'Finally Dead' & The Reincarnated Supa Bwe


Words by Brent Butcher • Photos by Michael Salisbury  


The dichotomy of life and death are straightforward, but what happens after the transition between the two isn’t as clear. Some believe your soul and body remain earthbound, others believe your consciousness transfers to another plane, an afterlife, while others believe we’re reborn into a new existence. Frederick McCulloch Burton, better known as Supa Bwe, walks among the living, but has made a transformation between two states himself, making his “debut” as a new man, a new artist. His most recent release, “Finally Dead” finds Supa Bwe grappling with the trials and tribulations of life, and coming out on top.

For many “Finally Dead” was their first exposure to Supa Bwe, but he’s been a staple in the Chicago music community for years now. Supa was born on Chicago’s west side before his family moved to the western suburb of Oak Park, history Supa is adamant on making clear. Many families work hard to move from the city, seeing the suburbs as refuge from the dangers that come with city living, and a sign of prosperity. At the same time, being born and raised in Chicago and the loyalty to the city that comes with it is often worn like a badge of honor. It’s a battle for authenticity, and Supa puts it in stark terms. “If you’re black and speak well, you’re discredited.” Nonsensical it may be, but the territorial dispute can still be relevant while establishing credibility. Supa sees himself as having been an outsider from the beginning, and his “No Thanks” tattoo on the right shoulder where a pat on the back would normally be found suggests he’s OK with that. 

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Regardless of which zip code Supa chose to rest his head each night, he learned quickly that most of his battles would be up hill. Whether it be during high school at Oak Park River Forest (OPRF), navigating the music world, or at home with his family, Supa was regularly called on to prove himself. He’s not the biggest guy, but strikes a big presence and casts a long shadow, personality sky high. It's something Supa has cultivated over the years, set on combating even the slightest idea of weakness. Sitting atop a foundation of tenacity and frustration, Supa uses a lifetime of being the doubted outcast as fuel for what we hear from him today. Supa’s experiences growing up have hardened him over the years, but they’ve never killed his creative spirit. In fact, Supa has embraced the outcast lifestyle, and is more than comfortable in his own skin. 

Since he began making music, Supa’s drawn inspiration from hobbies like Dragonball Z, Naruto, Pokemon and other niche or “nerdy” interests he may have. “Technically I’m a lame”, quips Supa, referring to pop culture’s perception of his favorite past times. All these things weren’t quite as popular as they are now with mainstream consumers, but that was Supa’s lane and he didn’t care. “Black Goku” himself, Supa created his own lane with his music as well, an “angry boy wave" that he started in the 2000s and has gotten increasingly popular in recent years. We discussed new artists utilizing his very distinct blend of singing, rapping and screaming after he called out Trippie Redd by name on social media and Andrew Barber (Fake Shore Drive) called Supa one of the most “copied” artists coming out of Chicago. 

“Trippie Redd was seven years old when I started rapping the way Trippie Redd raps.”  

Supposedly, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Supa didn’t jump on a wave, he helped create it, and the one thing he’s looking for is acknowledgement of that. Supa remembers convincing others that this style he was so fond of was going to be accepted and embraced by the mainstream music community soon enough, but when that time came, Supa experienced some drastic changes in his life that led to a mental break and moments of stalling in his career. The bitter irony is that the outcast had become the wave, but was swept out from under his feet when he should have been at the top, crashing down on the music world. The biters moved quickly, smelling blood in the water. The “Finally Dead” cover art, Supa riddled by arrows, demonstrates a man who sees a world that wouldn’t give him a chance. 

