4Batz Shares the Story Behind His Stage Name

4Batz Shares the Story Behind His Stage Name

Dallas singer 4Batz has a lot to be thankful for, particularly his ex-girlfriend, who cheated on him, thus inspiring the singer to embark on his career. To promote his new project “u made me a st4r,” the 20-year-old recently sat down with Complex’s Jordan Rose to discuss his sudden virality and reflect on the last year of his life. Along with the passing of his father in 2023, 4Batz’s now-ex-girlfriend, Jada, committed infidelity, and the singer discovered it while booking a flight to visit her.

“I’m like, ‘Damn. You know what, fuck you. I’m going to blow the fuck up. I’m going to do this shit. I’mma be in interviews talking about you.’ This was seven months last year. I’m thinking that shit was going to happen five years from now, but it happened a little sooner,” he told Complex.

He continued, “When I found out she cheated on me, I was still emotional about my pops. So when that happened, I’m like, ‘You know what? Fuck you, I’m going to blow the fuck up. I’m going to do this shit. I’m going to move like this.’ And then she was like, ‘You can do what you want to do. I ain’t worried.'”

While the cheating and, ultimately, the breakup caused 4Batz to become slightly obsessive–down to hacking Jada’s Snapchat–it seems that the singer’s rise hasn’t caused his ex to contact him just yet.

“No, I ain’t going to hold you,” 4Batz told Rose. “She makes me go harder because that bitch ain’t say nothing to me. I’m like, ‘You don’t see I got a song with Drake?'”

Also in the interview, 4Batz admitted that the title of his debut mixtape refers to Jada, and he also shared plans to name his tour after her, coining it the “Thank You, Jada Tour.” “She getting front-row tickets. She can get VIP. I can get her ass on stage. I’d pay her ass to come to my show,” 4Batz joked.

However, 4Batz claimed that he meant the gesture in a “positive way” since Jada’s cheating was the encouragement he needed to take music seriously.

“Every song on the project is about her. Every last one of them. Every vocal, every lyric is about shorty. I’m thanking her, but I’m also thanking the people that are listening to it, because y’all made me a star as well. When people hear it, they’re going to be like, ‘Yo, this n***a petty as hell.'”

He continued, “Don’t get me wrong, I am a little bit, but at the same time it’s also in a positive way because if you never did what you did, it never would’ve pushed me to the edge to do what I just did. So thank you.”

The masses got their first glimpse of 4Batz in the video for his second single, “Date @ 8,” released last December as an installment on the YouTube channel 4 Shooters Only’s From the Block, a video series that typically features hard-hitting freestyles. In the clip, Batz steps to the mic with a fistful of dollars, braids spilling out of the bottom of his mask, a crowd of his boys around him, blowing smoke and mean-mugging for the camera—and proceeds to sing in a dulcet digitized voice about all the ways he’ll wine and dine a girl who deserves the world, in lyrics that are vague enough to apply to any relationship but also endearingly sweet, unnecessarily profane, and oddly specific (he’s spending “$500 for your fuckin’ hair, $200 for your fuckin’ nails”).

The song was already earworm-y and social-media-ready, and—at two minutes and 20 seconds—short enough to require constant replays. But the video introduced an arresting contrast and sparked many questions. Batz offered no answers, letting the video speak for him. Later that month, Timbaland reposted it and implored Drake to do a remix. In March, that actually happened; Batz further stoked his mystique by remaining quiet even after the Drake version dropped, boosting his already-skyrocketing streaming numbers even further. At press time, his monthly-listener count on Spotify sat just shy of 14 million.

The overused pejorative term “industry plant” describes an apocryphal type of artist whose career is lab-grown, focus-grouped, and reverse-engineered, someone anointed by nebulous Powers That Be who’ve enlisted top execs, entertainers, and tastemakers to promote them, as opposed to up-and-coming artists with real talent who get “discovered,” signed, and nurtured. 4Batz, who came out of nowhere with a handful of compelling songs that quickly accrued millions of streams, was a prime target for plant allegations. Influential podcaster Joe Budden lent credence to a bleak, decidedly 2020s rumor: that 4Batz’s music was wholly-AI created, the kid in the ski mask a stand-in for a literally nonexistent artist.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” 4Batz tells me, regarding all the intrigue. He flashes a mischievous grin. “It’s like I’m the boogeyman. [Then] people are going to meet me and be like, Oh, this is a regular hood n-gga.”

“Regular” doesn’t quite capture it. 4Batz, who grew up and still lives in Dallas, has an excitable drawl, digresses randomly in conversation, and peppers his speech with slang—every sentence ends with a colloquial “brozay,” and every other adjective is “za.” He is, in other words, too endearingly weird to be a paid actor. And his story is too specific to have been cooked up by record-label suits.

Here in a studio in North Hollywood, Batz is wearing the all-black regalia we’ve come to expect from him: black tank top, black track pants, black Balenciaga sneakers, and, of course—even though we’re indoors and it’s 74 degrees outside—the black shiesty. Does he ever move around without it? Sometimes, he says with a laugh, when he wants to travel incognito—but lately he’s been getting noticed even without the mask.

