An Animated Conversation With Scar Lip, the Spirit of the Bronx
Scar Lip, one of the most energetic artists coming out of New York, talks about getting advice from 50 Cent, working with Swizz Beatz, and more.
Image via Publicist
New York is in the midst of a rap renaissance, with several subgenres dominating the city, and Scar Lip is here to restore the gritty gangster rap feeling.
The 22-year-old Bronx rapper embodies her borough and reflects her past experiences. When it comes to her stage name, Scar Lip shares that she landed on it after being assaulted by her brother when she was young; the incident left a gash on the left side of her upper lip. Despite the traumatic experience leaving a permanent mark on her face, Scar embraced it and made it a part of her rap persona.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to own this. I’m going to turn my pain into my power,’” she tells Complex. “If I call myself Scar Lip, anything somebody says about me can’t affect me and they can’t say anything about me because this is who I am. And now it’s my scar. My scar is my brand. I just turned my pain into my glory.”
Beyond her recognizable brand, Scar has a special lyrical ability that reflects the New York legends she’s inspired by, including DMX, 50 Cent, and Busta Rhymes. After getting into spoken word when she was young, Scar Lip eventually picked up rap in 2018 and started taking it seriously, leading up to the release of her 2022 track “Glizzy Gobbler,” which took YouTube by storm. As the name suggests and she made clear to us, Scar isn’t rapping about hot dog lovers, but “dick-eaters.”
“So I’m like, ‘How am I going to catch these people’s attention and spit them hard bars so niggas know I can rap,’” she recalls. “So I just started picking up some items. I started picking up glizzies, I started picking up noodles, and some nuts. I was just like, ‘What could the hood relate to?’ And they were fucking with that shit because it was funny.”
Scar used the viral success of “Glizzy Gobbler” to push her next massive song, “This Is New York,” which distills the chaotic and volatile energy of the city into its bombastic hook, “Back the fuck up/Get the fuck back.” The song was only released a few weeks ago and already has 1 million views on YouTube, garnering the attention of New York rap legends like Busta Rhymes, who linked up with Scar shortly after and teased a remix to the song with her.
“One thing I can say is Busta is a big help and a big support for me,” Scar says. “He’s like a mentor to me. And he always gives me advice to stay who I am, stay authentic, don’t change for nobody, and to be consistent in my music.”
Busta isn’t the only legacy New York rapper that has reached out to the rising Bronx artist. Scar beamed when talking about meeting 50 Cent and gaining gems from him over dinner, and she has also connected with Swizz Beatz, appearing on his latest project, Hip Hop 50: Vol 2, alongside Benny the Butcher and Jadakiss.
“I’m not a drill rapper, I’m an artist; that’s a box.”
Even with all the viral success thus far, Scar Lip is far from finished. She has aspirations of becoming a “legend” in all facets, which to her, includes getting a Diamond record, winning a Grammy, eventually tapping into television, and more.
We sat down with Scar Lip to talk about how she plans to take New York City by storm.
The interview, lightly edited, and condensed for clarity, is below.
When and how did you get started doing spoken word and slam poetry?
I’ve been doing poetry since I was a little girl. Poetry is like an expression to me. And I’ve always written raps, but I never actually posted them. My first time ever posting a rap video was in 2018. And it went viral in 2018 or 2019. I did a rap, a regular rap, not even a poem.
I saw your reaction to Cardi B reposting your recent post. What did that mean to you as a Bronx artist, and where do you hope that relationship will go?
It was like my dreams came true, because Cardi B from the Bronx. And I’m from the Bronx and she made it so when you from the Bronx, you are going to look up to her. She made it happen for us. Now she’s opening the door to make it happen for us.
So that shit was crazy. It was really a dream come true. Every day I work, every day I post my events, every day I grind and I finally see some results. For all the upcoming artists, they know how it is when we finally get that little taste of just recognition. Once we get that recognition, we go beast mode.
