NeroYSL for an exclusive interview at his engineer’s home. I was already very familiar with his music and reputation in the Los Angeles streets — his hit single “Breakdance” featuring OTM, protégés of Drakeo the Ruler, has skyrocketed.

NeroYSL is a 25 year-old native Angeleno from Mid-City, Los Angeles. He describes where LA gang neighborhoods end. He moved to that side of town at the age of 13 from the Hoovas — a section of neighborhoods in South LA named for the local gang. When NeroYSL first arrived in the area, he says he was very standoffish and barely went outside. After making friends with a few other kids in the area, NeroYSL adjusted. He describes the neighborhood as being a community of different people from the city’s gang neighborhoods that knew and grew up together. NeroYSL grew up in a single-parent household headed by his mother. “I ain’t gone lie, my moms always been there, no cap,” he says smiling.  

NeroYSL was a rebellious child and often got into trouble at school. He was forced to transfer to different campuses several times, where he found himself in fights with other children. That placed him on the police’s radar. 

NeroYSL began going to juvenile hall starting at age 13. “The first time I did three years, that shit was bunk though, I was still a kid,” he explains. He served several sentences throughout his childhood and young adulthood. When he was released and everything changed — he started pursuing music. “When I got out, I came back, started running that check up.”

NeroYSL reminisced about the things he did and the success he gained with the music being fresh out. “When I started making my music in 2018, it was only for the joints,” he says.  “Joint” is a phrase used by Black Angelenos to describe a sophisticated, high maintenance, rich, flashy, well-dressed person. “If you wasn’t a joint, it wasn’t for you.” He describes his supporters as fly young people getting money, and credits Drakeo for introducing the style to the LA rap scene.

“We this new LA foreal, we ain’t wearing Dickies Suits, lowriders and all that,” NeroYSL says. Often the music industry contains LA music and culture to the trends of the 1990s. “If you sign [to a label] right now, they gone try to throw a lowrider in the back and put you in a Dickie Suit, and that’s what we never been,” he says. I asked him if he had any advice for the younger generations. “If you listen to my raps, I don’t be dissing people, I make music for everyone to listen to,” he says. 

NeroYSL’s music and survival story is one that anyone growing up in LA can relate too. Growing up in LA wasn’t easy and despite all he’s been through he still came out on top. Now, he’s focused on giving the people what they want and sticking to the code. 

Mz Free’s full interview with NeroYSL.

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