Since his mid-teens, SKAM2? has been one of Hip-Hop’s most sought out illustrators. A self-taught-turned-professional visual artist, the Miami native has made indelible images for the likes of Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest to name a few. But as an MC, SKAM2? has deliberately maintained a lower profile. With roots in the storied New York City underground, SKAM’s vivid lyrics have been heard alongside Raekwon, Ill Bill, The Jigmastas, as well as Slim Shady. “I try to write visually. I want my verses to be things that people can see,” he explains. Expressing through a variety of mediums, SKAM2? lives one of the music industry’s greatest stories never told. As he puts it: “I’m that guy that everybody knows, but don’t know.”
“I grew up outside of Hip-Hop,” SKAM2? reflects, of his musical tastes, identifying more with the raw aggression and energy of Punk and Metal. “Back then, Miami was violent like how O.G.’s describe New York in the mid-‘80s,” he explains, having lived in both places. “Out here, everybody’s got guns.” Rap and Bass were the dominant local genres but SKAM2? ended up discovering Hip-Hop both through a classmate sending music his way, as well as through the attitude and imagery displayed in music videos that he discovered.
A cousin of MC Kriminul of Brooklyn, half of the New York collective The Jigmastas, SKAM divided his youth between Carol City and the Rotten Apple. In the latter locale, the out-of-town artist split his days and nights between skateboarding, rhyming and hustling up art commissions anywhere he could. Running with “Krym” and the late I.G. Off, SKAM developed an extensive network and became a fixture at the epicenter of the underground. “The scene in New York at that time was so raw” he notes. Through Kriminul and DJ Spinna’s Beyond Real indie upstart, SKAM’s witty, graphic, and brutally honest lyrics, matched by Spinna’s bouncy production style, would quickly win over the masses. These earlier recordings were pushedthrough conduits like Stretch & Bobbito, DJ EFN, and key college radio shows. Few realized that the artist behind the artwork for A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes, & Life LP (all from a chance meeting at a GZA listening party) was getting his own music played by many of the same tastemakers.
Through mutual friends, SKAM crossed paths with another out of town kid…Eminem. The pair found that they shared interests, having similar upbringings and attitudes. With two cult-championed tracks (“3hree6ix5ive” & “5 Star Generals”) developing from that bond. SKAM was instrumental in building on Em’s buzz in the New York underground. In turn, SKAM is mentioned in the lyrics to “Stan,” calling back to a super-fan’s perception of Eminem at his best. “Thirty-two million people know my name,” he says of the global sales surrounding the 2000 released single. Em and the late Proof called their friend after recording the song, excited to share his inclusion in the soon-to-be smash hit with Dido. “I only heard those few lines and didn’t get the context of the song,” he admits, acknowledging the would-be impact ofThe Marshall Mathers LP blockbuster. Grateful of the look, SKAM has always wanted to moment to bring expanded attention to his own material. “I’m interested in showing what I’m really capable of,” he says, years later.
Those capabilities shine on his sophomore release, The Skronik: Flying Monkey Murder Cirkus. “I always want to have titles that make people go, ‘What?’” says SKAM with a chuckle. The follow-up to the How To Boil Vomit project, FMMC includes tracks like “Anti-Heroes & Super-Villains,” “Definition”Featuring M-1 (dead prez) and “Rebel Road” featuring Ill Bill (La Coka Nostra), as well as production from Produced By Infamous (Lil Wayne, Drake) and Kevin Rudolf (Selena Gomez, Timbaland). The 19-song release spans nearly a decade of previously unreleased recordings.
“I want my projects to be as seamless as possible. The transition is paramount.” asserts the young vet. The DJ Immortal mixed FMMC is largely built around original beats, and innovative concepts. The work exhibits SKAM’s Rock influence, with tracks pivoting across genres. It was Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda who gave SKAM2? the nod for the HTBV track “To Be A Legend” as a Linkin Park Radio contest winner. “I want to let you know where it’s going next,” SKAM2? declares, alluding to his next project.
Years ago, confidants Shadowman and Eminem urged SKAM to be more personal in his music. With the work to come, the often-humorous, self-deprecating MC takes the advice. “If you come from my environment, it’s not of benefit for everybody to know who you are and what the fuck you do. I just wanted the respect, not all that other bullshit,” bluntly states SKAM2? on his reasoning for holding back both his appearance and his insights.
Having recently designed artwork for the likes of Blu, Dizzy Wright, and Slaine, SKAM remains active in his first love. However, making music is no longer in the back-seat, with improved skills and more openness. “I’m still the same dude,” compares SKAM to his more turbulent days, “just with better perspective today though. I’ve never been an industry type.” With that signature grit and by-any-means approach, SKAM2? is a colorful individual and a highly talented artist, refusing to live within the lines.