And I saw a lot of artists like Lola Brooke and Fabolous were in the comments congratulating you on that look as well.
Because as artists, do you know how long it took for me just to get recognition? Us artists grind and grind and sometimes people don’t share our music, sometimes people don’t recognize us, sometimes people don’t support us and it’s just us. Sometimes even our own family doesn’t support us. So imagine you are an artist just trying to get on, you ain’t got no support, you just trying to get it off the muscle. I think every artist felt me.
Every artist that’s been grinding felt that moment. So it’s like not only I won that moment, but every other artist won. If Cardi doesn’t ever do a song with me in my life, that share was enough for me. She changed my life just off that little repost she did. That was a feature, fuck you talking about.
I feel like you’re a fusion of 50 Cent-style Gangsta New York rapper and BX drill, though. How would you describe your sound?
I’m just an artist. I feel like my sound is just hardcore aggression. I am aggressive. Like my music is just [aggressive], but I could get soft too, feel me? I just think I’m very versatile. I can’t really put a name on it. I’m not a drill rapper, I’m an artist; that’s a box.
How did you come up with “Glizzy Gobbler?” What about the music video?
So I’ve been rapping for a minute. And I was just like, “Yo, I need to switch some shit up. I need to catch these people’s attention.” So I’m like, “How am I going to catch these people’s attention and spit them hard bars so niggas know I can rap.” So I just started picking up some items. I started picking up glizzies, I started picking up noodles, and some nuts. I was just like, “What could the hood relate to?” And they were fucking with that shit because it was funny.
You know every video you make, it’s like a 5-second rule. You got to catch the attention or else they’re just going to skip that shit or they are not going to watch it. So that’s why I did it like that. And that shit worked. “You see how me and this glizzy munching, I chew it until I got it in me.”
So, what is a “Glizzy Gobbler?”
So when it comes to Glizzy Gobbler, what I mean by Glizzy Gobbler, she’s a dick eater. They dick-eating. So they Glizzy Gobblers, they chewing glizzies, you feel me?
So we aren’t talking about actual hot dogs here.
Nah, I like franks. I be eating them a lot.
“This is New York” is much grittier than “Glizzy Gobbler.” How did that track come together and how did you put the raw NY energy in the song?
Yo son, I’ll make up mad music. And then I was just like, “Yo, I have always been inspired by DMX.” So I’m like, “Yo, I need to bring some hard shit to the table.” I was like, I ain’t tap into that lately. And then I was just already mad because I’m like, “His niggas just doing boss shit and shit like that.” So I was just like, God got in the booth, I was just like, “Something make me want to tell a nigga, back the fuck up.”
Something just make me want to grab a nigga up. And that’s what I do to niggas. I grab their little ass up. So I had to let these niggas know, they always in your face playing with you, “Back the fuck up.” And then I started talking that shit, “This is New York,” ‘cause that’s where I’m from.
You have a unique voice too. What makes you lean into it?
I have multiple voices. I’ve always done that. It’s just not released. I have multiple characters, I have multiple personalities, multiple alter egos in my music. It was just like, I don’t drop a lot. I wasn’t dropping a lot of music.
I know you linked up with Busta Rhymes for a “This Is New York” remix. What advice did he give you as an up-and-coming artist?
One thing I can say is Busta is a big help and a big support for me. He’s like a mentor to me. And he always gives me advice to stay who I am, stay authentic, don’t change for nobody, and to be consistent in my music. He always gives me pointers. Like when I first went into the studio with Busta Rhymes, I was very nervous. I was nervous because we were laying down tracks, we got more than one.
And I feel like I was too nervous about, “I got to get them bars right. I gotta make it sound good for him because this is a legend,” you feel me? And he was just like, “Scar, just chill, just vibe. We good. We got this.” But yeah, he’s just a good support for me. I ain’t going to lie.
How would you describe the state of the New York rap scene right now?
