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Introducing… Skee

Skee, a rapper well-equipped with a love for live music, and the ability to artfully capture the meeting of genres. Speaking with UD about his vibrant history of collaboration and music-filled childhood, Skee shares what’s to come next from one of South London’s finest emerging rappers…  

“What was the last song you listened to?” tends to be my first question to artists, but I didn’t expect Skee’s answer. “Self by Cleo Sol”, he responded, an artist that wouldn’t necessarily align with his capsule archive of tracks featuring chilled rap and sharp, canny bars. Skee has a remarkable ability to translate rap across genres, taking inspiration from the No Days Off pioneer, Knucks, into his latest talent development. Cleo Sol starts to make more sense when you listen to Skee’s latest release “19 Years”, a measured lyrical performance set to a relaxed, jazz-type beat not far from Cleo’s enchanting commitment to form and melody.

South London is home to some of the best UK artists of recent times, with infamous rapper Dave growing up just a stone’s throw away from Skee’s hometown of West Norwood. “It made me feel like it was possible to take this further than I thought I could,” shares Skee, reflecting on how those who came before him have influenced his practice, “I look at his journey as a kind of blueprint”. Speaking with Skee about his area and history, he reflects on his childhood filled with music; with a house-DJ dad and a garage-enthusiast mum, it’s clear that the adoption of divergent genres runs in the family. Over to Skee.

For someone who doesn’t know your music, how would you describe your sound?

I don’t really know how to describe my sound yet as I haven’t really found my sound, but for now I will just say… vibey.

Tell me about your journey with music. What kind of genres did you grow up listening to and did they continue into your current work?

Growing up it was definitely UK grime and UK rap at that time, so like Skepta, Ghetts, Wretch, Stormzy; and then growing older I’d listen to a bit of drill, and some US artists like Drake, Kendrick, but then also like Big Sean. To be honest, I listen to R&B and other music more than rap – bringing the musical side of R&B together with rap is my main goal. Those two genres inspire me a lot, yeah. 

What was your experience of music growing up in your family home? 

My dad is actually a house DJ, so there was a lot of house music in the house, as well as old school rap. My mum is heavily into jungle and old school reggae, so that music was getting played a lot. And then my auntie and uncle – one’s a singer and one’s a rapper, so it’s been around me for pretty much since I can remember. Growing up I actually hated house, but I’ve grown to appreciate and understand why people do like it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s had an influence on my music just yet, but I’m not gonna rule that out and not experiment with it in the future. 

You’ve mentioned that you have a big archive of unreleased tracks – could you give any hints about what kind of genres they explore?

Yeah, definitely. So it’s kind of UK jazz type rap, or alternative rap if you want to call it that, but there is a summer garage track which I just made which is interesting. There’s also a heavy R&B track with an artist called Calvin. But that’s all I’m gonna say – I’m working on two EPs right now, so a lot of music is being made.

Your recent single “Hyundai” gained a lot of traction and saw your first sold out show headlining alongside your band “Wavey Collective”. How did you get involved with Wavey?

I would even say that getting involved with Wavey Collective was how I started rapping and putting myself out there. It started by me being close friends with the drummer and founder of the group, Jaydon, and at the time I was in college studying music technology, and he needed a live sound engineer. So I was being the sound engineer but also kind of wanting to be on the stage instead of standing beside the stage holding XLR cables, you know. Being around all these musicians has made me look at music differently. I’ll always appreciate live music more than just standard music – in order to play you have to be so talented. Listening to it makes you feel a different type of way.

Yeah, I agree. There’s something to be said for rappers that rap without a backing track too – it’s proper hard and sounds very different. How did you find that first live show with Wavey Collective?

I’ll be honest, I was really nervous, but having a band that you’re actually friends with helps a lot, because there’s a different type of chemistry there. We rehearsed a lot as well, which gave me extra confidence – it was just a good vibe. We just kind of had fun on stage. I do feel like when rappers rap with a band it shows a different skill.

How important is South London to you – do you find it influences what you listen to and the music you create?

One hundred percent. When I was going through secondary school, the people that were popping off at the time were like Stormzy, Session Boys, Krept and Konan, all rappers from the areas that we used to be around. It made me feel like it was kind of possible to take this further than I thought I could. 

Is there anyone in particular from your area that you look up to?

I would definitely say Dave. When I first started rapping I looked at his journey as a kind of blueprint, the way he releases music and plans his projects is very detailed and particular, which made me realise that there is a side you have to tap into to even put your music out rather than just making it. And the fact he used to live like a couple of roads across from me – it’s like; I can look up to this guy, we’re from the same area. 

I’d love to hear more about your movement Different Lane. What do you mean by that?

Different Lane is basically our brand or motto. It represents the fact that everyone is on a different path – some people follow certain paths that reach certain places, but the people in this collective are in a different lane completely. So it’s me, my producer Ryan, a videographer called Harry Tatum, and another artist called Calvin. Right now it’s something small we use to motivate us and represent us, but we want to take it to clothing lines, labels, studios, that kind of stuff. That’s in the future.

That sounds sick. Did you have any inspiration for Different Lane?

It was inspired by Knucks’ No Days Off motto. When I first started I kind of felt like I needed one too, and Different Lane is what came about.

How are you finding the UD incubator programme 2024?

It’s very helpful and very comforting because a lot of the artists on it I already knew beforehand, so the fact we get to connect and actually see each other a lot more and get to know each other’s views on music feels really intimate and insightful. It’s definitely been productive in terms of networking and understanding the industry side of things as well. 

What’s next for Skee?

I’ve got two singles dropping at the beginning of next month, and by the end of the year I’ll have a lot of music out with videos as well. I want to start performing a lot more, and I want to open for more artists like Joe James, with the big goal being for Knucks. I’m just building up my music and my fanbase at the same time. 

Follow SKEE on Instagram, Spotify, Apple & more.

Words: Elsa Monteith. A Brighton based writer and broadcaster working in and around the arts and on the radio waves. Subscribe to Elsa’s Discontented newsletter.

Photography: Vincent Dolman.

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