Although he’s only been professionally making music since 2020, rapper Invada has already become a key piece in one of the most exciting hip-hop acts to come out of Massachusetts in decades. He is the newest member of Van Buren Records, a rap collective from Brockton that is making industry buzz with its independent label structure and high energy posse-style bangers. Van Buren is a collective of 13 members — including rappers, producers, and designers alike — which has amassed a significant regional listenership that is quickly expanding. The crew played Boston Calling in May, has opened for the likes of Griselda and Pusha T, and sold so many tickets for their Boston album release party in September that they needed to book a bigger venue.
In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, Invada said that he is still processing the love that Van Buren is receiving both locally and beyond. “It still hasn't registered for real,” the rapper said. “Every time I’m on stage it’s like: ‘Damn, all y'all came out to see us?’ You really could have been anywhere in the world and you chose to be here with us? That's fire. It really makes me appreciate having fans.”
Founded in 2014, Van Buren Records gets its name from Season Eight episode 14 of Seinfeld, a show that had a big impact on original Van Buren members like SAINT LYOR, according to Invada. In the episode, Kramer and George have beef with a street gang called “The Van Buren Boys.” It was through his longtime friendship with SAINT LYOR that Invada was introduced to VB, which led to him becoming an official member.
“I've known LYOR since kindergarten actually, but we didn't start getting really close until right around the time that he joined VB,” Invada said. “We were basically inseparable regardless, so he started just bringing me around and then everybody in the group started taking a liking to me. This was before I was even thinking about music, mind you, and then one day it just happened.”
Invada stepped into the booth with VB for the first time while at Audiomack Studios in New York in Dec. 2020. The crew instantly took a liking to his style and raps, but the rapper shared that he was still on the fence about seriously pursuing music. “I guess part of it comes from the fact that I wasn't used to seeing rappers from where I was from,” he said. “If I was from a place with a bigger scene like Atlanta, or New York or something like that, maybe I would have seen it differently.”
“Coming from a small city with no music scene prior to what we were doing, respectfully,” he added. “I just didn't see it.”
Thanks to Van Buren Records, who have earned over 1.7 million Spotify streams on “Cult” and recently wrapped another multi-city tour this month, Brockton — population 105,000 — is beginning to get cultural recognition outside of New England. After the 2019 census, Brockton became officially designated as the only majority Black town in New England, although Invada said that the demographics of the city have not changed much since he was a kid.
“It's been majority Black the whole time I've been there,” the rapper said. “But it's probably just even more so now. It’s interesting to see what’s happening in the city because it’s still being gentrified, but demographics haven’t changed so much.”
“There’s going to be a lot more money coming into Brockton and a lot more development,” he added. “I just hope that the way the city looks doesn’t change too much. I hope that people remain solid because there's a lot of investment that our community has made into this community.”
After his session at Audiomack, Invada committed himself to daily freestyling sessions, which helped him find his voice as a rapper. He made his Van Buren Records debut with the release of “Black Wall Street” in Aug. 2021, contributing verses on three tracks. The project’s opener “Jump Street” is the first professionally-recorded song by Invada to be released officially. The video for “Cult,” which dropped alongside the project, sees the rapper fit in seamlessly and confidently with his seasoned VB peers SAINT LYOR, FELIX!, and Luke Bar$. Invada’s gravel-voiced flow on the track sets the stage for a guest verse from trending Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier. Throughout the process of his first official VB release, Invada said that he felt at home.
“Since I had already been around, it felt mad natural,” the rapper said. “I was already hanging with everyone, going to the events, cracking jokes, already in the group chats. So it was just like: ‘Now I rap too.’”
In the year since “Black Wall Street,” Invada has developed an effortless, nearly mumble-like flow that draws on his influences from both the braggadocio of drill legend Chief Keef and the trademark nervous vocals of the late Drakeo the Ruler. On VB’s latest offering “DSM,” which dropped in September, Invada showcases his cold, menacing delivery over head-banging production on songs like “NOBODY SAFE,” which features an opening verse from Luke Bar$. While working on “Black Wall Street” and “DSM,” Invada learned that he raps best when his verse is placed towards the end of songs.
“I have the last verse on almost every song I'm on because I like to let everybody get their part off,” the rapper said. “It helps me focus. Once I get into that mode, it’s quiet.”
According to Invada, Van Buren is first and foremost a record label. Like Griselda, the Wu-Tang Clan, Odd Future, A$AP Mob, Bruiser Brigade or any other analogous hip-hop collective format, the members of Van Buren are part of the group, but also exist as independent solo artists. Invada said that he will always represent VB and plans to expand his solo career in new directions.
“I'm just working right now,” the rapper said. “I've found a pocket with a few local producers who are really working on something crazy. It sounds very different from what you've heard from me, but trust me, it's fire.”
—Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.