On The Way: 18Veno talks South Carolina, jetsonmade, BoyMeetSpace, and more

Photo by @bijannyfootball

Over the past year and a half, largely under the guiding light of DaBaby, there’s been a shift happening in the Carolinas. The pieces are moving into place, the signature sound is there, and with names like jetsonmade and Neeko Baby behind the boards, the Carolinas – and more specifically, South Carolina – are churning out hit after hit, playing entirely by their own rules while the rest of the world tries to play catch-up. The soundtrack to it all? “Jetson made another one.”

Today, with numerous hits to his name and even a hit single at this very moment in the form of “WHATS POPPIN,” jetsonmade is using onwards and upwards growth to turn inwards, championing his native South Carolina with a locally-focused label called BoyMeetSpace. From producers 1stClass, Deskhop, and Neeko Baby to creative director Chidiebere Udogwu, he’s keeping things close to home, with one artist, in particular, as the chosen one for his SC-oriented team: 18Veno.

Hailing from Winnsboro, South Carolina, 18Veno is a 19-year old rapper supplied with beats from arguably the hottest crew of producers in rap right now. By all definitions, he’s South Carolina’s “chosen one,” and as the chosen one might do, Veno has risen to the challenge with a thrilling brand of eclectic, shape-shifting flows that exist fully in a world of their own. With ease, he blends hard-nosed raps with oddball, ground-shaking production, and as a result, has become an enthralling testament to one central fact: that no place in the world is making what South Carolina is making right now.

That said, after releasing his debut EP, R4z, this past weekend, Veno is here to make his formal introduction to the world via interview. Read our full conversation below, and be sure to stay tuned in to what’s happening in South Carolina; BoyMeetSpace is quickly taking over, and 18Veno is their secret weapon.

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LL: Are you South Carolina born and raised?

Really, my peoples from Maryland – Capitol Heights, Maryland. My mom and them are from DC. So I was born in South Carolina, but as soon as I was born, I went to DC. Then when I was about 5 or 6, I moved back to South Carolina, and I’ve been in Winnsboro ever since.

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LL: How did you get into music? Was it always around you from a young age?

Hell yeah, music was there right away. I grew up on some trap shit, like I grew up on some Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, Young Jeezy – that was what my mama played in the car. I wanted to be a rapper because all I saw was n***as getting money who looked like rappers, whether they was rapping or not.

LL: What age did you really start rapping?

It was really third or fourth grade. I was always rapping in the cafeteria and shit when I was a kid, but fourth grade was the first time I remember really writing a rap. I was rapping that shit in front of my Unc’ and my mama and them, laughing at me and shit. I was 9 or 10.

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LL: Did people in school know you were rapping?

Yeah, my brother passed away when I was 14 – that was ninth grade. Right after my brother died, I started fucking up in school and shit. I got myself expelled and ended up going to alternative school, really acting out. I made a song about how you gotta fight through that shit, and the song got like 8,000 plays on SoundCloud – now it’s taken down, but that song was called “Fight.” Ever since then, everyone knew that I was a rapper. I’ve been dropping songs on SoundCloud since eighth grade, just recording on my laptop and shit. But after I got my first little buzz with “Fight” in ninth grade, everyone knew I could rap.

LL: Was there a real “scene” going on in South Carolina at the time?

Nah, hell nah. It wasn’t no type of scene at all, I just got a nice amount of views because I could really rap. I had a fanbase through the kids who were younger than me in school – they would see me and my n***as doing some street shit, getting money, so all the n***as younger than us looked up to us. At the time, I was getting around 1,000 plays on each song on SoundCloud. [Jetsonmade] and all them boys who I’m fucking with now – I was watching all them boys come up at the same time, but I was in Winnsboro so no one knew who I was.

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LL: How did you end up connecting with jetsonmade and Neeko Baby?

The first time I went to jail I was 16, and I went for 5 months. When I got out, that was the first time I was going to a real studio – it was in Columbia, because Winnsboro don’t got no studios. So I was going to Columbia to record, just building my name.

Around that time, I dropped a mixtape and there was a dude I met named Trap who played baseball. He threw a party in Winnsboro one night, and Black Zacc, Renni Rucci, and Mizz Twerksum were there. When they came out, I was telling Trap “you gotta let me perform.” He thought my shit was hard and had known my older brother before he passed, so he let me perform at the party after Black Zacc and Renni Rucci left. I did that shit and then went to jail again when I was 17 for two months.

After I got out, Trap got a Neeko beat for me, but I was put on house arrest so I couldn’t go nowhere – I couldn’t push the song. Some time went by, I saved up some money, and Neeko said if I could come up with $300 we could put our money together and shoot the video for “Veno Story.” Ever since then, it’s been up; me and Neeko been locked in – that’s my brother.

LL: So Neeko was already tapped in with Jetson, and that’s how you were connected with him?

Basically, Neeko is locked in with Jet, and Neeko’s been fucking with me, so Jet was gonna hear [my music] some type of way. Long story short, I convinced Jet that I was the one, so I would just be around. We were friends before we started with the music shit. At first, he said I was hard but had no swag – I didn’t have no drip. He saw the potential, though. Ever since I hopped in this shit, I’ve been standing out, so Neeko helped tell Jet that “Veno’s the one.”

We really got a bond with this music shit, so we click real easy. Everything that’s happened so far has just happened naturally. Jet told me that if we do this shit every day, it just becomes our lifestyle, and then you don’t even gotta think about doing it.

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LL: Was there ever a turning point when you knew music was it for you?

To keep it real, it wasn’t a turning point. It just came to a point of “what do I really want to do? Do I wanna be in the street, or do I wanna rap?” I had to go to jail a couple more times to realize that I’m gonna miss my chance if I keep fucking up, so I just had to grow up – put on my big boy pants and just stop playing. Neeko really snatched me up and took me under his wing, getting me out of Winnsboro. Ever since then, I’ve been staying out of trouble. I just had to learn how to be a grown man.

LL: Between names like jetsonmade and Pi’erre Bourne, it feels like South Carolina is really coming into a moment. How does it feel for you to be a part of that?

That shit is unbelievable, but I still don’t think we have the respect we need. We ain’t on like we’re supposed to be, yet. It’s up us at this point – it’s up to the artists that SC has right now. I wanna be one of the ones that helps put us on at a worldwide level, because it’s bigger than a million views here or there. We need people from SC hitting 100 million, known around the globe.

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LL: What can fans expect next?

It’s really a surprise. Up next is just more 18Veno. The Space Route is taking over the world, 18Veno is taking over the world. I got it, we got it.