United States-born, Melbourne-based rapper Lil Sknow has built a name for himself over the last eight months, accumulating a cool couple hundred thousand streams off the back of his raw, honest lyrics, rapping what he lives on a day-to-day basis.
We had a chat to the emerging emcee to talk about his music, the state of Hip-Hop in Australia, the misconceptions of ‘eshay culture,’ and much more.
OTC: You’re fairly new to the Hip-Hop scene, although have made a name for yourself quickly, what do you credit your rapid rise in popularity to?
Lil Sknow: I honestly have no idea. I started putting out music in August 2017, but I’d been freestyling on open mics for a few years, as well as freestyling with mates since I was like 15-years-old.
I used to write poems as my Instagram captions and I think it was just a natural progression to start making them into raps, but I never thought I would ever have more than 100 listens or something. I wasn’t trying to get listens at the start to be honest, I just wanted to put myself out there so that if I die tomorrow I can at least say, “I did it.”
I got to give a huge shoutout and so much love to everyone who has supported me from day one. You all know who you are.
You’re very honest and open in your music about your lifestyle, you seem to live what you rap. What do you think led you from being just a ‘regular’ kid to doing (and living) some of the things you rap about?
I don’t think I was ever a “regular kid.” I was born in the United States and moved here with my mum, who’s Australian, when I was 6 years old.
I have always listened to, and been influenced by American rap. From the chains and shoes to the brands of clothes and cars, I’ve always wanted to see myself living that “rapper lifestyle.”
I never cared much if I offend people and I’ve always tried to challenge authority, so it’s no surprise I’ve done what I’ve done, and rap about it.
You mention in one of your tracks that you’ve been stabbed, did getting stabbed change your outlook on life and music?
Getting stabbed changed my life dramatically, to say the least. I felt like life could be taken in a second, and that it probably would be, so I lived my life more in the extremes after that.
I stopped thinking that I have a future, and started treating every day like I have nothing to live for. I developed some degree of PTSD from the experience, and learning how to cope with that has been an ongoing problem for me. Making the music I make helps me to feel that self worth I had before I was stabbed. It gives me something to live for I guess.
How would you define the ‘lad,’ or ‘eshay’ culture in Australia, and what are some common misconceptions of it?
Eshay is the word “he’s” in piglatin. It comes from people saying, “he’s lad” or “eshay adlay.” Eshay, as a “culture” is all about graffiti, pilfering, vandalism, squatting and drugs.
The fashion comes from athletic gear and its difficulty to steal or its retail value, it also comes from an imitation of how a typical “Dad” dresses, you know, blue jeans, sports jacket or rugby jumper, white kicks and a cap. There’s very particular brands that are acceptable to wear, like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Nautica, Nike, Adidas, ASICS, Gant, Tommy Hilfiger, a lot of brands that gained their mainstream popularity in the 90’s.
Eshays differ slightly depending what city or state you’re in. Lads in Sydney prefer to wear their collars up and wear lots of colours, whereas Melbourne lads generally wear darker and less vibrant colours.
Do you take notice of the other sub-genres currently making waves in the country right now? How do you feel about those sounds?
I see what other people are trying to do, the grime scene is real strong atm and I fuck with a bunch of the rappers in the Australian grime scene. As for rappers trying to put on accents, wear fake designer brands and pretend to be drug addicts, I don’t really like spending much time thinking about that shit.
I think that putting an accent on when you rap is as good as lying on your tracks, and I swear a lot of these gronks do lie in their music. It’s such a weak attempt at being something, and I’m not saying taking drugs and any of the shit I rap about is cool, that’s up to my fans to say, all I’m doing is giving an unadulterated view into the life and mind of me under the title Lil Sknow. I don’t change my accent, I don’t make up shit, and I use local colonialisms.
Wouldn’t it be weird if American rappers put on English accents, or even if a California rapper tried to rap like a New York rapper? Why would people want to listen to someone pretending to sound like Young Thug or Drake or Kendrick, when they can just listen to, Young Thug, Drake or Kendrick?
All I’ve got to say is, man up and either sing so you don’t have to use an accent, or be genuine and rap how you sound.
On that note, who are your favourite rappers in the country right now, who should people listen out for?
I guess I’ll keep it to only 5 rappers, because I could probably go on for a bit.
- Wombat is a lyrical genius and technically insane with the rhyme patterns he comes up with.
- Huskii is the only rapper that I listen to in Australia that can give me goosebumps. Listening to Huskii’s tracks is like looking at pieces of beautiful art. They’re timeless and so full of talent, it’s genuinely awe inspiring.
- Tryl is deep and metaphorical. He is young as, yet spits wisdom that makes me step back and re-examine my own world. Tryl makes me think.
- Nerve is an all-round genius. He makes, masters, produces, and it’s all exceptionally good. He has an ear for perfection I think.
- Selby is the only other Melbourne local I really can say I fuck with. He’s emotionally fluent and brutally blunt expression is rare to find, anywhere.
And what else can we expect to come from Lil Sknow in 2018?
Merch; hoodies and T’s. A fuck load of new tracks, and heaps of new features. More music videos too, and maybe some interstate shows if I’m lucky.