Influences: Xanman, Drake, Tay K, Slimesito, Dex Osama
Sound: trap, 808-heavy beats, dark instrumentals
Today, we’re taking a trip over to the small town of Naples, Florida. Sitting pretty right on the western border of the Everglades, Naples’ economy is fueled primarily by tourism, its main attractions including several major land reserves, a few open-air shopping centers, and a growing local interest in pickleball. The town has a population of about 22,000 that’s over 94% white, with a median age of 61 years. Long story short, Naples is far from a cultural hub—but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out there trying.
Naples marks the hometown of 5 NFL players, a single NHL player, and even an MLB pitcher. More recently, popstar Dominic Fike made it to the top of the charts, even filming the music video for his platinum single, “3 Nights,” in his hometown of Naples. But Smokingskul is carving out a lane of his own. Instead of dwelling in frustration over the lack of support in his city, the 18-year-old rapper has turned this absence into his biggest motivation: “I like the fact that they just watch,” he explains, “it motivates me and pushes me to work harder every day.”
Though he’s only 18 years old, Smokingskul has been honing his craft for quite some time: he first started rapping in the 6th grade, and he’s been putting out music on SoundCloud since early 2018. The Naples native first began garnering well-deserved attention in the spring of 2019 when he dropped “No Hook 2,” which has racked up a total of 82.5k streams on SoundCloud since. On this breakout track, he raps with infectious intensity over a beat produced by Cartier Sosa, who boasts producer credits on tracks with artists such as Sheff G, Xanman, and Asian Doll.
This year, Smokingskul has been making waves with his June 2020 single “Tesla” (24k streams on SoundCloud) and its accompanying video (just shy of 10k views on YouTube). The video features washed out frames of the young artist riding around on a muggy Florida afternoon, sitting on the sunroof of a green Honda four-door sedan—a rolled-up ski mask crowning his head, the background flush with Florida greenery and flaming palm trees. These increasingly polished visuals coincide with his increasingly refined flow, but from month to month and year to year, the core of his style remains authentic to who he’s always been as an artist. On “Tesla,” Smokingskul displays the same penchant for 808-heavy production with dark, ominous instrumentals that he first cemented on “No Hook 2.”
With each new track, each new video, and each new project, Smokingskul builds his audience. While he strives to one day be recognized amongst the big leagues, hoping for nods from idols such as Drake or Chief Keef, for now, his primary focus is to continue to grow his fanbase on all platforms. And with three solo projects with zero features in 2020 alone, he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “A rule I live by,” Smokingskul declares, “is if I work as hard as I can today, tomorrow it’ll pay off.”