Possessing enough confidence to take on hell with a squirt gun, Ski Mask The Slump God is ready to mark his return to rap this year with his sophomore album.
Interview: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
It's comeback season for Ski Mask The Slump God. Three drawn-out years have elapsed since the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native, born Stokeley Goulbourne, has served up a full pack of songs to his mosh-ready fans. Before the hiatus, his gold-selling, debut album, Stokeley, reigned as one of the best projects of 2018, climbing into the No. 6 slot on the Billboard 200 chart that year. The effort’s standout songs, “Faucet Failure,” “Nuketown” with Juice Wrld and “Foot Fungus,” all charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and have since earned Ski platinum plaques, including two-times platinum for the former, to accessorize the walls of his Atlanta crib. After taking some well-needed time to detox from the world, the 25-year-old rap juggernaut of Jamaican descent is now ready to turn himself and his music up again.
Dripping in a pair of Yeezy Foam Runners, a white tee with a straight-faced green-and-purple emoticon on it, his custom quarter million-dollar iceberg of a chain and, of course, a black durag to top off the fit, Ski Mask checks in with XXL via Zoom about his much-hyped resurgence. When he’s not bouncing between Apex Legends and Call of Duty or taking care of his French bulldog and two cats, the “Burn the Hoods’’ rhymer assumes the role of vampire, cooking up in the studio until the sun comes up. Ski Mask’s Sin City mixtape, named after his love for the 2005 movie and his father’s own rap name, Sin City 954, is his first solo release of the year. The effort, out June 23, showcases his dribbly flows and double-take metaphors. Producers Ronny J, Kenny Beats, John Cunningham, Slice and Nuri are the elected beat finessers who helped bring Ski Mask’s original bass-heavy, grunge music back into the fold. Fans can expect an album of the same flavor to arrive later this year.
In the midst of readying his sophomore album, set to release around Halloween, Ski Mask speaks about his next chapter in music, his newfound love for MMA, staying inspired through the losses of Juice Wrld and XXXTentacion and much more.
XXL: What have you been up to over the last few days?
Ski Mask The Slump God: We’ve just been masterminding and planning on what our next moves are and the best way to take our next steps. Because I haven’t really been out there for a while.
Since Stokeley dropped in 2018, what have you learned about yourself and your music?
I just learned that I have to take it way easier on myself with how I look at my music. And just not to be scared to experiment. Because a lot of people actually fuck with the experimentation that I do… People usually know me for aggressive rapping and shit like that, but I also do a softer touch side.
What can fans expect on these upcoming projects?
I really wanted to bring back the old me, which was really heavy bass, grunge, distortion music, kind of mosh pit music… I’m also going to be doing a lot of alternative sounds, you feel me? Things that sound different than what I usually do, but I think they really fit me in a way. If you fuck with me or X or our old sound, then I think that you’ll fuck with it in general.
Which artists will be on your sophomore album?
I want to try and have Tyler, The Creator on it. I want to try and have Don Toliver. I want to try and have Dominic Fike. He’s somebody I’ve always wanted to work with… I want to try and work with Post [Malone] at least.
The project Sin City is first. Why did you title it that?
It’s called Sin City. Sin City is also one of my favorite movies that I’ve always as a kid rewatched it. I really just like the aesthetic of the movie. But, what really made me do it was because my dad was a rapper in Florida when I was a kid. His name was Sin City 954. And that’s really what I really captured it from.
Does your father have anything to do with you falling in love with rap and hip-hop?
Most likely my dad did have a really big part in me loving music. I’m always in the car…listening to some fucking Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes… Listening to some straight Jamaican shit… And then my dad used to make me write, as if it was homework… Like, “Start writing this song. You can’t leave until you finish writing to it.” I’m like, “I don’t even know what the fuck to say to this!”
You’ve been working with Future in the studio. What was it like linking with him?
I definitely always wanted to work with Future and Young Thug… He’s cool as hell, bro. And he works hard as fuck. He be in his studio for long-ass hours… I really respect his work ethic.
You and Busta Rhymes were in the studio a lot together at one point. What ever happened to that music coming out?
I made two songs with Busta, but I’m not sure what happened to those songs because it was a really long time ago… That was probably when I just dropped “Catch Me Outside” and shit and everything was going crazy… I’ll probably work with him on this album or something… Trying to bring the old him back out…like “Gimme Some More.”
What was it like working with one of your favorite artists?
Crazy as fuck. He’s Jamaican, didn’t know that shit. We were speaking Jamaican to each other. He smokes cigarettes like me. We were smoking a cigarette together in the studio. Then he pulls out the Henny. I’m like, “Ah shit! I drink Henny, too!”… I was like, “He’s me! It’s me.”
Really genuine-ass person, too. And, he’s a really talented person so he can bring the best out of anybody and then you can also do that for him. So, I feel like Busta has yet to show himself again. He’s been snapping, but I feel like he’s yet to show his ass again.
You mentioned before that you love music but hate the industry. How do you navigate that?
I just try not to pay too much attention to what the ins and outs of it is. You get too caught up into the mix of it, you’ll just drown in it. So, I just try to stay true to what keeps me grounded, what reminds me of myself and who I am, truly.
