Howling At The Moon With YhapoJJ

Alabama rap artist Yhapo JJ gesturing with both hands for a press photo
(Courtesy: Ryo Sato)


YhapoJJ Evolution of Xur album cover featuring a blurred, dark illustration of YhapoJJ riding a large wolf
Cover art for YhapoJJ’s latest EP ‘Evolution of Xur’

It’s not uncommon to see a rap artist with a growing fanbase get a lot of “next up” type of comments. But when an artist’s fans are too immersed in the music to even bother with the more straightforward stamps of approval, something special is happening.

Similar to the way Yeat fans put umlauts on their e’s and talk to each other like thëir all on ëcstasy, or how SahBabii’s fans are “squids” going barnacles, people are getting lost in the moonlit werewolf world of Alabama’s YhapoJJ — a gloomy yet viscerally exciting place where the wolf emojis outnumber the spam comments on his YouTube channel.

Days after the release of his EP Evolution of Xur, ATC was granted a conversation with the up-and-comer as he celebrated the drop in his hometown of Huntsville. The vibes were good, a surprising development considering Yhapo’s early experiences as an artist in the Huntsville music scene.

Making It Out Where No One Made It Out

YhapoJJ: “To be honest, I thought I was going to get a mix of feedback, good and bad. But it’s really just been good feedback.”

Across The Culture: “Is that surprising to you?”

YJJ: “Yeah! Bruh it’s so many people from down here listenin’ to that shit, tagging me, it’s like (laughs) what the hell? It’s cool.”

Streaming has created many possibilities for artists outside of large markets. Raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Yhapo spoke candidly to Dirty Glove Bastards about his hometown being filled with envy, hate, and generally “weird” people that didn’t achieve much.

Twenty years ago, an artist in a mid-size town hours away from the closest metropolis either had to move or give up on their biggest dreams. In the 2020s, Yhap did not have to make music with regional or even local appeal to gain traction. Because of the internet, Yhap’s persistent social media presence meant he found people who liked him, his friends, and his music from all around the world before he received local respect.

ATC: “Did you expect a fan base like this? … These people — if you had just a thousand fans ever, they would be there rockin’ witchu. Did you expect that?”

YJJ: “Nah, I never expected that. But that’s why I’m so grateful, I never expected that. It’s a good feeling.”

ATC: “I bet. Do you interact with them at all?”

YJJ: “Yeah, I talk to them all the time. They be like, ‘Yhap you go live so much.’ But I can’t help it, ’cause I love them niggas man.”

ATC: “Do you feel like approaching social media the way you do has kinda helped people get into your music?”

YJJ: “Bruh hell yeah. Going live just bring new people in in general.”

While the value of being based in Los Angeles or New York is still high, YhapoJJ is just the latest example of geography’s decreased role in music industry success. These days, the best location for aspiring music artists is any place with good wifi they feel productive in. Yhapo’s success adds to a recent run of hip-hop success stories out of Alabama including the careers of Rylo Rodriguez and NoCap.

Since labels are increasingly going after established independent artists rather than raw talents, it seems like young artists in many genres are better off getting cozy in a nice home studio and learning their way around one or two social media platforms. If an artist finds an approach that works for them and remains consistent, they may soon find thousands of people immersed in their world like Yhapo’s fans hanging out in the woods with him.

In The Forest With Xur

She said I got a cult fanbase, you think I do?

“Hurt My Feelings” (2023)

ATC: “‘To them, you’re the wolf … I don’t know if you wanna have a cult fanbase, but I think of SahBabii. Have you heard of SahBabii?”

YJJ: “Bruh … fucking GOAT.”

ATC: “Talk more about the wolf imagery. Why are you a werewolf in your music? Why is that your vibe?”

YJJ: “I’m a wolf in real life, I just go hard, I’m relentless bruh. I’m a beast, I don’t gotta get in beast mode.”

“You Lookin Gud” captures YhapoJJ’s wolf aesthetic brilliantly

Yhapo’s affinity for SahBabii is a pleasant and fitting fun fact. Like Sah, Yhap draws inspiration from wildlife and fantasy worlds to really capture his fans’ imagination. A fun fact, however, is that “Xur” is not an alter ego the way SahBabii is King Squid or King of the Jungle to his fans — Xur is actually the wolf pictured in the EP cover art. While Xur’s evolution certainly represents something about the artist himself, Yhap having a companion wolf adds another fun layer to the world he’s building.

Along with his stated reasoning for the wolf imagery, Yhap’s music reveals that loneliness also informs the lone wolf imagery in his music.

I put my feelings on the beat ’cause I don’t have no one to talk … to / So I treat y’all like family

“Hurt My Feelings” (2023)

ATC: “Explain, if you want to, “swudda” and the double ‘s’ shit.”

YJJ: “Ahh! Swudda is like saying ‘brother’ but it’s our lingo, it’s our lil’ style, ‘swudda’. You know, swordsmen, sword life, ‘swudda’.”

