A 19-year-old rapper with a lifetime of stories to tell, Markie hails from the East End of Louisville, Kentucky—a place that inevitably pours into each song he creates. “Where I come from is the gutter, it’s the trenches,” says Markie. “People have their ideas of what life is like in Louisville, so I wanted to use my music to tell them what’s really going on.”

Made with producers like TrellGotWings (Future, Juice WRLD, Gunna,) 808 Mafia (Gucci Mane, 21 Savage), Richie Souf (Future, Yo Gotti), and Cardo (Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar), Markie’s forthcoming debut album brings his magnetic charisma and melodic flow to that purposely unfiltered truth-telling. On lead single “Ugly Places,” he drops his incisive rhymes over a dreamy beat, layering the laid-back but bittersweet track with a straight-from-real-life narrative. “I wrote ‘Ugly Places’ at a really dark time for me,” Markie says. “It’s about how I live in a cold place, how I lost a lot of my friends and people in my family to the street life. I got into the street life too but I was able to make it out—the streets didn’t swallow me up.” With its beat built on a dramatically belted vocal sample, the harder-hitting and deeply soulful “Repent” takes its lyrical hook from words spoken by Markie’s grandfather just before he died. “That line ‘I know God got me’ was the last thing he said to me,” Markie recalls. “He’s the only man I ever looked up to as a father figure, so I made that song for him. Every bar in it means something real to me.”

Markie first discovered his gift with words as a little kid, finding early recognition by winning third place in a statewide short-story contest in sixth grade (“It was about an imaginary friend, but really it was about me—all my stories are always about me,” he says). Naming Lil Wayne and Boosie Badazz among his longtime influences, he got his start in music at age 18, teaming up with his cousin and recording his first song in a closet studio. “I’d been around music my whole life, so when I turned 18 it was like, ‘It’s now or never,’” Markie says. He soon caught the ear of local producers, who offered him free studio time at a recording spot in his neighborhood. Before he’d even released any of his songs, Markie landed a management deal and quickly drew the attention of Interscope Records, who signed him in early 2019.

By the time he’d inked his deal with Interscope, Markie had already begun working on his debut album, following an instinctive but highly intentional approach to its lyrical content. “When I hear the beat I just vibe out, then head into the booth and let my mind spit the rest,” says Markie. “Just get me a beat and I’ll tell my whole life story.” In that process, Markie shares all the tragedies and triumphs he’s experienced, and ultimately offers a message of hope. “For a long time I was satisfied with the streets—I thought that was gonna be my whole life,” says Markie. “I figured I’d either die or go to jail, but music ended up saving me. This album is me telling my story of coming up from nothing, and making something out of myself in spite of all that.”