VMEN: Taphari

VMEN: Taphari

VMEN: Taphari

The singer sharing his otherworldly talents

The singer sharing his otherworldly talents

Photography: Menelik Puryear

Styling: Brandon Tan

Text: Bailey Bujnosek

This feature appears in VMAN 48, now available for purchase!

Listen to one of Taphari’s upbeat, eclectic tracks, and you’ll instantly understand why the term most often used to describe him is “alien.” There is something out-of-this-world about the way he flows through bars on heartbreak, haters, and hustling over a symphony of synthetic beats. The 26-year-old Brownsville, Brooklyn native admits that he’s always felt out of place—in New York, in a heteronormative world, and even on Earth, itself. “I remember one time I told my grandma, ‘I know you’re built differently, because I would never, ever choose to settle down in New York,’” he says with a laugh.

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Describing his upbringing in New York City simply as “hell,” the rising rapper credits music as the way he processed everything going on around him. The intensity and sheer spectacle of awards show performances by industry legends like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga opened his eyes to the power of music—and served as a form of escapism for the young dreamer. “They had these big performances and larger-than-life personalities,” he notes. “Nowadays, you don’t really get that level of performing.” That coping mechanism of using the arts as a distraction from everyday realities still fuels his artistry to this day. Most recently reading the works of Langston Hughes and late feminist author Bell Hooks during quarantine helped him tap into “the increased openness and vulnerability that you find in my newer music.”

After dropping his eerily prescient EP, Earth’s No Fun, in 2019, Taphari drew praise for his from-the-heart lyricism. His songwriting is born from personal experience but feels universal to the loner, the outsider, and the alien far from its home planet. The tracks on his 2021 debut album Blind Obedience show further mastery of self-expression, proving Taphari to be one of the most thoughtful rappers in the game today. “I flower through all occasions/ bloom heavy on my mind/ I flip it, collect the payment/ sign on the dotted line,” he spits with nonchalance on standout song “Table 42.” The title refers to the literal act of setting a table “or two,” or metaphorically reserving space in your mind for someone who’s long gone.

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The song, and the album as a whole, paints a portrait of their creator as toughened by the loss of love in an already cruel world. But Taphari promises his newer work will explore the softness hiding beneath that hardened exterior. “I remember being a kid and thinking that some of the stuff I experienced in my life would destroy me,” he recalls. “But getting through it, surviving, being in control, and not being in blind obedience to anybody—that’s where I’m at now.” Taphari has learned how to navigate this planet, and he’s primed to take it over, one quote-worthy verse at a time.

This feature appears in VMAN 48, now available for purchase!

Credits:
GROOMING RIAD AZAR (THE WALL GROUP) / PHOTO ASSISTANTS RYAN PETRUS, ETHAN GREENFIELD / STYLIST ASSISTANTS DUNYA KOROBOVA, JULIA WETTREICH / GROOMING ASSISTANT ALEXANDRA DIROMA

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