Aristos “Ruby da Cherry” Petrou and Scott “Slick Sloth” Arcenaux Jr. are the Suicideboys. The duo—New Orleans natives and first cousins—got their start in 2014 after a decade of knocking around (Petrou in punk bands and Arcenaux as a DJ and producer), and released somewhere around three dozen solo and collaborative projects over the next few years. The group’s Three 6 Mafia-influenced sound and honest, depression-filled lyrics struck a chord with a whole new generation, garnering influential fans like the late Lil Peep and becoming progenitors of the SoundCloud rap wave.
After taking nearly a year off from their frantic release schedule, the Suicideboys are back with I Want to Die in New Orleans. I caught up with the guys at the Complex office on the first full day the record was out in the world (and the morning after their big release party) to talk about the next stage in the group’s evolution.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
You guys released 35 or 40 EPs at a frantic clip, but then there was a big break before this album. Was it tough to go 11 months without releasing music?
Ruby da Cherry: That’s an interesting question because it was tough—not in the songwriting process sense, but more so me and him trying to figure out what this next chapter of this would be. [We were] struggling with, like you said, “OK, we have 35 releases out with 300 songs and 40 videos. What’s next?”
I personally could not come up with anything. [Scott] still kept cranking out the beats because he’ll never stop with that. It was necessary to take that break to kind of recuperate the creative juices and take a step back and be like, “Where are we and where are we going?” Before, it was kind of like just putting our emotions out on the paper and recording it.
Slick Sloth: For me, it was different because if I don’t work for one day, I felt like me and him were getting so behind. And it’s like, “What the hell else am I supposed to be doing?”
R: We had a few songs we had recorded in the beginning, about 11 months ago. Some of them we were like, “This is cool. This is a good direction.” And then on some of them we were like, “This just sounds like everything else we’re doing. We need to do something different.” So this process was the most songs that got thrown away out of anything from Suicideboys’ catalog.
How would you describe the difference in sound on this project as opposed to the 35 before it?
R: [Laughs.] I would say we were focusing on not forgetting about the old Suicideboys roots but also embracing, “Hey, we’ve been here for three years now. We can’t keep making the same style of music.” Especially in this day and age, the trends in music and the trends in everything change so quickly that it’s smart of you to take note of the upcoming trends that are approaching and take advantage of them if you’re interested in them, if it’s something that you feel.
You guys have 10 years of being in punk bands and being a DJ. So, what is it like after grinding for that long, to have something actually successful on a scale that you hadn’t hit before?
R: It’s a breath of fresh air. Ever since I started recording for Suicideboys, we told each other there’s no other outcomes besides us doing this. We’re older, too. [It’s] important to get your shit together at a certain age. We always told each other, “Hey man. This is no other option. This is gonna happen.” People always tell us, “Hey, that was quick. Look at how much you’ve blown up. It was so fast.” I’m like, “Not fast at all,” because we’ve been doing this for such a long time.
S: That’s a really good point. People think it was very fast, but I’ve been doing this since I was 13.
Scott, you actually had a production deal with Universal/Republic for a while, right?
S: Yeah, I did. I had an in-house deal and I got royally screwed over.
Did any songs from that ever get released?
S: Yes. I’d rather not talk about them because it gets under my skin. But a pretty big one. Put it this way: this person’s living in a mansion off of it and I got a $70,000 check, total.
What did you learn from that experience?
S: It was odd because it’s not like this. It’s not like visiting offices and networking and meeting new people. It was just like, you get a phone call from them every day saying, “Hey, I need this beat, this type of beat, this type of beat, and this type of beat because so and so, and so and so, and so and so are working on an album. I need you to get them to me tonight.” Mind you, I’m working a nine-to-five job at the time, so it was rough. It was honestly a living hell.
I want to talk about the term “SoundCloud rap.” That’s a genre that you guys are often thrown into. Do you feel any connection to those words at all?
