Rob49 arrived fully-formed, as though he’d been practicing for his first studio session his whole life. The deep-voiced New Orleans artist just started rapping in April 2020, but you wouldn’t know it—already people are calling him “baby Soulja Slim” for his magnetic presence and confidence on the mic. Listening to songs like the local anthem “Pent House,” it’s clear these sorts of accolades are earned. Across his propulsive flows, Rob raps with a natural energy and an easy assuredness, putting on for his neighborhood and remembering those he’s lost.
Rob’s pure bars are caked in Louisiana slang and delivered in the kind of gruff, musical cadence you might have heard over Mannie Fresh production 20 years ago, but they’re also refreshingly modern—shot through with the head-spinning velocity of contemporary trap styles. Rob and his friends recorded his breakthrough track in a downtown NOLA penthouse they rented last year using unemployment checks. Now, just over a year after Rob got his start, he’s gearing up to drop a new tape, 4 God, that only builds on his expanding talents and obvious charisma.
Long before he started rapping, Rob49 had that DIY mentality instilled in him. Born in New Orleans in 1999, and growing up at the intersection of projects in the 4th and 9th Wards (that’s where the “49” in his rap handle comes from), Rob had to adapt to the harsh realities of his environment on his own. His parents were in and out of his adolescence serving jail time, and in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina tore through the city, the whole family fled to Houston in Mom’s broken-down Impala. “The windows didn't go up. We had no brakes in the car,” Rob remembers vividly. “We was doing 60 on the interstate with the doors open.”
What kept Rob going was his charm and confidence. In school, he was the popular kid, and in stars like Future, Meek Mill, and the Weeknd he saw models for sustained greatness. He also discovered a talent of his own. “I knew I could rap ’cause I used to be listening to Future,” Rob says. “You know how at the end of the song they got a little beat left? I was punishing him!”
Throughout high school, his peers would discover he could rap, too, but it wasn’t until April of 2020, several months after dropping out of college for nursing, that Rob recorded a song. He stumbled into his friend’s studio session, and at his partner’s behest, stepped inside the booth. “They put a beat on and I just went flashin’! They were like, ‘Yeah this getting played in the car,’” Rob says. A few days later, the same friend paid for a five-hour studio session—for Rob alone.
From there, he put in work, culling beats from YouTube and local producers. In 2020 alone he put out three propulsive tapes—4our the World, Vulture, and Krazy Man—building buzz in his city. It’s no mystery: on each project he sounds unbelievably poised and possessed by the beat, breathlessly digging into stories about his hood and come-up. “Whatever come out my mouth come out my mouth,” Rob says, “I know it's gonna be true and I know it's gonna be hard.”
That energy has translated to co-signs from Say Cheese founder Shawn Cotton and Mississippi State basketball star Lamar Peters. Now, Rob has his eyes set on the national stage. “I’m kind of focusing more on the world than where I'm from,” he says. “I want everybody to relate.”
His upcoming tape, called 4 God, promises to make good on the sheer rapping ability Rob49 has so far shown. He isn’t shooting for big features or production credits; rather, he’s honing his craft, staying authentic, and building out his sound. You can hear it in the single “DeeDay,” which marries the rapper’s booming voice to a sneering violin melody. When he talks about the tape, he mentions auteurs like Frank Ocean as inspirations, how they build worlds within their albums. Similarly, Rob wants to invite us right into his. “I really don't even like my music mixed, ‘cause I want you to see that this is what we doing right here,” he says. “If you hear my partners in the back smoking weed, talking to girls, that's hard to me! My music reflects who I am.”