An interview with Sybyr

The Maryland rapper/producer talks trap metal, his influence on internet music scenes and staying independent.

Last fall, while doing my annual road trip from Atlanta (where my family stays) to New York, I stopped for a few days in DC. One morning, I paid a visit to Maryland rapper/producer Sybyr. In the mid-2010s, Sybyr pioneered the underground subgenre Trap Metal, which in my opinion makes the best case for rap-rock and rap-as-rock out of anything from that decade. Sybyr and his peers in his collective Anti-World would become lodestars for artists of the next generation who’d make “hyperpop” and digicore, including funeral and quinn, who once tweeted at me that “101Dalmatians” inspired her to use Auto-Tune.

These days, Sybyr doesn’t rage as hard. He meditates, journals; sometimes he makes synth-pop. In the backyard of his friend Owen’s studio, we had a conversation about getting into rap through the internet, battling mental health issues as an artist, choosing to go the independent route, and the long tail of trap metal. Below, I’ve excerpted a piece of our interview about his 2016 album HELLHORSE, which was re-released on vinyl by Dismiss Yourself in 2022. Watch the whole thing here:

This interview has been edited for clarity.

MANO: When did you first realize you were innovating a new genre?

SYBYR: I would say HELLHORSE. Anti-World was kind of like the introduction to that. And then as I was getting into HELLHORSE, that was when I was just pure expression. It wasn’t like, “I’m gonna make music for this.” It was just purely expression and, like, a rant. And then that’s when I was like, “Oh shit, this is taking a different form and stuff.”

I was gonna ask about HELLHORSE because that’s like… I mean classic is such a subjective term, but I feel like for a lot of fans of the underground, that’s a classic album. To me, when I hear that album, it’s the perfect representation of the color red, before Whole Lotta Red, before red became a cool color. It’s like the original red album to me.

It was always a cool color. It was just like, what albums kind of made that red pop?

Yeah, it’s just like an infernal album to me. Where were you at mentally when you were making that shit? Because I feel like you were pretty fucked up. [laughs]

I swear I get the most, like, “oh this n***a was on drugs when he made that shit.” I was sober pretty much.

Oh, I don’t even mean drugs-wise, I meant just mentally.

Oh, mentally? I was in the gutter. I got a song on there called “Yikes.” Vile song. Vile ass song. But it kind of snuck through the cracks. I think [with] “Fuck You, Purely.” and then “Shoot the Party,” [the fans] kinda took the highlights. I’m glad “Yikes” wasn’t like a cult classic. [laughs]

You see, like, new Tyler, the Creator fans returning and discovering his old shit and being like, “Oh, I can’t believe he was saying all these things!” But context is key. And you were just in the gutter! And art’s meant to represent the emotions you don’t have words for. That’s what the album sounds like to me. It’s just pure rage and anxiety and shit.

At the time it was a make-or-break moment for me. HELLHORSE was definitely a make-or-break type of project. It was like, “Damn, I gotta go somewhere with this, or else imma just be in Maryland, just staying in Maryland, not being able to visit other states and shit.” 

Where were you recording it?

I was recording it at my parents’ apartment type shit.

It’s cool to me that kids are discovering the album to this day and being like, “Oh shit!” I don’t know if you’re aware of that happening, but that’s happening.

I’m not aware of that phase of it. I thought all the ones that kind of heard it kind of grew up and shit, and then, um, was on that type of time where they were just like, “oh yeah, I love this, I just hope there’s more of this soon,” but now I didn’t know that there were actually kids like younger than them that’s coming into it, which is interesting.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Quinn, but we’ve interviewed her on this platform before. She’s a really good artist from that new age, kind of hyperpop/digicore scene. I guess she disavows that term now, kind of like how you disavowed trap metal.

For me, I would own the shit out of hyperpop. But now that it has its own term… I feel like once it gets coinage, shit changes. And then she probably doesn’t like that coinage, type shit. And she’s thinking, “oh, this is something else for me” type shit, but it just happened to fall in line with the sonics that they were using and all these different factors that kind of drive that sound.

Totally. I once just posted “101Dalmatians” off NETGEAR on our Twitter account, and then she replied to it being like, “This song made me start using autotune in songs.” And she isn’t the first person from that scene to say they’re influenced by you. Funeral’s another artist who’s always talking about your influence.

Does his Instagram start with two X’s?


Gotcha, ok.

How does that make you feel?

It’s definitely interesting, man. I kind of fear that with the stuff that I’m cooking up with another genre, it might not translate as well. Because I feel like with Trap Metal, you HAD to rage and shit, and it had to be sad, and it had to be angry. But you can make happiness sound like some crazy ass shit. That’s what I’m realizing.