Up. And. Coming. The three words Skyy Boii used to describe the Scottish rap scene.
The same three words seem to be a stage that he has exceeded, having supported the likes of YG, The Game and Drake’s British right-hand man, Giggs. The Edinburgh based rapper’s lyrical ingenuity combined with an authentic passion for music is setting the boii bars above the rest.
Talking early musical influences, the art of freestyling and maxing out on Facebook friends, SYNCC caught up with Skyy Boii to find out more about his most recent work.
So, how did the name ‘Skyy Boii’ come about?
SB: “So back in the day, around 2010, when I started rapping and taking rap seriously, I started off with the name ‘Fakturr’ which stood for ‘Failure Ain’t Known To Us Real Rappers.’ And at the same time, sort of like how Lil Wayne would say ‘Young Mula baby’, *insert the start of any Lil Wayne song*, I always used to say ‘Sky… Boy.’ After a while, I just got put off the name ‘Fakturr’ and I changed it to Skyy Boii. It was already something that I was known for.”
What were your earliest musical influences? Do you remember who you would listen to?
SB: “Well I started rapping because of my older cousin, he was a rapper, he was doing big things back then in London. My older brother was also part of a group with my cousin. So just being around them, when they would come to the house, put on beats and start rapping. And also just being young, you know, you look up to your older family members. So I always wanted to be like them.”
“And from there I started listening to rap a lot more. I started listening to Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana, Beanie Sigel… But as I got older that’s when I started feeling like I was getting more creative with my music.”
“I CAN DIVE INTO ANY GENRE IF I REALLY WANTED TO”
So would it be fair to say you find more influences in traditional, American rap rather than grime and alternative R&B?
SB: “Yeah, definitely. I still prefer American rap. Like, grime’s cool but there’s only so much of it that I can listen to. I don’t feel that there’s a lot to grime. But, it is the British thing so obviously I appreciate it and I respect it, but when it comes to what I actually listen to, it’s not grime.”
Talking of influences, how would you describe your musical style to someone?
SB: “Predominantly, I started off as a rapper but over the years I’ve evolved. I’ve seen myself develop as an artist by trying different things. All usually within the rap, R&B and afrobeat categories. I like to see myself as a jack of all trades, that’s why myself and Sean Focus have a project called ‘Jack of All Trades’. I can dive into any genre if I really wanted to. I’m just that type of person. If I want to do something, I’ll do it.”
Skyy Boii has recently released his second collaborative project with fellow Edinburgh-based musician and producer, Sean Focus. SYNCC wanted to know what Jack of All Trades Volume 2 encompassed.
SB: “My guy Sean Focus produced most of the beats on there. He also lays down vocals as well. So we recorded most of it at his studio, he mixed it down, mastered it. He’s very talented. It’s a joint EP called Jack of all Trades: Volume 2; we dropped the first one around two years ago. That was sort of like an introduction. With this one, a lot more people are paying attention. So that’s why we’re getting a lot of visuals done, to keep people engaged.”
Have you noticed a growth in your both of your fanbases when you two join forces?
SB: “Definitely. For example, I was in Nigeria in December. After going there, my fan base in Afrobeats has grown. Even though I’ve not really dropped a lot of Afrobeats music, just because I was in Nigeria and interacting with people there, showing them what I do, they were able to embrace it and show love.”
“When I came back so many Nigerians were adding me on Facebook. Before I went I only had around 3,500 friends on my Facebook but within a few weeks of me coming back, I can’t add any more people. I’ve maxed out!”
“YEAH I MIGHT MESS UP BUT THAT’S THE SAME WITH ALL ART”
Noticing the reception of your music in Nigeria, do you think there is a rise in people listening to artists from their own city? In what way has the Scottish hip-hop and rap scene progressed?
SB: “Definitely. In Scotland, it’s nowhere near where it should be; for example, it’s not at a level where multiple people can make a living from it. However, people are definitely listening. I’ve been putting in grind for a minute now, so I’m pretty recognised. This guy in Glasgow has been too, we had our little differences but it’s all cool now.”
[Skyy Boii is referring to Shogun, a Paisley born rapper (real name Joe Heron) who appeared to diss SkyyBoii in his track Unrivalled. SkyBoii responded in his song End Of.]
SB: “After Shogun dropped his freestyle that went viral, I think that was really good for the scene. Eventually it will get there, we just need more talent and more consistency.”
So, in saying that, do you feel there are fewer opportunities given to what is often called ‘urban’ music in Scotland compared to other genres?
SB: “Most definitely. But I think that is due to the fact that no one has fully ‘made it’ within this genre yet in Scotland. So the people with the money and the organisations probably don’t think it’s worth their while. The way music is now, a lot of people are doing things independently. Eventually, once a song blows [from an independent artist], that’s when they’ll think ‘I want to be a part of this.’”
Going forward, what are your focuses for the future?
SB: “Previously, I had organised my own shows. I’ve headlined the O2 and O2 ABC in Glasgow and the Mash House here in Edinburgh a few times. I think only once we didn’t sell out. Every time we’ve done it, it’s always been successful. So, I just want to keep getting better as an artist. For me, my main drive, believe it or not, is not financial. I just do it because I love it, and whatever comes with it, comes with it. Obviously ultimately, the goal is to make a living from but I don’t really focus on the money aspect of it.”
“I like to be melodic on tracks, so I want to find new ways of making my voice better. Better lyrics, bigger shows, bigger fan base.”
How do you come up with lyrics? Am I right in saying you don’t write any lyrics down?
SB: “Well ultimately I want to get to a level where I am able to freestyle. I used to write my lyrics, but I felt that limited my creativity sometimes. So, more often than not I just come up with lyrics in my head, I’ll be freestyling and I take the best bits from it and build on that. I feel that’s what has helped me so far. I’m not where I want to be with it yet, I know I can still get better. So this year, I’ve got to keep practising and improving.”
You were saying that a lot of people are too scared to properly freestyle, they come in with material already prepared…
SB: “That defeats the purpose of the whole idea of ‘freestyle.’ If you tell a breakdancer, now freestyle, they’re going to do it from the top of their head, not rehearsed or anything. So, the same should apply to hip-hop. Artists may come in with something written because they’re maybe scared of being judged, so it’s understandable. But for someone like me, if you tell me freestyle, I’ll just freestyle. Yeah, I might mess up but that’s the same with all art.”
Check out Skyy Boii //
Photography by Fiona Blyth //
This feature was originally posted to SYNCC as part of my fourth-year, final university project.