MARVIN Issue 5 Cover Star Lil Huddy Reflects on His Rise and His Hopes For the Future
Words by Owen Myers
Photography by Jonathan Weiner
Styling by Adam Ballheim
Grooming by Johnny Stuntz
In a November afternoon in LA, the social media creator turned pop-punk artist sits in his bedroom’s $400 gamer chair with ICEE-blue accents, a souvenir from a “super deep” Fortnite obsession when he would spend ten hours a day in the thing. “I had to stop,” he says. “It’s not even funny.” He has a mini-fridge, Mario Kart memorabilia, a Shadow the Hedgehog plushie, and, beside a marble column, a framed poster of The Dark Knight. It’s like Ri¢hie Ri¢h, if Ri¢hie Ri¢h had grown up exclusively on Tim Burton and Nintendo.
The bedroom has always been his sanctuary but Huddy’s is a particularly vivid rendering of his taste. Smart, given that the room is on near-daily display to his 40 million followers. Born Cole Chase Hudson, the 19-year-old gained popularity on musical.ly and then went on to master the 15-second TikTok. The format is as foundational to 2020s entertainment as the serialized novel was to the UK’s Victorian era. His uploads are goofy, regular (he’s posted over 4000), and winningly charming; Huddy mugs for the camera and lip syncs to retro songs like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” but his humor can have a bad boy edge too: in one video uploaded when he was 17, he wears sweatpants with stop looking at my dick printed on the crotch.
Huddy’s masterstroke has been to maximize the business of influencing. In 2019 he co-founded Hype House, an LA mansion that served as a physical HQ for 19 content creators who’d often collaborate on their videos. Huddy often featured other TikTok superstars and Hype House members like Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio, the most followed creator on the platform and also Huddy’s on-off girlfriend. He moved out less than a year later when the frat house vibe became too much. “I had to have the experience when I lived with a ton of people to realize that, maybe, I’m just an introverted person and I need a little bit of space to myself to really think,” he says. His career focus also shifted as Huddy began to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a bona fide pop-punk star.
With the recent release of his power riff-fueled debut album Teenage Heartbreak, LilHuddy is aiming to parlay his followers into fans, following in the Vans footprints of pop-punk pacesetters like blink-182 and Avril Lavigne. Both were artists he listened to on car rides to school with his older sister while growing up in Stockton, a sleepy town about an hour south of Sacramento. “I always wanted to be a musician, bro,” he explains. “I always loved messing around and writ- ing songs as a kid. I always loved to sing. But I never had the proper guidance. So when I was out in LA I was like, ‘this is finally a time where I can try this out.’”
Teenage Heartbreak is slick and confident, and packed with the kind of songs that you can imagine teens losing their mind to on a sticky Warped Tour afternoon. Huddy’s voice suits the genre, with enough of a rasp to lend edge to harder songs like the excellent “Headlock,” but a sweetness to swoon over too, in songs like “America’s Sweetheart,” a seeming tribute to D’Amelio. To create the record, Huddy teamed up with a cabal of powerhouse pop and rock writers and producers—genre-agnostics that show up in the credits of songs by Katy Perry or Lil Wayne or BTS—as well as blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, who appears on all but one of the album’s tracks. Barker is kind of fairy godfather for a new wave of young punky stars like popular TikTok emo-rapper jxdn and flamboyant Brit Yungblud and has helped revitalize the music of Machine Gun Kelly, and, recently, Avril Lavigne. Huddy talks about Barker as a kind of pop-punk Timbaland. “It’s almost like Travis is like the producer that makes the craziest beats of all time except for he’s a drummer,” Huddy says. “He wants to work, he wants to get to meet people. He has a label, he wants to help the community grow and keep things alive.”
Given that pop-punk is infiltrating the mainstream again, it’s also smart business. Olivia Rodrigo skewered her wholesome image in 2021’s Paramore-inspired “good 4 u,” Willow Smith has undergone a gothy afro- futurist reinvention and there are hat-tips to pop-punk in the music of Billie Eilish and Post Malone. “When I was first playing music in the scene, it was a group of outcasts who were going against what was popular and normal,” says Mod Sun, who co-directed Huddy in Machine Gun Kelly’s 2021 music film Downfalls High and has two decades in pop-punk and emo scenes. “Now the shift has happened and the outcasts have become the cool kids.”
Huddy has become embedded in what he calls LA’s “big pop-punk family” that includes Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, jxdn, Avril Lavigne, Mod Sun, Blackbear, and iann dior. “We’re all tight as fuck,” he says. “We all show up and support each other in times of need, and we all hang out on the regular and go to each other’s concerts and stuff like that. It’s really cool to see something like this happen because I don’t think I’ve seen something like this happen in a while.”
When songwriting, Huddy voices demons that he’s only occasionally hinted at online (if explicitly: in one TikTok he says “I hate myself” to the camera and laughs.) Lyrics of Teenage Heartbreak speak of “drowning” in heartbreak and self-medicating depressive episodes with booze. “I feel like one of the best ways to articulate what you’re feeling is with music,” he says. “If you just wrote out the shit that you go through in a tweet, people would be like, ‘delete this, you sound stupid.’”
