Skip Waiters is putting himself out there. An experimental indie artist with a passion for music who wants to unpack years of trauma, the Toronto native sets himself apart by mining from personal pain to unearth universal truths.

Allowing himself to be vulnerable, Skip opens up about past experiences with honesty and uses his platform to talk about issues he cares about, like mental health and racial injustice.

In a sonic landscape where trap and drill are ubiquitous, Skip is a breath of fresh air. More at home in abstract circles, his deft wordplay takes conventional hip-hop tropes and flips them on their head.

A proponent of therapy, Skip modelled his new song, “Conversations,” after real-life conversations with his own therapist.

Waiters always sought out art as a way of release. After getting heartbroken in the ninth grade, a young Skip  got into poetry. “That kickstarted the whole music-thing,” he says. “At that time, I was hurting, and I wanted to try whatever I could do to minimize the pain…. Once it felt like I was getting a release from that, I just kept writing since Grade 9 and never stopped.”

The music came a little after that.

In conversation with Complex Canada, Skip opens up about his feelings about music and mental health.

How would you describe your music?
I would say it’s a bit on the alternative, experimental side. I try to stay as innovative as possible. I’m not the kind of artist to follow trends.

Who would you say are your influences?
I’m a big fan of Pharell, I’m a big fan of Kanye West, I’m a big fan of Frank Ocean, a big fan of  Tyler the Creator, Kendrick Lamar, and I guess Kid Cudi as well.

What about those artists speak to you?
I think, for me, all these artists I mentioned have a cult following. They got to where they got to by not following trends or following the mould. They did their own thing and danced to the beat of their own drum. They pushed the boundaries. Every project they put out doesn’t sound like the last one they did. That kind of thing excites me. That kind of thing inspires me to want to challenge myself musically.

“I wish mental health was affordable. I wish mental health was covered by our Canadian health insurance for everybody. I think having the opportunity to go to therapy isn’t a privilege for most.”

What does this upcoming project, Compact Disc, mean to you?
The theme based around Compact Disc is therapy. Everything that’s been talked about on that EP is catered toward my personal life in conversation with a therapist. Every song is heartfelt, genuine, personal, and uncomfortable.

You talk about, or at least reference, the online world a lot in your music. You even named a previous project Myspace. Are you someone who is very online?
I would say so. Online takes up the majority of my time. I have the privilege of being born in the era where the internet didn’t exist but then took over. Everything that we do now is based on the Internet and the online world.

Before you had to hand out CDs and go on the road to market your music. Now you can get everything from the comfort of your own home. I’m trying to stay with the times.

What are your thoughts on virtual reality and Facebook’s Metaverse?
I think it’s interesting. I think it’s necessary. I’m someone who definitely believes in growth and evolving. But I think it can have its cons as well. Looking at the Internet itself, depression rates have gone up. Suicide rates have gone up. It can be dangerous in that aspect where we’ll be so removed from reality that we don’t know how to operate. At the same time, if there’s balance, I think it could be a cool experience.

How has music acted as a personal release for you?
I’m a very introverted person to be honest. I don’t like to really talk to people about my problems too often. But I find within music I am able to get that release. I’m able to get out that expression. And I think for me, music is a very necessary thing in my life. If I never had that in my life, I personally don’t really see the point in living. That sounds kind of dark [laughs] but it’s very important to me. It’s helped me cope.

This project deals with themes of mental health, talking about anxiety, negative self-talk, and healing trauma. As mental health becomes more normalized, what is something you wish was more talked about?
I wish mental health was affordable. I wish mental health was covered by our Canadian health insurance for everybody. I think having the opportunity to go to therapy isn’t a privilege for most. I think that needs to be addressed.

I wish mental health was talked about more often than not, especially in the Black community. If I were to suggest to my own family members to go to therapy, they would get offended at that. They would take that as an attack on them. But I think it’s something necessary for growth. I think it’s necessary to get to that next level as a human being. We all come from childhood traumas and abuse. We’re never taught how to deal with that.

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
I would say learn to love yourself. I think a common thing in my growing up was trying to find love from other people besides myself. Growing up, I wasn’t always the favorable person in my family. I was bullied a lot. I was compared to my siblings a lot. A lot of my life had to do with trying to prove myself.

If I told myself how my future would look now, I would definitely encourage myself to take more time for myself and don’t listen to the opinions of people at school, or the opinions of people in your family because when you go past a certain age those things don’t matter at a certain point.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Being in touch with your emotions is important. Being okay to cry is super important. Not feeling like you have to be cool all the time, and learning to be yourself is super important. Everything I’m doing in music is to showcase myself to the younger generation. To let them know, it’s OK to be yourself and to want to be self-aware and grow as an individual.