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Merch God — the rapper-turned-designer who’s created clothes for Taylor Gang, YSL and more — is forging his own path in the fashion world. Like many touring artists, the California native, who releases music under the moniker Young Lyxx, was forced to find other sources of revenue last year when the pandemic shut down concert venues worldwide. So, he used the time to fully commit himself to his burgeoning clothing and branding company, which ended up paying off.
“... The pandemic hit and I just went all the way in, as far as spending all my energy on merch,” he explained to REVOLT.
Being an artist himself, Merch God wanted to make merchandise more accessible for up-and-coming rappers and realized he could bring a fresh perspective to the industry. In the past year, he’s built the business substantially; styled the likes of Vory, Jayda Cheaves and Paloma Ford; and will soon be releasing his own original shoe.
He recently spoke to us about launching and quickly growing his business, how his “rapper mentality” has given him an entrepreneurial edge, what drops he’s currently working on, and more. Read below!
How did you get started making music, and what led you to designing and selling your own clothes?
I really started taking music seriously when I was in college and it kind of grew from there. I ended up moving out to L.A. after school and then I started dabbling in EDM and different things. I started taking trips to places like Asia a lot and I ended up landing [a] Coachella [performance] with AC Slater.
After that, I did a Thailand tour for my project and from there I was just doing music. I got linked up through one of my mentors with one of his buddies that runs a cellphone case company called Milkyway. We did a cellphone case collab and one of the owners was like, ‘Yo, you should come up here and do your merch’ ‘cause at the time I had just started a hat brand. So, I started coming up every day and designing on my laptop. And then, the pandemic hit and I just went all the way in as far as spending all my energy on merch. So, now, we kind of merged together and created a whole company.
Being an artist first, did you realize that there was a need for more merch options?
Yeah, I felt like merch is usually only available to artists of a certain caliber and it was never accessible to up-and-coming artists. There’s like a top tier and a tier beneath it for those artists and YouTubers and entertainers who are about to break, and I wanted to open it up to them, too. Because if you think about it, it used to just be band tees for one band or rap tees with a bunch of touring artists. I started doing rap tees ‘cause I grew up in the Cash Money, No Limit era, and all of their cover arts used to inspire me. So, I would design a tee, put a digital mock-up of it on my Instagram and tag a person. And then I got access to this factory in L.A., started doing more and it’s just spiraled out of control.
Cool, so you found an untapped market and went for it. How did you come up with the name Merch God? It’s dope.
In one of my songs I said it. It was at the time that I was doing my hat brand and my hat brand was doing really well, and on the intro on my tape I said like, “I’m the Merch God,” and then like a year later when I really started getting into it I was like, “Yo, that should be the name.”
One of your clothing brands is called Have A Safe Fun Weekend. Where did you get the idea for that name and logo?
Have A Safe Fun Weekend was really inspired when I was on tour with AC Slater before COVID. When we did Coachella, I really loved the atmosphere, especially being on the artist side of it. I was like damn, festival merch should be doper. So, when I went on tour with Slater I made a different outfit for myself every night of the tour, but on my pants it would say “Have A Safe Fun Weekend” and the date on it. That was just something I came up with, but it wasn’t a logo yet. So maybe a year later, the smiley face became this trendy thing with a lot of brands, so I was thinking what would be a dope way to put our own spin on it. I added the blood drip on it and then I attached that to the Have A Safe Fun Weekend name. I made one shirt and everyone was rocking with it, and it kind of just started spreading.
Since dedicating yourself to your brand last year, you’ve worked with Paloma Ford, Vory and lots of other artists. Who else have you styled?
Me and Vory, we did a collab for Have A Safe Fun Weekend for his last project, [VORY]. I’ve done Paloma, I’ve done things for Blame It On Kway, we’ve done things for Liane V, Eric Bellinger. I did Taylor Gang’s merch like all year. I’m probably gonna be doing some stuff for 4PF. We’ve done lot of YouTubers and influencers. I did some stuff for Jayda [Cheaves] – Lil Baby’s girlfriend.
Do you have any big collaborations coming up?
