Lil Skies Interview
Words by Marc Ahrendt
Photos by Jane Knowles
Since he was a toddler, Pennsylvania rapper Lil Skies has always had an insatiable drive to succeed in music. His father, who was a musician himself under the moniker Dark Skies, never wrestled with his son, who eagerly wanted to emulate his artistry. After his father nearly lost his life to an explosion at his construction job, Lil Skies morphed into an indomitable workhorse in the studio, vowing to never allow life to rattle him.
To ensure his commitment to music, he got his face tattooed, so that he would never be able to give up and settle for a day job. He also dropped out of college, further cementing his decision. Skies' new sense of urgency proved to be effective, as he deftly carved one of the hottest projects to debut in 2018. With a penchant for infectious hooks and indelible lyrics, Skies' Life of a Dark Rose peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 during its second week last month.
Skies has also managed to find success on the Hot 100, courtesy of his Landon Cube-assisted records "Red Roses" and "Nowadays," which currently sit No. 77 and No. 71 on the chart, respectively. While his subject matter might appear melancholic at times due to his old drug dealing ways, Skies never shies way from swatting his opposition with his brash delivery, as showcased on the boastful "Big Money" and "The Clique."
Shit, I fell in love with music when I was three years old. My dad used to do music and shit, so basically growing up, I used to just watch him. That’s all I used to just see. When I would see my dad, that’s what our relationship was. I ain’t see my pops like that, but when I did, we would be at the studio or some shit like that. I started freestyling and stuff, and he got me a boombox. One day he recorded me on his phone, and he was showing his friends like, “You gotta get him in the studio.” He took me to the studio when I was four. Ever since I recorded my first song, I was nervous, but I knew it was a crazy-ass feeling. It felt like something I couldn’t explain. Once I get in that zone, that’s just what it is.Your dad is a musician who goes by the name Dark Skies. How excited was he when he found out you were going to do music full-time -- and then, pay homage to his name?
My dad has always been excited, and he has always been the real supporter. Like I said, that was me and his relationship. He was like, “If you wanna do this shit, you gonna do it.” That’s what he always said to me. I take that advice with everything in life. I was like, “Damn, I wanna go crazy with the tats. I'ma do it.” So I did it.On the intro, “Welcome to the Rodeo,” you speak about your face tattoos and how you use them as motivation. Looking back at them now, because you have already gained success in your career this early on, do you have any regrets about your tattoos?
Hell no. I’m probably not getting no more now, ‘cause I done took up like hella space, but I stay getting new tats, man. That shit’s like music. It’s just something that grows with me. I just be going with the flow. I know for sure that when I get a new tat, it’s for life. I don’t got no regrets with any of my tats. I got tattoos that are really old looking, old feeling, but at the same time, I like it. It’s art to me.How many do you have altogether?
I don’t know.
I might be up there for real. I don’t even remember when I stopped counting. I got a lot now.What’s your most meaningful one?
My most meaningful one is the one I got for my friend Shaq. I never mention this one. I got these two on my wrist for my pops. It says April 28th, 2010. That’s the day my dad almost died and shit.The explosion right?
Yeah, the explosion and shit. That was just a big one for me. Both of these tats, definitely.
I've been workin' hard for years
I wasn’t cocky or anything, but I was like my dad, and my dad was kind of big-headed, you feel me? So after seeing that shit, that definitely changed me. I was still young, but in school I just thought I was that dude. But that shit made me realize God is real, and he can take this shit away from you at any time, so you gotta really cherish this. It was crazy to me, because I feel like I was one of those kids where the weirdest shit would happen in their life. Some shit like that would happen -- like, your pops will blow up. I’ve been through hella shit in my life... but I know it like means something. I gotta take the best and the worst from each situation. And my dad, that shit made us closer. It was a blessing.
We got some more shit coming. Me and Landon, I don’t really know how to explain it. Our vibe and our energy, we’re both just really relaxed. We’re both really just chill people. This is our vibe. When it comes to the music, we both got the ear for this shit. I feel like everybody is making songs, but people are doing this shit so quick. People are just making anything. I feel like with us, we really wanna make hit, solid songs. Billboard shit. That’s how we look at it. Every song has to be a hit. Life of a Dark Rose has way more songs than that, but I changed the list around like a hundred times.If you could pick one word to title this chapter of your life, what word would you choose and why?
I don’t really know the word but right now it’s like, when you say “made it” and “making it,” right now I’m making it. I’m still in the process of developing and getting my shit established as a brand and my music. At this point of my career, there’s still a lot of growth. That’s a good thing. That’s what I wanna do. I’m not trying to rush anything. That’s how it was with the project. It was supposed to drop in October, then it was November, then December. You know how that shit goes.
That was a good question. That shit really got me thinking.