R: I feel like we’re not thrown into the SoundCloud rap genre. I feel like we should be because we had a big part in it. I feel like when people throw out the SoundCloud term they’re really more focusing on the mumble rap, whatever the hell that is. But I would like to be included more in the SoundCloud rap list because there’s sort of a renaissance going on with this digital age. I feel like we’re part of that, and I want to be included in it.
As far as the actual term, “SoundCloud rapper,” we do our best to try and not fit into that mold. If it happens it happens, just because he has dreadlocks and I have colored hair [but] we try to not be included in the mold of it.
Someone who was in that world and who vocally counted you as an influence was Lil Peep. Did you guys know him?
R: Yeah, man. Peep was a huge fan of us. He was hitting us up when we had like 3,000 followers on SoundCloud offering to pay us $100 for a feature. We did, [but] it got intercepted. Somebody else took the song and released it without Peep on it. That’s the first time I ever heard about Peep, and it stuck out because one of our friends told us, “Hey, one of my artists Lil Peep got a feature from you guys and he never actually got it because this guy intercepted it.” This was, like, 2015. I was like, “Who is this kid?” I felt bad because this kid got screwed and I didn’t want it to be from us.
From there, I kept my eye on him. Then Fat Nick and Mikey the Magician really put Peep on. They were some clique called Schema Posse and I told one of the guys that left Schema Posse, “If Lil Peep or Ghostemane ever want to do anything, they will not do it under this guy, because he’s not going to take them to the next level.” Literally the next day those guys left what they were doing with this guy and Schema Posse, and started working on their own.
We saw Peep in London last year and I hadn’t seen him in a long time. The first time I met him, he was a fanboy geeking out over meeting us. He was a super cool kid. We were into the same kind of music. I don’t see him for a year or two and we see him in London. At this point, he’s doing the fashion week stuff. He’s blown up. This time I was kind of nervous meeting him again. I was like, “What’s up, Peep? You fucking glo’d up, dude.” He came on stage with us, knew every fucking word to our songs.
Scott, you’ve said you get goosebumps talking about him. Why?
R: Look at the impact he’s had, man.
S: Yeah, the impact and he’s so young. Nobody that young deserves to go out, and the same goes with XXXTentacion. We actually had the pleasure of meeting him.
R: We brought [XXXTentaction] on his first tour, the Southside Suicide Tour. [He] honestly was a good-hearted, genuine dude. He was a human and had demons he was battling, like everybody. It’s just so sad.
He got locked up pretty quickly after we took him on tour. We had our eyes on Peep and X for the longest time, trying to get them to be a part of what we’re doing, but they had their own routes. It’s unfortunate [that] in Peep’s case, he had to pass away for people to actually start paying attention. But I think he opened up a door for a lot of other people to become themselves.
Where were you guys when you found out that Peep died?
R: We were in Reno, Nevada at a casino. We had just played a show the night before or we were playing one that night. So we were at the buffet with all this awesome food. It was like two in the afternoon. Then one of the DJs comes down looking like a ghost and tells us, “Yo, Peep passed away last night.” All that food suddenly became the most unappetizing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
I was texting Bexey, one of his friends, because he was on tour with him, and I was like, “Please tell me what’s going on. I need to know.” He was like, “Whatever you’re hearing is true.” We played Salt Lake City the next day. There was 3,500 kids that came out. Our DJ Meth was really good friends with Peep. He went out and played “Beamer Boy,” and that was one of the most emotional things I’ve ever experienced in my life.
On your new song “FUCK the Industry,” you call yourselves “black sheep.” What does that mean?
