Ghoulavelii’s Dark, Punk-Infused Trap Epitomizes the New T-Town Sound

Take a whiff of the new Tacoma aroma—equal parts Marilyn Manson and flex-ready rap.

“On a personal level, outside of music, Marilyn Manson is really that nigga to me,” Tacoma’s Gabe Mooney, aka Ghoulavelii of the Boiler Boyz collective, tells me. “He really doesn’t give a fuck. He will do the most off-the-wall shit. He would wear the most off-the-wall fashion, and that gave birth to artists like Young Thug. Not to compare them, but Young Thug doesn’t give a fuck. He’ll put a dress on and still shoot you.”

Mooney grew up listening to punk and heavy metal, performing and touring with bands in the scene beginning at age 14. You might think that would buy him some cool points, but he wasn’t always accepted by his peers. “I remember being in middle school and wearing band shirts and nobody was fucking with it,” he reminisces. “They called me a weirdo and said I was into some devil shit.” As an avid gamer, Mooney was a fan of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, which introduced him to some of his favorite bands. “I heard Slayer in a Tony Hawk game. When I was a kid I didn’t fuck with anything but games. I would listen to Slayer in the game, then I taught myself to play drums listening to Slayer and Slipknot.”

Now at 19, Mooney has infiltrated Tacoma’s aggressive, slightly occult, heavily drug infused crop of trap-rappers—artists like ILLFIGHTYOU, who bring “stomp your ass out” aggression, and CRIMEWAVE, who is intentionally Luciferian (his latest project 66.6% is selling for $6.66 on Bandcamp). Mooney, headlining Seattle’s Vera Project this Friday, plays the middle of this field. In his latest record, Sleazy Season, he drops lines like “I’m unholy like I’m Baphomet,” but he wouldn’t describe his music as occult: “I use dark sounds, but I don’t feel like I necessarily use dark lyrics,” he says. “I feel like I make flex music, with dark atmospheres. But I’ve been on the come-up. I’m performing, I’m making some money. So I’m flexing. That’s how I feel in my life right now.”

Sleazy Season is defiantly a reflection of his millennial flex. The bulk of his lyrics revolve around fashion, drug use, and girls. Sonically, his project combines fast drums with slow dark synths and booming bass. The effect is a soundtrack fit for the underworld, which he slaughters with nihilist lyrics delivered in an old A$AP Rocky-style cadence.

While Mooney’s sound stays in the realm of trap, everything else surrounding his music is deeply rooted in the punk scene. The inspiration for the merchandise he designs and sells at shows comes from the band shirts he was ridiculed for wearing as a kid. He actively tries to present his live performances as punk shows, and made sure to keep all the songs on Sleazy Season to around two minutes.

“Punk songs are, like, a minute long,” he says. “When I played in hardcore bands, all our songs were, like, two minutes. When I first started rapping I would make these four-minute songs, and I’d get bored. I felt like kids at shows would get bored. I really want niggas to feel this shit, so I try to keep the songs around two minutes. My shows are punk shows—I want people to mosh and get buck the whole time.”

Mooney’s Boiler Boyz collective, which also includes Yung Fern, Bujemane, Preacher Nicky, and Jack the Spitter (just to name a few), is one of the many that have emerged from Tacoma’s hip-hop scene. ILLFIGHTYOU, :30, Boiler Boyz, Peasant Boys, and CRIMEWAVE (who is a former member of Boiler Boyz) are all connected by eTc Tacoma, a clothing boutique on Pacific Avenue. “The Tacoma scene is kind of dead. I hate saying that, but it just is,” Mooney says. “The only thing that keeps it together is eTc. They bring everything together. They’re how I met my DJ, that’s how I cliqued up with Khris P [of ILLFIGHTYOU], and that’s where I met the members of :30.”

eTc, founded by Umi Wagoner and Paris Wright, has become a hub for local artists, designers, and anyone down with streetwear and hip-hop culture. They premiere local music videos on their website, release local music on their Soundcloud, and host events. The Tacoma hip-hop scene may not be huge, but its artists stay connected, building a cohesive sound that defines their movement.

For Seattleites curious about the Tacoma scene, Mooney is definitely an act to check out. With his punk background and dark trap sound, he’s quickly becoming a vital component in T-Town’s rapidly coalescing distinctive hip-hop sound. Ghoulavelii with Shawn Parker, Skkrt, Yung Fern, and Ralph Dozer. Vera Project, 305 Harrison St, 956-8372, $10, All ages. 8 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 18.