I don’t chase the market, I create the market.– Fedd The God
Pittsburgh has given us bonafide rap stars, but its relevance is rooted in a steely yet charming local scene where headstrong youngsters constantly lock horns. Fedd The God, the ‘Burgh’s most prominent up-and-comer, spoke with me from LA just a few days into his Vinyl Verse Tour experience opening for Logic and fellow Pittsburgh star (and label boss) Wiz Khalifa. Throughout the interview, he felt more like a matador than a young bull.
Hip-hop fans, like the rappers they love, can often be fickle. But just outside the algorithmic frenzy for new vibes and kings, artists like Fedd are leading their own ways toward longevity.
The settings of a Chicago drill song, a Philly rap song, and a Pittsburgh rap song hardly differ: packed-in concrete jungles where money, loyalty, and death move fast. But where many rappers tap into the sadness and anger of such experiences, Pittsburgh rappers find humor in the chaos and confidently bounce around in it.
“‘Cause the grimy shit be funny as hell, for real … we’re from a blue collar city, so you just gotta make shit funny sometimes. That’s how we get over things, we laugh through our pain.”
Fedd The God, Taylor Gang’s promising torchbearer, might be the most animated ‘Burgh rapper yet with the chops, poise, and grown-man mindset to have a long career in music like the man who signed him.
“The end game is for me to own my own label on some Master P shit … I would love to put people on ‘long as they’re appreciative and they’re willing to work.”
While Fedd has been signed for over two years now, “Help yourself” became a clear personal theme of his during our chat. Speaking on the relationship between the ‘Burgh’s big homegrown rap labels and its buzzing crop of rappers, Fedd regularly shot down the idea that either Taylor Gang or Rostrum Records was obligated to help the city’s rappers come up.
“If I’m going to do something for you, you gotta pop up on my radar and I gotta want to invest in you … basically how Taylor Gang did me. They didn’t have to do nothing for me. I popped up on their radar and they seen, ‘He is willing to dig into his own pocket, he’s willing to do all the right moves to get to where he’s going, so why not aid him?'”
Getting signed by either of Pittsburgh’s big name rap labels was not the plan for Fedd early on. He didn’t even want to be a rapper until his close friend Trillzee, one of the city’s rising stars in the mid-2010s, was killed.
“I didn’t know what the goal was … we knew we could do it because Wiz and Mac did it, but we never really knew how far we could take it. And then I seen my bro do it and he was on the verge of breakin’ through.”
Inspired by Trillzee and motivated by his children, Fedd went from a hustler with a music hobby to a hustling musical artist and “took up where he [Trillzee] left off at.”
A proud Northsider, the early records defining Fedd the God’s career are the kind of colorful trap tales and boasts that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jimmy Wopo album. In Da King James Version – a biblical play on Fedd’s real first name – boisterous tracks like “Bobby Boucher” and the Wopo-assisted “Friday” introduced Fedd to the game (Jimmy Wopo passed months before the tape dropped). Northside Shit firmly put Fedd on Taylor Gang’s shortlist in the fall of 2019, getting signed soon after the tape’s success in 2020.
With label support, Fedd got tailor-made (pun alert) production and video settings beyond the hood that let his charisma shine through on later singles including “Fell Off,” “Shoulda Been a Hot Boy,” and two minutes of rap sparring with hometown legend Wiz Khalifa on “Yea Yup.”
Don’t be mistaken, those songs are true to who Fedd is. But it’s his most recent work – particularly his unreleased stuff – that he believes truly captures him.
“I make music in phases. The music that y’all was hearing before was from my teenage years and from my trap years … now I’m going back to being a child, going back to my free self, my most pure self.”
A rapper influenced mainly by 2000s Southern rap that doesn’t listen to rappers outside of his city might raise concerns for some: why isn’t he tapped into newer sounds? How could he possibly sound fresh in today’s game? Funny enough, words like “urgent,” “bright” and “colorful” are needed to describe Fedd’s art.
“I don’t chase the market I create the market, so why would I wanna listen to what the market is?”
When asked, Fedd was adamant he didn’t feel like he was missing out by not tuning into newer rap music, a pool he repeatedly said is full of “funny guys.” In the context used, “funny” had nothing to do with humor and everything to do with “everybody shooting somebody.”
“That’s not even reality because if you really were, you wouldn’t be rapping.