We are bringing this shit back. No, I’m joking. I don’t know. There are multiple talents, and multiple genres. Everybody always asks me how I feel about this kind of rap or that type of rap. It’s an expression. These people express themselves. Not everybody’s going to express themselves in an old-school way. Not everybody will go and express themselves in a new school way. Artists bring different vibes to the table, and different flows. That’s why when you see an artist, they stand out because they’re unique, right?
Where do you think New York ranks amongst the best cities in rap right now? Where does it stack up next to a city like Atlanta?
I feel like New York is starting to get the sound back. I feel as though like, I hear a lot of people say New York had this type of flow, that type of flow. But I say, “Man, y’all just ain’t tapping into the artist that’s grinding underground.” There are multiple artists out here that’s really got that sound that y’all just aren’t tapping into. They be saying, “No, New York sounds like this, like that.” Y’all just got to do the groundwork and shit. At the end of the day, we just got to work hard. At the end of the day, us New York rappers, we just got to work hard so that these people can know who we are.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about you? What do people get wrong?
They probably just think I’m just a mean person. They think I’m just some aggressive woman. I am aggressive, but I still have a heart. I still want to be loved and hugged and nurtured by a strong little man. I’m just an aggressive woman because all my life I’ve had to survive and fight, so I come off like that because niggas ain’t going to play with me. But at the end of the day, I’m a nice person. So probably that.
I know there’s an unfortunate story behind your stage name. How did you reclaim such a negative experience and turn it into something empowering for you as an artist?
So growing up as a little Black girl, especially in the system, having this scar on my lip, people used to tease me, make fun of me, bully me. Say, “Ew, what’s that on her lip? Does she have herpes?” They would say I’m infected. And growing up it made me feel very insecure about myself looking in the mirror. I was just angry. I was like, “Yo, I’m ugly.” I thought I was ugly because everybody told me and because of how my lip was. And I’m just like, as I grow older and grow older, it’s either you’re going to become your trauma or you’re going to heal and you’re going to just own it.
So I was like, “I’m going to own this. I’m going to turn my pain into my power.” And I said like, my name’s Scar Lip. So if I call myself Scar Lip, anything somebody says about me can’t affect me and they can’t say anything about me because this is who I am. And now it’s my scar. My scar is my brand. I just turned my pain into my glory.
I think what makes you unique is the emotion in all of your verses. Does rap feel like therapy to you?
Yeah, my poetry especially, I use my poetry. When I’m sad I make music, when I’m happy, when I’m upset. But that angry shit, that’s “This is New York.” I was angry. So every time I’m mad, I go to music. I even listen to other people sometimes. Like Billie Eilish, she helped me in my depression stages.
Where does that strength to persevere come from?
I think faith, hope, and God, because what else could it be, you know what I mean? I just have faith in myself. I got hope. And when you come from the foster care system, when you come from being one of those kids that were counted out and you get a shot, that’s all you really need is that shot. You’re just going to keep going, grinding, because that’s all you got. Music is all I got for real.
“I’m just an aggressive woman because all my life I’ve had to survive and fight, so I come off like that because niggas ain’t going to play with me.”
You said that you have an estranged relationship with your family. Have any of them reached out to you since you became more successful?
All those years I was in the system, all those years I was in foster care, my family didn’t call me, they didn’t reach out to me, they didn’t try to help me, they didn’t try to make my situation better. Now that I’m popping, now that they see all these celebrities reposting me, Cardi B reposting me, they see my song going up the charts. Now, all of my family want to come around. They’re like, “Yo, remember I was there for you?” One of my uncles called me, and he was like, “Yo, remember I was the one that taught you how to rap? Oh, you’re going to leave your family like this? You can’t forget where you came from.”
Y’all weren’t there for me when I was in the system, but now y’all want to be trying to step into my life. Why weren’t you there for me when I was a little kid?
Well, you’ve been getting love from everyone else. Who’s been the most surprising OG that’s reached out to you so far?
