Lil Keyu is an urban rockstar. The 19-year old Puerto Rican talent has been turning heads with her attention-grabbing visuals, while her deal with FyreHouse is placing her on the fast track to success. Artists such as Casanova, Makonnen, PnB Rock and more have already reached out to the promising talent, hoping to collaborate after being drawn to her undeniable star power. With a hard-edged sound influenced by Linkin Park and Ski Mask the Slump God among others, Keyu is trying to merge the gap between rock and hip-hop, and brings the thunderous bass hits and fiery vocals to do just that.
Born in Orlando, Florida, Lil Keyu spent most of her youth growing up in the streets of New York. Music was always blasting in the household, and Keyu grew up listening to artists from a variety of genres, from Marc Anthony to 50 Cent to The Weeknd. Even though no one in her family was a musician, Keyu started veering down that path early, playing the bass in elementary school and studying songwriting at her performing arts high school in New York.
By the time Keyu started rapping in 2018, however, she was staking her claim with a much more aggressive sound. The shift can be traced back to her rowdy days in middle school when she moved back to New York and had to defend herself from new classmates looking to test her resolve. After growing weary of people trying to fight both her and her family, Keyu finally clapped back at one of her adversaries one day after school, proving she was not one to be trifled with.
“My music comes from that place of ‘you ain’t about to play me, I’ll really fight you,’” she says. “Don’t think that because I’m little and light skinned, you can play with me. I want people to feel that aggression.”
Only a few short weeks after she started rapping, Keyu was already trying to take it to the next level. Convinced she had enough talent to go far, she started messaging several prominent members in the industry, looking for a manager to provide the resources she needed to step it up. Eventually, she stumbled across Miguel Solano, CEO of Fyrehouse, and sent a long paragraph asking him to work with her. He flew her out to LA while she was in Las Vegas working on the music video for her debut single “Ah Shit,” and after seeing what she had to offer in the studio, he was instantly sold.
“I saw in her what I saw in Lil Pump when I signed him,” Solano says.
Still less than a year into her professional career, Keyu’s been on a tear since moving to LA. She’s released four music videos in the past six months, the biggest of which (“Ah Shit”) has garnered over a quarter million plays thus far. Her recent video “Slide” features more of her confrontational bars and frenetic ad-libs, while she totes pistols and bags of weed inside the house. Now, she’s gearing up to release the official video for “Buhsit,” which finds her attacking the viewer with a spiked baseball bat while masked dirt bike riders flaunt their way through the streets.
Her forthcoming EP will add a new element to her catalogue, however. The eight-song project will combine her abrasive trap beats with more melodic sounds, for a mellow listen through that still packs a punch. Always looking to experiment with new textures in her music, she hopes to push more boundaries as she continues to refine her artistry, collaborating with country artists as well as cultural icons like The Weeknd.
Listen to her music and you might think Lil Keyu carries the same brash personality in person, but such a hasty assumption couldn’t be farther than the truth. When she’s not assaulting the microphone, Keyu tends to be on the quieter side, preferring to smoke something strong and chill rather than hit the club for a night out. For her, the celebrity status isn’t what’s important — rather, she defines success as being able to buy new houses for her family, and sell out a stadium to feel the energy from her fans in the ideal setting.
“I would never feel like I’m a star, I would feel like I’m blessed,” she says.
Additionally, she’s passionate about animal rights, so you won’t find her wearing leather or fur anytime soon. She hopes to donate a portion of the money she brings in from music to building animal shelters in Puerto Rico and Africa, doing her part to use her platform for good.
The perfect blend of charisma and ambition, Lil Keyu has what it takes to carve out a lane for herself in 2019’s crowded musical landscape. Get to know Keyu sooner rather than later, as she looks to break out on a bigger scale and unlock her full potential.
By Kenan Draughorne