Morgan Murphy was five when he moved to Ireland from Long Island, and 15 when he moved back. As you might imagine, this was a big move for a sensitive kid. “It was pretty much a huge culture shock,” he says. “Growing up, I was very introverted. I was very shy. I didn't say much. I was always nervous to be in social situations.” He made a few friends so as to not be completely alone, but he began to indulge his musical vision by exploring community on internet. When he discovered the internet, a feeling of freedom came over him, a sense of belonging. “It was like a secret party that I just discovered”. As a senior in high school, inspired by artists around age like Bones and Young Lean, he started making his own beats. It helped him find a sense of community he hadn’t had in either Ireland or America. He uploaded instrumentals that he produced under the name notmorgan, a name that let him be anyone but himself. After gaining notoriety as a producer, he started guccihighwaters on a lark, singing over the music he’d been making. The name was a goof, but when his music immediately connected with people, it stuck.
As a singer, Murphy was a bit of an outsider to the SoundCloud rap world he’d begun to orbit. “I was grouped in because of the time and place and platform,” he says. That allowed connection with producers interested in similar mixes of bold drums and elegiac melodies. But his use of original piano with a classic touch and his angelic singing voice gave him an original voice within the scene’s crowded world. Even if he wanted to blend in, he didn’t know how. “Pretty much everything I've done from when I started making music is all on instinct.” With his debut album, Jokes On You (2021), he says, “basically my goal was to make it sound like me.”
One early song, “I Thought I Died Inside” went viral. It’s typical of what Morgan calls his “drowned out” sound. Tens of thousands of videos use the beat from the song as a kind of Rorschach test. Whatever you hear in the blurred audio sample is your greatest fear. In one video, as the haunted vocal plays, the words “You do not matter” scroll across the screen. There are videos in, Spanish, Hebrew, Polish. Verified influencers with perfectly coiffed hair and those with zero followers alike found the music helped them understand themselves.
Inspired by hip-hop grooves and SoundCloud rap’s divergence from traditional structure, guccihighwaters delivers tracks that are at once bold and intimately familiar, catching the attention of 500K monthly Spotify listeners.
Written by: Matthew Schnipper