Skee

Putting the Spotlight on Skee and the Future of U.K. Rap (Interview)

The U.K. rap scene is in an interesting space right now, and looking for its next sound. Many are pointing toward the jazzy alternative rap that has been making waves in the underground with Skee as one of that subgenre’s rising stars. The 19-year-old from Croydon has been making music since 2022, attracting interest through his conscious lyricism and clear and engaging delivery.

Just before the release of the new single ‘It Ain’t Easy‘, we chatted to Skee about the foundations of his music, his thoughts on the future of the U.K. scene, and how he uses visuals and a live band to elevate his music. This young MC is certainly one to watch and someone to listen to after you read this interview.

It Ain’t Easy‘ is your opening statement of 2024. Is this a statement of where you are now, what you see around you, or a bit of both?

It’s probably a bit of both. I’d say this (is) basically describing how I present myself to the public, how I address who I am around; what’s going on in my day-to-day life. Just a simple explanation of what’s happening outside of music.

When you create a song, do you see yourself as a spokesperson for your area or merely documenting your own life and the lives of others around you?

I would say with the songs I have out right now it’s myself documenting my life and what is going on around me. But, in certain songs I have unreleased and maybe one or two songs I have out, I do speak on certain issues that should have more spokespeople.

When you were growing up, what led you down the path of being an artist?

Growing up, I had quite a few family members that were in the music industry, so it has always been around me. My dad was a DJ, so I am always hearing music in the house. I am always hearing old songs; new songs. I’ve older cousins, older siblings, and I would listen to music when I was younger that they and their friends were listening to, as well. I was always around it, to the point where I knew it was something I wanted to follow, but not until I started college.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to start in college and what I wanted to pursue, so I saw music as an option to pick. Growing up through school, I was playing instruments, and I didn’t see it as a passion, it was kinda like a hobby. Then I saw it, and I was like, ‘Let me take Music for A-Level’. I knew I had a passion for it, I just never thought about following it. Then, when I took it in college, that is when everything fully started and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to follow this’.

Skee

Did seeing people, whether in rap/hip-hop or other genres from Croydon, have any impact on your desire to make music or the music you make?

Definitely. When I first started rapping, the two main artists I was listening to were Stormzy and Dave. Obviously, Dave is from an area across the road from me. I felt like in a lot of his music, I could relate to it. Stormzy is from Thornton Heath, which is the other side of the road from me, as well. It felt like they were doing it, (and) it made me feel like it was possible and it wasn’t a scary task to take on. It was very motivating watching their rise to success and them being a blueprint I can see and want to follow.

With those artists, they are able to stand out because I feel like they have both gone on their own journeys. I imagine that is quite inspiring.

Very inspiring. Even the things they talk about or certain lyrics in their music relate to certain places and situations I have been in or my friends have been in. Growing up in school, listening to it when you hear Dave mention ‘Streatham’ or Stormzy mention ‘Croydon’, you would instantly be like, ‘Wow, that is home’. It felt comforting to know that there are people succeeding in that area.

I’ve noticed that you have a real appreciation for the music video as a companion piece to your music. This is especially true at a time when there is not as much emphasis on the music video. Why is it important to have a good music video?

It’s good to have that as a companion (piece) because it can add another aspect to your song that people might not hear. You can make a song about something, and the video could portray something completely different from what you’re singing or rapping about. But, it will still relate once there is a picture to the sound.

I would say in that sense, it is good to have a music video. At the same time, I feel like people these days are more attracted to what they are seeing compared to what they are listening to. With social media: Instagram; TikTok, if you’re scrolling through and you are just seeing a picture and hearing something, you’re less likely to take that in than a moving picture.

What is one lyric when you have been recording in the studio that has stopped you in your tracks whilst making a song?

I would say it wasn’t a particular lyric. But, for a song I have called ‘Empathy vs Sympathy‘, I wrote a spoken word intro about what the difference between empathy and sympathy is, and how they are so different, but they are connected to each other. I said, “Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings in a situation from a point of view rather than your own. Whereas, sympathy is kind of the same thing, but you’re seeing it as a negative for them because you feel sorry for them, whereas, it shouldn’t be negative.”

I wrote that in a studio before I recorded it. That is one lyric that made me stop and be like, ‘Yeah, that is something I really like and appreciate.”.

I noticed that you collaborate with That Producer Ryan often. What is it about their production that makes you two fit so well together?

We just both understand each other’s vision when it comes to music. There is a lot of chemistry when we work together because we don’t just see each other as an artist and a producer who work together. We are friends outside of it. We have a trust there that isn’t going to jeopardise the whole creative process of music. There are a lot of musicians or artists who bump heads or clash with their ideas of making a song. We have mutual respect for each other because we are friends. We can compromise in the sense that if he doesn’t like something, he will tell me straight up or try and compromise; scrap it; or think of a new idea. I feel that having that trust in who you make music with is very important because it will bring the best sound out of what you’re creating.

The fact that we are very close in general helps that productive process. In terms of his sound, the beats he makes (are) similar to the Knucks, jazzy-drill type beats, and that is the music I listen to.

