Getting to Know The Rapper Behind “Hood Baby” Viral TikTok Challenge
Rapper KBFR wants people to know the “for real” version of the man behind the music.
What started off as a simple dance challenge soon evolved into a multi-faceted viral lip-sync shuffle on TikTok. The “Hood Baby” challenge, started by 21-year-old rapper KBFR, began trending on the social platform in early June, and so far has been done by the likes of Kourtney Kardashian, Shay Mitchell, Jason Derulo, and countless other Gen- Z users.
With the song’s chill beat combined with its addictive lyrics, #HoodBaby has over 230 million views on TikTok. The rapper is also quickly amassing recognition, with over 1 million listeners on Spotify and close to 10,000 followers on Instagram.
KBFR, which stands for his first name Kelby “For Real”, explained the meaning behind his stage name. “I’m for real about everything I do. I’m not gonna go into anything halfway,” he told VMAN.
Kelby Williams grew up with his single mother in Philadelphia. “My dad was never in the picture so it’s always been me and my mom,” he said. “But we’ve always been close and my mom means everything to me.” During his high school years, his mom’s job forced the pair to travel often, so he attended five different high schools in Maryland, Arizona, and Delaware. Looking back, the rapper is grateful for that experience because he met different people and was constantly exposed to new environments. “It was really insightful and it actually helped me a lot.”
Since he was five years old, KBFR played football up until his freshman year of college at Fullerton College in California. He’s always been interested in music throughout his childhood, messing around and spitting bars at high school lunch tables but never thought to take it seriously until the summer of 2018. He recalled the moment he first got into music through his friend named Chop, who had equipment like Pro Tools at his apartment. After a few times recording on an actual track, his friends said that his voice was “a pill on people” and encouraged him to take music seriously. “I was hesitant, but my friends told me I had the voice for it,” he said. “I took the opportunity and it worked out for me.”
In his artist bio on Spotify, his songs are described as “a turnt trap style of rap that keeps the listeners hyped up,” with his music influenced by artists such as Meek Mill, Rick Ross, G Herbo, and The Notorious B.I.G.
#HoodBabyShuffle, released back in April, started off as a dance challenge with trendy TikTok moves created by friends B Thomp and Jay Coop. Since its debut, #HoodBabyShuffle has now earned over 4.5 million views.
As expected from TikTok’s algorithm and dance subculture, it suddenly morphed into something else. The simple shuffle evolved into a new trend, with each person lip-syncing one line of the song at a time, and then everyone turns their head to the lyrics “Up, down, to the side,” and sings “Got me feeling a lil lazy.”
For listeners and fans of Hood Baby, this song was clearly destined to be viral. “Every day, I woke up to check TikTok and then one day, I saw everyone doing the challenge and I was like ‘What?!’” KBFR said. In a YouTube search, a single “Hood Baby” lyric video has over 2 million views, and TikTok compilations reached hundreds of thousands of views. Not to mention, this rising musician is in the Top 5 Breakthrough artists on Rolling Stone.
Before its release, KBFR said he felt iffy about sharing the song. “I actually wasn’t gonna release the song at first but my friends encouraged me to drop it anyways,” he explained. “But when I first saw people reposting it and the way they were reacting to it, in my mind I was like ‘Damn, this just might be big.’”
With COVID-19 lockdowns forcing people to stay indoors for the most part, it allowed people to discover new hobbies and find community online, with TikTok being a guilty pleasure for many. “The song dropped when the COVID-19 lockdowns started, and I realized that it was the perfect time to drop because everyone was at home on their phones,” he said. While scrolling through the infinite pool of videos, some of his favorite #HoodBaby videos include the ones with pets. “The one with the dogs is hilarious because their pets are so spot-on,” he said. On the other hand, he mentioned the more cringy videos are the ones where people shave their legs to the song.
The pandemic also doesn’t stop KBFR from interacting with fans and new listeners. He recalled his first fan interaction before the pandemic. “My first memorable time on Rodeo Drive, some kids in a Tesla noticed me, pulled up next to me and started bumping my song “‘Squabble,’” he said. “This was the first time something like that happened and I was like ‘Damn, they’re really showing love.’”
Of course, he also has a fair amount of trolls messaging him, but the rapper laughed, “It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s actually entertaining.”
Outside of music, the rapper indulges in fashion, as best said from his Instagram bio: “I like fashion and sh*t like that.” He mentioned some of his favorite designers like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Off-White, but he enjoys repping smaller designers more. “I can take somebody’s clothing line, no matter how big or small the designer is, and dress it up and make it into my own lil’ drip,” he said. On his Instagram page, the rapper can be seen in designer apparel, custom-made outfits and LA caps, often pairing his outfits with his favorite Nike Air Force 1’s. “I’m a big guy but I can make an outfit look good.”
Since the release of “Hood Baby,” KBFR has been working on getting his name out there. “Right now, I’m just working on making good music and definitely new hype stuff is on the way for sure.” Some of his main goals are to release more visuals like music videos and start performing after the pandemic slows down. “I also wanna get shows poppin’ because performing gives me a rush and I wanna be known for my performances,” he said. “I want people to know that I’m a big guy but I’m lit.” The musician is also eagerly waiting to safely engage with fans outside of social media and in person.
Most of all, he prioritizes the support from listeners and he strives to grow his fanbase. “I care about [my fans] 1000%, so I wanna connect with them and put out stuff everyone is gonna love.”
Reflecting on the past few months, he told VMAN, “It’s crazy how the algorithm works because you can have that one thing that goes viral. It’s such a surreal feeling and I’m grateful for it because it changed my life forever.”