INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis rapper and music producer Skypp is releasing a new album called King of Indiana. The 29-year-old from the east side of Indianapolis writes, produces, and performs songs in a Speedway studio and aims to be a voice of reason in the streets.
Right now, he's hustling to get the message in his music out to a wider audience and promote the popular genre.
"I just want to let people know that the hip-hop scene in Indianapolis is here, it is thriving. We are working our tails off," Skypp said.
Typically, the artists in Indiana and the Midwest come together each summer for CHREECE ("Cheers" and "Peace") Festival, a music event created in 2015 to unite and feature hip-hop acts. But the pandemic canceled the festival in 2020 and the future of 2021 is uncertain.
Still, Hip Hop remains hot and artists are actively self-marketing and creating new works. Skypp has toured with Babyface; was a guest on Hot Sessions with B Swift at Hot 96.3; and IndyGo featured his face as a community artist on its new Red Line busses.
Longtime Indianapolis music critic David Lindquist has tracked Skypp's career over the years.
"Skypp is someone who can point to a top 15 sales on iTunes...that's a tangible way to look at someone's success, and he's certainly in the top tier of acts in town," Lindquist said.
Skypp, whose birth name is Byron Horton, graduated from Warren Central High School and remembers writing rhymes in the sixth grade. At first, he dreamed of being a chart-topping music star, but as he's matured, he's focused more on using his music to positively relate, engage, lead and unite fellow hip-hop artists and his audience.
He said he was raised in a low-income neighborhood where he saw a lot of people fall victim to violence.
"Everybody just wants to be the toughest person, they want to make sure nobody messes with them," he said. "They want to have the reputation of not being soft. So that's the ego part...and violence is the result of that ego."
But when it comes to being a bigger man, Skypp said that means it's OK to not be the toughest guy in the world.
"It's OK not to be the gangster guy in the world, It's OK, you don't have to be that guy."
When it comes to being the Best You, Skypp said he learned how to do that from his mom.
"Be positive, be kind, be loving."
Lindquist said Skypp fills a unique role in the Indianapolis music scene.
"If you've listened to Skypp over the years, there's an evolution. There's a lot of value in what's said in his music. It's interesting in the hip-hop community — there are artists who definitely want to say, 'Oh, I'm aligned with the quote-unquote streets,' and there are others who say, 'I'm not aligned with the streets," Lindquist said. "And sometimes there's friction between those two styles. Skypp is someone who relates to both sides"
Skypp has made nearly nine solo albums in the past decade — most of them clean.
"I did it for so long without cursing and...I just felt like, emotionally, I wanted to say things that I wasn't able to say. Sometimes you just got to say something a certain way to get it across," Skypp said.
His latest album, King of Indiana, is out this week featuring 14 songs and six skits. He said his latest work is about striving to get to the top, becoming the king, and realizing it's not easy or desirable. More important, he suggests, is encouraging others, lifting each other up, and listening with a goal of understanding.