Blackstarkids doesn’t really do labels. The genre-spanning trio from Kansas City, Missouri has a fondness for coloring outside the lines and creating music boundless and wistfully familiar.
The rising indie group, founded by TyFaizon, TheBabeGabe and Deiondre while they were still in high school, dropped its first mixtape, Let’s Play Sports, in 2019. A year later, the trio caught the eye of The 1975’s Matthew Healy and signed to his label Dirty Hit, which features other rising acts like Beabadoobee.
Building off the foundation of early-2000s nostalgia and the influence of artists like Missy Elliot, The Neptunes, Daft Punk and Weezer, Blackstarkids has succeeded at creating a catalog that feels like a sonic blast-off from start to finish. Some releases sound rooted in garage rock and ’90s hip-hop; others erupt with bombastic energy and candied synths. Glossy pop throwbacks like “Britney Bitch” showcase the trio’s penchant for creating viral hooks, while “Too Depressed 4 Sex,” off 2020’s Surf, scratches at the lows we’ve all faced.
The three-piece will make its Las Vegas debut at the Theater at Virgin on November 25, opening for The 1975.
“I think the moment where I was like, ‘I need to make music now’ was probably when I was 10 or 11, and I discovered Odd Future. That was a defining thing for me,” says Ty, the rapper and predominant songwriter of the group, who shares his pen with vocalist and rapper Gabe.
Ty’s discovery of the alternative R&B group The Internet seemingly sealed the deal. “Listening to that showed me there was room in the music world for something like Blackstarkids,” he says. “That’s what put the battery in my back to start making beats.”
Gabe’s exposure to Tyler, The Creator during her time as a DJ struck a similar chord, and Deiondre’s appetite for mastering new instruments led him to become the group’s producer. The trio’s eclecticism especially shines on September mixtape Cyberkiss*, which Ty calls “an homage to a lot of the music we listened to growing up from a lot of Black-centric artists.”
“[It’s] a blend of sh*t really showing what we can do, because before people had us in a box of just making bedroom rock music or some sh*t,” he says. “There’s a lot more to the group than what they hear on Surf.”
Cyberkiss* is a stimulating ride, packed with colorful, almost chiptune beats, whip-like wordplay and profound messaging around friendship and self-expression. Bangers like “Sex Appeal” channel the slick braggadocio of artists like Missy Elliot, while “Pink Starz” comes fully charged with bright arrangements.
Between all the flexing, Blackstarkids never forgets to celebrate Black beauty and what it means, especially for their generation. “Peach Cobbler,” one of the mixtape’s best tracks, sees Gabe declaring, “Brown skin is sun-kissed/Hair’s nappy, need a afro pick/Can’t stop me from lovin’ it/Won’t stop me from rockin’ it.”
“There’s so much sh*t that happens in this country that can make your existence feel undesirable or unwanted,” Ty says. “That song was to keep a self assurance within yourself that you can’t let outside perspectives affect how you look at yourself.”
“Joy” is another heartfelt track Gabe says the trio created “for the people.” Not everyone makes it into that camp.
“You appreciate everybody who listens, but it’s obvious there are a lot of people who are just listening because they like [songs] like ‘Britney Bitch,’” Ty says. “They don’t really give a f*ck about what we’re talking about. Who we really do it for is the people who listen and relate to the sentiment of what we’re saying within the music. That’s the most rewarding part.”
BLACKSTARKIDS Opening for The 1975. November 25, 7 p.m., $39-$250. Theater at Virgin, axs.com.