I feel the U.K. rap/hip-hop scene is searching for the next big sound, and we’re coming off the drill sound. Do you have any thoughts on this, and what do you think will fill that void?

The whole drill thing is on a decline right now and it has been for a while. There are a lot of sections where music is thriving; a lot of different communities that the public might not see. Going to underground events, you hear a lot of jazzy-type rap music or mellow singing. I personally feel that is the genre that eventually (will) be one of the biggest because it’s actually real music, and it’s good music that a lot of people can listen to and appreciate. I feel that (it) may take a little longer to grow than other sounds that might be trending on TikTok out of nowhere.

The sample rap is a big thing that is catching people’s ears right now. It’s songs that they’ve heard before and songs that have been big before, so it’s immediately (making) people think, “I recognise this. But, it’s a different way I am recognising it, and it sounds cold.”. Samples have always been around, but this year and last year, they elevated a bit where people are using them in their songs a bit more.

Even on the Afrobeats side: amapiano, Afroswing; even on the Caribbean side: dancehall, bashment, there are all these different communities doing their thing. I realised recently on social media the grime wave is doing a full circle where when drill was rising, grime was on the decline. Now, people are bringing back old grime videos; setting up grime cyphers. I performed at one last week, and that was refreshing. Maybe, grime might come in a new form in the near future.

There are a lot of artists making that jazzy hip-hop sound (that are) making waves, whether that be Little Simz; Knucks; or Kojey Radical, to name three. Those artists have laid the foundations, and somebody will take that to the next level, the way people like 67 laid the foundations for drill and Headie One and K-Trap took that to the next level.

There are a lot of sounds that are bubbling, but there isn’t one that is quite there yet. With grime, you have people like Duppy; Kruz Leone; P Money; Manga (Saint Hilare). The Afroswing sound seems to be making a bit of a comeback here and there. I think we have come to the conclusion we’re not quite sure yet.

Anything can happen at this point really and truly. I think that the one is going to be that alternative hip-hop/jazzy sound. I don’t want to say the word ‘proper’ music, but it can resonate with a lot of people.

Skee

You perform alongside a collective called The Wavey Collective. How does that elevate your live performances?

I would say this for every type of performance, performing with live music and a live band takes everything to the next level. You can program the track that you already have that might come out of PA speakers and sound different behind the whole band. Bands can do solos, they can do rifts; build-ups; drops; it just seems more engaging to the audience.

It elevated my performances because I have a passion for live music a lot more than stereo music. It motivates me on stage, it brings me a lot of energy on stage, and because I am performing with people that I have been rehearsing with, we know the objective when we perform. (This) gives a lot of comfort on stage, and everyone’s connected to each other. There is a lot of chemistry, and everyone’s feeling the music rather than watching someone rap with PA speakers. There is a lot more to focus on from an audience’s point of view and a lot more different sounds that the audience might not have heard before, (which) might (make) them like a song even more.

We are seeing more U.K. rappers go to that live or orchestration aspect of their music, and it adds a different element. You hear the album, and that’s good, and you can see a general hip-hop concert, but with that live element, it feels like you’re listening to a different album. And to go back to the point you made earlier about alternative hip-hop speaking to more people, having that more live music (element) is going to attract a wider audience.

It just gives the whole show a cinematic element. If you’re a fan of the person, you know the songs they are going to play, you’re expecting a certain thing, and when you don’t get what you expect, you’re on the edge of your seat. It brings an exciting element to the show because you’re not hearing what you expect.

Who is someone on the rise you think our audience needs to know about, and what advice would you give them?

There is an artist called Laicositna who is from the U.K. (and) does R’n’B-ish type trap-wave rap. People compare him to Brent Faiyaz. He is someone I have (been) listening to and checking for a minute because that is a genre I want to delve into as well. He has been inspiring me with that a lot. The advice I would give to him is to be consistent with his music. He is consistent with it; he’s done a lot of live sessions; live lounges with a live band. He should stick to what he’s doing, and I feel he should collaborate with some singers. That might just boost his sound to the next level.

What are your goals for 2024?

I want to produce two EPs, one middle of the year; one by the end of the year. I want to have at least four collabs; me featuring on someone or someone else featuring on my song. (Also), I want to do a lot more live band type sessions; I want to have a live band project, as well (as) a live band rap project. Honestly, just releasing everything I have that I like. I have a lot of music, so I want to get everything out there and focus on the video aspect of my music and making sure it is produced right, and it’s certain cinematics people haven’t seen before. Everything that I am doing involves music, (which) I want (to) hone in on this year. I’d even say getting to a point where music is my full-time thing.

Sounds like you have some exciting stuff on the way, and I like that you want to release everything. Sometimes, artists don’t release stuff, and you’ll hear it, and you’re like, ‘Ah, why didn’t they release that.’.

I’ve been working on a lot of things that I want to get out. There are certain things that need to be done before that make the process longer, and certain plans that have to be put in place. I can’t complain, but I want to let everyone hear what I am working on.

Skee is on Instagram, X, and TikTok. Read more interviews here and stream Skee’s music below.

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