Finding Novyon arrives at Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis with Astro Boy and Beavis & Butthead pins on the pocket of his jean jacket.
He flashes a big, naive grin as he orders a hot chocolate, goofily vibing to Ginuwine’s “Pony” as it comes on the loudspeaker.
Despite the affability, the 25-year-old Minneapolis MC is coming off the most concerted year of his career. Novyon is by no means new to the Twin Cities scene — he started rapping in eighth grade, released his first album in 2012 — but this year he became a proper sensation.
That seed was planted with 2015 single “Lots,” which is nearing a half-million listens on SoundCloud. The Allan Kingdom-featuring track earned praise from Pitchfork, and it ultimately snagged Novyon a gig opening for Big Sean in Los Angeles that December. After that, everything changed.
“I came home, and everyone started treating me differently,” Novyon remembers. “I just felt so lonely. Like I was working myself for no reason.”
“Lots” wasn’t supposed to happen. When Novyon recorded the career catalyst, he says he was just dicking around, trying to emulate radio rappers like Young Thug and Travis Scott. He didn’t want to put “Lots” on his 2015 album #TheFoodNetwork, but collaborator Travis Gorman talked him into it.
Now he’s stressing because he knows the “buzzy” label is as much a co-sign as it is a kiss of death. He’s seen artists like Father and OG Maco blow up over one song, only to have audiences dismiss their later work.
“I don’t want [“Lots”] to define me as an artist,” Novyon says. “There are so many more layers to me.”
When those thoughts get overwhelming, Novyon retreats to his geekery. Mounting stress following the L.A. showcase led him back to his childhood refuge of Dragon Ball Z. Inspired by the perseverance of hero Goku, Novyon recorded Super Saiyan, a seven-song EP that replenished his determination.
“[Dragon Ball Z] helps when I feel down or like life’s beating me up,” Novyon says of the Japanese TV show. “I was stressed out about getting on Soundset, and putting Super Saiyan out made me feel better.”
On the day Super Saiyan dropped in January, Rhymesayers called. The powerhouse Twin Cities label said they wanted to put Novyon on the bill of their Soundset festival in May.
Moments like those prove levity can breed success. In a local scene that’s largely been defined by the brooding, introspective work of Atmosphere, Sean Anonymous, and Metasota, Novyon says he knows being the punchline MC with the anime fixation might curb his appeal. But his personality is what broke him out, and now he’s staking his career on it.
“I go out of my way to let people know I don’t take myself too seriously,” Novyon says, finishing his mug of hot chocolate. “My life is fun as hell.”