By Trey Alston

Blueface makes punchline-packed music that’s simultaneously bubbly and morose. There’s a gritty feel to its composition, frequently involving the hyperactive, sensational melodies that make California hip-hop the stuff to vibe to in the club. The 21-year-old Los Angeles rapper and Cash Money West signee has quickly carved out his own space in the field with an offbeat flow that sounds like he’s chasing a train that he just keeps missing. Because of it, he became the viral star to close out the end of 2018, and one to watch rise in the new year. And alongside him is Laudiano — the producer behind the beats for "Respect My Crypn" and "Studio," two of Blueface’s most important songs — whose proximity gives him insight into the rapper’s rapid rise.

Also based out of L.A., Laudiano has been making beats for two years and has worked with the likes of Drakeo the Ruler, Stunna Girl, and Shoreline Mafia. His connection with Blueface came organically. “I contacted him after I saw his video for ‘Deadlocs,’” Laudiano told MTV News. “I sent him some beats and he emailed me back saying he fucked with them. He shot a video of himself in his car rapping to them and we went from there.”

Laudiano entered into Blueface’s world, where unorthodox flows and energetic rhymes are the norm. Blueface is, as West Coast legend Ice Cube noted, "an acquired taste." For every fan that he attracted early on, he pissed off two more who felt that he was making a mockery of rap. But Laudiano has created the perfect atmosphere for this off-kilter style.

When you look at the results, it’s no wonder the pair has established their camaraderie. Blueface released two mixtapes in 2018, Famous Cryp in June, and Two Coccy in September. “Respect My Crypn” appeared on Famous Cryp and outshined the other standouts “Next Big Thing” and “Thotiana” — two tracks that became popular because of meme-able video moments. Laudiano’s beat — an excessively vibrant, fluid thing with a sticky bass drum — plays a large part in the song’s continued success, blending well with Blueface's signature style, which Laudiano defines as “smooth player and kind of aggressive.”

“When he hops on my beats, I feel like we got our own drip, like we are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade,” he says.

Even Laudiano admits that, if you blink, you’ll miss Blueface’s rise. “The craziest thing has just been how fast everything has happened,” Laudiano says. “Getting a record on the radio was my goal. Power 106 and L.A. Leakers spun ‘Respect My Crypn’ early and it blew my mind.” Since then, everyone wants to capture Blueface’s lightning in a bottle. He exchanged direct messages with Drake on Instagram, with the latter seeming to angle for a collab. In December, Blueface also revealed that he’s been in the studio with Quavo. And then, there are the memes — the mop, the pants, Blueface’s signature fingertip-lick, eyebrow split shtick — the true measures of viral power and reach. Laudiano’s favorite is the one of Blueface’s Crip walk being dubbed over random songs.

Their latest collaboration is the sensual track “Studio.” When Blueface first dropped the snippet in November, it was an indication of a bold new direction. Laudiano’s latest beat challenged Blueface, finding an iciness that didn’t exist in “Respect My Crypn.” The collaboration came about via an Instagram message from Dnyce of League of Starz, a production duo credited for work with Chris Brown, T.I., and 2 Chainz.

“[Dnyce] hit me on Instagram and said we should work,” Laudiano says. “The next day, I made the beat and sent it over to Dnyce to finish it. Shortly after Blueface released the video for 'Respect My Crypn' and I wanted to keep the train rolling so I sent him a pack with that beat in it.” Blueface let the success of his hit simmer before surprising the world with the snippet of the new song. “A month later, I seen that video of him singing to the beat, with my beat tag playing in the background,” Laudiano says. “He hit me saying that it was going to be a hit and I agreed.” After being posted on December 14, the official video for the song now has over 4 million views on YouTube, and 1.9 million more on WorldStarHipHop.

Blueface's ascent looks to continue well into 2019. It’s much too early to talk about his inevitable studio debut, and Laudiano is quiet about it as well, but ready: “I’ve got to be a part of it because 'Respect My Crypn' became his biggest song, with 'Studio' becoming his fastest growing single thus far,” he says. It’s hard to believe that, just a couple of months ago, Blueface was another hopeful emcee, but Laudiano's a key that unlocked potential to be explored in the new year. “We just have been going up,” the producer says. “Our songs started on SoundCloud and now, look, we’re on the radio and WorldStar.”