“We Were Putting in That Work, But We Hadn’t Seen It Done”: An Interview With SleazyWorld Go

Steven Louis speaks to the rising rapper about Grand Rapids, Kansas City, self-determination, getting over a cheating ex and putting on for his young son.
By    May 5, 2022

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Steven Louis pulled up with them switches, hopped out, trippin’ like he on some.

Alexander wept, seeing as he had no more worlds to conquer. But Alexander was an unrepentant lame. Fuck conquering, he wouldn’t have survived 30 minutes in SleazyWorld, where acapellas are sedately growled behind bars and the iced-out shooters rock Mahomes jerseys, grinning the ski mask way. The Kingdom of Macedon had but not even a baby AK, and Alexander would’ve had a stroke at the mere sight of Doni Nahmias’ summer 22 collection.

SleazyWorld is in solstice, disparate realities of an underdog’s life all cosmically coming into alignment. His breakout hit, “Sleazy Flow,” has more than 8 million views in just a few months. He inked a deal with UMG’s Island Records. And as we’re in conversation, his A&R lets him know that “What They Gone Do To Me” was just played on OVO Sound Radio. His forthcoming project, COMER, is led by “Let Me Talk My Shit Pt. 3,” a merciless two minutes exclusively dedicated to punishing the left flank of a sodden, dusty grand piano. Sleazy feels like he’s Gucci Mane, not when he was rapping in 2006 but when he kept the .380 caliber around McNair High School. The music isn’t always this chilling; there’s a discordant warmth to subterranean blues confessionals like “India Me,” and as the origin story goes, this whole SleazyWorld career was sourced from the pain of a bad breakup. But the writing is always this assured, confident and unyielding. The wide smile Sleazy shows off belies his capacity for projecting pain and representing the lost. The way he tells it, his music was necessitated by the past two years of isolation, anger and flaccidity.

Born in Grand Rapids, MI and raised there into his early adolescence, Sleazy has come into his own now living and hustling in Kansas City. KC contemporaries like 2 Times and Daduworld sound comfortable serving from the mud, but Sleazy’s work hits with a certain unrefined urgency that makes it all feel less polished yet so much bigger. The man learned how he wanted to rap and what he wanted to sound like while doing a four-year prison bid; it’s apparent from the way his bars lurch and cascade against one another. And while he’s getting a boost from Lil Baby and TikTok, the full catalog suggests a careful thinker sound-checking a lifetime of abandonment and a thug love song factory with long-term staying power. “Remember that feeling when I was covered in them chains / Nobody was with me, now it’s feeling like can’t nobody get me,” he lets out in 2020’s “Depression.” Who said Rod Wave vibes couldn’t be served with dick and ball jokes about the Glock?

Three projects in (the aptly-titled Sleazy, Big Sleaz and The Sleazy Way), it’s clear that this is the World we’re living in. Sleazy’s team wanted PoW to publish one of his first-ever interviews, generously reminding us that we are really bout this shit. Naturally, we obliged. Let’s make ‘em believe.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

It seems like you’ve moved around a few times in your life. What’s the first place you remember calling home?

SWG: My first home was on the 2100 block of Horton Ave. in Grand Rapids, MI. I was there for a long time, raised there until I was like 13.

What are your earliest memories from that time?

SWG: I have six other siblings, we’re a big family. So there were a lot of us, like a gang of us riding our bicycles around the block. We would get into some bad shit in the neighborhood, fights, parties, you know? Our house was the party house, we had a trampoline and everything that kids want to get into. I’m the third youngest of seven kids. But growing up, I was the youngest. My two younger siblings just came around pretty recently.

My daddy was the one to put me onto music. He used to do music, so growing up, he’d have my brother and I rap battle against each other. That was my first time ever trying to rap or put bars together. After that battle, one of our big brothers brought studio equipment around us to mess around and shit. But I never took it seriously, like I didn’t want to be an artist or anything like that.

What did you want to be, then?

SWG: I wanted to hoop. I was good, wasn’t the best, not as good as I am at rapping now.

And what was being said in those battles, man?

