I’ve heard of bedroom pop before, the lo-fi genre filled with purposeful imperfections in the name of aesthetics. But, I never heard of bedroom rap before. That was until I was introduced to Jason McNeil.
The 20-year-old Camp Hill resident fits the genre to a “T.” Under the pseudonym Sourface, McNeil creates unique DYI-sounding music that mixes rap, R&B, punk and electronic all into one song. His lyrics are almost like spoken word at times, pulling from words in his notes app, notebook or even freestyled; sometimes rhyming, sometimes not.
The rapper lives in an aura of mystery. You’ll rarely find a picture of him when scrolling through his social media. If you do, he’ll be rocking a custom-made mask filled with doodles and symbols.
“People tell me that [my music] has a very different sound and they enjoy it, and people say that they connect to it,” he said. “I appreciate it when they reach out and tell me stuff like that.”
McNeil’s love for music had a legendary start. When he was only 4, his grandmother took him to see Michael Jackson in concert. Before Jackson even hit the stage, people were screaming and falling all over the place.
“I was like ‘What is this? What is this guy about to do?’ Then I saw him perform, and I was like ‘Okay, that makes sense’ and I was like ‘That is something that I need to do.’”
Years later, McNeil started crafting his own music and developing his own sound. Then came the name. Originally, it was Golden Gordon and Fritz the Cat and a bunch more after that.
Then his friend, whom he was making music with, said to him: “I know you’re changing your name a lot. So, what is your new name?”
So, McNeil mixed “Bearface,” a singer from the R&B group Brockhampton, along with the rapper Busdriver’s song “King Cookie Face” and his favorite candy, and created “Sourface.”
But, his favorite artist and love for sour candy weren’t the only reasons why he landed on the name Sourface.
“I feel like a lot of the time, Black people are stereotyped as having mean faces,” he said. “So, I was thinking made I could have this alternate personality where I’ve very aggressive and mean and strange all the time. So, that’s why I picked Sourface.”
Our expressions aren’t the only Black stereotypes that he hopes to diminish. Too often, he felt like the “weird Black kid” for liking the type of music and activities that he did, such as skateboarding. That was until he was introduced to the rapper Tyler the Creator.
Like McNeil, Tyler the Creator was given the “strange Black kid” label when he first broke into the music scene in 2011. Instead of trying to change himself, Tyler embraced it.
“I was like ‘Oh, I can be Black and like skateboarding, and I can like fashion, and I can like color….I feel like all the stereotypes that people put on me got shed away,” McNeil said. “I genuinely think that Tyler gave me that confidence that you can just be you. You don’t have to conform to whatever people want you to be. You can be yourself.”
And McNeil plans to continue being himself in his life and music. Currently, he doesn’t have any big projects planned, but the quarantine has caused a lot of artists to reach out to him. He hopes a few projects come out the situation, as well as more solo music.
In the next few years, McNeil plans to move to Lancaster and join the folk-punk music scene there and even help build more of a rap scene.
Overall, he plans to keep moving and making music and making sure he doesn’t become stagnant and is always challenging himself.
His only goals are to make good music, get his own place, and buy his mother a house. If he achieves those three things, in his book, he’s successful.
“If I hit that point, I’ll be happy.”
This story is one in a series of local musician profiles in celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month.