No one needs to tell $avvy what not to wear

In the living room of the apartment that $avvy shares with several roommates, his bag collection hangs from a rack. Among the gear is a well-loved tote designed by a friend, and a brown leather satchel bearing the famous logo of a French luxury brand.

“This was such a steal,” he says of the Louis Vuitton bag that he found buried in a thrift store bin. He’s proud of how little he paid for it, the opposite attitude of most who flaunt their ownership of items with that distinctive LV monogram, whether authentic or knock-off. His is real, he assures: “I asked my mom, and I think there’s a way that you can tell inside.” He opens the bag and peers in at the French text on the slightly yellowed tag, concluding, “Think it’s this part here.”

The singer, songwriter and rapper, born Elijah Watts, hails from a household with second-hand shopping expertise. That was how his parents could afford to keep him and his siblings outfitted during youthful growth spurts. He learned to steel himself against schoolmates’ mockery of what he wore.

“I don’t know why that was frowned upon as a kid,” he reflects. “But I just reached the point where I don’t care anymore. Now I have my own style, and now people like my style and ask me, ‘Where did [you] get this from?’ And the answer is always the same: I got it from the thrift store.”

Finding his own freewheeling look — something like skater-meets-bohemian art student in the SoundCloud rap era — was part of $avvy fleshing out his still-morphing artistic identity. The day of our interview, he reclines in his bedroom in a baggy Pepe Jeans London longsleeve, likely of late ’90s provenance, and gestures toward the clothes that take up nearly half the room. “I have a lot of cool pieces,” he says, speaking like a true fashion obsessive.

During the pandemic, $avvy dropped out of Middle Tennessee State and pushed himself to be productive in numerous ways, one of which involved getting his hands on a t-shirt press and cranking out a few designs under the brand name POOR Clothing. He’s since branched out to printing designs on vintage sweaters and making pins, all of it part of his vision for taking the classist condescension he felt directed at him and turning it on its head.

“It’s never been cool to be poor,” he says. “But if you reinvent that into something that is cool and everybody’s saying it and everybody’s wearing it, then it’s like, we really get to decide what’s cool and what’s not.”

That outlook extends to $avvy’s music. During “Bag/Purse,” a loosie for which he filmed a video in one of his favorite thrift stores, Boys Wear Pearls, an EP that dropped an early 2021 and his new full-length, The POOR Tapes, out April 22, he leans into no-budget individuality as a display of swagger.

“What’s so sick to all these other artists is having all these houses and having all these cars and all this money,” he observes of some of his superstar hip-hop predecessors. “And what’s sick to me is finding a cool bag at the thrift store. Like, that’s my flex right now.”