Rapper George Watsky on cusp of stardom

PHOTO COURTESY ELLIE STILLSLos Angeles-based George Watsky

PHOTO COURTESY ELLIE STILLSLos Angeles-based George Watsky

From the outside, George Watsky looks like any other American kid. His boyish face shows 19 of his 26 years. But when the Los Angeles-based rapper opens his mouth, he spits a verse out faster than you can do a double take.

Watsky is headlining The Fillmore on Thursday, a monumental show for the San Francisco native.

“When I was first discovering music and my passion for rapping and performing, the Fillmore is where I went to see shows,” he says in online posts.

Despite his young age, Watsky has been fighting an uphill battle for years to get him where he is today. He’s just now hitting his stride.

Watsky first made his name in 2006 when he won the Brave New Voices National Poetry Slam. Later, his 2010 self-titled, self-released album hit No. 7 on the iTunes hip-hop chart. His rap career received a major boost when Ellen DeGeneres invited him to be on her show (twice).

Since then, Watsky’s online profile has exploded, earning him fans across the world and allowing him to produce albums despite not being signed by a major label — a topic he often touches on in his rhymes.

In 2012, he co-founded Steel Wool Media in conjunction with Steel Wool Entertainment, which released his latest effort, “Cardboard Castles,” in March. The album — boasting guest spots by Oakland’s Chinaka Hodge and beautiful U.K. singer Kate Nash (who was persuaded via a relentless Twitter campaign spearheaded by Watsky) — hit No. 1 on the iTunes hip-hop chart, dislodging Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

While Watsky’s unassuming looks and rapid flow have garnered attention, his lyrics — an even balance of silly and sincere uttered with the slightest lisp — are what keep fans hooked.

On “Cardboard Castles,” he pays tribute to a deceased classmate (“Dedicated to Christina Li”) and delivers a chilling reality check to those with phones glued to their hands (“Tiny Glowing Screens Pts. 1 and 2”).

But he also happily takes digs at his financial situation with the proud-to-be-poor anthem “Sloppy Seconds.” In many of his videos, the often-smiling Watsky is hanging, thug-style, out of his Subaru station wagon.

In a culture focused on guns and gold chains, Watsky is a breath of fresh air. If his “Cardboard Castles” release show at Amoeba last month is any indication, his Fillmore show will be packed with fans.

George Watsky

  • Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
  • When: 8 p.m. Thursday
  • Tickets: $19.50
  • Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.georgewatsky.com/tour

artsentertainmentGeorge WatskymusicPop Music & Jazz

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