Image by Ashley Buenrostro
If you follow the buzz on social media—let’s say especially TikTok—then chances are you’ve heard Isaiah Faber’s—AKA Powfu—breakout track “death bed (coffee for your head).’
Indeed, the lo fi, bedroom pop tune with hip-hop sensibilities spread like wildfire on TikTok and YouTube. Over four million videos have been made to the song, on the former platform, ranging from elaborate proposals, to breakfast in miniature. On the latter, “death bed” has accumulated 61 million streams. Its popularity earned Powfu the #4 spot on the Spotify Global Top 50, putting him amongst superstars like The Weeknd, Drake, and Dua Lipa; he’s now also certified gold in seven countries.
But even after storming charts all over the world, the twenty-one year old is surprisingly down to earth. Aside from a new record deal with Columbia, things don’t seem to have changed that much; he’s still spending his days just skateboarding and making music.
In anticipation of his new EP poems of the past, we caught up with the young chart topper sheltering at his home in Vancouver.
What kind of music have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to old punk bands.
Right, I’ve read that your dad was in a punk rock band, Faber Drive. What was it like growing up in a musical household?
It was really cool. Obviously not a lot of people have a dad who was a rockstar growing up. He taught me the basics of all the instruments, and I got to see what it was like to be in the music industry.
Do you think that’s prepared you? The industry now is quite different from the one your dad was a part of.
On the business side of things it’s different, but between the hard work and collaborating with other people—a lot of the basics he helped me with. He always encouraged me to work hard at it, and it paid off.
When did you start making music?
I started writing music when I was thirteen. Then, in grade twelve, when I was seventeen, is when I started taking it seriously.
What drew you to lo-fi hip-hop?
I was just into hip-hop at the very start. Then I started surfing Soundcloud, and I came across [these] lo-fi hip-hop beats, and I thought they sounded pretty cool; so I just started listening to them by themselves in my car. It seemed like not many people are rapping on these types of beats, so I [figured I] might as well try it.
Who would you cite as your main musical influences?
There are definitely a lot. Yellow Card and Blink-182 are really cool punk artists that I listen to and get inspired by. On the hip-hop side of things, I’ll listen to a bunch: Kanye West, Jaden Smith, G-Eazy, a bunch of rappers.
Speaking of Blink-182, I saw that they did a version of the song. How’d that come about?
Yeah it was crazy. I got signed to Columbia, and they asked me if there was anyone I would like to collab with…and I said Blink-182. They said, “Oh, they’re also signed with us.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s sick.” So then they told them about me and asked if they wanted to work with me, and they said yeah. They really liked “death bed” and wanted to remix it.
“death bed” exploded on YouTube and took TikTok by storm. How’d you feel when you that happened?
I was just really excited. Even before “death bed,” seeing like a hundred comments on a song would make me happy. It’s the same feeling, but with more people. It’s inspiring.
What are some of your favorite TikToks that people have made of the song?
There’re a lot; I like some of the Kobe ones. I like the ones where people confess their love to their best friends. And there’s another one where people are making miniature pancakes—I thought that was great.
“death bed” is unexpectedly sad, you rap about not wanting to die yet.
Most of my songs draw on pretty heavy topics, because that’s just what I feel drawn to write about. For “death bed,” the sample in the beat was talking about “not going to bed and getting a cup of coffee for your head”—so I was just trying to make a story around the chorus. I already had a song about sleeping, so then I went from the viewpoint of someone who’s dying.
You’d been writing songs for awhile. But has TikTok effected the way you write now?
For the most part, I’m just trying to make music that I’d enjoy listening to myself. I have for one of my songs, “mind your manners,” aimed for a TikTok type of song. I wrote cheesy lyrics and a catchy chorus for it. But most of my songs are just my own style.
Tell us about your new EP poems of the past.
I like EPs, because they’re short and simple, and I get to release my favorite songs. There’s six tracks on this one. I try to [include] a mix of genres. So there’ll be hip-hop songs and punk songs and lo-fi, bedroom pop stuff. So everyone has their own favorite song or sound on the EP.
Now that you’ve signed with a major label and have a song in the charts, what do you want to do next?
I was looking forward to touring before all of this, and meeting fans. But other than that, making music is like my favorite thing to do. And now I get to collab with bigger artists…so just more of that.