17-Year-Old Silentó Has Us All Whipping and Nae Nae-ing
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Hip-hop’s face is changing. Here’s who’s leading the charge.
By Kathryn E. Jones
This interview is brought to you by our friends at Vibe.
Silentó’s “Watch Me” took the Internet by storm when it inspired tots, millennials and grown folk alike to “whip” and “Nae Nae.” But the artist behind the dance craze wants the world to know he plans on creating a new wave of hip-hop, and refuses to do so silently.
The 17-year-old Atlanta upstart has already hit the industry, running. He performed at Hot 107.9’s Birthday Bash, during the 2015 BET Awards with Migos and the Black-ish cast and on what he calls the moment he made it big, ABC’s Good Morning America. While saluting viral moves from the Nae Nae to the “stanky leg” on his viral record, Silentó switches up from rap to singing and infuses hip-hop with small doses of R&B.
A successful recipe for his style of music, which he believes is “rated E for everyone.” After a 4 a.m. call time and an early morning turnup on GMA, Silentó stopped by VIBE HQ, assuring us that the whip and Nae Nae won’t be the only reasons to watch him.
VIBE: What is your creative process like?
Silentó: It just pops in my brain, and I just write the record before it go away.
VIBE: Who are your musical influences?
S: Usher, Ciara, Mariah Carey and Future.
VIBE: Like a few of your icons, so many successful artists come out of Atlanta. Do you feel any pressure, and how do you bring Atlanta sounds to your music?
S: I just go to the studio and do what I have to do, and incorporate Atlanta, ’cause that’s where I’m from. That’s what I know, most of all.
VIBE: What was your career like before signing with Capitol Records?
S: I just got involved in music when I was in a group in eighth grade, transitioning into high school. It was just me [without a label or ghostwriter]. I pick whatever I want, say whatever I want. Birthday parties, school events, TV shows … I was performing my older songs.
VIBE: How did you go from performing all over to creating a new social media craze?
S: I was already promoting myself at first on Instagram and SoundCloud. Then we connected with Tooncard, and Tooncard gave the idea to connect with DanceOn Network. They had their dancers making videos on YouTube. Everyone of different races just danced to my songs. People just throw it [on]. I post everybody that I know and anybody who dances to my song.
VIBE: When was the first time you heard your song on the radio?
S: Two months after it was put up in Atlanta. I was on the way to the show and was like, “Turn this up. Turn this up — that’s me.”
VIBE: When is the right moment to bring out the whip and Nae Nae at a party or in the club?
S: When you ready to have fun, when you ready to get the party started.
VIBE: What was the vision behind your video?
S: Basically, fun. Everybody come together having fun.
VIBE: Which fan-made visual was your favorite?
S: My favorite is the one when the man jumped out the car, jumped on the other car in traffic and he chased it.
VIBE: How do you deal with criticism saying your new style is straying away from hip-hop?
S: I’m actually leading it. That’s what they tell me — in a new way for our generation.
VIBE: How do you think you’re leading it?
S: No cursing. Whose parent is gonna buy a song playing a curse on it?
VIBE: Do you ever feel like your age is a setback in the industry?
S: Nah, they say I treat them different. I come in and be all nice and stuff, and a lot of people don’t do that.
- Kathryn E. Jones, OZY Author Contact Kathryn E. Jones