ATC: “You kinda have — I don’t know if it’s medieval — but the werewolf, steel, in the forest type of …”

YJJ: “Are you familiar with the Underworld movie? That whole series?”

Yhap’s fascination with the niche and polarizing vampire-werewolf franchise Underworld further highlights his taste for the edgy and offbeat. Among other things that set Underworld apart from later and more high-profile vampire-werewolf stories is the particularly beastly nature of the werewolves and more firepower in the action scenes which often involve vampires shooting guns and swinging swords.

A song like “Eazy” would be right at home in a fan-made Underworld montage. Throughout Evolution of Xur, Yhap drifts in and out of moods ranging from agitated and aggressive to calm, melodic drones that do a better job of placing you in the wilderness. Xur might not have bars as angsty and depressed as “Hurt My Feelings,” but there’s still plenty of anxiety in the project around standard-issue haters and women.

YJJ: “I like to put multiple different moods and vibes in every project because everyone going through different things at different times, so this gives everyone a chance to use the music to either cope or shine”

His perspective on love is hot boy by day, lover boy by night. He often croons sweetly to a love interest in his songs with lyrics like “I won’t one night her, swear to God I won’t one night her,” (“Trying”) as a high synth twinkles in the background and the persistent claps give the teenage romance vibes some bounce. Despite the sincerity, there’s still enough edge and loneliness in Xur that keeps the simp level in check.

His musical persona does his stage name justice, an acronym for Young Hearts Accelerate Past Orbit (JJ being his initials).


Rap music is foundational in Yhap’s artistic approach, but he attributes his willingness to experiment as a vocalist to pop powerhouses like Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury as well as the lovable alternative pop/rap/R&B sensation iLoveMakonnen.

YJJ: “I’m always grateful that my mom showed me that type of music at a young age cuz those influences really help give my music the unique and different sound that makes me stand out. Whether it’s the songs I choose to remix or the way I deliver certain vocals you can always tell I been listening to music and artists that’s way different from what people would expect.”

Another distinction in Yhapo’s vocal approach is its unseriousness. Some may interpret Yhapo’s incomplete bars and slurred flows as lazy, but his output clearly shows otherwise. As a freestyling recording artist, YhapoJJ prioritizes the feeling of his delivery above all which allows him to explore his vocal range within a song and over time.

Yhapo’s easygoing nature on the mic has been pointed out by a number of his fans as an appealing quality and is a similar observation made of his underground peer Izaya Tiji. The Ohio-based Tiji actually taught Yhapo how to produce his own music according to Yhap himself in a May 2023 livestream.

Tiji’s career is a bit more realized as an underground rap leader, but he doesn’t market himself as aggressively. This does not stop YhapoJJ fans or Yhap himself from showing love and respect to Tiji whose path will continue to run parallel and possibly overlap again in the future.

Don’t Call Him A Jerk Rapper

A brewing debate among chronically-online underground rap fans is whether or not YhapoJJ has reached his ceiling due to a split in opinion on the hectic, clap-heavy sound that got him Tik Tok virality with “Hurt My Feelings.” Yhap’s toughest critics mistakenly refer to this sound as jerk rap which influences his discography, but isn’t as accurate of a descriptor as “cloud rap” is. At just 20 years old with less than two years of experience as a signed artist, Yhapo is already fighting to stay out of a box some listeners want to put him in.

What Yhapo’s naysayers are really getting at with the “jerk rapper” criticism is the pattern of recent singles sounding like “Hurt My Feelings.” While the observation is valid, what does it say about the rap landscape if sticking with a sound for less than a year garners this kind of feedback? In a seven month span, Yhapo has gone from undiscovered cloud rap gem to upcoming underground king to past his prime depending on the young listener you ask.

A black shirt from rapper YhapoJJ with white block letters that read "Not A Jerk Rapper" with YhapoJJ stylized underneath

Yhapo’s mainstream potential lies in a couple of qualities. First is the uptempo sad-boy world he has created where fans can be in their feelings and turn up at the same time. But beyond the committed fans he’s earned with his latest sound, it’s his willingness to experiment that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Within the seven projects Yhapo dropped on Soundcloud since 2022, production ranges from Uzi/Carti-flavor of trap to rage (e.g. “out my body r@ge”) to anxious cloud rap somewhere between a sad Summrs song and tread music.

Wherever YhapoJJ’s career goes, his achievements are already noteworthy and a valuable example of what aspiring artists can do based outside of major markets. With consistent output, personable marketing efforts, and a musical world where core fans invite curious newcomers to howl at the moon, Yhap’s music seems poised to remain interesting and his wolf pack has plenty of room to grow.

UPDATE 1/5/2023: Edited to state “cloud rap” is a more accurate descriptor of YhapoJJ’s sound than “jerk rap.”



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