In today’s era of streaming numbers creating overnight social media stardom, the surest test of a new artist’s validity is still the live show.
Case in point: rap newcomer Lil Skies released a debut album, Life Of A Dark Rose, that defied expectations — and frankly, logic — to chart on Billboard‘s Hot 100 list behind a small army of devoted fans online. However, that’s online. In the real world, I had yet to see Lil Skies in action. How would he work a stage? Would he be as energetic as the response to his intriguing debut? Could he draw a legitimate crowd and hold their attention for an entire hour-long set?
Those were the questions I had in mind as the 19-year-old Chambersburg, PA rapper took the stage at the Echoplex in Silver Lake, Los Angeles on a recent Thursday night. The answers I received during that set convinced me: Lil Skies is the real deal, with the skills and presence to be a genuine rap superstar in relatively short order.
It’s a common joke about the young generation of Soundcloud-bred rappers that they’re all too addled by painkillers, cough syrup, and illegal-obtained anxiety medications, but Skies defies every expectation born of his unconventional, tattoo-dappled image.
The kids in attendance shouted along to almost every word (surprisingly, there were very few n-bombs uttered by the mixed-race crowd — I was proud of the youth that night), as he bounded shirtless across the Echoplex’s stage, feeding off their youthful exuberance for a full hour, which is longer than the runtime of his impressive debut, Life Of A Dark Rose.
There’s no slur to his delivery and he’s no Xanax-anchored zombie onstage. Instead, he moves with the confidence and energy of a skilled veteran, supported by collaborator Landon Cubes filling in barely-needed hype duties. He exuded charisma even to the back of the room where I lurked, wary of the rowdy mosh pits that have a tendency to form in the front row of shows at the Echoplex.