Spence Lee is the newest artist signed to 88Rising and Ear drummers, and he’s here to become a staple in the music industry. Hailing from Somerset, New Jersey, the Vietnamese/Chinese recording artist formerly known as Shotta Spence creates music to inspire, motivate, and elevate the masses, with lyrics inspired by real-life experiences that all play into his musical journey to the top.
In describing himself, Spence states he’s “a multi-dimensional artist, revolutionary leader and a spiritually conscious celestial being. I’m a young man trying to inspire and serve the glory of God through my work. My mission with this art is to unite people from all different places, all different races, all different spaces. Just trying to bring ppl together in a positive way, no matter where you’re from.”
This year, Spence made his debut performance at Coachella as part of 88rising’s Head in the Clouds Forever set, and even stepped into the modeling world as seen in the new American Eagle Summer/Fall Campaign.
His most recent single and visual for “On God” serves as a testimony that he if he can manifest his dreams into a reality, so can you.
AllHipHop spoke with Spence Lee virtually to discuss his love for music, dropping out of college, how he met Mike Will, the making of “On God,” and more!
AllHipHop: When did you fall in love with music?
Spence Lee: Really, since I can remember. There’s home videos of me singing my favorite songs in the car when I was 3 and I don’t even remember doing that. My mom would always pull up videos and talk about how I always used to sing this and that in the car. I remember being 5 years old when I’d be taking a shower, I’d close my eyes imagining I’d be performing at festivals. I was always in love with poetry coming up in school. I started making music in 2009 just for fun, messing around with my teammates from the track team. Eventually, I started taking it seriously after I graduated from high school. That’s when I fell in love with music, at an early early age.
AllHipHop: Did you go to college, or you went straight and focused on music?
Spence Lee: I went to college for a year and a half. I graduated high school in 2013, then I dropped out of college in 2014 after my first semester of my sophomore year.
AllHipHop: Why’d you drop out? Because of music?
Spence Lee: Yeah, that’s when I met Mike Will. That’s when I met Rae Sremmurd. I started being in New York more, having more opportunities and doors opening up for me musically. With the clothes I was designing, I started getting opportunities to model. Having all these opportunities come to me, I wanted to really take full advantage of it.
Also, I was failing out of school. My grades were so bad because I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t comprehend this accounting or economics exam, my brain wasn’t in that gear anymore. In high school, I got by because that was all memorization. I could learn it and fill the test out. Because my strong suit wasn’t necessarily in the books, it was in relationships. I was always good at having relationships, so I’d just know somebody.
Ironically, being skilled at having connections and genuinely getting to know people, that took me from whatever the exam was on. For one, I got confidence from that. I don’t know these people, can’t really talk to these people. Their classmates got different vibes going. I’m like “man, I don’t know how I’m a do all this college stuff.” I just started focusing on the music and the music took me further than the school did.
AllHipHop: How did you meet Mike Will? How did they catch wind of you?
Spence Lee: So my boy Max, he went to my high school. Max was shooting videos for Rae Sremmurd. He knew me because people around town knew who I was, I was making clothes and my designs were going all over. He said “yo, you should pull up and put some of your clothes on Rae Sremmurd for this video I’m directing.” I pulled up like “man, you might as well let me do all the clothes for this video. Every scene, just do all the clothes.” I still didn’t know what that meant, but I said “yeah, just tell him I’m a stylist.”
I pulled up, grabbed a bunch of clothes from my closet, clothes that I bought from thrift stores, then clothes I designed. I dressed them for the whole “Up Like Trump” video. That video shoot is when I met Mike, Swae Lee and Jxmmi. We chopped it up. I approached them like “yeah, my name’s Spencer. I’m next up.”
I was 18 at the time so I was very turnt up. I’m fresh out of high school. The college scene, I’m really turnt up. I’m inserting myself into any opportunity I can get. With Mike, I already know who he is. I’m a fan of his music. I’m already manifesting this. I’m in this room for a reason, I met these people for a reason. Let me make sure they understand what my direction is, and from that point we clicked. He showed genuine love from day one. I’m very thankful that I met Rae Sremmurd because the 3 of them really helped me to advance myself as an artist and to grow as an artist. Musically, business-wise, everything. That’s why Ear Drummers, through my boy from my hometown.
AllHipHop: That’s incredible!
Spence Lee: It was just destiny. He was tied into them, then I met them. This was a time where I didn’t know what I was gonna do with school. I literally was walking the streets at night in New York, meeting with a couple of my friends talking to each other for hours. I thought “man, I don’t want to go to school. I really don’t. I don’t know how I’m a make it 4 years.”
It was depressing because I was in New York, Jersey. There were cliques in the school. Because I went to a PWI, a lot of those kids were looking at me like I was a foreign exchange student before they even heard me speak a word. It was a real weird time for me. Once I met Mike Will, I met Rae Sremmurd. I met Aubz (Aubrey), he’s my manager now.
A couple months later I was in Atlanta for the first time working on my first project. After that Atlanta trip, I got casted for the Kanye show. First Kanye show we did, all of that happened in a span of months. Alright, I could really go somewhere creatively. As an artist, I know I’ll take it to the next level because God’s putting these opportunities in front of me. I just had faith in that, and it’s all working out.
AllHipHop: What inspired “On God”?
Spence Lee: In 2018, I had my appendix removed because it bursted a few days before I realized that it was dangerous. I went to the hospital, I had to get emergency surgery, it put me out for a while. I had dropped 20 pounds, I was like Skeletor. Super sick, messed up, could barely walk. I was recovering, recovering. In 2021, a complication from that surgery had caused an infection in my abdomen. When they’re doing the surgery they dropped something in my abdomen, a few years later it caused another infection. I had to get surgery again on that same spot to remove whatever it was they had dropped.
I was messed up again. I was down on weight, tired, couldn’t move really. Just slept on the couch, taking antibiotics through the vein. All this stuff that I hate, because I’m a natural, organic, alkaline-electric, plant-based eater. I take care of myself. I workout. I’m used to working out every day, I’m not used to toxic consumption. I’m sitting there like damn, this is ass, but I gotta figure out how to get through this.
During that time, I was just listening to beats. My friend Mel, really he’s my step-twin. He’s Aubrey’s little brother, he came over to my house to visit me. I appreciated him coming through because that’s my boy. We were chopping it up, sitting on the couch. It was hard for me to breathe a little bit, so I was talking quietly. I started playing some beats, that beat came on and we started freestyling. I started saying “On God… On God, I’m living a legend.” He said “that’s hard, you gotta record that. You’ve got to lay that down.” I said “alright bet.”
I took a voice memo and I was freestyling that, that became the song. Eventually once I got my strength back, I recorded it, laid the lyrics down. That’s how the song came about. The producer is B-Rackz, who Aubrey introduced me to. It’s really dope because it’s a song about being tapped in and being aware that what you say and what you affirm with word and speech, what you think and what you believe is what manifests in your life. If you’re on positive timing with your energy, with how you talk to people, with how you think, that positive things will manifest in your life. Tying it all together and giving the glory to God, that’s what that song is about. Just trusting in the process.
AllHipHop: Do you have any goals? What can we expect next?
Spence Lee: I’m dropping this album in the first quarter. My goal is to inspire as many people as I can with this music. To do something positive, to live, to pursue whatever it is that their truth is and to keep finding their purpose. That’s my goal really, to positively impact the world, impact the culture. To bring people together from all over the world, to rock these shows and to have the best music I can make. Make the best art and have fun while doing it, that’s my goal with it. I’m not attaching any monetary numbers to it, my main goal is to inspire and serve the people.