Rising Atlanta rapper Hunxho is only in competition with himself

The hip-hop hunk performed his first headlining show, which was sold out, at the Eastern on Feb. 1.
Hunxho performs for his first headlining show at The Eastern in Atlanta on Thursday, February 1, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Hunxho performs for his first headlining show at The Eastern in Atlanta on Thursday, February 1, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

On a rainy Thursday evening at a rehearsal studio in Atlanta’s Crossover Entertainment, Hunxho brings the calm amid the storm that’s outside. It’s the week before his first headlining show, but he’s stolid. He offers occasional bits of dry humor that erases some of the mystique around him.

“I feel good,” he said, to the beat of James Brown’s “I Got You,” when asked about his upcoming concert.

His show, titled “One Night Only,” was held at the Eastern on Thursday night. In the past three years, the 24-year-old rapper has already worked with Atlanta rap titans like Quavo, 21 Savage and Lil Baby. On Spotify, he has more than 1 million monthly listeners. And it’s hard to drive around Atlanta without hearing his single “Your Friends,” a track from his 2023 project “For Her.” It’s a go-to single in clubs, concerts and the radio that laces auto-tuned vocals around vivid storytelling of a romance he believes in.

Hunxho performs for his first headlining show at The Eastern in Atlanta on Thursday, February 1, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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When Hunxho (pronounced “Huncho”) heard the song on the radio for the first time, he wasn’t even in Atlanta. He was in Los Angeles.

“It’s everybody’s story,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about “Your Friends.” “I’m speaking for men. I’m speaking for how we feel, but what we don’t say. ... I really wanted to speak to the women on this one.”

On “For Her,” he does just that. Released last year, the 15-track project showcases the rapper’s warm, sentimental perspective on the pursuit of a healthy romance. Hunxho embraces a lover boy persona that adds to his charm as a hip-hop hunk. Just take a look at his Instagram page and you’ll see comments like “Pretty girls love Hunxho” from fans who adore his 6-foot-7-inch figure just as much his emotive lyrics.

“His lyrics just caught me” said Tari Elegele, a fan who attended Thursday night’s show. “It was really for the ladies. I’m a grown woman, and (it felt like) he was talking to me. ... He speaks to you in a very genuine way.”

Atlanta's rappers first headlining show in his hometown is a reflection of how much and how quickly he's adored by fans. Days after tickets for his One Night Only show went on sale last year, the concert sold out and upgraded to a bigger venue. He performed at the Eastern on Feb. 1, 2024. Photo credit: Shamaal Bloodman

Credit: Shamaal Bloodman

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Credit: Shamaal Bloodman

Elegele, 35, brought her two teenage daughters to the show. After moving to Atlanta from Los Angeles last year, Elegele said Hunxho was one of the first local artists that garnered her attention. Her family was among the many who waited in line Thursday night to enter the venue. One day after concert tickets went on sale last month, the show sold out. It upgraded to a bigger venue, moving from Believe Music Hall to the Eastern.

Hunxho’s demand is a testament to his hard work. The rapper, who was raised on the east side of Atlanta, is very mum about his upbringing (“I don’t know how to explain it. ... It was just a typical hood,” he said). But he makes sure to note that he’s entirely self-motivated. After he started rapping on a whim at 17, he wanted to become better at it. So, he dedicated all of his time and money to studio sessions. Years ago, he’d make 15 songs in one session. He didn’t want to be broke again.

Hunxho performs at his first headlining show at The Eastern in Atlanta on Thursday, February 1, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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At 22, he became a father, signed a record deal with 300 Entertainment and released his debut album “22.” It set the tone for his romantic storytelling with tracks like “Looking for Love”: “And whenever I’m gone, don’t you miss me / You can pick up the phone when I’m busy / Know love go on.”

“(It was about) knowing that I have somewhere I’m trying to be, knowing where I came from, where I’m not trying to go back to, trying to put my family in a better place. It’s about my fans. I just want to keep it going.”

During the show, Hunxho graced the crowd with ease. Wearing all-black, he cruised through a 15-track set to a room full of fans who are so loud that they basically perform the concert for him. He later changes into two outfits, including a choir robe to perform the sex-crazed “Is U Ready” that’s backed by a screen full of social media posts from fans who liken his songs to gospel music.

He also gave roses to fans in the audience, which was 16-year-old Dajia Johnson’s favorite part. She said his success is inspiring for Atlantans.

“He really connects to his people and his listeners,” said Stone Mountain resident Johnson. “He really gives us a different aspect into a man’s mind. Often, we don’t hear men express their feelings. From his music, we really get to hear how a man feels in terms of relationships, and it’s nice to hear a man express his emotions through his music.”

Thursday night’s concert also featured surprise guests like Baby Drill, Tee Grizzley and Lil Baby — with whom Hunxho toured last year.

The show ended with a performance of his hit “Your Friends,” as friends and family joined him on stage.

Lil Baby appears as a special guest and performs for the crowd at Hunxho’s headlining show at The Eastern in Atlanta on Thursday, February 1, 2024. (Kymani Culmer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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His other plans this year? Releasing new music. He’d also like to embark on his own tour and bring the Atlanta show across the world. He jokingly mentions that he’d like to own a zoo one day, but he’s serious. As a child, the rapper loved watching Animal Planet, and he’s owned about 50 animals in his lifetime — including a snake, chameleon and a chinchilla.

But he’s more focused on the present. Given the YSL trial and deaths of rappers like Takeoff and Lil Keed, Atlanta’s rap scene has been in mourning for the past two years. Hunxho’s rise and his loyal fanbase offer proof that the city’s hip-hop terrain is in good hands and primed for a new chapter.

“I just want (my career) to go as far as God takes it, as far as God lets me go,” Hunxho said. “I don’t really try to see my future and see how big I’m gonna be. I’ll just let God handle it. I’m just working for now.”

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