the era of george watsky

two boys grow up together

January 17, 2011

A kid from San Francisco posts a video on YouTube. His name is George Watsky, and he can rap fast. The video’s title says as much—and after going viral on Reddit, the 90-second clip of this white kid spitting in a slight lisp over Busta Rhymes’s “Break Ya Neck” gains 100,000 views in a day. A kid in Providence watches it and connects. Hard.

July 23, 2012

The kid from Providence, having downloaded every available track of Watsky over the past 18 months, convinces his mom to drive him and two friends to Northampton, MA, where Watsky is playing the Iron Horse Music Hall. It’s Watsky’s first tour, coming on the heels of his first album and mixtape, and playing this 250-seat venue near Smith College is all part of a dream come true. He hangs around outside the space before the show, meeting the fans and signing autographs. The crowd is dedicated—they’re so few in number that each one is totally and uniquely obsessed. The kid from Providence has made a huge sign with a Watsky lyric on it that makes the rapper chuckle. He signs it and they take a picture together. Then Watsky goes onstage to rap fast, sweaty and hoarse, sublime.

March 1, 2013

@gwatsky just realized youve just about single handedly gotten me through high school…so thanks…ill try to make it up to you somehow idk.

Sometimes Watsky even responds to the Facebook posts that the kid from Providence writes on the fan page wall. The kid screenshots every one.

March 12, 2013

Watsky releases his second album, Cardboard Castles. It’s yearning and incisive. At times, it walks the line between rap and poetry, including a spoken-word track where his voice catches at the end as if he’s about to sob. Now more than ever before, Watsky shows himself to be a kid just trying to make sense of the world, of the comedy and the tragedy and the beauty and how they’re often the same thing and how weird is that? Cardboard Castles reaches the top of the iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap charts.

April 1, 2013

The kid from Providence has his first broken heart, and he isn’t quite sure what do about it. He’s been listening to Cardboard Castles on repeat since it came out. I don’t care / where you’ve been / how many miles / I still love you. You know how music feels more real when you’re under emotional stress? The kid does, and he takes the train up to Boston to the Paradise Rock Club with a couple friends to see Watsky on his second tour.

It’s the greatest concert he’s ever been to. He screams himself hoarse, screams out his feelings along with 932 others who all feel the same bizarre connection with the skinny rapper on stage. Watsky crowd-surfs directly over to him as he’s filming during the encore, and they do a weird kind of spoon-y hug thing before someone grabs Watsky from on the balcony and pulls him up until he’s standing upright on the crowd’s hands, socked feet crushing the fingers of the kid from Providence and maybe fracturing a couple but it’s okay, the kid’s literally holding up his hero.

October 11, 2013

The kid from Providence has stayed in Providence for college. Good thing, because Watsky is stopping in Pawtucket on his third tour! The kid grabs a new friend from another dorm who likes his music, too, and they take the bus out to the Met.

After the concert, Watsky sticks around to talk to anyone who wants to meet him, and many of the attendees do. He signs the kid’s phone case and the kid tells him that his music has helped him get through a hard time. Watsky seems touched, but the kid realizes that he probably gets this a lot. Watsky’s music is the kind of music that attracts the kind of people who use it to get through a hard time and then tell that to the artist himself, like they’re special.

July 25, 2016

College has mostly gone by, and during those years the kid from Providence, who now likes to think of himself as worldly, has expanded his music taste beyond the scope of such sophomoric pursuits as Watsky— — or so he thinks. This summer he’s interning at the Arts & Culture desk of a weekly newspaper. He can pitch whatever he wants. And as it happens, Watsky has just published his first book of essays, How To Ruin Everything, and his fourth album, x Infinity, is due out next week.

The kid can’t pass this up.

One thing leads to another, and he’s soon picking up a call from a number with a San Francisco area code. A familiar voice, lisping a little, is on the other line. The kid blacks out for 45 surreal minutes, and by the time he comes to, he’s produced a feature interview for the New York Observer with George Watsky.

July 26, 2016

From the same Twitter account at which the kid from Providence used to tweet incessantly, from the same Facebook account from which he used to screenshot any interactions he had with Watsky, the article “George Watsky Learns To Ruin Everything, Still Raps Fast” is being shared with 145,000 followers.

October 23, 2016

Watsky is playing the House of Blues in Boston for his international x Infinity tour. He packs the place; 2,500 fans chant his name during any lull in the show. In his own estimation, it’s his biggest show ever. In the audience, standing up by the bar, drinking a Sam Adams that he’s recently become allowed to purchase, is the kid from Providence. He hadn’t planned on going, but Watsky’s publicist comped his tickets and now, here he is. He’s standing next to that same friend from the concert at that little venue in Pawtucket freshman year—they’re looking at the absolute rock star up on stage and wondering: Just when did George Watsky became a rock star anyway? The rapper’s always had the devotees, but this is something else. This is that same passion that permeated the Iron Horse, the Paradise, the Met, but it feels bigger than the venue now. The show is no longer an enclave for a community of Watsky fans huddled together in the back of a bookstore, no. It’s a straight-up arena concert.

Watsky’s realized his dream. And that means he can’t stay afterward anymore and talk to everyone who wants to meet him. That’s okay. The kid from Providence shakes his head and smiles. He’s thankful he’s been able to come along for the ride and maybe even be a tiny part of it. His path may diverge from that of the fast-rapping kid from San Francisco now, may have been diverging for years, may never have converged at all except in his fanboy mind. But isn’t that what connecting is all about?