Sheck Wes is a New York City-based rapper who makes stark and gritty, underground-inspired hip-hop that centers on his meaning-heavy lyrics. In early 2018, the 20-year-old first-generation American premiered his breakout single “Mo Bamba”: a tribute to his childhood friend and Orlando Magic draft pick Mo Bamba, and a powerful portrait of survival in the inner city. With its video shot in the Harlem housing project where he still lives, “Mo Bamba” drew admiration from hip-hop’s biggest heavyweights, and soon led to Wes’s signing with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Records and Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, and later to Interscope Records.
Made with up and coming producers, DayTrip, Lunchbox and Redda, and released in early October, Wes’s full-length debut MUDBOY won widespread acclaim; Pitchfork hailed it as “a force to be reckoned with, a coming-of-age album from an über-hyped prospect that actually delivers on its promise.” Along with “Mo Bamba,” the album contains critically praised tracks like “Jiggy on the Shits” (which features a verse in his family’s native tongue of Wolof, and recently appeared on a Best New Rap Songs list from Pitchfork), “Kyrie” (highlighted in a “Best New Music” roundup from Complex), and “Vetements Socks” (included in the New York Times’ Playlist column).
Born Khadimoul Rassoul Sheck Fall, the son of Senegalese immigrants, Wes grew up in the Central Harlem project St. Nicholas Houses. At age five his family relocated to Milwaukee, and Wes spent much of his childhood moving back and forth between Wisconsin and New York. After returning to Harlem in his early teens, he split his time between making a name for himself in the fashion industry, playing basketball (and earning recognition as one of the city’s best high school athletes), and—having joined a rap group in Milwaukee at age 11—making music. He was eventually scouted by a modeling agency while riding the subway, and in early 2016 skipped a playoff game to appear in Kanye’s Yeezy 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden.
As Wes began building momentum with his music and fashion, his mother sent him to live in Touba, Senegal, where his passport was promptly confiscated by his older brother. Informed that he’d need a religious leader’s approval in order to return home, Wes first resisted his surroundings, but eventually had a shift in perspective and discovered a deep love for his family’s homeland. By the time he headed back to New York, 100 days later, Wes felt a new sense of purpose and a determination to empower others with his music.
On MUDBOY Wes proves that he’s stayed true to that mission, and embraced a drive best encapsulated by the artist himself when asked about the album’s title: “[‘Mudboy’ means] to come from nothing. To come from the mud. You gotta turn nothing to something. I don’t talk about the word ambition—I show it.”