In person, 4Batz doesn’t play the brooding man of mystery. He has the motormouth of a hyper teenager, and he’s eager to talk about as much of his life as anyone wants to hear. This Friday, May 3, he’s pulling back the curtain even further with his first official release, a nine-track project called “U Made Me a St4r.” And with it, 4Batz will officially make his bid as an artist who’s here to stay.

“My whole life, I’ve been feeling like I was cursed,” Batz says. In conversation, he’s prone to casually acknowledging traumatic events that most people would work their way up to. Like how his estranged father died just as they were beginning to reconnect—on Batz’s birthday. How he’s contemplated suicide, more than once. And how he’s never had a real home: “I don’t know what it’s like to have a house,” he says. “I only lived in an apartment probably two times in my life. The rest of the time I was living with my uncle, my grandma, sleeping on the floor. I slept in a church for four years.” At one point, he stresses that he doesn’t come from “the hood,” but rather, “the slums.” He later adds that LA is “too cute” for him to ever lay his hat there full-time.

His stage name is a homage to his upbringing: the 4 refers to the part of Dallas he’s from, and Batz, he says, comes from his reputation for fighting and holding it down: “You know—when you bat [someone] the fuck outta here.”

Most, if not all, great music success stories have that singular origin moment. In the music he’s released so far, Batz has dropped breadcrumbs about his own story for listeners to connect with, but now he’s ready to make it plain.

“I went through a situation in my life” is how he tentatively begins his tale. It starts, as it often does, with a girl. Batz, who had never even flown in a plane before, found himself in a long-distance situation with a girl from Chicago. She came down often to visit. “Bro, shorty was such a vibe,” Batz recalls, tugging at his mask. “I was in love with her, man.”

The relationship lasted three years, and Batz entertained the idea of their moving in together; to show his dedication, he planned to take his first flight ever to go see her.

“Then she called my phone,” he says, “and she said, ‘Batz, I don’t want to be with you no more. I’m just not fucking with you.’ Around that same time, literally a month before that, my pops died. So I said, ‘All right, well, if you do that, I’m going to blow the fuck up. I’m going to be on all these interviews, I’m going to be on all these blogs, I’m going to be on all these motherfucking…. I’m going to be everywhere, and I’m going to shit on you. I’m going to make you feel bad.’ My blood was boiling, bro, and I was just going in for like 10 minutes straight with my eyes closed, and by the time I stopped talking I noticed she had hung up. And then I was like, Shit, she doesn’t care no more.”

The next morning, Batz woke up to see her already flaunting a new guy on Instagram. He recognized him as one of his ex’s coworkers—literally the man she’d told him not to worry about. (During the relationship, some suspicious Snapchats had inspired him to FaceTime the guy from her phone, to ask if they had a problem; the guy said they didn’t.) “He played his role like he was Michael B. Jordan. That boy need an Oscar,” Batz wisecracks ruefully.

“At this point, I’m in deep depression, I’m fucked up,” Batz recounts with a whisper. “I’m still grieving for my pops, and at that point in my life the only person that I had, period, point-blank, was her. I wasn’t close to anyone else. I love my mama to death—I wasn’t close to my mama. I wasn’t close to my grandma. Ol’ girl”—his girlfriend—“was like my best friend. So, at that point I was thinking just about suicide, thinking about so much shit.”

This wasn’t Batz’s first time hitting rock bottom, or even contemplating ending it all. “My whole life I’ve been through shit,” he says. “I’ve been on suicide watch before. I’ve been on all these other programs, taking antidepressants and shit. I’ve been on that shit. I was at the point where I’m tired of it. I was like, I could just take myself and be gone or I can push myself harder than I ever did in my life.”

Heartbreak plus spite bred determination. Batz pivoted back to making music, which he’d neglected during his relationship, in part because his girlfriend hadn’t supported his aspirations. In a bid to firmly remove himself from the street life, Batz held down a 12-hour shift in a warehouse while installing himself on a Kanye-esque, three-songs-a-session regiment when he clocked out at night, downloading beats from YouTube and trying different things over them—all while pursuing his last remaining high school credits.

He tinkered with different styles and subgenres. “Drill music, Texas music, emotional music, hurt music, ‘Baby, why you hurting?’ music,” he says. “Doing everything in my power, just trying to get on. And that was the issue—the fact that I was trying to get on.”

These experiments, he says, weren’t solid enough to share, let alone upload to Soundcloud. Then one day, inspiration struck as he was doing what he calls his “pre-workout ritual”: looking at a picture of his ex and her new guy. “I felt like a bitch. This girl talked crazy about me to her friends, she made me feel little, she cheated on me—but I’d still get up and go fly to her.”

The first bar came to him: I might just call and catch a plane. I might just come see you today. You hate I’m stuck up with my ways, but loving when I’m playing games. And then in one take, another minute’s worth of scorned-lover lyrics and unrequited yearning came pouring out. It was what we now know as his first song, “Stickerz ‘99.” The title is a metaphor for the mindset he found himself in. “When you get a sticker and you put it against the wall and you take it off, you put it back on the wall and you take it off—you do that 40 times, by the 40th time it’s not going to stick on the wall,” he says. “So, basically I’m stuck to someone that don’t want to be stuck to me.”

