With the Florida rap scene taking a firm stance in the spotlight at the end of the ‘10s, with some of the top hitmakers from the latter part of the decade hailing from various cities south of the panhandle, the 2020 explosion of Javarri Walker, a.k.a. HOTBOII, into the mainstream shouldn’t come as a surprise. The crooning rapper is more than just his origin story, though. Much of his prowess has relied on his concerted effort over time to hit it big, with some of the key verses from his debut project, 2020’s Kut Da Fan On, written during his two-year stint in a youth behavioral correction program.
“I’d been rapping before the program, so the program ain’t motivate me,” Walker, who was born and raised in West Orlando, says of the time he spent awaiting his 2018 release. “It helped me, though.” The program may not have motivated him necessarily, but it surely allotted him the time and energy to continue cultivating some of the most brutally honest bars of the new decade so far.
As far as what propels him to pioneer a new brand of radical rap, rooted in retelling real and hyper-recent struggles, it all comes back to his son. “See now, that’s my motivation right there,” Walker says of Javarri Jr., who recently celebrated his first birthday with his father in late May. It also makes sense that Javarri Jr. is his inspiration when one considers that ultimately Walker’s bars are about loyalty and integrity, even despite the flashy waves of cash stacks and hot cars in his music videos.
“Stingy,” a cut from the midpoint of Kut Da Fan On and written during his stint in the youth program, encapsulates HOTBOII’s unabashed attitude that makes more than a few appearances throughout his discography. Produced by Bado (Rich Homie Quan), the track blends trap drum kits and sing-songy melodies seamlessly: “I don't want to share you/ Do that, make me stingy/ Me and you together, forever, infinity,” he professes in the song’s chorus. “Stingy” not only captures a unique intimacy frequently absent from modern rap tracks, it also represents Walker’s commitment to never putting on a front for his fans. The theme is prevalent throughout the record, and is ultimately what allows him to hold his own among assists from fellow Floridian Plies on “Noun,” and Rico Cartel on “Glock Season.”
Unbridled honesty paired with some of the hardest beats around are what make a HOTBOII song a HOTBOII song — but what makes him a star is something even deeper than just speaking what’s on his mind. Fans familiar with his viral hit “Don’t Need Time” know this to be a fact. “I made that song a week after my friend had died,” Walker says of the mournful track. The video, which has racked up over 16 million views on YouTube so far, resonates with fans for that very reason; in addition to being a tribute to his deceased friend, it’s a street’s-eye-view look into the complex emotions that settle among family members and confidants after one’s passing.
While the wounds of loss never heal for some, Walker uses rapping about these more vulnerable moments as a coping mechanism of sorts, as well as a display of love for his fans. “It feels good to show that, because it shows my fans that I can really tell a story inside my life. They can relate to some of the real stuff.” He also notes that he receives DMs from them “every day” about the raw experiences he discusses on his tracks, and that they can look forward to even more of the same when he drops his new project in August 2020. “Every song I drop is like that,” he finishes confidently.