Over the holiday weekend, I ran into a friend who was in NYC for a bit. We’re both from the Upper West Side, and though we met while at college in the midwest, we’d often run into each other in the neighborhood. He produces his own stuff and knows friends of mine who make music, so we’ve always talked about which new artists we’re listening to.
My friend lives in L.A. now where EDM is apparently dominant, and this weekend he told me about Skizzy Mars. Word of mouth is a powerful music discovery tool, but it wasn’t until the next day, when I went on Soundcloud and saw Skizzy Mars staring at me from the top of my stream, that I decided to check out his music. People are flimsy and I rarely trust them, but when an IRL name drop is cross-referenced on the Internet, I usually perk up.
Skizzy’s latest project Pace came out in March of this year, and a few preliminary listens make a couple things obvious about Skizzy’s music. Like many of his peers in recent years, Skizzy sounds a lot like Drake. The Toronto rapper rebranded authenticity in rap by making it about the heart, not the streets. A guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve and admitted to looking through his girl’s phone became the new standard for honesty, not a rapper who bragged about getting shot. That new sensibility opened the door for artists like Childish Gambino, Logic, and others to do the sing-song soft rap stuff that’s become so influential.
Skizzy’s music follows a similar pattern. Pace clearly sounds like it’s meant for a post-adolsecent audience. The chorus on “Numb” goes, “I don’t think we’re in love, that’s just the drugs, don’t they make you feel numb, you can’t feel at all / Maybe if we loved ourselves, it wouldn’t be so hard, it wouldn’t be so hard, to love each other.” It sounds exactly like kids who go away to college, take drugs for the first time, grind on the dancefloor, and then babble about the magic of it all at 3 a.m. in their dorm room after. It sounds a bit shallow, but it also serves a specific demographic (see: frat boys).
Skizzy’s aesthetic is also well-defined, as the entirety of Pace is produced by one guy – Michael Keenan. Like Drake’s material of late, Skizzy’s music sounds refined and distilled as he continues to pair with Keenan, and the identifiable sound makes his marketability that much more potent. Songs like “Moments” and “Summer11” carry the electro-rap vibe that is burgeoning with artists like Vic Mensa on “Down On My Luck” and Goldlink on The God Complex. Azaelia Banks blew that genre wide open with “212” and even Kanye’s “Stronger” could be seen as a precedent for the sound, but no one has gone full-blown electro-rapper yet, besides Azealia on Broke With Expensive Taste. Skizzy has positioned himself in that arena, and the numbers for Pace reflect a wide popularity. One song, “All Say,” has broken a million plays (1.4 mil) on Skizzy’s Soundcloud as of this writing, three more out of the 12 songs on Pace have racked up over 900,000 plays, and only one track has below 300,00 spins. Clearly, people are listening to the kid.
And then of course, there’s the G-Eazy connection. Back in June, Eazy posted “Monica Lewinsky,” a song that didn’t make his debut album, and it featured Skizzy and KYLE. To date, it has over six million plays on G-Eazy’s Soundcloud. Two years prior, G-Eazy lended his skills to Skizzy’s “Pay For You” (which also predicted Skizzy’s similarity to Drake’s simp ways), and in 2013 Skizzy went on tour with G-Eazy. Skizzy also toured with Logic the same year. That’s a beneficial pattern for young Mars.
Most of the material on Pace sounds meant for teenagers whose biggest preoccupations are about the opposite sex. Kissing girls, passing joints to girls, thinking of girls – there’s a lot of that across Pace. It’s very palatable to a young, impressionable audience. Drake has more seeds than ODB at this point, and while Skizzy clearly diverges from the OVO sound, he’s also got everything in place to become a star. It’s only a matter of time until he catches fire.