Erick Lottary Wants to Remind You That He Raps, Too

Heading into his first major release since becoming a social media golf sensation, the Charlotte rapper talks celebrity friendships, authenticity, and trusting his vision.

Erick Lottary Wants to Remind You That He Raps, Too
Photos by 1Hoop1 and Surf Mitchell. Super Empty illustration.

For any independent or underground artist, there's no bigger hurdle than the challenge of simply making people aware that you exist. In the specific case of Erick Lottary, at least, it's fair to consider that job done.

These days, the 37-year-old counts Shaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson among his fans, hangs out with the likes of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace and entrepreneur/designer Stephen Malbon, and enjoys the support of an ever-growing online cult following that enthusiastically consumes his comedic video dispatches from Arizona and California to Mexico and Colombia. It's not an overstatement to say that in 2024, his is one of the largest fanbases of any hip-hop act in North Carolina — with one small caveat: few of them actually know him for rap.

A decade-plus veteran of the Charlotte rap scene, Lottary's past year has been dominated by an unplanned, unexpected rocket ship rise to prominence in the world of golf — his unfiltered, slang-laced voiceovers ("Muggsy" = bogey, "Parmesan" = par, etc.) that started as silly backing tracks to his personal videos now spicing up the official PGA Tour Instagram account, and his surroundings dramatically shifting from public courses in North Carolina to high-end clubs like Wisconsin's Whistling Straits.

How exactly that all happened is something that Lottary — who outside of rap, had spent prior years as a videographer and editor, among other creative endeavors — is still figuring out for himself. When we caught up by phone just a few days prior to the release of his new EP, How's The 'Lil' Rap Thing Going?, he was coming off caddying for pro golfer Wyndham Clark at the Wells Fargo Classic at Quail Hollow, and another trip to Whistling Straits was soon to follow.

As Lott will be the first to say, he doesn't need music to be his main focus anymore. But he's spent the past year assembling a bigger audience than he's ever had in his life — largely comprised of people deeply invested in his past 12 months, but wholly unfamiliar with the 10+ years that preceded them. Now, if they'll oblige, he'd like folks to see what he was working on that whole time.

I know that the last couple years have been a whirlwind, and a lot of stuff that would've been unthinkable previously is now just normal to you. I was wondering these days what things even register? I'm assuming being a caddy on an official PGA Tour event definitely makes the list. What else has been standing out?

I would just say, like, having celebrities as the homies, getting invited to places that, you know, I have to go by myself and I can't bring anybody and when I get there it's nothing but celebrities. Like that's really the only thing that just really throws me for a loop. I'm standing around people that I've been fans of, and I've known about for years, and they not only know who I am, but they're fans of me now. So that's really some of the crazy shit that I can't really fathom. The people at PGA, they're like the homies now and it doesn't seem as weird anymore because they're my homies you know — I can reach out to them, they reach out to me, and it's super easy. But like when I get around fucking celebrities bro and people are involving me and wanting to know my standpoint on shit... because you know, when I was doing music before, I would be around a shitload of celebrities. I'd be around a whole bunch of them, but—

It wasn't that dynamic.

Yeah, they didn't give a fuck that I was there. You know, back then. And now it's like, if I look like I'm not even talking in the conversation, they try to involve me. You know, it's just, it's really hard to explain. It's just wild to fathom that I'm in those circles now. I'm cool with Cheeto Santino, he's an actor and comedian. I'm cool with Michael Peña, the actor.

I saw Shaq commenting on your videos now, too.

Yeah, also Ernie Johnson [host of TNT's Inside The NBA] hit me up, and was like, "Yo, bro, I love your videos," started quoting shit from my videos and just, "I watch you all the time." And it's just like, the fuck is going on, gang?

You spent all this time in the rap scene in Charlotte, doing the independent thing. And that's really tiring and often under-appreciated work — to keep that dream alive, you've got to be OK with putting in lots of hours into things people might not see, or might not get the attention you want. How has it felt to all of a sudden have all the attention you could ever want, from something other than rap?