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During his time as ⅓ of his former band Hurt Everybody, which These Days covered at their peak in late 2015, Supa along with his band mates Mulatto Beats and Qari saw their careers spike with popularity before the group eventually disbanded. When times were good, they were real good, and when asked about the breakup Supa reminisces fondly of the group’s time together. Supa recognized his relationships with Qari and Mulatto as some of his first real friendships, “people that will mean something to me forever.” From Supa’s perspective, the weight of his personal struggles and responsibilities created a sense of urgency he didn’t feel was shared by the rest of the team. In Supa’s eyes, everyone wasn’t creating at the speed he desired, and his frustration got the best of him. “I just couldn’t be big brother all the time.” Dealing with things like this is part of being a team, so friction was inevitable. Supa was a man on his own again, in his true comfort zone, something he’s all too familiar with and addresses in “Stolen Hearts (Thanos)” on the new album. Supa’s just a lonely titan, floating around in space by himself, just how he likes it. 

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“Each person I work with has blessed me without me asking for anything. When I was down and had nowhere to go, Twista allowed me to record at his studio. I appreciate those who lookout and just genuinely give a fuck.”

Fans weren’t ready for the breakup, and Supa really wasn’t either. The grief that followed the group’s split sent Supa into a tailspin, rife with bad decisions like drug use, physical altercations and public outbursts on social media, collectively setting his music career back several steps. When the dust settled, his experiences with Hurt Everybody and the loss that followed taught Supa about his own work ethic, how the industry works and the need to balance his tenacity with patience. Not everyone is going to work the way Supa does, and he’s not going to keep many friends in his life if he doesn’t consider their perspective. When asked if he thought the group could work together again someday, Supa said “I miss what we had. I miss the way things were. I’m upset I allowed things to fall into the places that they did.” Supa doesn’t want to go back to the way things were, and he recognized that the group’s breakup was inevitable given everyone’s own personal growth, but he wants to be able to shake hands and be cool with one another again. He misses his friends. 

Supa tells us that after years of depression and metaphorical death, “Finally Dead” marks his rebirth, but the album’s theme didn’t start that way. During a very dark period in Supa’s life, “Finally Dead” was meant to be a suicide note of sorts, something that should have been obvious after hearing the lead single, "I Hate Being Alive." Supa didn’t think he had much to offer the world besides his music and intended on going out with a bang and leaving the project’s proceeds to his family. Thankfully, people closest to Supa changed his perspective, offering a system of support that Supa was not accustomed to having. Surrounded by people who generally cared about his well being, “Finally Dead” transformed into a project about the death of Supa’s ego and the rebirth of himself as an artist and person. 

Parlaying the good, the bad and the ugly experiences of his previous life into his new Supa Bwe solo career, Supa remained tenacious, but instilled some of that newly discovered patience and released a ton of new music that is bookended with “Finally Dead.” Supa may have gone solo, but he still appreciated a good collaboration and created as much with the likes of Saba, Twista, Mick Jenkins and others, each recurring guests in the Supa Bwe music catalog. 

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“Each person I work with has blessed me without me asking for anything. When I was down and had nowhere to go, Twista allowed me to record at his studio. I appreciate those who lookout and just genuinely give a fuck.”

Beyond explaining some of the strengths of the album, the above gratitude is also a reflection of the maturity that Supa has built for himself and a sign that he’s overcome one of his life’s lowest points to date. Several years with the pedal to the floor, Supa’s personal growth is matching his work ethic, and like clockwork, he’s beginning to gain the attention he deserves. There’s no shortage of Supa releases out in the world, but “Finally Dead” is the first commercial release by the Chicago rapper, a big step in any musician’s career. The album has already seen great success since its release, debuting at #3 on iTunes hip hop charts and single after single is receiving placements on some major streaming playlists. 

With a newfound perspective on life and his music, Supa has hit the ground running with his latest release, and the growth is evident in the music itself. Leaving the “angry boy wave” for the boys, Supa steps out as an enlightened man entering a brand new chapter of his career. Those fans that prefer angry Supa shouldn't worry though, while songs like "Up Right Now" and "Supa's Sweater Songs" are uncharacteristically uptempo for Supa Bwe, he's an artist that wears his emotions on his sleeve and creates music to match. Whether up right now, or down in the dumps, Supa is sure to to continue to be one of the most honest and transparent artists in music today.