A packed crowd writhes along to the buzzing beats thundering from the speakers. It’s a warm Wednesday night in November, and onstage at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right, 23-year-old Houston-based producer Odetari is performing one of his first shows. The 300 or so people assembled range from the middle-aged to young adults to actual children — several of whom are perched on their parents’ shoulders and shouting the lyrics to songs like “I LOVE U HOE,” “GOOD LOYAL THOTS” and Odetari’s latest, “GMFU,” an acronym for “got me f–ked up.”
This lattermost track is a collaboration with 6arelyhuman, a 22-year-old electronic artist from Fort Worth, Texas, whose own shows are similarly hectic and whose audience is similarly age-agnostic. Since its July release, “GMFU” — a dark, thumping anthem about “going dumb” from partying — has accumulated 91.9 million on-demand official U.S. streams, according to Luminate. (Their second collaboration, “Level Up,” arrived Jan. 8.) Odetari’s catalog has racked up 475.4 million on-demand official U.S. streams — a number that swells to 612.6 million when including data from user-generated content on platforms like TikTok — and he has clocked 11 entries on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in 2023. 6arelyhuman’s catalog has 67 million official on-demand streams, ballooning to 96.5 million with UGC.
On a recent Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, Odetari and 6arelyhuman make an eye-catching pair: the former in bulky streetwear, his new grills twinkling when he flashes a wide, easy smile; the latter sporting a pink corset, black platform boots, an enviable black velvet duster and perfectly applied black lipstick adding up to a look that evokes both the rave world and of his two biggest inspirations, Kesha and Lady Gaga.
Until this past August, 6arelyhuman was managing a Panera Bread, slinging bagels by day and spending his nights making music, clothing and TikToks. And until earlier this year, Odetari was a substitute teacher, a gig he says he did purely “for the paycheck.” Now, both electronic producers are TikTok stars, but they’re making significant IRL inroads as well. In 2023, both signed with Artist Partner Group, and they’ll take their high-powered — if not yet totally polished — shows on the road in 2024.
“Our role is to challenge, inspire, support and remove friction points on the path to success,” says APG founder and CEO Mike Caren, who notes that consistency is key to turning internet stardom into more tangible success. “They have the talent, uniqueness, work ethic and originality to achieve huge goals.”
This digital cover story is part of Billboard’s Genre Now package, highlighting the artists pushing their musical genres forward — and even creating their own new ones.
Despite the lyrical content of their music (“Don’t cheat me/Believe me/I am a f–king c–t,” 6arelyhuman announces on “GMFU”), there’s a sense of purity about both acts. They represent a nascent style of extremely online dance music, defined by woozy productions that speed up, slow down and generally capture the sound of the global online dance community from which they hail, the DIY vibe of the early rave era and the ultra-modern world of TikTok stardom. APG senior director of A&R Andre Herd, who signed 6arelyhuman, says that the producer “stood out from the crowd of internet artists because he had been building an in-person fan base through underground raves and parties.”
The electronic scene has always been cobbled together from many niche genres and sounds. Together, Odetari and 6arelyhuman are continuing that tradition while pushing it further — making music forged online that’s now transcending the internet, translating to very real popularity.
Tell me about the first time one of your songs went viral.
Odetari: I always kind of knew that going viral on TikTok, especially with music, is usually a one-time thing if you don’t do it right. The first song [of mine that] went viral [2023’s “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”] hit 256,000 streams in a day, which was crazy to me, because I had never passed 10,000 on a song. I saw how fast it went up and got really excited, but I tried to tell myself, “Don’t get too excited, because you don’t know if this could drop.” Then the next day it dropped by half. So, I was like, “What do I do next? I have to keep this momentum going.” It was like a roller coaster.
What was your strategy when you saw the numbers go down by half?
Odetari: Just rapid-fire dropping [of new music]. Whatever worked for that first thing, you’ve got to keep doing that again and again [while expanding your catalog]. The song that went viral was mostly beats, so the next songs were filled with actual structure and lyrics, so there was steady replay value. That’s what I just kept doing.
6arelyhuman: I relate to him. My first viral song was also doing this up and down thing. But it started to really go [up] when I would see a bunch of videos from people that were creating things and making edits with their own ideas with the song. I remember specifically that one of the things that helped a lot was a [fan-made] South Park edit [that played the song “Hands up!” over images from the show]. [Virality] is a lot about what people do with the song once it comes out.
Odetari: Also, a lot of people making music similar to ours were not showing their faces. We definitely made sure to also attach [our] image to [the music], because a lot of songs that blow up on TikTok, people will scroll and hear the song, but they don’t really care about it or the person who made it. I feel like we really nailed it on that, [by each of us] attaching [our] images and connecting with the fans.
You’re both from Texas. How much of what you make is a product of where you’re from versus from being on the internet?
6arelyhuman: A lot of my inspiration is definitely from the internet, but I feel like there’s something about where you’re from that you put into your music, and it just adds the salt and pepper element. There is that little Texas spice.
What specifically makes it Texas?
