SURF GANG founder and Kendrick Lamar collaborator evilgiane talks #HEAVENSGATE VOL. 1, NYCs coveted creative scene and working with John Glacier.

Leading a psychedelic rap resurgence in his native New York, evilgiane is the ‘it’ producer your favourite wordsmiths are clamouring to collaborate with. That ‘Sticky Dub’ Bon Iver sample you hear on Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Hillbillies’? Yeah, it wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him; he’s also worked with Earl Sweatshirt, A$AP Rocky and Bktherula and landed an official remix for Pinkpantheress’ single, ‘Reason’. 


Melancholic and menacing, much of the music evilgiane’s produced so far has been for his mis-fit rap collective, SURF GANG. Founded in 2018, the crew, which bonded over their creative like-mindedness at a local skate park, are riding high off a prolific run of mixtape, EP and single releases. They’ve previously described their sound as ‘post-apocalyptic rap’, which makes sense when you acknowledge the existential wordplay and dystopian production that’s orchestrated their musical aesthetic until now.  


On #HEAVENSGATE VOL.1, a 23-track project from January this year, evilgiane mixes codeine-like melodies with woozy 808s and slurry features from his close network of collaborators. ‘WHAT SHE’S HAVING’ is a profound moment where vocalist Lucy mumbles declarations of love and loneliness over a rippling instrumental. ‘LAND’, featuring JDN and SERIOUS SHAD, is comparably jumpy, pulling the plug on any emotions and filling up a glass of fizzy trap music. 


Earlier this month, evilgiane touched down in London to play a TranceParty alongside electroclash revivalists Snow Strippers, as part of a tour that’s also taken him to Montreal, Amsterdam and Chicago. You may have even caught him at Mowalola’s Club Wet night at Colour Factory, which honoured the designer’s eponymous fashion brand and its most recent London Fashion Week show. 


An exciting schedule lies ahead for evilgiane, who’s taking off to Atlanta and Miami next month for more Snow Strippers gigs. Here, he talks #HEAVENSGATE VOL. 1, NYCs coveted creative scene and working with John Glacier. 

#HEAVENSGATE VOL. 1 is filled with bangers and features some of your closest collaborators. How long had the project been in the works? You seem like an artist who doesn’t rest on their laurels… 

The project has been in the works for roughly two years. It started out as a cool idea and grew into what it is now.

I’m getting a lot of enjoyment from the beat on ‘STARBURST’. I love the East Asian vibe to it. Why were N.A.O Quelly and 454 the right collaborators for that song? 

Me and 454 made that beat together, it was more his idea to get Quelly on it, but it became a great song in my opinion.

Earlier this month you were in the UK to play Trance Party at Corsica Studios. How was the night? And how do you feel about London more generally, in terms of its music and creative scene? 

Transport was really fun. I’d love to do something else here again before I leave, I love London, it’s kind of like New York. There’s no end to creativity out here.

What else did you get up to while in London? Any sessions or collaborations with some UK artists that you admire? 

I’ve been out here seeing good friends, did a little bit of skateboarding, making music, mainly producing. Not much with UK artist as of yet, but I’m always open to it.

Already this year, you’ve played in Chicago and Amsterdam too. For someone who’s so community-focused, how are you finding going out to other countries and spreading your wings beyond the scene that made you back in NYC? 

It’s really just the internet, the internet connects everyone. People show me love from all over and I like to reciprocate.

What would you say SURF GANG’s mantra is? Is there an underlying philosophy to your music and the artists that release on the label?

We just want to keep releasing good music, music with intention, and try our best to make it timeless.

Last year, you released a collaborative tape with John Glacier, JGSG, on your SURF GANG imprint. How did you both connect and what do you think she brought to the SURF GANG label at large?

She actually linked up with my collaborator Harrison and I really liked her project. She definitely brought a different flavour to what people are used to hearing from us.

NYC has bred so many successful rap collectives over the years, from Wu-Tang to Flatbush Zombies and the A$AP Mob. Why do you think the city continues to produce innovative hip-hop subgenres and scenes generations on from when it first started? 

It’s just the towns man, I don’t know, hip-hop was born here and it will always be here.

You’re one of the most innovative samplers in the game currently. Being from England, Klaxon’s ‘Golden Skans’ on ‘MYSELF’, with K$upreme and Slimesito, stands out. What specifically about that song drew you to it and made you want to incorporate it into the track?

That song is just an undeniably catchy song.

How was it working with the legend that is Clams Casino for Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘Making the Band’? I saw someone label it as ‘ethereal drill’ but what vibe did you three go into it wanting to make? 

There wasn’t really a specific vibe. We were just trying stuff out, wanting to make something different.

What’s next for evilgiane? Are there any other projects or collab tapes we should be looking out for before the year is up? 

There’s so much to look out for, I can’t even really name it all at this point, just keep your eyes peeled and watch out – it’s going to be an exciting year.

Listen to #HEAVENSGATE VOL. 1 now: