Nineteen-year-old Lil Skies, the world’s next up-and-comer in bobbing trap music, seems to be one of the most aware rappers out there.
It’s in Genius’ 2017 video breaking down Skies’ smash hit “Red Roses” (the third track on his latest project, Life of a Dark Rose) as part of the “Verified” series where Skies talks about his opinions on drug abuse in the wake of Pennsylvania rapper Lil Peep’s death. “Lil Skies does not do drugs [besides weed],” he says. “To be honest, I’m scared. I don’t want to fall victim.” On “Red Roses,” Lil Skies raps “And I got all the drugs in the world that you need/ We get high to pass time, but bitch I ain’t no fiend.” In a genre that historically delineates platforms for drug use and sale, Lil Skies aims to diverge attention away from these habits.
It’s his bar-spitting on the second verse of the project’s introduction “Welcome to the Rodeo” where Skies reflects on the conflict between image and success. He raps “I got tattoos on my face, I use that shit as motivation/ I could never get a job, so for my dream, I’m dedicated… All these rappers want the clout and the life of bein’ famous/ I just wanna be stable, tell my family we made it.” Skies knows that music is one of his only options left, especially with face tattoos having negative stigmas attached to them in many public workforces.
It’s apparent that Lil Skies has his head on straight. And his music isn’t horrible either. Skies displays several admirable elements on Life of a Dark Rose, like a unique ear for exceptional melodies (check out “The Clique,” “Red Roses” and “Cloudy Skies”), a somewhat redeemable lingo when it comes to lyricism (on “Lettuce Sandwich” Skies raps several buttery two-liners, like “Wrists, dancing/ Sink your ship, Titanic” and “Not lying in my verses/ Take credit like a merchant”) and a smooth Swae-Lee-esque voice that sticks to your eardrums. However, the combination of these elements and his gentility can’t overcome… well… his placement in rap.
The foggy, yet succulent world of today’s rap scene is like my hometown in southern New York. It’s a medium-sized town that’s home to dozens of pizzerias. Here, one can find the best pizzerias as the ones that are recognized for something special; whether it is because of a special dish, its popularity or its impact on the community, these are the pizzerias that stay for generations. Then you have a lower tier of pizzerias that, unfortunately, don’t find their niche. These pizzerias usually stay in town for a year or two, close down and then get replaced by different ownership who try their “go” at running a pizzeria. The reason why these specific pizzerias close down is that these ones are all the same. This is the boat that Lil Skies seems to be in.
It’s hard to ignore that Lil Skies doesn’t really have something that differentiates him from his peers. Life of a Dark Rose can be seen as an ambitious effort that doesn’t surpass cookie-cutter status. Once Skies finds his secret sauce, or his own “XO Tour Llif3”-level track, or his ad-lib that makes other rappers want to imitate him, then that is when he will exponentially bud as an artist. Life of a Dark Rose is an overall respectable project from a very young rapper, but Lil Skies simply needs to prove more to listeners as he grows older and more mature.