Shaquille O’Neal, Shaq. You know me and Shaq got a song out, right? Well, it’s our freestyle song we got out. It’s me, Shaq, and some girl named Lex, she’s really talented. But Shaq was the most surprising ever. Like I’m a rapper, he’s a whole [NBA legend].
He sent me a video, everything, just saying how it’s time for me to take over. Yo, Shaq told me, “Scar, keep spitting that hard shit. It’s time for you to take over New York.”
Another OG that I know you’ve been in contact with is Swizz Beatz. How did that relationship come together?
So one day, I saw that Swizz Beatz shared my video. It was one of my spoken words. And you know me, I’m an upcoming artist, so if I get an opportunity, I’m going to take it.
I saw him post me, and I slid up in his DMs and I was like, “Swizz, thank you so much for reposting me. I know that you used to produce for DMX. DMX was my biggest inspiration. Could we work?” And then Swizz Beatz was like, “I love what you’re doing, but keep working.” And I was like, “All right, I’m going to keep working. I’m going to keep working.” Not even four days go by, Swizz Beatz texted me, “We need to work.” I shouted for joy.
“Shaq told me, ‘Scar, keep spitting that hard shit. It’s time for you to take over New York.’”
And that would eventually culminate in you rapping on his last project with Benny the Butcher and Jadakiss. What was it like getting on a track with them, and spitting behind a sample of DMX adlibs?
Well, that experience was very stressful because I got notified at the last minute. Swizz’s album was already scheduled to be released. But Swizz was like, “I got to have you on it.” So I was under a time limit and I was just like, last minute, I’m like, “Oh my God, I have to go up against Benny the Butcher and Jadakiss. How the fuck am I going to do that?”
I had to come hard because they can rap. Mind you, the same day I had to do two radio shows, two record label meetings, and a booking that night. So after I finished with my booking, it was like 2 a.m., I had to run to the studio and I didn’t get out of the studio until 8 a.m. and I sent Swizz the track around 6 [a.m.] I only had three hours to write. Imagine that much pressure.
And you showed up. It’s crazy that you say that because that verse sounds polished.
Yo son, it was crazy, like that day when I did the song with them, I was in the studio, right, and I was sitting down on the floor and I was just like, “Oh my God, what am I going to write? What am I going to write?” And the next thing you know, minutes go by, then I just start seeing words appear. I swear to God. I work really well under pressure.
“Busta is a big help and a big support for me. He’s like a mentor to me.”
What are your aspirations in music?
Well, music is just one part of my life. I want to be a legend. I think I’m doing legendary things. I want to sell millions and millions of records. I want to go Diamond, Platinum. I want to win Grammys. I want to get into acting, I want to be into modeling. If I get sponsored by Pepsi, come on. Do some NBA sponsors. Shaq, what’s popping? I want to do everything under the sun.
What gems did 50 Cent share with you when you met?
50 is somebody I look up to business-wise. I feel like he’s a genius. I want to make a movie about my life and I want 50 to direct it. So when I sat next to 50 and he was talking to me, I was kind of in my own zone. I’m sitting across the table from 50 and we were talking for a whole hour. And I can’t even really comprehend what he was saying because I’m just like, “Yo, I’m next to 50 Cent.”
But he said something I remember. I asked him, “50 Cent, how does it feel to be you?” He said, “Well, I worked very hard to be where I’m at.” And then I said, “I’m so inspired by your story. It really inspires me. Get rich or die trying.” And then that’s when he was like, “That’s your story now.” That’s all I needed. He was giving me tips, and pointers on what to do with my new song, “This is New York,” how to promote it, how to go about it. He was just supporting me.
What’s next for you?
I’m here to stay. I’m here for the long run. The music is endless. I got like 20 hits sitting, waiting to burst out. Y’all going to get everything y’all want and more. I want to say thank you to all the DJs that’ve been supporting me. Everybody that’s been in higher positions just sprinkling their little blessings down on me. I really appreciate it, I’m very grateful. That shit’s helping me climb my way.