Huddy’s online videos are largely wholesome, helping him build a core fanbase who skew quite young (according to TikTok metrics he is most popular with girls aged 13-17). The song “Partycrasher” describes a “psycho” who rages with his boys and teases: Might go out and get arrested/…Fucking up is too much fun. He says this isn’t a pose, but the “duality” of LilHuddy. “I don’t wanna be the person to poorly influence people with what I’m doing,” he says. “I smoke, I drink, I have fun, I party. But I’m also very responsible. So of course I’m not gonna fucking post myself out at a party belligerently drunk.”
Adam Mersel signed Huddy to Immersive Records, a subsidiary of Interscope Geffen A&M, in late 2020. “He never tried to play to a too-young or too-adult audience,” says Lerber. “Chase has always stayed committed to telling the story of what it means to actually be someone his age going through the true teenage experience.” But Huddy knows that audiences are fickle, and that his celebrity could easily go away as quickly as it came. “Maintaining what you’ve got going on is the biggest mindfuck possible,” he says. “For me, at least. Because I start to think [that] everything is temporary. And if I disappear for a week then my life is over, for some reason.”
“If you’re just gone, if you’re MIA, people will just for- get about you. Unless you’re like fucking insanely huge and people are just waiting for you to come back, life just goes on. Life always just goes on. No matter what, there’s going to be a new thing tomorrow and then the day after that. At the end of the day it’s a relationship between you and your fans and that’s what I’m always trying to keep up to date with. Even when I’m working I’m like, ‘fuck, am I missing something right now? Is there something I could be doing to show the people online that I love them?’”
He’s doing everything he can to not screw it up. Including adopting the daily routine of a startup CEO with an “articulated schedule that goes from when I wake up to when I work out to when I eat this to when I go to a meeting to when I have phone calls,” he says. “Everything’s scheduled [and] everything that’s sporadic is what I do online, because none of that’s ever planned. It’s just on me. That’s the thing that stresses me out, because if I’m going to do something today that’s for the people online, it’s something that I have to think of on the side of what I’m doing with work.”
And new projects keep cropping up. Launching a fragrance or makeup line are practically a rite of pas- sage for nascent pop stars in 2021. So Huddy, who’s worn nail polish since he was 16, has a line of gothy, press-on nails, some of which he wears today. “This is my Big Brain set,” he says, left hand like a claw to show off the designs. “You can see, they look cool, huh?”
In fact, his stardom informs a carousel of brand partnerships, appearances and collaborations. He has his own Burger King meal: a chicken sandwich with spicy sauce, a side of mozzarella sticks and a chocolate shake. He was a #CODpartner at the recent worldwide premiere of Call of Duty: Vanguard and has relation- Teenage Heartbreak’s follow up. But he is diversifyships with fashion houses like Saint Laurent, who flew him to Paris Fashion Week to see their September run- way show. Is he aware of the brand influence he wields? “I forget I have followers most of the time,” he says, per- haps naively. “I forget the power that I actually hold because I just think of myself as, ‘oh, I make music, this is my job, this is fun.’ When it comes to working with fashion brands and stuff like that, it doesn’t even flick my mind that they want me because I have followers.”
Even so, sometimes things can get too noisy. When he feels overwhelmed, Huddy turns to his snakes. They live in his bedroom in glass tanks that glow with red UV light. (He unveils the enclosures with a conjurer’s “ta- da!”) Their names are Boo, Batman, and Mango. “I love the quietness of reptiles,” he says dreamily. “I love the calmness of them; they calm me down. I have a lot of anxiety and stuff at times so if I can just pick up one of my snakes… they move so slow and so calm.”
He skipped college, but Huddy studies his peers like a dedicated Ivy Leaguer. “I pay attention to what all of the people I look up to in all the different genres go about strategy-wise,” he says. “How they move.” He’s starting to write lyrics on his Notes app before bed and is listening to more hard rock and emo-trap as he plots Teenage Heartbreak’s follow up. But he is diversifying too. Next year sees the release of a Netflix reality series about The Hype House, including his move from the storied manse to his own place. “I’ve done a couple of pickup interviews that I’m going to add into the mix,” he says. “They’re pretty fucking good.” Later today, he has an audition for a movie—“one of those nice, cheesy, A1 love movies,” he says—which would be his first as a romantic lead.
Huddy has a firm grip on the intricacies of managing a personal brand but he’s most endearing when his mind, hotwired with ambition, runs off the leash. He says he wants to do an action film where he’s “on some 007 shit.” Or to be like “The Rock, but like a skinny badass Rock.” He wants to collaborate with Slash, a “total fucking badass,” on his next record. Oh and start a record label too and a fashion line at some point, maybe. When the sparks start firing in his brain, he’s unstoppable. And when he’s on a roll, even his strict timetable can go sideways. “Me and my assistant have just been dealing with a whole bunch of stuff,” he says, pausing for breath. “I haven’t even showered and gotten ready yet. What time is it?” He checks his phone. It’s 2pm. The audition is in four hours. “Fuck!”