That raw vulnerability gets downplayed with the vocal pitch-shifting Batz deploys, first turned up super high so as to sound almost alien, then a chopped-and-screwed encore of the same lyrics to close the song out. Batz cites the decision to alter his vocals as typical Texas shit—DNA from DJ Screw, the late Houston legend who pioneered the art of chopping tempos and vocals down to a glacial pace for a slower, more Southern speed—but hints that some songs on “U Made Me a St4r” actually feature his real, un-altered singing voice, though he won’t specify which ones.

Batz tried different, longer takes of the song, all of which he says “sounded horrible.” It was that brief first-take version that got the most positive reactions out of the close confidantes he tested his music with, like his older brother.

He took it as a sign to double down on what felt true, regardless of precedent, and to present himself in his music as who he actually was: a young man raised on Mint Condition, 112, Sade, and Anita Baker via the likes of his mother and grandmother, with an appreciation for DMX and 2Pac courtesy of his father before he passed, and an affinity for the likes of Chief Keef from his own generation. As Batz puts it: “I remember those times I was in a stolo”—a stolen car— “in Dallas, pushing that ho on the highway, and Aaliyah comes on while I’m sipping lean, or while I’m, like, clutching my gun. And I realized, Why is this [considered] yin and yang? Why has nobody put these [feelings] together? And I said, You know what? I’m that. Why can’t I?”

When he finally took his maiden flight, it was to LA, to make a video for “Stickerz” with some creators who’d hit him up, offering a shoot. It’s a cool clip, but as he sits, maskless, getting his hair braided by a pretty girl or rapping mournfully on the edge of the bed, there’s nothing much there to distinguish him from the vast sea of up-and-comers uploading videos to YouTube.

Coincidentally or not, no one cared about 4Batz until he put on the shiesty. This is not without precedent; the terminally online will remember RMR, the ski-masked Minneapolis rapper who went viral in winter 2020 with the video for “Rascal,” wherein he croons Rascal Flatts’ power ballad “These Days” while he and his goons flash grills and point firearms at the camera. But what RMR was doing with that juxtaposition of song and image felt more deliberate and performative. “At the end of the day,” RMR told one interviewer, “I’m doing this because people are so ignorant within their own box and they don’t want to venture outside of their reality, per se.”

4Batz insists that his own blend of sound and visual presentation— a street dude singing softly about heartbreak while seemingly dressed for some light B&E— isn’t meant as a statement.

“We’ve been wearing ski masks since we was kids. It’s not no costume, bro. It’s just how I ride,” Batz says. “Ain’t nothing calculated. I did it because this is my type of shit. I’m bringing people to my world and if they like it, they like it. If they don’t, I don’t give a fuck. It’s like a door: If you want to get in, hey, come on, we’re partying in here. But if you don’t, hey, stay your little dumb ass outside, then. We’re chilling.”

“I think the similarity is in the imagery,” says Carl Chery, Spotify’s Creative Director and Head of Urban Music. “You have someone with a ski mask who very much presents as if they’re a rapper, but they’re not. But unfortunately, RMR wasn’t able to follow up that moment with music that resonated. The difference with 4Batz is that there’s already a few songs that are working. It’s not just ‘Date @ 8’ and the remix, it’s ‘Stickerz’ and ‘On God’ as well.”

Chery notes that Batz’s current numbers—those 14 million Spotify listeners—are empirical proof of real, sturdy engagement. “We as a community of rap and R&B fans tend to make lazy observations,” he says. “We see the one little thread and make a comparison. That always happens for new artists. I think if 4Batz is fortunate enough to be successful with this mixtape, and keeps growing his fanbase, the RMR comparisons are going to be far in the rear view mirror.”

“Listen, if you look at everyone who’s had success at a very accelerated rate, whether it’s Ice Spice or Travis Scott, fans are going to call everybody like that an industry plant at some point, until they don’t anymore,” says Milano, 4Batz’s manager. “I look at it as a compliment. It just lets me know that he’s so talented. For people to think at some point that he was AI—it’s crazy, but it also speaks to how they can’t even imagine that someone could really be that talented.”

The “Stickerz” video may not have broken Batz out, but it’s how he met Milano and other like-minded music-industry people who came to form the team that’s around him now. “He played his music for me [the day of the shoot], and he didn’t have a team. It was just him grinding,” Milano recalls. “We just started building from there. I was giving him ideas, he’s rolling ideas off me, and we were just bouncing off each other.”

Those ideas all centered on Batz’s instincts to not flood the zone with a lot of music and take any opportunity to stand out. Batz points out that he dropped “Date @ 8” and its visual in the heart of December—typically a music-industry no-no. But the no-man’s-land of the holiday season left a lane wide open for him.

Batz also rejects genre labels. His new songs evoke the pubescent heartbreak of say, Immature or Tevin Campbell, with production that sounds inspired by the likes of Age Ain’t Nothin But a Number, 100% Ginuwine, Case, or early Usher, but

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