Rising rapper Drelli, born Mondrell Fields Jr., just wants to make music that feels good. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Drelli was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at just 11 months old, a brush with death that has always left him feeling pretty grateful to be here. “That’s what I want people to feel with my music. I love making people have a smile on their face,” he admits.
Though he says he has “always been into music,” growing up an addict of MTV Jams and aughts Lil Wayne, Drelli did not start making his own until age fourteen when one of his friends got a microphone for Christmas. “We all went to his house on Christmas Day after hanging out with our families, and we started making music. It was just fun.” Soon his group of friends started taking the homemade raps and playing them at local high school parties.
Within a few years, Drelli traded in his harder, Joey Bada$$ flow, for more of a house-based sound, citing Kaytranada and Goldlink as influences. “I ended up developing my sound from there. Honing in by just making a bunch of songs,” he recalls. As all aspiring rappers in 2015, he was dropping the finished tracks on Soundcloud, soon accumulating enough buzz to open for Lil Yachty’s Minneapolis show. “I remember thinking ‘This is cool. I could see this being my life,’” after the performance.
From there, the midwestern talent committed himself to chasing the feeling he had on stage, ditching his college prospects for the chance to be a musician. He moved to Los Angeles, linking up with producer Josh Grant, who has remained his production partner ever since.
With an improvised approach to his sessions, Drelli’s work became hard to define. “People always ask me what type of music I make. I got sick of trying to describe it, so I started calling it SWAG BOP.” More of a songwriting philosophy than a distinct term, Drelli’s self-coined SWAG BOP is a groovy mix of funk, trap and house, with lyrics that find humor in everyday life. “I brought all these things together to make my own genre that allows people to feel like they’re in their own world when they listen,” he explains. “But I’m still developing the meaning of it as time goes on. It’s a feeling.”
After a few years of consistent releases and self-directed music videos, Drelli’s work began to organically catch the attention of outlets like Pitchfork and Pigeons and Planes, and his single “We Don’t Sell Dope” was placed in the 2020 season finale of HBO’s Insecure. “When people ask me ‘how did you do this?’ I don’t even have an answer besides dropping music and working hard,” he says. With Drelli, there is no secret to his success – just good songs.
As he prepares to drop his label debut, “Ain’t Enough,” with 10K Projects and Flighthouse’s new joint venture, Solo Brightest in January 2021, Drelli assures it is just the beginning. “I got a whole EP on the way too, and I want it to feel like a rollercoaster. You’ll see all the different sides of me.”