SWG: We were just saying shit! [Laughs] We were kids, five or six years old. Just putting things together that didn’t make no sense. I don’t even remember who won or who was nicer, to be honest. A few years later, I would start to pay for songs on the old phones. I remember downloading Kanye songs to my first flip phone. And then by middle school, high school, it was Gucci Mane and Lil Boosie. T.I. was heavy, and O.J. the Juiceman, but mainly Gucci and Boosie. And it’s corny now, but songs like “[Fresh in My] White Tee” were bumpin’ in the hood back in the day.

What did you pick up from listening to Gucci and Boosie so often?

SWG: I never really thought about it like that. When it came to me starting music, I didn’t really think about their music or anyone else’s.

How did you find and evolve your style, then?

SWG: Around 2017 was when I began to take things seriously. I wanted to find and create my sound, and figure out what type of artist I was. But it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually started making songs and getting in the studio. I used to make music just off the acapella, no beat.

Did something happen in your life, or to your people, that made you take this seriously?

SWG: I was dealing with this female for like, four months, and she ended up cheating on me. So after the breakup or whatever, I started to really focus on music. When I was in the relationship, I was focused on her, it was all about her and I ain’t really have time for the music. When that happened, I was in a bad space. So I went hard on this music shit, it gave me motivation. It was 2020 when I dropped my first video, three months into 2020. We broke up right before my birthday on January 17th, like two weeks before. Couple months after that, I dropped a song and it went crazy in the city.

You couldn’t have expected your first thing out getting that much love, I bet?

SWG: It’s crazy. I’ve been around a lot of people who have dreams of being a rapper, dreams of making it big with a song, and I did that on my first song? It’s a blessing. It’s meant to be. That shit just don’t happen, you know? Same goes for the hit song now.

Yeah, “Sleazy Flow” is nice. My favorite of yours is “Baghdad Flow,” where’d that come from?

SWG: That’s for my homie, Baghdad. Sleazy Flow is my personality, my flow, but this one is for Baghdad. The story, the lyrics itself aren’t even about the homie, it’s just the vibe of the song, just that feeling reminds me of bro.

Where’d the name Sleazy come from?

SWG: I’ve always been Sleazy. The name, SleazyWorld Go, I thought my fans would call me “Go.” But they’re calling me Sleazy. I didn’t think of myself being named that. See, Sleazy can mean a lot of things. It’s a style, a sound, a personality, an attitude.

So SleazyWorld was some shit that you had with your boys, and now you guys are putting it on the road, you’re putting that slang out there for the whole world to dig. What’s that like?

SWG: It’s weird, but at the same time, that’s what comes with this. If it’s good, it’s gon travel. If it’s that good, people will mimic it and want to sound like it. People are always trying to steal, mimic and clone the stuff that’s THAT good.

How do you plan to keep this energy as you go further? Like, you started with this fuel to get over the breakup and put SleazyWorld on the map, how do you keep going?

SWG: I look at it like chapters in my life. Each chapter has something else, a reason and a motive to push me. That was really just the first chapter. That’s why my music will sound different with each project. I done went through and witnessed new shit.

I’m sure you didn’t imagine blowing up right as the world shuts down.

SWG: I ain’t gon lie, I was thinking it’s kinda over for me. Like, right as I really start rapping, COVID shuts everything down like a motherfucker. But that shit worked out for the good, because everyone was in the house. People were bored, focusing on music, looking for new artists. I feel like it was in God’s plan. Where I’m from, certain shit just don’t happen. The two cities I’m from, no artists really came out of those places doing what I’m doing. It’s a rare situation, which lets me know that it’s meant to be.

How do you carry those two cities, Grand Rapids and KC?

SWG: I feel like both cities have underdog stories. When I dropped my first song, people in KC were saying I wasn’t top five, I was probably still a one-hit wonder. So when you ask me about how to keep that drive, it’s that. Showing people that I deserve this. Giving folks a reason to believe, because a lot of people where I’m from don’t feel like they deserve anything. They haven’t seen it happen, so they don’t believe. That’s what a lot of people feel like. If you’re from Atlanta or whatever, you see artists blow up every week. Growing up in that and coming from there, you believe you can do it, because you’ve seen it so many times.

