The Art World's Justin Bieber? Meet Glass Popcorn, the 15-Year-Old Rapper Who Rocked Ryan Trecartin's PS1 Party

Glass Popcorn captivated the crowds at the closing party for Ryan Trecartin's "Any Ever" at MoMA PS1.
(Photo by Jacqueline Iannacone/elkstudios.com)

On August 31, a PopRally and DISMagazine party celebrated the closing of wunderkind artist Ryan Trecartin's "Any Ever" exhibition at MoMA PS1 with drag queens, live performances, and bodybuilders. The organizers even plucked a 15-year-old rapper named Glass Popcorn from obscurity, putting him on stage during the festivities. Playing a four-song set as drag queens and a buxom, scantily-clad black woman danced alongside him, the tow-headed tyro wowed PS1's hipster crowd. 

DIS invited Glass Popcorn (aka Will Neibergall), a pint-sized teenager from Tempe, Arizona, complete with a Justin Bieber hairdo, to perform at PS1 after hearing about him from Ryder Ripps, the 25-year-old artist and creator of GIF-oriented internet art site Dump.fm. "For a long time we weren't sure if Will was real," DIS Magazine editor Lauren Boyle admitted to ARTINFO. "We thought that maybe Ryder made him up. It wasn't until I started emailing to Will and his mom, Nora, that we were sure he was real."

Making music in his bedroom with a USB microphone, Glass Popcorn first uploaded his songs onto Dump.fm at the tender age of 13, selecting — for reasons he can't remember — the username glasspopcorn. The moniker stuck. "At the time I knew people would listen to it,but I assumed it wouldn't be taken seriously as artistic expression," Glass Popcorn told ARTINFO.

Impressed by Glass Popcorn's presence on Dump.fm, Ripps befriended the teenager, communicating with him through AIM. "I suppose I really liked his energy," wrote Ripps in a DIS Magazine piece explaining his relationship with the rapper. "I don't remember caring more about music and ideas and drugs and fun and doing stuff and hating stuff and lusting for things more than when I was like 13." The two eventually teamed up, and now write and produce music and lyrics together, emailing compositions back and forth until they feel the piece is just right.

"We like to keep in mind the importance of keeping my music relevant and silly," according to GlassPopcorn, who said he is inspired by "the sillieraspects of the cultural and counter-cultural ideas that members of mygeneration form and subscribe to, as well as my generation's incredibleinvolvement with the Internet and social media." He added, "I'm inspired by my ability to observe things about my generation thatmy peers don't."

When Glass Popcorn got the call toperform in New York, he felt "confused, but ecstatic," he said. A few weeks later on August 30, he and his fatherhopped on a plane from Tempe to New York for the party, skipping three days of the student's sophomore year of high school in the process. Before the show, Glass Popcorn rehearsed in and around Greenwich Village, grabbing meals with Ripps.

As for the rapper's opinion on Trecartin, whose show was the reason for Glass Popcorn's star turn? "Ryan's exhibition was relevant and exhilarating," he said. "What many refer to as 'sensory overload' or 'oversaturation' in his work seemed to me to be his way of conditioning us to an incredible new way of perception andunderstanding. His work is unique and very cool, and I feel great to have been a part of this celebration of it." And yes, the two met during the party. "He was very nice and supportive," Glass Popcorn said.

Ripps, meanwhile, sees big things in the future for himself and his young collaborator. "I think Glass Popcorn and I will get famous together," he declared in DIS Magazine.