Lil Skies is a 19-year-old rapper from Pennsylvania so dedicated to his music that he got himself a face tattoo (several, actually) to make it impossible for him to get a day job, according to an interview in Billboard from earlier this year. He also doesn’t do interviews anymore, according to his Twitter account. His album Life of a Dark Rose got all the way to number 10 on the Billboard 200 in January, and two of his songs, "Red Roses" and "Nowadays," have hit the Billboard 100 charts but have yet to go higher than the top 50. Nearly losing his dad in an explosion at a construction site, he says, is the reason for his career as a musician. “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,” he told Billboard.
That kind of earnest honesty about why he’s in music is indicative of the SoundCloud rapper generation, which includes artists like the late Lil Peep. Rapping about depression and hopelessness one moment and fucking girls like porn stars the next is something the genre does best. It grapples with losing friends and family to opiates while growing up online, a place that can often feel like an endless, soul-sucking void with no real humanity to speak of. He’s probably going to be really famous.
So we sent our Brooklyn-based social editors and two most online people we know, Annalise Domenighini and Trey Smith, to Lil Skies’ Irving Plaza show on Monday to see if what the kids are feeling seems familiar or if we are well and truly fucked by society.
Annalise Domenighini: I’m only 26, which is seven or eight years older than a lot of the audience was, but apparently in that time I have become extremely lame to the point that being out at 11 PM felt dangerous and exciting. I was so overwhelmed once I realized my transgression I walked through a park while smoking a cigarette after 10 PM, and both of those activities are very much against the rules. But that set the tone for the night for sure. As soon as I arrived—dressed like a farmer ready for a night on the town—a wave of weed smoke and the laughter of teen girls embraced me and I realized I was well and truly out of my depth in this scenario.
Trey Smith: I’m a little older than Annalise, so my confusion as to how these kids had so much life in them on a Monday night was a bit greater than hers. Being around this many kids, some a decade younger than me, was anxiety-driving, mainly cause I was terrified of getting roasted on someone’s Instagram story or something equally devastating.
Your teens/early 20s are a time of excitement and fearlessness. No one really takes advantage of this time of their lives as much as they should, but moments like this are when you're supposed to do just that, as those of us who are older all have attempted before can attest. And it’s honestly beautiful to be able to witness others doing it once you’re removed from that period in your life.
Trey Smith: Every day it’s clearer and clearer to me how lame I was (also, still am) because, again, I have no idea how all these people had this much energy at this time of night on a Monday. Looking at the crowd from the balcony was like watching a tsunami of bodies ready to crash at any moment. Which, in a way, is what being alive is like so it was actually pretty fitting. Lil Skies’ music is made to create situations like that. He has this Wiz Khalifa-type of star power and it’s pretty difficult to stand still to his music. Every beat drop was accompanied by a floor-bending crowd jump, more than one crowd surfer popped up. The enthusiasm these kids had was infectious. I went from trying to figure out how I was going to stay up through the whole thing when I arrived to not knowing how I was going to get myself to sleep when the show was over. Also shout out to the kid we saw at the end of the show who was yelling at security about how he couldn’t find one (1) of his shoes. One.
Annalise Domenighini: I couldn’t stop thinking about how all these kids were jumping around and screaming lyrics about being depressed and smoking weed to make it better, it’s unreal. I couldn’t decide if it was corny as hell or cool as shit but it was definitely something.
Trey Smith: What we were getting to watch were a bunch of kids celebrating the soundtrack to their formative experiences. Lil Skies and other adjacent rappers are the ones who’ll be playing in the background when these kids have their first kisses, go through their first heartbreaks, celebrate their first true triumphs in life, and generally have initial contact with the experiences that are a part of what being alive is. Those might not be milestones we share yet, but soon enough they will be, and in that way the age-difference isn’t nearly are wild, or important, as it can feel like at times when approaching the work of the Lil Skies of the world.
Also sidebar: White people, stop yelling the n-word at rap shows. It ain’t a free zone.
Annalise Domenighini: After the show was over I had to squeeze through two circles of teen girls to get to the bathroom. I said “excuse me” in my most exasperated tone, the awkwardness of which, when combined with the fact that I looked like a whole-ass square, shook me so deeply to my core that I can safely say I am an entirely new person and am ready to dedicate my life to the Lord. What I anticipated to be a night that would confirm my lifestyle choice ended up being one that launched me into a full scale identity crisis and it’s what I and probably the teens deserve.
The only really surreal moment for me came when I watched a 40-year-old man who was wearing a letterman jacket tell a 50-year-old-ish white guy in a puffed jacket that “that shit was RE TAR DED” and that Skies was “gonna be BIG man, big!” So Skies if you’re reading this, stay woke, I guess, because not everyone who loves you or wants to help you out has your back.
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.