Home MUSIC Meet Skaiwater, the Rapper and Producer Who Has Lil Nas X’s Attention

Meet Skaiwater, the Rapper and Producer Who Has Lil Nas X’s Attention

by Ohio Digital News


Last week, Skaiwater released the single and music video for “light!,” featuring none other than Lil Nas X. The rising 23-year-old rapper-producer says securing a feature with one of the biggest artists in the world was a “surreal moment.” Naturally, the two met online. “I was in a lot of music communities, so it’s just like you cross paths with a lot of people, but I think we just stayed in tune,” Skaiwater explains. “I guess we have a similar understanding of things. We think in similar ways.”

Indeed, “light!” is precisely the kind of song you’d expect Lil Nas X to appear on: an ode to self-love and not letting a toxic ex into your headspace. “I just had a lightbulb,” Skaiwater croons on the song’s chorus. “I’m tryna break the cycle/Yeah, go ahead with that groupie shit/Yeah, I’m sure that bitch a nice dude.” Produced by 9lives, the track is one of only a handful of Skaiwater tracks that wasn’t self-produced. “We built it in the room, so I gave him a reference for what I wanted and he just executed it in his way,” Skaiwater explains. “But I kind of had an idea. It was the last idea of the session. It was just the idea I’d had for a while. I wanted to take reference from Pink Friday-era Nicki Minaj, Kid Ink, DJ Mustard-type beats.” 

That sound is increasingly prevalent on TikTok, as Gen Z and Gen Alpha begin to mine the recent past for inspiration. A previous version of the track, without Lil Nas X’s verse, made the rounds on the app earlier this year, and this latest cut is poised to reach a whole new audience. “I feel like over the years, we’ve tried to work on a lot of music, but it’s never really aligned perfectly. I think this was the first time it really made sense for us both,” Skaiwater continues. “Honestly, him sticking with me this long, sticking around this long, believing in the dream before I really even had it laid out kind of thing. It was definitely a surreal moment.”

Skaiwater is originally from Nottingham, a town about two hours away from London. Like most musicians their age, they started out making songs in their bedroom and uploading them to SoundCloud. “The past year and a half, I think I’ve just been learning more about it being about living as much as it is about creating,” Skaiwater explains of the song’s origin. “So that’s the feeling I had when I was first creating it, just making sure I was in control of what I’m doing, just in control of how I’m presenting myself to where I was forgetting how to present myself to the world for a sec.”

Skai is nonbinary and they say a big part of the inspiration behind “light!” was coming to some tough realizations about the music industry. “It was more having an epiphany, I think. I think a lot of me moving through this game has been having to have big lessons hit you instead of gradually learning what you’re supposed to be doing,” they explain. “So I think I was just having a very heavy epiphany about where I was supposed to go next, or how I was supposed to move to change my life to really just be all the way in instead of on the fence, one foot in, one foot out, as an artist.”

Taking the reins has not come without its misunderstandings. “I think it’s very easy for your message to be misconstrued if it’s not in your hands. So I think, really, I’m more dealing with it recently, being more open and expressive with everything I do,” Skaiwater continues.

Skaiwater has recently relocated to Los Angeles, a move they say is both practical and personal. For one, many of their early releases got the most attention in the States. “For a lot of my early big moments, I wasn’t really able to even see the music connecting. It was more just having to see it through the internet. So I feel like I had to make that jump,” they explain. “But I also feel like, identity-wise, there was a lot pushing me away from home. I come from very hood, very Jamaican shit, so it’s just different. I think anything goes in L.A. I didn’t really feel too alien day-to-day trying to get this music done.”


Still, Skaiwater says being an openly nonbinary artist has made them learn to be more intentional with their own messaging. “Being an artist, especially a Black artist, in rap, everything is very straightforward. The expectations for you are very straightforward,” they explain. “But I think as a nonbinary artist in more of an alternative space, it’s very new. There’s less of a box to be put in, but it also leaves more space for mishandling of a message. Before I was just me at home. I didn’t think it was as important as I realized it was later on.”

Now, Skaiwater says, it’s time to take the reins of their own self-expression, which also means dropping a lot more music. “Just flooding the streets, and just trying not to let how people feel stop me.”


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