Here, you start thinking that it just can’t happen. That’s just how it be. I seen it with my own two eyes. I didn’t believe I could make it out of a small town, until I really made it. We were trying to make it, but at the end of the day, we didn’t believe it. We were putting in that work but we hadn’t seen it done. It’s a system, the same way that Black people get locked up more. It’s the same way that artists usually make it from Atlanta or Chicago or whatever, and not here, until someone breaks that system.

Do you remember coming to this similar realization as a Black man? That the odds were stacked against you from the beginning?

SWG: I learned that at a young age, my momma and granny drilled it into our heads that we gotta move different with the police. Growing up in school, a lot of the Black teachers would tell us in class that statistically speaking, something like 4 outta 6 of y’all gonna end up in jail or dead. We were young kids! They just trying to tell us the truth. I remember telling myself then, “I ain’t gonna be one of them ones.” And I was still one of them ones! I ended up going to jail anyways! And that’s what it is, that’s how it’s set up, and that’s what we against already when we’re young.

Now, in being one of the first people to make it from these two cities, I gotta make sure that every young person from my situation knows they deserve it too. That they don’t have to be one of them ones. With my career, that’s what I want to show, that’s what I want to leave. It’s a bigger calling for me in making it in this music. It’s another chapter, and I have to show that there’s more talent in the city.

Is there a target on your back as a result of that, too?

SWG: Of course. In the city, there’s lots of people trying to make it, doing it for years. They’re probably jealous that I made it, this and that. But even for the people coming from where I’m from that aren’t rooting for me, I’m still rooting for them to win. Because I understand the bigger picture. And they gon thank me later.

How are you challenging yourself as a writer, as a rapper? Do you write?

SWG: Nah, I just go in there and say whatever. Afterward, I’ll listen and there will be a story to it. So it came from the heart for real, because I don’t think of this shit. I don’t be knowing what I’m saying ‘til it’s done. That’s some shit I’m feeling but don’t even know that I’m feeling. But I want to improve the messaging, the topics. See, I use music to get through dark times in my life. I know there are lots of people in the world that need music for these moments. They don’t be knowing the words to say, but if I can help a person say it, then I’m doing my job.

What’s the plan like for the rest of the year?

SWG: More hits for sure, a few plaques. There are a few festivals I want to do, and I want to break my sound more. Because I still have a lot of work to do. The live shows been crazy, all my shows been crazy packed. Most of em sold out. They’re trying to book me left and right.

Where do you want to go?

SWG: Dubai. I dunno why, but I’ve always wanted to go. It’s something I want to experience, their culture and how they live over there. I’m only 24, so I have a lot of learning to do, a lot of growth still.

Has it been hard raising your son throughout all this?

SWG: It’s been hard, because I hate being away from my son. That’s my twin, for real. But it’s been cool that I made it before he was even old enough to know hardship and struggle like I did. So I know I’m making it for him. When I’m not doing these promo tours or networking or recording, I’m with my son. I try to give all my personal time to him, don’t do nothing else but be with my son. He’s a smart kid, he’s learning how to walk now. But his personality is just like mine, it’s me in a baby body.

What do you mean?

SWG: I’m a Capricorn, which says we’re nonchalant or whatever. He’s not a Capricorn, but he’s still got that chill. He smiles a lot, and I smile a lot.

You always smile a lot?

SWG: Yup. Always been smiling. Even when I was locked up. Smiling is just normal for me.

What gets you mad?

SWG: With everything I’ve been through, it takes a lot to make me mad. My baby mama knows how to make me mad, and my mom, and my son, that’s crazy. Them three really know how to make me mad, but outside that, no one really can.

Before the next chapter starts, as you keep alluding to, what do you want people to remember? Maybe let’s use this as a note to yourself looking back years later.

SWG: I’mma always be humble, but I want people to remember I was humble. I just need to keep making people believers, I can’t stop doing that. With this next project in May, Comer [pronounced Come Here], I’m trying to bring people into this new wave of sound. I see myself over here and the rest of the world over there. I see them looking up to the wave that’s going on in the music industry currently. This is me telling them to COMER, raw sounds and hard beats. We’ve got a lot over here, man.

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