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VMP Rising: Blvck Svm

Ben Glover’s serene raps live in the space between flexing and reflection.

On March 22, 2024

VMP Rising is our series where we celebrate up-and-coming bands and put their music on vinyl, often for the first time ever. Our newest VMP Rising artist is Blvck Svm, whose album jetsvm, produced by Pilotkid, is in our store now. 

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Blvck Svm has particular feelings about Caribbean food. Although his family isn’t from the islands, he grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida’s suburbs where many of his friends were first-generation Americans and access to their families’ Caribbean cooking spoiled him for life. When I ask if there are any good Jamaican spots in Chicago, where he currently lives, he scoffs. “I’d rather just learn how to make oxtail at home,” he says. Today, we’re grabbing takeout from Red Brick Café in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and as we sit in a nearby park with our loot — curry chicken for me, fish fritters for him — the soft smile poking out from under the hood of his North Face jacket while eating suggests a rave review. 

Ben Glover extends a similar discernment and taste to the sedate rap music he makes under the name Blvck Svm. With an adventurous ear for beats, Glover casts a wide net from bold 808-backed slappers to gorgeous sample-based loops. But he approaches every sound with the same delivery: a hushed croak, inspired by one of his favorite rappers, Valee — an abstract style that rewards close listening. In his world, car engines run like “adrenaline junkies” in small Spanish cities and headaches cause the seams of his skull to rip like an overstuffed Goyard duffel bag. 

“There’s a world of experiences to rap about,” he tells me, an ethos Glover adopted as a fan of rappers like Lil Wayne and MF DOOM. “DOOM was rapping about whatever he wanted, but at such a high level, that you could immerse yourself in it, even if you have no idea what he’s talking about,” he says. “I think there’s a power to that abstractness.” Glover practiced the approach for the first time as a comparative race and ethnics studies major at the University of Chicago where, within his first few months, he freestyled over the beat to Nicki Minaj’s “Only” at an open-mic night. Before long, Glover became a regular at the school’s recording studio in the basement of its arts center where he would lay down tracks, including the one that would be his 2020 breakout single “bleach,” with jumpy drums clashing against vignettes of sleepless nights and jewelry-adorned skeletons. The song spread quickly, gaining a half-million streams by the end of that year. It currently sits at just under 16 million.

Lest that flash of good luck go to waste, Glover began recording obsessively at his friend and engineer Caleb Hill’s spot, where he was staying during the beginning of COVID lockdown. He reflects on this period of beat sifting and scouring on YouTube as a time of “low-quality control,” where his bi-weekly drop schedule birthed a process akin to “a conveyor belt.” But it also led him to  California producer Pilotkid. They connected through YouTube before Pilotkid leased him two beats between 2020 and 2021. After the second beat turned into “hyogo,” a standout from his 2022 full-length debut mangalica mink, it racked up millions more streams from a placement on the Mellow Bars playlist. The duo knew it was time to link up for a full project. 

Glover flew out to California to meet Pilotkid, and they made a “punchy” batch of 10 songs over two weeks, seven of which became the EP jetsvm. Pilotkid’s beats combine the waviness of Bay Area hyphy with a subtle grace from loops, which blends well with Glover’s thoughtful rhymes. Yes, his lyrics are filled with references to material things, but he takes pride in getting creative with them. Their place in his stories, combined with his deadpan delivery, creates fascinating distance and juxtaposition. When he opens a song like “cueto” with the line “I could break a levee with these diamonds,” or raps about rims being transplanted onto cars with jaundice on “pradaponcho,” he wants you to consider whether the tangible item or the intangible reference point is the main subject. As someone who budgeted for white bread at Aldi two years ago, Glover has no interest in empty flexes.  

“I’m not trying to convince people to buy Margiela,” he says with a laugh, referring to Maison Margiela, the avant-garde, French fashion house. “Rappers flex for the sake of it all the time, but that’s not what I do and that’s not how I want my work to be perceived.” On jetsvm, he’s particularly interested in demystifying our relationships with gaudy excess. That intention comes through during the opening of “bassethound,” as he raps about eating Chilean sea bass with skin as “crispy as pendant on rope,”  setting up the betrayal at its coda: “Flaky like niggas switching.” Behind, Glover’s words, fuzzy electric guitar and soft drum cymbals cohere to create a cruising, leisurely vibe. 

jetsvm thrives at this frequency: sumptuous vibes undercut by raps meant to provoke a deeper look at the nature of capitalism. While that aesthetic may have earned him some money and acclaim, he hasn’t lost sight of his goals. “There’s an infinite amount of things I can do to make my music sound different from what it is now while retaining the essence of what makes me me,” he says. “Having that conviction to stand ten toes on what I feel in music and in life and how that intersects with my music is more important than anything.”  

Profile Picture of Dylan “CineMasai” Green
Dylan “CineMasai” Green

Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a rap and film journalist, a contributing editor at Pitchfork and the host of the Reel Notes podcast. His work has appeared in Okayplayer, Red Bull, DJBooth, Audiomack, The Face, Complex, The FADER and the dusty tombs of Facebook Notes. He's probably in a Wawa mumbling a BabyTron verse to himself.

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