Music News

Glasspopcorn Embraces Questions About His Own Sincerity

Glasspopcorn's latest video, "My Circle," features him and his friends buying soda and eating tacos. They stomp on packets of hot sauces, shoot hoops, and ride bikes through Tempe. It's filled with the inconvenient images he's known for: He pets a lizard at one point; at another he raps in his room wearing a rain jacket while a bookcase behind him looks to be toppling over with books: "This is like Google+ / You ain't in my circle!"

His work has received laudatory (and bewildered) notices online, but in Arizona he's largely obscure. Will Neibergall, the high school student behind Glasspopcorn, believes his aesthetic is too esoteric to reach a wide audience. He initially gained popularity after performing at MoMA PS1 in New York City, where he was called "the art world's Justin Bieber," a label he finds both humorous and difficult to contextualize.

He says he popularizes the label because he thinks it won't make sense to anyone, because those phrases are used to corner an artist's work into a specific genre. Many consider him a "meme rapper," a label he isn't afraid to claim for himself, but he agrees that it's difficult to pin down that definition. What makes you a meme rapper? He contextualizes the "If a tree falls . . ." question for a meme-obsessed generation: If Lil B was rapping alone in the forest, would it still be a meme?

After the PS1 performance, Neibergall said, "People were like, 'Oh, I get it. This is just a white kid who found a few cool things on the Internet and now understands art and is trying to rap.'" Many people thought he was a performance art project by an older artist. They considered him a "human meme," and this drew large interest in his work because many people believed him to be a fake.

He's worked hard to prove naysayers wrong by consistently performing and releasing work, and he hopes that his prolificness has led people to see he has something genuine to contribute. He's received a positive response from people who enjoyed "My Circle" and embrace him as an actual artist. As he puts it, "Excitement about me has decreased as I've become more 'real,' but hopefully respect has gone up."

Will talks about Glasspopcorn as a project meant to express what it's like to say something when you're trying your hardest to avoid saying something about the cultural sphere around you — pop culture, online culture, and art. He started rapping at 13 (he's 16 now), alone in his room with his MacBook.

Recently he announced he was quitting hip-hop. Was there anything to it? Well, no.

"Retirement doesn't mean anything for a 'meme rapper,' because you could stop doing a certain thing as an artist and it doesn't constitute retirement — it just means you're doing something else." On August 1 — his birthday — he will release a mixtape, Tw!nk Privilege, and possibly perform shows in undisclosed locations.

It's all part of the push-and-pull of the tension in his work: Is he serious or joking? The next evolution of Glasspopcorn is to disorient the local music scene by performing under pseudonyms, although the music and style of his shows will remain the same.

His friends are joining him, and they plan to buy equipment and practice together. He says, "I don't understand the habits that people get into when performing and releasing music, so I want to break down the consistency of how I do things — which is what I meant when I said I'm retiring."

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Yezmin Villarreal