It was just something that I made sure, in the beginning when I saw it happening, I made sure not to take it for granted. I made sure to not feel like I was owed it, because I'm not owed in this space. Don't nobody know me for golf. I feel like, maybe whoever pulling the strings up there gave it to me in this way — so that I would appreciate it. And I really do appreciate it because bro, just how fast this shit happened on this side of this spectrum... in comparison to how long I've been working my motherfucking ass off to be an artist? To be good with my presentation, to do good business, to make good music, to make sure it's mixed, to make sure that the cover art is eye-catching, to make sure that I'm saying something that people can relate to and that people can fuck with? And I get over here, and I'm just on here talking dumb, like I'd be talking to the homies, and the whole fucking world jumps on it. And it's like, "Damn... maybe I was being too serious!" Maybe I wasn't trying to be me, I was trying to be perfect. And I think that's where I fell short.

I treat all the golf people that show me love way different than I used to treat rap. Like I'd post a video and people would comment on it — I would just Like the comment, I wouldn't even talk back to 'em. Because, you know, a lot of artists do that. They be feeling like, "Aw yeah, I'm too... I'm not going to answer it," like... you're not that busy, bro. You're not that busy. Because I'm not, and I'm extremely busy, and I make time to get on there. If I see a comment, just to reply to it — "Thank you gang, appreciate you." I might give 'em a long-ass answer to a question, like fuck it, I'll just answer your question because I saw it. And I think that's what is making this shit go way above where people put the ceiling at, because people are not only liking me for the content that I'm making, but they also like me as a person now. It's super easy to get somebody to like anything that you're doing if they like you as a person, they can relate to you as a person. That's better than being their favorite rapper — they're a fan of who you are as an individual.

It's interesting how you can get pulled out of an environment, and you're in this new one where you don't have those bonafides to stand on, and so you gotta act a different way. And now translating that to like, OK, maybe I could act that way towards people all the time.

That shit literally taught me in real time that I got to show love to people, because they don't have to do it bro — they ain't gotta listen, they ain't gotta comment, they ain't gotta Like it. They don't have to do none of that.

Obviously streetwear goes hand in hand with hip-hop. Streetwear brands that are based on golf, not as much. So when you had the RNG brand first taking off, I was just wondering what the reaction was from people that knew you through the Charlotte hip-hop scene.

I mean, people kind of received that shit weirdly because I'm saying n**** in my shit. Like I'm making money off the word "n****," but you don't say it, it's called RNG, you know what I mean? A lot of people had a problem with it and they didn't think that it would work, and they tried to advise me against it. And I knew exactly what I was doing, bro.

People were telling me like, "Yo just drop some shirts, get some bread, and get the fuck up outta there," like, people were telling me that I was just having a moment of virality. And I'm like you don't get it, the shit I'm doing in these videos, I do it every day — I do it to my kids, I do it to my girl, I commentate everything. Like this shit can go on for as long as I want it to go on.

In what sense did they mean it wouldn't work?

They said it like, I'm not gonna get no big checks because that's what my brand is called. Like "Oh, the big brands ain't gonna fuck with you because it's called that, like why'd you do that?" People telling me like, "Yo just drop some shirts, get some bread, and get the fuck up outta there," like, people were telling me that I was just having a moment of virality. And I'm like you don't get it, the shit I'm doing in these videos, I do it every day — I do it to my kids, I do it to my girl, I commentate everything. Like this shit can go on for as long as I want it to go on. That shit that be on them videos, that's really how we be talking around here. I could put on a voice for PGA, I could put on a voice for anybody else, any room I'm in, anything I need to adapt to I'll adapt, but the shit you hear on RNG, that's how we talk. So I think the way that this shit was received was ill at first, but I would never have brought 'em my vision if I didn't think it was already gonna work. I wouldn't even have told them my vision. I would've just kept doing what I was doing and not even talking to people about it, but I knew it was gonna work. So I told everybody, boy, I'm going RNG. This is what I'm doing. And that shit sells out every time I put something in the store.

Do you think that in these predominantly white spaces or the traditional golf space, when you're interacting with people, that a lot of them are ignorant of that whole reference? Or they are aware of it and just don't care?

I mean, I really don't even think that they think of it like that. Every time I'm around anybody, like in a space where it's no Black people, them motherfuckers just be doing the sounds. They don't say nothing 'bout RNG, they say, "Aight gang, we back," and they start doing sounds. That's all they say. People will say, "Yo, is that RNG?" And I'll be like, "Yeah, that's me." Nobody's ever come up to me and said, "Yo, is that Real N**** Golf?"

I'm glad you haven't had that experience.

