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Denver musician ITSOKTOCRY was a pioneer of the emo rap genre, but he's not resting on his laurels.EXPAND
Denver musician ITSOKTOCRY was a pioneer of the emo rap genre, but he's not resting on his laurels.
Oakland L. Childers

Rapper ITSOKTOCRY Talks Disco, the End of the World and DIY Cartoons

There’s some pretty grim thinking behind the new ITSOKTOCRY album, Destroy All Monsters.

The colorful rapper and producer behind Poshboy, one of the most upbeat and fun records to come out of Denver in 2019, has returned for his second album of the year, and the message is decidedly less positive.

“I feel like, if I’m keeping it super-transparent, we're definitely in the end times, in my opinion,” says ITSOKTOCRY, lounging in his home studio. “I think, like, there's so many monsters and, like, evil people roaming the planet now.”

The title of the new album, released at the beginning of December, reflects both the future ITSOKTOCRY sees for the world and his past. It’s an homage to one of his favorite childhood video games — Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters — as well as a call to arms for anyone who doesn’t want to see the world go down in flames.

“I may just think that because of where technology’s at,” says ITSOKTOCRY of his negative view of where the world is headed. “Everything's more accessible, and I can know all of this information. Maybe bad shit like this has been happening the whole time and everyone just didn't know about everything. Destroy All Monsters is my motto right now.”

2019 has been an eventful year for ITSOKTOCRY. Poshboy continues to be a huge hit everywhere, from Spotify to Tik Tok, with total streams of roughly 40 million across all platforms. Destroy All Monsters appears poised to do at least as well as its predecessor. But despite his success, he also felt the ugly side of the world and the city creeping into his psyche, so he decided to move to the suburbs.

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“In the city, everything is kind of stacked on top of each other and in everybody's face,” he says. “My old house was next to a 24-hour ATM. There’s a lot of crackheads, a lot of people just roaming the streets all the types of times at night.”

Now he’s living in Englewood, on a quiet street in a nondescript home, which suits both his intense work schedule and his natural tendency toward isolation.

“I’m a hermit,” he says. “I barely even leave the house. I Amazon all my groceries and all that shit, so I dead don't leave. I prefer to be somewhere in the cut, quiet, where no one's going to bother me, and I'm not going to bother nobody else.”

It’s hard to argue with ITSOKTOCRY’s logic. In the handful of years that he’s been releasing music professionally, he’s been right most of the time. He predicted the emo revival and helped pioneer its melding with rap and electronic music. So when he says disco is coming back, he’s probably right — and he can support his hypothesis.

“Disco died because of a lot of, like, political bullshit,” says ITSOKTOCRY. “It didn't die because people were like 'This is whack.’ I feel like we're in an era where everyone's making grunge, emo, sad music, and drug use is at an all-time high, just like it was when disco was popping. You get any of these people [who are] high on drugs to listen to a disco record, and they're going to like it. You can’t not bop your head to it. You can’t be in a bad mood and listen to it. It’s feel-good music. It’s hard to not like.”

Destroy All Monsters is by no means a disco record. It has more danceable songs than previous ITSOKTOCRY albums, but those bits and pieces never feel overly nostalgic or campy. Like everything else the producer creates, the disco elements are just another zig-zag in his quest to break down barriers between genres.

“I've always switched my shit up,” he says. “Every project I've ever dropped over the last four years is a different sound every time.”

As odd as it is to hear from a 26-year-old, ITSOKTOCRY credits maturity for keeping his music fresh and relevant.

“I’m older,” he says. “I’m very open-minded compared to how I was when I was eighteen. When you’re eighteen, you’re like, ‘Country music sucks, and everything on the radio is trash.’ You have such a closed mind because you think you’re just the coolest thing in the world when you’re a teenager. Then you get old and listen to other shit and open your ears to other shit you wouldn’t normally be listening to, and you’re like ‘Damn, that shit’s fire.’ Like Harry Styles’s new record — fire! Do I go out of my way to bump it every day? No, but it’s fire.”

He also keeps his ear to the ground, always looking for other musicians with whom to collaborate. A big influence on the sound of Destroy All Monsters, he says, is a relatively unknown producer named Fish.

He sent me one of the instrumentals,” says ITSOKTOCRY. “I was like, ‘What? How is this happening? Who the fuck are you? How are you making this? Make more! Stop everything you’re doing that’s not this.’”

Spotlighting lesser-known artists has always been a big part of ITSOKTOCRY’s game plan. He’s picky about whom he works with, but only based on what they can offer.

“I'm just trying to have fun and make music that I enjoy,” he says. “I really don't have any features from super-giant label people. I'm on the lookout for the sound I want, and once I find someone that can help me achieve the sound that I want, then I just go pedal to the metal and go as hard as I can. I don't care at the end of the day if John Legend's on a song with me or not. That would be cool, but am I going to cry about it? No.”

It’s much more important, he says, to make good music than to work with the “right” people.

“I think people are too reliant on online clout tokens to try to get to the next step instead of just making hits,” says ITSOKTOCRY. “I'd rather make something I enjoy listening to. I feel like that's the point of working with someone else: You both find a common ground, and you work on that.”

If it doesn’t help the song, he says, there’s no point in putting it on the record.

“You listen to a song and it's, you know, a rap guy on a pop song or something like that, and they don't step out of their comfort zone,” he says. “That's cool and all, but that's not making it. That’s just like showing up for some bread. Sometimes I’ll have someone on a verse, and I'll be like, ‘No, it don't match up.’ I never really care about hurting somebody's feelings. I'd rather be honest.”

Even as his music career continues on an upward arc, ITSOKTOCRY has his mind set on other things outside of making records. His first love, he says, is animation, but he didn’t have the money to pursue a career in making cartoons when he was younger. Now he says he’s ready to take a shot at creating his own animated TV show. In characteristic fashion, he’s not waiting around for someone to tell him he’s good enough.

“I really want to be a voice actor, like really bad,” says ITSOKTOCRY. “The only way I'm gonna get my start is if I just do it myself. I’m good with animation, good with editing, good with everything else, so I might as well just do it.”

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