“My homie’s over there he can even tell you. When we be in the car he gotta turn the music on because I’ll drive with no music … be in there listening to each other breathe.”
Keeping his ear local hasn’t hampered Fedd’s creativity at all. His latest music videos are his best ones yet, showcasing his healthy balance of street and silly with over-the-top characters matching tenacious bars on par with Pittsburgh’s best. Having mastered his city’s hectic and grimy flow, Fedd’s latest work including “Black Ranger” and the upcoming single “Fortnite” show a willingness to use his ability for more unique and honest expressions of himself.
Have you ever died before and woke up, then you seen a ghost? / Yeah nigga, me either, but my alter ego know the most … I ain’t wearin’ no more designer, bad investments put me in a hole / No more niggas ‘llowed around my circle ‘less they play a role– Fedd the God, “Black Ranger” (2022)
Take those four bars, put them in a hibachi restaurant seated next to the Black Power Ranger, and you have Fedd the God. Fun, right?
Fedd knows he’s a good time. Part of the learning curve he describes to me while on tour is fan engagement, something he says is coming to him naturally. Among other strategies, he’s wearing custom local jerseys at every stop on tour which he plans to scatter in a city-wide scavenger hunt back in Pittsburgh once the tour is over.
Eagerly, Fedd lists crowd reactions to his unreleased “Fortnite” as an early highlight on the Vinyl Verse Tour. They’re the reason why he believes so strongly in the upcoming single.
This song’s not out yet. Every time I perform this song, everybody loses their mind. People try to act like they know the song … it fits me. Not to say that the old music didn’t fit me, but a lot of people might not have wanted to hear that from me.
‘Long as it’s pushed and marketed the right way, this song gon’ be the one … this gon’ be the one like, ‘Oh, I told you so, nigga’– Fedd The God on upcoming single “Fortnite”
Further along this childlike creative path, Fedd explains his next project will capture the magic of watching pro wrestling back in the day. Fedd’s nostalgic view feels energizing rather than numbing, not unlike his Dragon Ball Z-inspired stage name.
“I’m in between the names of Degenerate or X. The project is more so a trap kid’s perspective on music from the Attitude Era of WWF.”
With years of hard bar spitting under his belt and new fans flocking during tour, Fedd has a chance to win over a big new wave of listeners later this year with this artistic change of pace. A sweet layer to what lies ahead for Fedd is knowing he has the ultimate quality control: his kids.
“When I make music I send it to my sons and if my sons don’t like it, then it’s a dud.”
The creative whimsy — from trench mixtapes to a childhood concept project — is subtly on brand for a Pittsburgh star. Once he broke out of his frat rap shell, Mac Miller was lauded for his fluid conceptual choices. And while Wiz Khalifa isn’t considered cerebral, the settings, styles, and personas heard across his discography vary from spaceship captain in Star Power to rambunctious Trap Wiz of 28 Grams. It seems safe to expect that whatever Fedd the God comes up with, it’ll be a bit different from what came before, and it will always be on his terms.
As we wrapped up our conversation ahead of Fedd’s next tour stop in Phoenix, I parted with the phrase, “Stay dangerous.” It was a bit silly in hindsight when Fedd, ready to pop an Advil after a wild night on his first national tour, simply wished for me to be safe. He had a similar attitude toward all the ambitious young rappers in Pittsburgh he thinks so highly of:
F: “Everybody after me though? These young niggas comin’ up in the ‘Burgh?” Pfft, they a force. As long as they can stop beefing and killing each other they’ll be nice … all [rap] music is is murder right now.”
Z: “Do you feel like you have to do something intentionally with your music to change that, or do you feel like you just have to be yourself?”
F: “I feel like I gotta lead by example … These young niggas is different than when we was young … they grew up with the embarrassment factor. Nobody wants to get put on camera to lose, that’s why they’re killing each other … I took some Ls in life … you gotta let go of your pride. You got up to fight another day. Yeah he knocked you out, but cool, go beat him in life.
“I understand them, but I just want them to know that there’s more to life than just smokin’ somebody.”
How big can Fedd the God get? Will his next project sell? Those questions don’t feel so important in perspective: another budding Pittsburgh rap star is getting a taste of the world, preparing to come back home in a few months with momentum and a worthy example for other young men to follow. Time will tell if “Fortnite” is the one, but regardless, Fedd has convinced me that he, and Pittsburgh, will relentlessly keep hip-hop’s attention.