I'm not easily approachable like that. I mean, I'm easily approachable, but I don't give off the energy like I'm just gonna let you say anything to me.

Outside of the Charlotte scene, are there any opportunities in music that this has opened up? I know you said you're able to have those different dynamics now when you're around people who maybe you used to be around but now they're talking to you in a different way. Could that happen in the future because of this, or you don't want to use it in that way?

It's more so like the people who I've met, I met through golf, and that's how we communicate. So even if I'm doing something over here, if they don't show interest in it, I'm not going to make a huge thing to them about it. You know what I mean? Because that's not what we're friends for. I don't want to be the guy that's begging for some shit. Like I hate looking like that. Half these motherfuckers that I know be like, "Bro you need to get investors, and do this, and do this..." and I don't even be knowing how to ask them motherfuckers for nothing, bro. I don't know how to ask people for shit. The people in music, they know I do music and they fuck with me for that. But I don't be pushing that limit. I'd rather just be the cool cat that you still want to play golf with, have a good conversation with. I'm fine with that.

Like I said, music is secondary now. I've always loved making music, I can make it and put it out, and if people fuck with it, they fuck with it, if they don't they fucking don't. Guess what, I'ma still make money in golf. But I'll be honest with you bro, every time I get into music, or do anything with music, there's always some energy that spoils it for me. Every time I'm about to drop a project or something, something happens and it makes my my energy bitter towards music.

People will say, "Yo, is that RNG?" And I'll be like, "Yeah, that's me." Nobody's ever come up to me and said, "Yo, is that Real N**** Golf?"

Has that happened with this EP?

It did, we had to rework some shit today — it was supposed to be six [songs] and it ended up being five because we had to take something off. Just a miscommunication, nothing crazy. But it made me feel bitter towards the process again. It's just like "Damn, bruh, every time I come over here, bro" — I do shit for golf and everything always just works and clicks and boom, they pay me, bing, we moving, we doing well. And then as soon as I get into some music shit, it's always some bullshit that happens that just make me hella bitter towards the release of it, the whole situation. And now, I'm just in a great place where I don't have to give a fuck about it. Like, "Aight, bet, that shit happened... I'm gonna take that joint off, we still got five, fuck it, throw it out there." If they fuck with it, they fuck with it, if they don't, they don't.

On that note, I saw in your recent announcement about signing to the talent agency William Morris, you said to fans, “Without y'all, I'd be another rapper tryna make it. Now I get to play golf at an alarming rate and rap for fun when I feel like it.” That seems like a massive mental and lifestyle shift. Is there a weight lifted? Almost like you don't have to do anything if it doesn't feel right?

Yeah, I mean I almost canceled this motherfuckin' drop, I almost canceled it today! But I was like —

"Ryan's covering it, I can't cancel it."

Yeahh, facts. Nah, I'm just so over this album now. I just want to get it out there.

Just reminding people, like, I do rap.

That's really all it is. Like... I really rap pretty well, bro. I'm not just a golfer — I did actually work on songs for ten fucking years. I feel like I could do well in that space as well, at least build a cult following. Be able to travel and tour and then you know, play golf on tour. Nothing crazy, like a 20-city tour, but I play golf at every stop. That shit is like a fucking layup, you know?

Like, I'm talking to the returning champ of the Wells Fargo [Championship]. Of course I'm gonna talk to him coherently, like I've fucking been somewhere before. I'm not just gonna talk to him like I was talking to one of my dogs, like, he ain't one of my dogs!

There’s no way we’re going to talk about being a rapper and breaking into golf in a major way and not talk about ScHoolboy Q. He recently talked about how between his last two albums golf made him a lot of money, but he also talked about how his identity was tokenized by white people, hearing things on set like, “Is he going to have his grill in today? Make sure his grill is in.” As you’ve gotten more and more attention, I was wondering if an element of that rings true for you, and how you think about that dynamic of growing a persona and a brand (RNG) based on being different, and also not wanting to be tokenized or caricatured by traditional, predominantly white golf culture?

People just want me to make videos, and want me to commentate, like it hasn't even gotten that deep for me yet, for real. Like, Q is a different breed. Just the type of shit that he can get being a rapper and golfing, it's ridiculous. I think that's why maybe he runs into certain shit like that, because I feel like if them folk think they paying you this much, they're gonna be like, "Yo, he's gonna do what I want him to do, because I'm paying him this much!" And that's why I'm fully open to saying no to some shit. Like, you won't see me looking crazy.