How often do you pay attention to feedback?
Pretty much all the time, actually… I never make it seem like I be watching, but yeah, I be watching for sure… Big, big trolls. They be like, “Your music is fucking dog shit.” And I don’t say nothing on Twitter, but I DM like, “What you talking about?”… And they be like, “Nah, man, it was all a joke. I actually love you, man.” I’m like, bro, what the fuck, dude?
Why did you get into MMA during the quarantine?
Hell yeah, man. I don’t know what it is, but I love MMA. It’s weird, too, because Jah—XXX—used to love MMA. I knew he did, but I never really knew why. Maybe a year before quarantine, I started watching MMA and getting into it. I really started even wanting to train, if I get the chance to. If I stop being lazy, I’ll really go train and put myself in a cage.
What do you think about the whole Florida hip-hop scene right now?
The Florida scene right now is crazy, actually… We got people from Jacksonville like Nardo Wick, people from Miami… I fuck with it. They’re bringing in more of a South Florida sound.
Which artists are in your top five for best flows?
Old school Busta [Rhymes], for sure. Top five? Maybe Method Man. Maybe Jay-Z. It’s hard because if I say a new-age rapper, people are going to be mad at me. Kendrick [Lamar]. I could definitely add Kendrick in there. Maybe J. Cole for sure. I fuck with J. Cole. That would be my five.
Who’s your top five favorite rappers?
Alright so, it'd have to be X, Juice, Busta, [Young] Thug and maybe Lil Wayne, because I was listening to a lot of Lil Wayne back then.
Last year, you had a huge moment with “Burn The Hoods.” Why was it important for you?
I think at the time it was really important for me to release it because I just wanted to have my say and how I felt. And just get some aggression out of myself. That’s why the video was directed the way that it was. I just wanted to put an end to hate and racism in my own form of saying, “Fuck it.”
You spoke on Twitter about people paying tribute to XXXTentacion but only knowing a few lines of “Look At Me!” You then went at 6ix9ine on IG for doing it. Why’s that frustrating?
Honestly, personally, and truly, which I think he knows, I don’t really personally have a problem with 6ix9ine. It just gets to a point where I get fed up seeing people perform [X's] song in a disingenuous way or just not even knowing the lyrics… You know three lyrics and you’re like, “Yeah, just turn up to the song! Give me a break to my own performance” or some shit, you feel me?… I don’t feel like it’s a, “Rest In Peace to my brother,” truly. I just feel like it’s a, “Throw this song on because I know it’s lit” type of thing.
What would you say is your favorite collaboration with X and why?
My favorite collab with X would probably be “Freddy Vs. Jason.” That was one of our very first songs that we made on Members Only Vol. 1 and it was just a back-and-forth song. I think we made it in his grandma’s house. That’s when we used to record in the closet or in the kitchen… And then, it was just a really genuine experience of us making music, not really being sure of what we’re doing. But other people really liked it so, it was a really liberating experience, making our first music.
How do you stay inspired after losing X and Juice?
It’s hard, honestly. I was really big on my back-and-forth with either Juice or Jah for inspiration because it was always a healthy back-and-forth with competition. But, it’s really hard because there’s not a lot of people that make our style of music and that I could look up to. I could always look up to my friends, I knew them and they made the same type of shit that I do. But since I lost them, it’s hard now… But I try to find inspiration from old things that I could look back on for memories and just remembering all of that stuff.
Is there a particular memory of Juice that you hold dear to your heart?
There’s a lot of memories that I hold close to my heart with Juice Wrld, but it’d definitely be when we were on tour together and us just talking about shit that we were going through together and us just really relating to our situations and understanding why we are the way that we are. And not judging each other, so just us having that conversation when we were on tour.
What’s the backstory on this Yu-Gi-Oh! chain?
Actually, Juice Wrld was supposed to get this chain. We both came up with the idea at the same time, but we decided that he was gonna get it. It would fit his whole style. Since he couldn’t, I was like, Fuck it, I’m just going to do it in the name of Juice, of Jah [XXXTentacion]. That’s why I got the world on the inside… I’m just gonna sit with this for a minute. Because it’s also a sentimental piece, so it was worth it for me.
How much did you spend on it?
This is almost $200,000, almost $220,000, probably.
How do you want your legacy to be remembered?
I would want it to be remembered with me and my brothers, just being together and how much we’ve changed the times when we were around. And how much we’ve helped people… For our legacies to be like, “Damn they changed the sound and the direction at this point and they were really critical at that point and aspect and they actually helped a lot of people in that time and era. And a lot of people fucked with them.”… The fact that Jah already reached that, I know I’m proud of him and I know he’s proud of himself. He should be at least.
What does the next chapter look like for you?
That’s what we’re about to see, fam. But I’m about to put myself out there way more, getting into the studio with people… So, we’re about to see what the future holds. It’s endless, though. The sky’s the limit for real, for real.
Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2021 issue including the 2021 XXL Freshman Class artist interviews with 42 Dugg, Iann Dior, Coi Leray, Pooh Shiesty, Flo Milli, Morray, Rubi Rose, Blxst, Toosii, Lakeyah and DDG.