Overnight success stories rarely develop as quickly as they seem. However, by any measure, Tacoma rapper Lewie is no overnighter.
Throughout the past few years, the real-life Terrell Lewis has become a South End favorite — a luminary among Tacoma’s thriving hip-hop scene, which is both linked and distinct from its sibling city up I-5. But Lewie’s quest to make a name for himself outside the region got a boost Tuesday when the rising emcee signed with a subsidiary of 300 Entertainment, one of hip-hop’s hottest labels home to Young Thug, Megan Thee Stallion and Gunna.
“I always believed in my music,” Lewie said after the ink dried, “and now that it’s paying off, it’s just a sigh of relief.”
The Tacoma-raised artist, formerly known as Lil Ripp, joins startup 300 imprint MoneyMob Records and plans to relocate to Atlanta next month to be near the label’s HQ. Since changing his name a few years ago and switching up his style, Lewie’s melodic trap leanings have felt more in step with the sounds originating in Atlanta, his hypnotic half-croon bearing the emotional toil of ruminating on hard times or feeling coolly celebratory portending future wins.
“They’re surprised that I sound like how I sound coming out of Washington,” Lewie said of his new label bosses.
Lewie first generated hometown support with MKF, the hip-hop collective he led alongside the late Glewie Sparccs. After Sparccs’ death, Lewie shifted his focus to his solo career and joined Seattle management company Taj King Entertainment, which reps another recently signed semi-local in Jay Loud.
“I’ve got a screen shot of us just talking,” Lewie said of Sparccs. “We would always talk about being signed. I really didn’t think it was possible … until Jay Loud got signed. When somebody got signed that was next to me, he just opened my eyes.”
After landing an opening slot on tour with Washington rap star Lil Mosey (who is facing rape charges), Lewie dropped his first proper album under his new moniker last year. The emotionally weighty “Heartless” was well-received at home, though Lewie’s biggest song to date came earlier this year with “Broken Soul” — a harmonic and heavy-hearted collaboration with Chicago sing-rapper Calboy.
Lewie isn’t the only Tacoma artist to draw attention outside the city this year, as fledgling indie rockers Enumclaw received a wave of national write-ups this spring.