We are currently in the midst of a generation of rappers obsessed with cartoons. Artists who grew up during the heyday of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are creating music inspired by whimsical animation, whether it’s Lil Yachty sampling the Rugrats theme or Rico Nasty releasing a homage to Hey Arnold!. Of all of them, 20-year-old Atlanta rapper Sahbabii may be the most deeply attached to this aesthetic. Like these cartoons, he seems to exist in his own universe—it’s a world where the colors pop, the infrastructure is zany, and logic is thrown out of the window. In his video for his track “Marsupial Superstars”—which has clocked over one million views—Sahbabii bounces around a suburban neighborhood as it transforms into an old-school video game. He dances through clouds of bubbles that look straight out of an episode of Spongebob as cartoon monsters fill up the sky.
Sahbabii’s radiant image came into focus on his mixtape S.A.N.D.A.S, which initially came out in 2016 and received a remastered commercial release this past June. Throughout the project, Sahbabii’s vivid imagination sets the blueprint for his musical style, which incorporates clever wordplay alongside breezy melodies and a ton of goofy animal references. He honors his favorite mammal on “Purple Ape” and takes his love for amphibians comically too far (“I want to fuck a amphibian,” he sings on “Marsupial Superstars”), all while hitting his best falsetto.
Now, Sahbabii is preparing for the release of Squidtastic, the next chapter in his animated adventures. While he’s not the only rapper exploring this colorful lane, he’s displayed a willingness to indulge his wildest impulses that’s cemented as him one of the most compelling figures in the scene.
ALPHONSE PIERRE: Lately you’ve often been talking in the third person. So why is Sahbabii your favorite artist?
SAHBABII: Sahbabii my favorite artist ’cause Sahbabii just be himself. And I like that world that Sahbabii is in, and the mindset.
PIERRE: You were born in Chicago and moved to Atlanta. Do you think both cities have had an influence on your music?
SAHBABII: Yeah both cities have had an influence. Chicago, that’s like the rugged part of my music. ATL, that’s like the cultured part of my music.
PIERRE: Is T3 [the rapper featured on “Marsupial Superstars”] your actual brother?
SAHBABII: T3, that’s my real older brother. T3 used to go hard with his music. He sounds good, so I just wanted to start doing music too, try it out. He was always doing it so I just wanted to see what it was about, making my own music and listening to my own music.
PIERRE: When did you realize that you were talented?
SAHBABII: I always thought I was talented it was just that I decided to share it with the people. I just liked my music so I wanted other people to listen to it too to see if they like it too. I was originally making music just for me to listen to.
PIERRE: Do you freestyle or write?
SAHBABII: Nah, I don’t plan things out I just go with whatever the vibe is. Whatever the energy is. Things I get from the beat. Or at night, whatever I experience or something like that.
PIERRE: You don’t release a ton of music compared to your contemporaries; do you not record often, or are you just selective about what you release?
SAHBABII: Nah, I record it a lot, I record a lot. I’m just very selective. I can do a whole project.
PIERRE: Is there a specific movie that influenced the sound of your music?
SAHBABII: Spongebob. Yeah, my new project coming out Squidtastic. I just like how colorful it is. And I like animals.
PIERRE: Why did you release a remastered version of S.A.N.D.A.S?
SAHBABII: I liked the project a lot so I thought it deserved to sound better. So I made the remastered version with bonus tracks on there, so I could put it on like iTunes and get some different type of music listeners.
PIERRE: What did you learn about making a project from S.A.N.D.A.S that you took into Squidtastic?
SAHBABII: You gotta go hard. Higher expectations. I gotta make it sound cohesive and still make it go hard. People love music that leaves a certain mark out there, people see. So I gotta make sure I live up to S.A.N.D.A.S.
PIERRE: What is Squidtastic going to sound like?
SAHBABII: It’s gonna sound real good. It’s gonna sound Squidtastic. It’s gonna be real colorful.
PIERRE: You mentioned that you love animals—which ones are getting name dropped on Squidtastic?
SAHBABII: Baboon, I got that on “Watery.” I got a lot of squids on there though.
PIERRE: Why do you call your fans “Squids?”
SAHBABII: Because I’m king of the squids! Yeah, my fans are open minded they think just like me. They just like me, that’s why I put bubbles in [the “Marsupial Superstars” video], that’s for the Bikini Bottom.
PIERRE: You watch Planet Earth 2 yet?
SAHBABII: I always watch the Discovery Channel. I was just watching a documentary on grizzlies.
PIERRE: One of your most anticipated songs is “Anime World.” What made you want to embrace anime?
SAHBABII: Because I watch anime a lot. I watch Naruto, Bleach and The Boondocks.
PIERRE: What would your own anime world look like?
SAHBABII: Ninjas and ancient animals.
PIERRE: I feel like I always see you in a studded leather jacket; what influenced your style?
SAHBABII: I was just influenced by anime. How Naruto dressed and my spikes came from my uncle.
PIERRE: You announced a book based on your Unknowism philosophy. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
SAHBABII: Yeah the book is still gonna come out. It’s about the new world order. My new world order. My mindset and ideology.
SAHBABII’S FORTHCOMING ALBUM SQUIDTASTIC (WARNER BROTHERS RECORDS) WILL BE RELEASE LATER THIS YEAR.