Stuck has never been Tyler Griffin’s style. The alternative/indie pop singer, best known as Papichuloteej, discovered that in his early 20s, when he found himself stationed in Las Vegas, serving in the U.S. Air Force—and being called to do something wildly different.

“I had always known that I loved making music, but it just seemed so far-fetched as a career at the time,” the 24-year-old says. “I realized there were a lot of pieces that had to be in place for it to happen. But there was one point I just stopped caring about all that. If not now, then it’s not gonna happen at all.”

In his day-to-day, Griffin ordered parts for planes. In his free time, he rapped for fun, gaining recognition from music blogs for his chill, melodic beats and a laid-back flow reminiscent of SoCal star Kyle. In 2019, Griffin left the military, and that same year, Las Vegas Weekly named him Best Rising Rapper in its annual Best of Vegas awards.

Today, he’s still on that trajectory but doing it as an alt-pop rapper and singer who has amassed more than 3 million streams across his Spotify catalog and played Downtown’s Life Is Beautiful festival in 2021. Singing, he says, “gave me the feeling that I was looking for when I make music—the happiness, that euphoric bliss.”

Originally from San Diego, Griffin started making music in high school after his stepfather, a Navy retiree, moved the family to North Carolina. The artist looks back fondly on those years, as he discovered the genius of musicians like Pharrell Williams.

“It was really cool to see someone the same color as me making stuff that sounded different,” Griffin says. “It was very inspirational to my sound later on. Even though I don’t feel like I make anything similar or sonically the same, it still inspired me to make what you enjoy making.”

As Papichuloteej, Griffin has all the room to explore his art form. In the music video for “Boyfriend,” the 24-year-old dances around his crush at the park, a boombox in hand, looking the part of a picturesque ’90s lover boy. The song is about falling for someone who’s unavailable, but instead of moping, Papichuloteej turns disappointment into a sunny, bare-it-all bop, enlivened by punchy 808s and guitar strums.

In “Stockton,” Papichuloteej unleashes his grittier, alternative hip-hop side with grungy vocals and distorted guitars. Wedged between those tracks are songs like “Stars Align,” which could fit on The Weeknd’s After Hours.

Now far removed from the military, Griffin says he learned a lot about patience during his service. And that’s just one quality a journey like this requires. “You have to have the craziest optimism sometimes that it’s just gonna work out, because boy, is it stressful sometimes,” he says. “I don’t know how I’ve managed to convince myself through some situations that I’m gonna be fine, but it worked. I’m here.”

Griffin’s new music, he says, will better represent the artist he is now. And in that representation, he won’t ever forget where he started. “I really am grateful for the Las Vegas community for welcoming me and making me feel like I am from here,” he says. “I’ve made so many friendships, and I’ve met so many people who just make me feel amazing. Thank you for the love.”

Papichuloteej spoti.fi/3Gl9WgJ apple.co/3zO4Abn

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