At the end of 2020, Ski Mask the Slump God knew he needed to take a step back.
A year and a half after the murder of his long-time friend XXXTentacion, tragedy struck again when another close collaborator, Juice WRLD, died in December 2019. “After everything that happened with both of my friends, Jah and Juice, it was natural for me to kick out a little hiatus,” he says now. “I needed some time to think, because I went through a lot.”
The 24-year-old Florida rapper retreated from the public eye, but he didn’t stop making music. In March, he gave fans a quick update on Twitter: “So much new music. Been inspired by how artists are making being a genuine creative without gimmicks the standard for musical respect again.” Holed up in the studio, he experimented with melody and says he had the most fun making “alternative songs” that people might not expect from him. Fans of his aggressive SoundCloud rap classics like “Take a Step Back” shouldn’t worry, though. “I still love making yell songs with heavy distorted beats and shit like that, too,” he clarifies.
Ski Mask reemerged on Friday with his first release of 2020, “Burn the Hoods.” Centered around politically-charged lyrics like, “Fuck my president Donald Trump,” the song is accompanied by a Cole Bennett-directed music video that depicts imagery of the KKK and burning Confederate flags. “I don’t like white supremacists,” he says.
Returning from hiatus, it’s clear he has a lot to say.
Ski Mask reveals that he originally wanted to call the song “Fuck Donald Trump” until he learned of the very real possibility that the president would try to shut it down. The song itself is a raucous affair that gets political, without losing any the fun, off-the-wall sensibilities we’ve grown to expect from Ski Mask. Sure, he makes a point of saying “America sucks,” but he also leaves room for over-the-top Ratatouille, Starsky & Hutch, and Blue’s Clues references.
An hour before the music video hit Cole Bennett’s Lyrical Lemonade YouTube channel, Ski Mask hopped on the phone with Complex to discuss everything going on in his world right now. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
Can you tell me about the making of “Burn the Hoods”?
The song was supposed to be called “Fuck Donald Trump” at first. I wanted to show people my views and how I feel, while also keeping it playful and fun. It's touching on the fact that I don’t like white supremacists and things of that nature. And I don’t support Donald Trump either.
How did it change from “Fuck Donald Trump” to “Burn the Hoods”?
I heard Donald Trump’s PR and his people are really good at taking things down whenever it involves his name directly. He has people that pay attention and try to get it taken down. So I just turned it into “Burn the Hoods” to make a statement, like, burn the KKK hoods. I knew it would sound weird, but when people watched it, I knew they would understand the whole term of it.
Why did you want to put out a political song like this right now?
I mean, it’s kind of political, but it’s also staying on the fun side, because I didn’t get too deep into anything political. I kept it similar to what people are used to from me.
“After everything that happened with both of my friends, Jah and Juice, it was natural for me to just kick out a little hiatus. I feel like I needed it, too. I needed some time to think, because I went through a lot.”
Why do you think the timing is right to release this song?
I feel like there’s no better time than now. Honestly, I feel like artists touched on this subject a lot before things were this crazy, and they just never got noticed. I wanted my fans hear me using my voice and my platform to say something. I wanted to show how I feel and that I’m not afraid of voicing that. And I wanted to show my fans not to be scared to voice their opinions about what they think is wrong.
You filmed a music video for this with Cole Bennett. How would you describe the concept?
There are a lot of concepts behind it, but the main one was that it was just going to be us beating up the KKK. [Laughs]. Like, in any sort of form. I really had an idea to Mortal Kombat bicycle kick one the KKK people, because we have the whole thing set up for me to fly. But it didn’t happen like that, so I just got to punch them with the thing that they strapped to my body as I flew in the air. There were a whole bunch of concepts for it, but mainly just beating up the KKK.
What’s the main thing you want people to take away from the video?
Just seeing somebody in the entertainment business who is not scared to voice their opinion. I hope it’ll feel like a breath of fresh air, and people can be, like, “Yeah, I also agree with this, and he’s actually saying something on a big platform.” And just still keeping it funny and keeping it bouncy and keeping it something you can dance to.
This is the first new music you’ve put out this year. Why did you decide to take a break?
I think it goes without saying, after everything that happened with both of my friends, Jah and Juice, it was natural for me to just kick out a little hiatus. I feel like I needed it, too. I needed some time to think, because I went through a lot. And with how the world is right now, it didn’t help at all. So I had to take a little break, get back into the lab, and just lock myself in. I’m still in the process of it. This is just the beginning. I have so much more to put out, even for this year.
Are you thinking of “Burn the Hoods” as a single for an album? Or is this just a song you’re putting out by itself?
This is just a single. I might add it to the album, or I might not. But I'm definitely dropping a whole bunch of stuff other than that this year.
It sounds like you’ve been in the studio a lot. What kind of music are you enjoying making right now?
Hell, yeah. I have been in the studio a lot lately, but I’m planning on putting myself in there even more than I have already. I’ve been having fun making alternative songs. Like, songs that people wouldn’t even normally think I would be doing. [If you heard it] you would ask, like, “Who is this?” And you would be like, “Oh, damn, that’s Ski, for real?” I have fun making those type of songs. But then, don’t get me wrong. What people also know me for is rage songs and shit like that. I still love making yell songs with heavy distorted beats and shit like that, too. I guess just expect a little bit of everything.
“I’m okay. I see a lot of questions that my fans ask, like, ‘Are you okay? Because you just lost Juice and Jah and everything.’ I want them to know that I appreciate it.”
I liked how you were experimenting a little bit with singing on the last album. Are you still trying more melodic stuff?
I feel like I’ve done it way better now. I feel like that was just putting something out to breach the first barrier of me trying the alternative thing. But now I’m getting better and more comfortable.
What else should people be looking out from you this year?After this video comes out, I know I’m going to go shoot a video with Cordae, then I’m going to go shoot another video. So just expect a lot of things from me this year, especially video-wise and stuff like that. And then I’m going to be in the studio a lot. I’m going to be dropping a good amount.
What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you right now?
The most important thing for people to know about me is that I’m okay. I see a lot of questions that my fans ask, like, “Are you okay? Because you just lost Juice and Jah and everything.” I want them to know that I appreciate it. This is a really—I don’t want to say a tough time, because a lot of people are going through way worse in the world, especially right now. I guess it’s a good thing right now, because I’m productive enough to keep my brain busy, and I’ve dealt with the hardships along with the music. So I guess I could just say that my situation is getting better. I feel like I can make the music that I want to, now that I’ve gotten through the hiatus.
Before you go, is there anything else you want people to know about “Burn the Hoods”?
Don’t have any expectations. Just go into with a free, fun mind. Just enjoy it, because I have so much more coming. I don’t want them to think, “Oh, he’s just going to go on another long hiatus now.” Don't worry. I’m very close to dropping something else soon.