Hard-hitting hip-hopper pulls no punches

November 6, 2011

'Look At Me Now'
Grindin Records

Aboriginal rapper Sky’High admits she can be difficult to work with.

“I can come across a bit intimidating or ‘weird’,” she tells Green Left Weekly, laughing. “Some people can't handle that ― I’m unpredictable as fuck.”

Her breakthrough new single “Look At Me Now”, which can be downloaded free here, is a collaboration with New Zealand super-producer P-Money. She hooked up with him not so much because she wanted his style, but because he could actually work with her.

“It’s not that I couldn’t find the right sound here, it’s just one of them things, you know,” says the raw rapper, who was raised on the Sydney housing commissions of Maroubra and Ultimo.

“Heaps of people have approached me here, but I'm all about connecting with people. When I met P-Money, I liked his approach and his patience with me ― and, of course, his work.”

P-Money’s work is pretty impressive. His hard-hitting, axe-riffing single “Stand Up/Not Many”, with Christchurch-born Samoan rapper Scribe, stayed at the top of New Zealand’s charts for three months.

His more recent collaboration, the quirky “Everything”, with R&B singer Vince Harder, topped the New Zealand charts for three weeks and entered Britain’s top 20.

P-Money has won multiple awards for his solo albums and turntable skills, yet it was he who approached the then-unsigned Sky’High after watching one of her self-released clips on the internet.

“He saw a YouTube video of me, then contacted Sam Dutch, my manager, who then got at me,” says Sky’High. “From there we met up and then he gave some beats my way and asked if I could drop a couple of verses over them.

“He obviously liked what he heard over his work ― thus the reason you are asking this question right now.”

P-Money’s collaboration with the Sydney rapper has taken her to a whole new level. The accompanying, world-class video was directed by Auckland graffiti artist, author, graphic designer and photographer Askew One.

The flickering, nightmarish, dark-filtered clip shows Sky’High spitting venomous lines like “I’m fly, you’re a maggot” as her bull mastiffs strain at the leash.

It’s a fresh sound for Aboriginal rap, sounding more like London grime than home-grown hip hop.

“Yeah, I'm a fan of grime and southern rap,” says Sky’High. She claims to have no heroes, but cites grime godfather Wiley, Boy Better Know label Boss JME, West Indian grime queen Shystie and Birmingham female grime MC RoxXxan as “a good listen”.

As for Aboriginal music, she says: “The day I saw Wire MC perform ‘B.L.A.C.K.’ live, I was hooked ― I would’ve been 16 then. Stiff Gins go hard as well. Oh fuck, I remember I saw them when I was 12 and that was it.”

She also describes Murri brother-and-sister hip hop act Last Kinection as “dope”, but when asked about female role models, she laughs.

“I don't know about heroes,” she says. “But women I believe go hard would have to be Tina Turner, La Chat, Betty Davis (with a Y not E).”

Sky’High also cites Bobbi Sykes as an influence. “I don’t need to explain why,” she says dismissively.

Aboriginal poet, author and land rights activist Sykes started out as a striptease dancer in Sydney’s King’s Cross. Sky’High’s grandmother worked as a go-go dancer in King’s Cross and the rapper’s mother ran strip clubs and pubs.

“My momma told me this world was crazy,” sings Sky’High in the chorus to “Look At Me Now”.

“I am a product of my surroundings,” Sky’High says of the song. But when asked to ruminate on the sex industry that has surrounded her throughout her life, she replies simply: “My thoughts? Two words ― GET MONEY.”

It was Sky’High’s mother who christened her Skh’ai Gerrey ― a name that seems to reflect her part Fijian roots. So where does it come from?

“You know what ― it comes from my mum,” she teases. “See, my mum liked the name Sky but not the spelling and she just put that together. Seriously, who would have thought?!”

But she is a little more contemplative when asked if her race has disadvantaged her family.

“To the extent where there have been times where people ask my race and I have found myself questioning myself whether or not I should answer for the simple fact of, will they view me the same as before they knew my race, with that being said right there, is a big yes,“ she says.

“We can get deeper but I couldn’t be fucked at the end of the end day. I'm a musician and will let my music speak for me.”

Video: Sky'high - Look At Me Now. See more Sky'High clips at her YouTube channel.

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