R: I feel like we’re ignored a lot. We don’t get a lot of credit that’s due and I think it’s bullshit. We’re put on the same platform as these artists who don’t do half the shit we do. They don’t spend half the time we spend. We’re very professional when it comes to this music shit.
these kids think, 'I can just come up with a little gimmick. I pick a hair color and then I call myself Lil TV Screen and come up with a whole fucking mixtape.' — Ruby da Cherry
I think these kids think, “I can just come up with a little gimmick. I pick a hair color and then I [call myself] ‘Lil TV Screen’ and come up with a whole fucking mixtape.” They come up with a gimmick to where the guy only performs in his underwear and then boom, he’s the biggest fucking thing. It’s bullshit because we do a lot for these kids. We sacrifice a lot. We don’t spend time with any of our families. I miss holidays to be on the road and do what we do. I would just like some credit. That’s it.
You guys are from New Orleans, and are big fans of Cash Money and bounce music. What did you think about [original Cash Money artist] Magnolia Shorty’s voice being sampled on Drake’s “In My Feelings”?
R: I hate it. I’m that guy. I’m like, “Now everyone’s gonna know about this.” That’s me. Honestly I was pissed. I’m pissed because Drake shot that fucking video at Gene’s Po-Boys. I spent my college graduation night at the fucking rachet-ass bar next to Gene’s trying to buy cocaine and instead I bought crack. I got stories about Gene’s, dude. This guy pulls up and is eating a little roast beef po boy with his white gold grill. It’s Drake, but it’s kind of super culturally appropriating to New Orleans. It was the same thing he did with fucking Memphis, bro.
S: I agree with you.
R: I wasn’t cool with it. I mean I’m glad somebody gave a little homage to New Orleans. I guess I’ll be positive. At least he recognized it. As much as it’s frustrating and I want to be a hater, at the same time at least he’s showing love to the city.
two of the songs I sent drake were very bounce influenced. and then I hear 'In my feelings' and 'Nice for what' and I'm just like, 'Are you kidding me?' — Slick Sloth
S: Coincidentally, Uncle Juice [Juicy J] hooked me up and was like, “Yo, Drake’s looking for beats.” So I’m like, “OK, let me send him some stuff.” Two of the songs I sent him were very bounce influenced. And then I hear [“In My Feelings”] and “Nice for What,” and I’m just like, “Are you kidding me?” [Laughs.]
One last song I wanted to talk about was “Nicotine Patches.” On it, you guys talk about the 27 Club and the fact that you’re now older than a lot of your heroes were when they died.
S: 27 Club survivor.
R: I came up with this little melody. The melody is very bubblegum poppy but I didn’t want the lyrics to also be poppy. That’s why we wrote, “Hold up, all my heroes are rotting in their graves/One day I’ll become the same.” We never expected to make it this far—and I don’t mean successful, I mean age-wise. We didn’t expect to live this long. If we would have been still trying to get it at this age, I would have ended my shit.
It’s funny because when I first started rapping, I wrote this song about how if I ever made it, I [wouldn’t want to] have my little 15 minutes of fame and then fade out. I’d want to be shot. I’d want to die in the fucking peak of it because I’d want to become bigger than life itself, become a cultural icon, a phenomenon—which is exactly what’s happening to Peep and X right now. They died at their fucking peak almost, and you’re not gonna unhear his name forever.
I was kind of envious of that. I wanted to be a Kurt Cobain. I wanted to be a 2Pac or whatever. Now that 27 has passed and we’re still here, it’s kind of like, “Should I still keep fighting for death, or should I realize what we have?” You don’t have to die to change somebody’s life. You can still be here.
S: But I feel like a lot of rappers and just musicians in general ruin their legacy by continuing. I’ll be homeless before I do that, and I’m sure Ruby would agree with me.
I was a junkie five years ago, and if it weren’t for this kid right here, I’d be dead. But he pulled me out of that rut. And it all correlates to the whole dying-before-30 thing because we literally made a blood pact and were like, “We’re gonna make this happen by any means necessary. We’re not giving up on one another.” We stuck to it and that was the hardest I ever worked in my life, just coming up when we started.
R: That was the best part of all of this man. The come-up years, you’re like, “I want more. I want more. I want more.” And then when you get more you’re like, “Damn. Those years are probably the best years.”
S: They were the best, man.