I hope to be doing some stuff for 4PF really soon. That would be a big one. I did rap tees for the whole YSL... So hopefully in the near future, I can connect with them again for some of their merch.
You also have a pair of customized Nikes out right now with your smiley face logo. How did those come about?
So, basically, I had this painter and he painted a pair of Nikes for me, and I was like, “Yo, I love these. Everyone loves them.” And I wanted to drop something really limited, like, just for a few people and he hand-paints every pair. I was thinking, “Let’s just do like a small run, like 25 pairs.” But there’s actually a shoe I’m working on, a new original shoe, that will be coming out probably by the end of the year.
That’s dope. Lots of rappers have thrived in the fashion space, I think of A$AP Rocky. Are there any artists-turned-designers that inspire you?
I really love what Kanye’s doing honestly because that’s somebody who was an artist, a visionary, and he’s really killing it on the fashion side of things right now. A$AP Rocky, I definitely like what he’s doing right now. I know he’s doing merch for other people, too. But, really who’s been inspiring me are these new designers. They inspire me more than anything just because there’s so many dope people out there doing their thing right now.
What do you think has been the most important to growing your brand? You’ve blown up in a relatively short amount of time.
Yeah, it’s been real quick! I really just brought the rapper mentality to this business ‘cause even when I was strictly an artist, I toured factories, I sat down with factories to do merch, and I felt like these factories were only going after the biggest artists — not knowing that there are other people who are on their way to being big and will probably be big in the next few months. So, for me, I just wanted to work with dope people, period. Whether you’re gonna sell a million shirts or 10 shirts, I just wanna do some dope things to make a name for ourselves and flood the market with it.
I think me doing that and adding my logo to each of these people’s mock-ups really helped get my name out there. And in Atlanta especially, artists hustle so hard. So I brought that mentality to this industry. There’s also a lot of older people in the merch business; there’s not a lot of younger guys. Many of them have been doing this for 20, 30 years and are stuck in their ways. So, we can bring something new and really push the boundaries. We were one of the first factories to ever print on a Dickies jacket. Everyone was like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could print on a Dickies jacket,” and now everybody’s doing it.
I saw on Twitter you were recently in Atlanta working on an album. Is that your next project?
Yeah. I do songwriting as well, but I really just took a year off to give 100 percent of my energy to my merch business because you can’t really expect something to do what you want it to do unless you give it 100. But, now that I’ve got it at a space where it’s running by itself pretty much, I wanna put out some new music. My perception on the music is different now, though. I used to want to be this rapper touring all the time, but now, being a businessman and more of a boss, I’d rather be the type of artist that tours around projects. Dropping music because I want to, not because I’m obligated to. Just like Kanye; he doesn’t have to drop an album to make an impact because his shoes are gonna do that.
Do you have a release date in mind for the album yet?
It’s done. I want to get it out this August around my birthday, but we’ll see.
You said your perspective has changed becoming a businessman. Have the bars changed?
(Laughing) Yeah, I wanna talk about different things now.
Earlier this year you partnered with Ahead Financial to collaborate on a capsule for their “Ahead For All” campaign, which encouraged banking and financial literacy by connecting with music, fashion, gaming and more. What made you want to be a part of that?
I really liked the idea of merging these two worlds. Like, when you think of a crypto bank, you might have a certain image in mind. And they were like, “I want to make a streetwear brand for this industry,” which already makes it dope to me. We did a week of events; it was like a two-week pop-up. I did a collab with them on a pair of shorts, but my factory produced almost all of the merch for the event.
How has being a rapper given you an edge in the fashion industry?
On the business side, it’s helped me because I’m an artist, so I know a lot of people. And from a creative standpoint, being an artist, you’re outside a lot and being outside is key. If you’re outside, you know what’s out, what’s new, what’s dated. It’s like when your favorite rapper was a mixtape rapper vs. when he blows up and he becomes kinda disconnected. I always try to stay connected, and I think that gives me an edge on what’s hot and what’s not. And traveling for sure, like, going to Asia really opened my mind to fashion in a whole different way ‘cause they’re so ahead.