A lot of people will say, "Oh, he's got a different voice when he be on PGA," and I'm like... "Yeah, I definitely do! Why wouldn't I have a different voice when I be on PGA, bro?" Like, I'm talking to the returning champ of the Wells Fargo [Championship]. Of course I'm gonna talk to him coherently, like I've fucking been somewhere before. I'm not just gonna talk to him like I was talking to one of my dogs, like, he ain't one of my dogs!

That's why I'm interested in you occupying that space. Because I think those comments on Instagram reflect how you can't win with everybody. If you code switch and people are like, "Oh, it's inauthentic. He's doing two different voices for two different places," that's one issue, or on the other side, if you don't switch and you just do like RNG, you know, it's like, "Oh, he's doing this character, he's being Black for the PGA account, because they want him to be that," so you can't win.

I can't win either way, so I'm just gonna do what I want to do. It's way easier for me to just be happy with what I'm doing than to think about what anybody thinks of what I'm doing. I can't worry about anybody's perception of me. Like, that don't make me no money, that don't feed my kids. That don't move any needles over here, gang.

The title of the upcoming EP, How’s That ‘Lil’ Rap Thing Going? and the golf imagery on the cover, is obviously a reference to the whole golf phenomenon in your life and this other career outside of rap that has taken off. What do you hope people come away with, and why was this the time to release it?

I hope they just come away with something that they can ride to, gang. I can't really put too much big thought into it. I'm just hoping that somebody can relate to it... like if you can't rap, and you want to hear something that's talking about your situation, I hope you can play that. And I put it out now because I spent a year doing what I was doing. I made a lot of relationships, I gathered a lot of people to watch. I got a lot of people over there, 'cause ain't none of them bots. I might got 50 bots in there, maybe, I don't know. So I feel like, it was time because I've teased at it for the longest. I put my music behind all of my Reels and everything, you know, so there's a lot of Reels, like some of the more viral ones, that they kind of know the song because of that Reel because of how the Reel starts. And they don't even know it yet, they don't even know it's me sometimes. Like, they don't even pay attention that much. But I felt like now is the time to show them, drop some some visuals with the project, and I'ma really jump on a campaign for a lot of golfers to use the "Sound FX" record in their content. So, I just felt like it was time that I really tried to take over that whole golf social sphere, and put a really big mark on it.

Despite the imagery/title, there's not many explicit references to this turn of events in your life on the EP itself. You have the line “I let it breathe for a golf dream, but don’t let your welcome get overstayed” on “Sound FX” as well as the closing satirical golf commentary. How did you approach deciding how much of this whole come-up to include in the music? How much was recorded since this happened?

It was more so I didn't want to jump too far into it because simultaneously while we were working on this project, I was working on another one, and I'm talking a lot about the golf shit on there. But a lot of these records that I'm putting out right now, they had like one verse on it, like "Lucky You" had one verse for the longest — I dropped a Reel rapping that on my Instagram a long time ago. So that only had one verse, so I added some to that. "Sound FX" is probably the newest record that I had on this project. And I think "Nothing Free"... it just fit, like with the "Real N****" shit. I been had that record, but it just fit.

Lastly, you’re going into an EP rollout with much more visibility than you’ve had before. I’m sure for the most part that’s been a great thing. But is there anything you miss from the days before everything popped off?

I miss being able to go places with my family, and you know, not get ran up on. I don't mind when it happens when I'm dolo or with the homies, but when I'm with my wife and my kids, it' just like, "Oh hey there, buddy... yeah, I'll take a pic." It's cool, I don't be tripping, but I miss not having to worry about that. Because at this point, people come up to me everywhere, bro. You can't miss my hair. Like I always wear my hair like this. So as soon as you see the hair, if you've ever seen one of my videos, you're automatically going to tie me to that.

You might have to change the hairstyle when you want to go incognito.

That's why I got my hair braided for my wedding, I only got ran up on one time. When my hair is up like this, I get ran up on at the gas station, everywhere, like the fucking security guard at my kids' school stopped my car in the car line, and was like, "Hey man, half of the Mint Hill Police Department loves your stuff, man!" And I was just like, holy shit, I thought he was finna tell me I had a tail light out. He's like, "Nah, man! You're good, bro. We love your videos!"