SkyBlew: From foster child to one of Christian hip-hop’s coolest nerds
SkyBlew can easily be spotted in a crowd, sporting a gray-faced, blue-haired friend with a story of his own on his head. It’s become his staple; so much that if he doesn’t wear it, people ask “where’s your hat?” he said.
SkyBlew’s content and presentation might not sound similar to your favorite mainstream or Christian rapper.
He draws inspiration from anime and video games. His song “Ordinary Tuesday” samples Marvin Gaye, which hints at his strong influence and fascination for soul. If not hip hop, some call his music jazz hop or positive; others say he’s a conscious rapper.
The Alabama native can get inspired at any given moment. He’ll stop for 10 minutes to register or write a concept, even in front of friends. However, the first signs of SkyBlew’s lyrical ability came during poetry class and lunchtime freestyles in his teens.
“Music was my escape,” he said.
SkyBlew had much to escape from. He was placed in foster care from about eight to 15 years old. He had many short-term homes because some foster parents would only take him in for the money. He suffered from a heart murmur and passing out due to anxiety.
Eventually, his father took him out of foster care. He was turned off by his father’s overly religious ways. However, he found relief and acceptance on weekend visits to his grandma’s house with his cousins. He loved it there so much that he wanted to live there.
“She would take us to church, and it was different spiritually,” he said. “It wasn’t forceful.”
SkyBlew’s grandmother passed away in 2005. He then moved to North Carolina with his dad, but it didn’t work out, so he lived with friends, and, after that didn’t work out, he became homeless for months.
In high school, SkyBlew was adopted by parents Jackie and Logan Parrish, who love and support him. Today, he “paints the sky…blew,” as his mantra states. He knows who he is and isn’t afraid to be himself — even if that means referencing anime characters or shows like “Yu Yu Hakusho” about a spirit detective, which SkyBlew says is also his alternate occupation.
SkyBlew has nine projects to date. Jazz for Autumn Kismet is his latest release. His most recent works have set the premise for his music to come, he said. SkyBlew plans to reveal more and more of his story overtime.
His best project, according to him, is Journeys in 1st Person, released last year. It was the musical chemistry with producer Backdraft that makes it his favorite.
SkyBlew’s 2014 album Sky Blew’s UNmodern Life was inspired by the 1990’s Nickelodeon show “Hey Arnold!” and featured songs titled “The Ballad of Pigeon Man,” “Sally’s Comet” and “The Ballad of Stoop Kid.” The album artwork is also animated.
The majority of his project covers are animated with an array of vivid colors and thought-provoking illustration. It’s his thing, and so are animated videos. Most are directed and illustrated by different artists.
SkyBlew’s most recent animated videos is “OrdinaryStreetsOfDreams.” His favorites are “The Gray Balloons” and “StreetLIGHTS.”
The indie artist sees no point in signing to a major label, though he says he’s gotten an offer from Atlantic and another.
“Especially when I started studying the music industry and seeing how miserable these artists are and the whole selling your soul type of thing, I ain’t tryna do that,” he said.
Rapzilla: How do you describe your music?
SkyBlew: I don’t rap, paint the sky…blew. It’s more of a visual. When people hear my song they say they visualize it, like I painted a picture for them. That’s what I’m trying to do with my music. It’s like poetry in motion. It’s hard for you to put it in a box. Like people say, “Oh, it’s positive, it’s Christian, it’s nerdy, it’s conscious.” I don’t just do one thing. It’s a variety of sounds, a variety of styles.
Rapzilla: How did you feel when 2DopeBoyz called you “one of North Carolina’s most promising rising stars?”
SkyBlew: It’s so crazy because they’ve been supporting me for years. I’d been submitting to that site for two years straight, and they finally posted me in 2012. I kept making good music, and eventually it spoke for itself and God worked it out. Seeing how that progressed to them posting everything that I do, to them slowly showing love, to them saying very nice stuff, to now. I never expected that. It really blew my mind.
Rapzilla: You’ve shared the stage with Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Slick Rick Curren$y, Slum Village, Flobots and more. What were those experiences like?
SkyBlew: Those were just mind blowing; being on stage with prestigious artists with different crowds at each one. It wasn’t until later I realized, “Man I shared the stage with Kendrick Lamar. This is the biggest rapper in the world right now.” It introduced my music to a lot of different people. It just helped me visualize my dreams even more. I came from being homeless and in foster care to this, like wow this is happening. I look at it like a blessing and it shows me I can do this [even] when I doubt myself and wanna give up. I shared the stage with these guys and held my own. There’s no way I can’t be touring one day having these same crowds myself. Kendrick Lamar, we rapped for him and he was like “You got it man, don’t stop, you got it.” That was before he was big. I just look back on it and it seems so surreal.
Rapzilla: How did you get into anime?
SkyBlew: Growing up, I watched “Toonami” on Cartoon Network that got me into “Dragon Ball Z,” “Sailor Moon,” “Yu Yu Hakusho,” “Ronin Warriors” and “Pokémon.” That definitely got me into it before I knew what anime was. As I got older, I looked at it more, and then I started going to the library checking out manga. I really became an anime fan from there. As I would do my musi,c I subtlety would put little references to different anime. Then I was like, let me go further than that. Let me try to flip this whole concept of this movie to see if I can make this relate without you even knowing it was an anime. The anime fans get it. Anime has always been a part of me. I just love it.
Rapzilla: Tell me about your albums and fans in South Korea?
SkyBlew: In South Korea, I’m definitely bigger than I am in the states. It’s only a matter a time before I go over there for a show. They support me big time. I dropped two albums over there and they were on their top 10 charts. I really appreciate that, that’s a blessing. I really would like to go over there. They try to translate as much as they can. Some of the fans may use Google translate to talk to me. It’s incredible that they would go to that extent to connect with me. They put my lyrics through it.
Rapzilla: You had a rough past dealing with homelessness (foster care) and your overall well-being. Can you unpack how that began?
SkyBlew: I was in an abusive situation with my mom, so they took me out of there. I was miserable. I went from foster home to home. They put me in a children’s hospital for my mental health. They had me on pills, they had me go to therapy; it was crazy. I was going crazy; I wanted to kill myself so bad.
SkyBlew had been through so much at such a young age, it took a toll on him, and he felt like no one cared. His grandma cared. They had a connection ever since that Thanksgiving Day he went to her house as a kid. From then on, she basically raised him.
SkyBlew was devastated when his grandma died. But her death propelled him into the epiphany that changed his life. He asked himself: “What would she want me to do? She would want me to make a difference in life and change how I am, spread love and focus on God.”
That was exactly what he did.
SkyBlew makes the impact his grandmother left on him known in his music.
“Balloons fly me to the moon / Granny I‘ll see you soon / You was my heart and my soul but now you gone / The world didn’t know you but they will through my songs,” he said in “The Gray Balloons.”
In addition to his upcoming album, Race for Your Life, SkyBlew will perform at the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh this September. It’s a big event on the east coast, he said. Similar to 2DopeBoyz, SkyBlew submitted to the festival for years with no response. This year he was contacted.
Though SkyBlew’s approach and style might seem unconventional, he does what’s unique to him.
“I just want people to know above all when they hear my music that I’m a Christian without even saying it,” he said.
And he wants people to spread love and peace.