6arelyhuman: The way I say things on a song, and the words I use. I don’t know if everyone’s going to be saying “y’all” on an electronic song, but it sounds cool.
Odetari: I definitely have influence from Houston, especially with the slow, chopped-and-screwed stuff. A lot of my music slows down toward the end. When I was growing up, I looked up to Travis Scott. Me and his sister went to the same school, and we were pretty close friends. She kind of took me along the journey when he was first starting, going backstage and stuff. Seeing where he was with [debut solo 2013 mixtape] Owl Pharaoh to where he is now just really shaped a lot of the things I want in life.
Let’s talk about the sound of your music itself — because sure, it’s electronic, but it’s something else, too. What do you both call your sounds?
6arelyhuman: I call mine “sassy scene.” Sassy Scene was [the name of] my first album, and a lot of the songs that were on that project had a similar sound. The word “sassy” is just the feeling you get listening to it, and then “scene,” that could mean the style, because there’s different subcultures of the way that people dress that connect to the music. “Scene” is the community as well, because there’s a lot of people that make similar stuff. Everyone’s making up different words for it — the most common one is obviously “hyperpop.” And then “scene core,” “crush club.”
Odetari: Some people call it “sigilkore.” I call my stuff “Odecore,” but I would just categorize it under electronic dance music.
What are the characteristics of the people in your scene who are consuming your music and making similar music?
6arelyhuman: There are really colorful outfits; a lot of people love the fur [raver] legging things. I see those a lot, and then arm warmers and a lot of accessories — fur and pink. Scene fashion is almost emo, too, that kind of mixes with ravers.
Is this scene happening everywhere? Or is it centralized in Texas? Or is it mostly on the internet?
Odetari: It’s really well respected in the U.S., but overseas they really love it. Poland and Germany, where they have those underground raves that just go crazy, I feel like they’re the ones that really like it. They really get it.
What do your shows look and feel like?
6arelyhuman: Very lively. There’s a lot of energy. It’s mostly younger people, but there are also people that maybe get a nostalgic feeling, too [for the early rave days]. There is a wide range of people. Everyone’s really excited, and it’s really fun, honestly.
Odetari: Sometimes you have to scream in the mic. They’ll scream over you. They know the lyrics. They’re really dedicated. It’s an awesome fan base for shows. The age range is pretty wide.
Within your scene, is there a particular worldview or set of values or a philosophy?
6arelyhuman: I’m not sure about that one.
Odetari: It’s so new, so we’re learning it, too. It kind of goes back to everyone who has made similar music to ours but never shows their face. They’ve never really taken it to a performance level. We’re some of the first to be performing music like this, so we’re figuring out what the best way to do that is. It’s experimental.
Have there been hits and misses in translating your music to a live setting?
6arelyhuman: For sure. Some of my songs are sped up a little bit, and it’s hard to key the music, too, if you’re using live Auto-Tune. Everyone’s doing the sped-up thing, or slowed down, or even both.
Odetari: My music speeds up, then slows down and then is normal. For performances, it’s not ideal unless you do a DJ set, I guess. But again, we’re figuring it out.
6arelyhuman: A lot of the people that are there at the live shows, I feel like sometimes they just want to see you on the stage singing. Even if you’re not giving the best vocals in the world, they just love the song so much that they just want to see you up there having fun as well.
Since you’re both so deeply online, maybe it’s just exciting for people to see that you both actually exist. Do you feel like underground acts?
Odetari: I don’t know. The numbers are not really underground.
6arelyhuman: I feel like we were, but since everything happened rather quickly it hasn’t really hit me yet.
Odetari: It hasn’t hit me, either.
Do you see yourselves performing in arenas, or is the preference sweaty underground warehouses?
6arelyhuman: I don’t know about arenas. You never know. Maybe. But I really do like smaller, intimate shows. They’re more fun. I love jumping in the crowd, starting mosh pits.
Odetari: A 2,000-[capacity venue], those are really the best shows.
What do your friends and family back in Texas make of your success?
6arelyhuman: A lot of people don’t know. A lot of people where I live might not be as tuned in with internet stuff. I don’t know how to explain, like, “Oh, yeah, we just made this in our room and then put it on an app called TikTok and now we’re here.” It’s weird to explain to people that don’t really get the internet.
Obviously, a lot of electronic music is made for parties. How much do you connect to that partying aspect of the electronic world?
6arelyhuman: The type of music we make is something people can just have fun to and not really think about everything else that’s happening. Our type of music, whenever you play it, people just want to jump around and have fun and go crazy.
Odetari: You don’t even need to know the lyrics. You can just vibe to it.
Do you feel connected to other realms of the dance music world?
Odetari: I personally don’t, because I really don’t listen to music. I only listen to video-game soundtracks now, so I really don’t know what’s going on in music that much. I think it helps me not get too influenced by anything.
6arelyhuman: I feel the same way. Anything that’s new, it’s probably just me listening to my friends or someone I actually know. Most of the music I listen to and take inspiration from is really old. From, like, 2010 or 1998.