Meet Krystall Poppin, an El Paso Emcee Who’s in the Race To Win

Photo by AB Gonzalez. Courtesy of the artist.

If you’ve caught El Paso rapper Krystall Poppin’s latest single “One More Time” on any number of playlists it’s already been added to, there’s something to it that you may not catch the first time. But that something is probably what brought you back to listen— one more time. And then again. And again.

It’s a bright, catchy, mid-tempo banger with a big hook, provided by fellow Texan, Paula DeAnda. One that immediately evokes summer. You know a summer song when you hear it—most of them are all about the here and now, having fun and sippin’ rosé.

But there’s a hint of nostalgia hiding under the surface of “One More Time.” There’s a bit of a longing for summers past and a bit of ‘90s Bad Boy-era hip-hop. Poppin gives it to you right in the first line that she quotes straight from the Gospel of Diddy: “The sun don’t shine forever but as long as we here, then we might as well shine forever.”

“My parents were hip-hop heads,” she says. “My dad was really into New York hip-hop in the ‘90s. My mom, too. Diddy was jiggy but they were rapping about real things and it could still be played on the radio. I want to give my music that balance.” The video, premiering here at Remezcla, catches Miss Poppin alongside DeAnda, practically looking like Texas twins. And, though only a few years separate the two, the rapper explains that she grew up in West Texas watching the singer from the Rio Grande Valley perform.

“It was inspiring seeing someone on stage that was so close to my age. The fact we have a song together now is crazy,” she says.

Photo by AB Gonzalez. Courtesy of the artist.
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But, being a ‘90s baby in El Paso wasn’t all shiny suits and fish-eyed lenses for Poppin. The young would-be rapper lost her father to the streets when she was barely grade-school age, killed in a bar brawl involving two rival gangs, just blocks from her family home.

“I was about to be six,” she says during our phone conversation while on a break from recording in a Los Angeles studio. “I definitely feel like that event changed the course of my entire life. A lot of things fell apart in my family; things came undone and it took us a long time to get back on our feet.”

Being a ‘90s baby in El Paso wasn’t all shiny suits and fish-eyed lenses.

Then came rap. At a backyard party, she joined a rap cipher on a whim (and a few drinks). She had never rapped before in her life, she recalls. Afterward, some of the other rappers were so impressed, they offered to record her.

“I fell in love with it as soon as I heard my voice on that beat,” she says. “I showed my mom and she started to cry. I was not expecting that. Ever since that day, I dedicated myself to being a rapper.”

Just three years later, Poppin ias making a name for herself in the Southwest. She self-released videos, performed at local venues and on one of the main stages of the city’s annual Memorial Day music fest, Neon Desert. But the release of her debut album, “Starstruck,” in 2016, felt more like a false start than a sprint to the finish.

“I was so fresh in the game,” she recalls. “AlI that I knew how to do was write and rap. I didn’t know how to do melodies, how to tell the engineer to make my voice sound a certain way. I didn’t know how to tell people what I heard in my head. So, when the album was done, I was proud of myself but inside, I felt like I hadn’t conquered the mission.”

The experience left her feeling depressed and not good enough. And so, despite a strong local buzz, billboards on I-10, and fans wanting more, she stopped promoting the album and retreated. In fact, she almost quit rapping altogether.

Months later and living in Las Vegas, she had finally come to the decision to find a new career path. But on the same day, she received a phone call from a friend and producer telling her how proud he was of all she had done so far and that he hoped to see her continue.

“I took that as a sign,” she says. From that day forward she dedicated herself to learning the tools of the trade—how to make beats, how to engineer vocals, how to be a “real rapper.” And soon after regaining her confidence, a plan was hatched.

“I decided, I’m going to rap and I’m going to rap my ass off,” she said.

She and her manager sold everything they owned, saved $4000 for an RV, which they converted into a studio-on-wheels and then: “When the house was empty, we dipped.”

“We would show up in a city, like Atlanta where we didn’t know anyone. Search for open mics, producers, rappers. Planting seeds. Then we did the same thing in Nashville. Dallas. Tapping in. After a while of doing that, coming back hard on social media, making a presence for myself, that’s when GT Garza found us. He offered to put us on a 20-city tour he was doing in 2019 and we said, ‘Hell yeah.’”

I decided, I’m going to rap and I’m going to rap my ass off.

Being taken under Garza’s wing and shown the indie ropes in Houston had finally gotten her back, not just to the starting line— but back in the race. Her first single in 2019, “Timmy Tah,” showcased not only slicker production but a much more confident Poppin that carried through to her second full-length offering, “Raw Gold Honey,” later that year.

Now, back in LA and working on new material, she says she’s not just ready to run, she’s primed to win.

“Before G came around, my idea of being an artist was, if I’m not bigger than Cardi B, I didn’t make it,” she says. “I didn’t know there were so many lanes to make indie money. He taught me how to make money. He bought a house off rap. He’s a successful businessman. G showed me I’m going to be ok, no matter what. But I want to go all the way. I want to stand next to Cardi one day and be on the same level. I want to win Grammys. That’s my dream.” Watch the video premiere of “One More Time” below: