Rapper, singer, ex-basketball star, and – quite possibly – America’s next great hitmaker. 17-year-old senior GirlzLuhDev from California’s Inland Empire has already landed a viral hit, the raunchy but blissed out “Tooka.” With over two million streams and a Tooka TikTok challenge formed, the song is supported by simple beats and rich keys, and we get a glimpse of his youthful energy in this bright blend of bars, warbled melodies, and ad libs that sound like smack talk beamed down from a distant planet.
Dev was born in Inglewood amid tragedy – his father was shot and killed in a liquor store while his mother was pregnant with him – but as a kid he found diversion and direction in sports. While he has fond memories of playing pickup basketball in Rogers Park and football for the Inglewood Jets, Dev’s interests broadened as he found Vine and Musical.ly growing up. And while he was a dynamic point guard being groomed by his coaches for a future pro career well into high school, his rap obsession took over, citing Lil Uzi Vert as his first musical love (alongside established artists like Drake, Future, and Chris Brown).
Sophomore year, Dev was cut from the JV basketball team for missing a game. But that loss would lead to something new. Dev was bored, “So one day in P.E.,” he says, “I just started singing this hook. I made it into a freestyle video, and it got, like, 7,000 views in three days.” Naturally, he kept making videos. The second one did just as well, and then, while plotting his third, he decided to make full songs. “Rover” and “We Can Go” were his first two – recorded in his friend’s garage studio – and they took off locally, cranking at high school rallies. You can hear why: Dev’s voice was like water, swishing and swirling over West Coast production. He twisted words into new shapes, and the Auto-Tune made his notes sound like sunbeams.
With his mind fully in music and posting up north of nearly 25 million streams in the U.S. alone, GirlzLuhDev drops his debut, Day 1 Starter on Capitol Records. He paved the way for the project with “Dead Bro” that quickly racked 100K streams, and it also received praise from HotNewHipHop dubbing it “equally funny as it is infectious, and GirlzLuhDev’s charm is the cherry on top.” Between “Day 1 Starter (feat. Remble),” “Mario Chalmers,” and the viral single “Tooka,” tracks from the EP have already impressively amassed over 17 million total streams prior to release.
Last week, I got the chance to speak with Dev about his life prior to music, what has changed for him since, and about his Day 1 Starter project release.
With Tooka blowing up on TikTok, how do you feel about the support and reactions to the song? What has this changed for you?
“The support was good, very good, and still good to this day. Overall, it was a good song, and they love it. Till’ this day, I still find thousands of videos playing it. A hundred different [TikTok] sounds were added to the song like slow reverb, and it’s a pretty big shot. Every day I still find myself thinking oh damn, they did that to my song?”
You talk about giving up sports (hoop sauce) for music. Was this a difficult decision to make?
“Let me tell you… It was a difficult decision to make. I love basketball! When I was a kid in L.A., it was strictly sports. But it was like I made a song, and it did good, and I wanted to take a break because this culture is weird. And then I just fell in love with the love I was getting from the music I was making, and people were telling me I got what it takes. Giving up hoop hurt, but it was the best decision ever. I’m glad I’m here and the bars are in me.”
Is there a story behind your rapper name you’d like to share with anyone just getting into your music?
“One of my homies gamer names was GirlzLuhJohnny, and that name was hard to me. And we made a little clan, and I just had to be GirlzLuhDev and ran with it.”
Can you talk about your inspirations? Or anything you’d like to tell us about your visual for Day 1 Starter?
“My visuals for my new songs are actually gonna be my biggest visuals. My thing now is that I wanna make strictly movies, I want all my songs to have the visual and meaning. I actually got two videos stored up right now, by far my best visuals ever. Better than Tooka and Dead Bro. Even though those were all fire. This new stuff though… I’m prepared to come up like a young superstar, so they view my music how I want it to be viewed.
Dev spoils the unreleased tracks for us, and the opener “BNB” pairs his melodic verses with piano and a glitchy beat. Finger-snaps maintain the tempo of “Dangerously N Love” as his hummable bars melt into the production with smooth energy. He leans into an off kilter bounce on “Used To” with one final hypnotic chorus. GirlzLuhDev asserts himself as a rapper to watch in 2021 and, of course, a Day 1 Starter.
Day 1 Starter TRACKLISTING
2. Mario Chalmers
3. Dangerously N Luv
4. Day 1 Starter (feat. Remble)
5. Make Perfect
6. Dead Bro
7. Feel Away
8. Tooka (feat. DACHINC)
9. Used To