Glass Popcorn: Avant-garde hip-hopper, 15, wows New York MoMA PS1 crowd

Last Updated Mar 9, 2015 4:00 PM EDT

Glass Popcorn, aka Will Neibergall, 15, of Tempe, Arizona, performs at MoMA PS1 in Queens, NY
Avant-garde rapper Glass Popcorn performs at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York, Aug. 31, 2011. Backing him up at left is performer Spicee Cajun.
CBS

(CBS) QUEENS, New York -- As far as his parents knew, 15-year-old Will Neibergall was an average teen noodling around on his Mac. Sure, he was on Facebook and Twitter and texting and all the usual social media of today's teens. And they knew he was musically-inclined, fiddling with digital music programs -- enough so that he was in a special arts and science program at McClintock High School in Tempe, Arizona.

But when Will told his folks he'd been invited to perform in New York City by the Museum of Modern Art PS1, well ...

"It blew us away,'' said Will's father, Dave Neibergall. "We had no idea."

Flash forward a few weeks, and there was Will -- or "Glass Popcorn," his Internet art alias -- rapping on top of a black Cadillac Escalade amid draq queens, lady body builders and one very bootylicious backup dancer.

Glass Popcorn, it turns out, has achieved a following in certain artsy corners of the Web.

"His music is so mature for a kid his age," said Marco Roso, an editor at DIS Magazine, which organized the lineup for the MoMA PS1 performance.

Glass Popcorn, aka Will Neibergall, 15, of Tempe, Arizona, performs at MoMA PS1 in Queens, NY
Glass Popcorn, aka Will Neibergall, 15, of Tempe, Arizona, performs at MoMA PS1 in Queens, NY.
CBS

DIS editors were aware of Glass Popcorn from his Internet projects but not sure he was really a teen-ager.

"We thought he might be an Internet name, not really a person,'' said another DIS editor, Nick Scholl.

A web search of Glass Popcorn's work finds music that's hard to classify. There's a lot of repetition of key phrases, often set to a loungy club vibe. As a lyricist, he eschews the cheesy macho themes that characterize much of rap in favor of more oblique commentaries on art and fashion He leaves a lot for listeners to fill in for themselves.

At the MoMA PS1 event, Glass Popcorn performed the song "Ed Hardy,"(video below), which he said is a commentary about the trendy clothing line and commercialism. Another song, "Swag face" - "I showed you my swag face, now you show me your swag face" -- is his swipe at the swag culture of rap.

Glass Popcorn's New York debut was an edgy mix of rap, raunch, bling and, well, teen-age sensibility. Organizers of the event paired cherubic, barely-pubescent Glass Popcorn with a scantily-clad back up dancer, Spicee Cajun, who jauntily shook her moneymaker while he sang and threw candy to a young, uber-hip crowd.

ArtInfo: Glass Popcorn the art world's Justin Bieber?

"Glass Popcorn is unique ... He's very good at articulating what a lot of the youth of America is experiencing right now - which is the expectation of everything to be immediate. And the expectation that they'll be able to have a voice and express themselves and how commonplace it is to be creative and how welcoming of that is the Internet,'' said Ryder Ripps, a New York-based Web artist who produced Glass Popcorn's MoMA gig.

The two had never met until this week, but had collaborated online at an edgy Web site dump.fm created by Ripps, who helped steer the event organizers to Glass Popcorn.

"We're in an age where the content producers and the people who take in content are becoming one and the same,'' said Ripps. "Glass is a direct reflection of that."

Listen: Glass Popcorn's "Swag face"
Listen: "Ed Hardy" by Ryder Ripps, performed by Glass Popcorn
Listen: Glass Popcorn's "Grapes (5th Grade Bangerrrr)"

The MoMA show was only the second time Will had performed in public, the first being at a coffee shop in Tempe. Although nervous at first, he said he looked at the event as more art than performance. He also looked forward to meeting in person some of the cyber collaborators attending the show with whom he has worked with online.

"It was exciting," said the young performer, who will finish out his week where it began, back at McClintock High School in Tempe.

While many performers come to New York and spend years seeking opportunities to perform, one young artist used the Internet and creativity to make New York come calling.

"It blows us away," said Dave Neibergall. "Through social networking he connected with the art community ... and here he is in New York."

9 questions for Glass Popcorn

1. Who is Glass Popcorn?

An Internet teen hip-hop sensation.

2. What is the origin of the Glass Popcorn name?

When one of my friends convinced me to sign up for Dump.fm (Ryder's image-sharing site for artists), I signed up using the username "glasspopcorn". I have very little recollection of the reason.

3. Describe how a 15-year-old from Tempe, Arizona ends up performing on top of a Cadillac Escalade at the MoMA PS1 show in Queens, NY.

I became acquainted with various people involved with the interesting and dynamic New York City art world through use of the internet and social media ... namely sites like Dump.fm and Twitter.

4. What was it like?

It was exhilarating, and really fun.

5. Where does Glass Popcorn go from here?

Back to school in Tempe, Arizona (where I'll be spending my weekends recording material for my upcoming release).

6. Who are your music/art influences?

I'm influenced by the work of a number of artists who produce Internet-based work as well as mainstream pop and rap performers like Raekwon, Waka Flocka Flame & Ke$ha.

7. Tells us about the four songs you performed at MoMa PS1 and, if you feel so inclined, what they mean.

I performed the following: "Katie", a song written for and about Ryan Trecartin's film "Any Ever"; "Swag Face", a song I wrote around ages twelve and thirteen about the hip-hop "swag" lifestyle; "No. 1", a song featuring a sample of the Far East Movement about new media culture and luxury jets among other things; and "Ed Hardy", the single which many consider the "opus" of my teenage career so far, which deals with ideas regarding commercialism and style in 2011.

8. Has anyone called you "The blond Bieber"? Would you like them to?

I love Justin Bieber. He's a great inspiration to me, and to be considered his blond counterpart would humble and flatter me.

9. Additional comment you would like people to know about you.

I am interested in continuing my activity in art and music. I am very grateful to the New York artists that made my performance possible like Ryder Ripps, Ryan Trecartin, and the people at Dis Magazine. I loved my time in New York City and I hope to return soon.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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