Montreal's Skiifall Isn't Finished Surprising You – Complex

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Kyle is a New Brunswick-born music journalist who's interviewed everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Brian Wilson.
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Skiifall stands on the back of a pickup truck, surrounded by both his squad and snow flurries, and proudly raps in his motherland’s Caribbean accent. 
This is one of many powerful scenes in his new music video for “Bloodclarrt Business.” Skiifall’s nimble mix of both his Saint Vincent island roots and scenes from his adoptive Montreal give the MC a singular sound and look in such videos. He also brought his distinctive flow to recent single “Break of Dawn” with star Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD, his breakout 2021 song “Ting Tun Up, Pt. II” with UK grime powerhouse MC Knucks, and a trio of songs he released this summer under the title WOIIYOIE TAPES Vol. 1
Those successes are made all the more meaningful because his heritage was often a point of contention when he first moved to Canada. He sadly encountered that sentiment again among closed-minded listeners at the outset of his swiftly ascending career.
“Some people are like, ‘Oh what the hell is this, what language is he speaking?’” Skiifall tells Complex Canada about the occasional ignorant response to his faithfully Saint Vincent-accented raps, even as he hooks myriad listeners with his universally rhythmic flow. Of the naysayers, Skiifall says: “If they can’t see that it’s fire, then they aren’t exposed to as much as they should be. I never expected to make music like this, but it is what it is and I’m really grateful to share with people, and get better at it while making it.”
Speaking of improvement: Skiifall has a surprising strategy for the next phase of his career, the preparation for which caused a slight delay at the beginning of our phone interview. Below, he tells us more about those curveball plans, the importance of repping both the Caribbean and Montreal, what it was like to have “Ting Tun Up Pt. II” blow up in the UK’s Caribbean community, how his producer YAMA//SATO is a studio sage, and more.  
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Hi Skiifall!
Sorry I missed your call at first. Since I put “Bloodclarrt Business” out my phone has been blowing up. So I had it shut off during my vocal lesson. Didn’t want to interrupt my coach. 
Why are you working with a vocal coach? To improve your breathing for stage stamina?
That’s part of it. But I also love to sing. So I’ve been going for lessons once a week, to make my voice better, and include a bunch of singing on my album that’s coming out in the future. 
As an acclaimed rapper, singing is an interesting next step. Who inspires you to do both?
Drake and Kanye. They aren’t Adele or Rihanna level. But they have smooth voices to get off very effective melodies. I’ve been singing way before I even started rapping. I just started getting better as a rapper after a couple of years. When I go onstage, I have a comfort with what I’m singing. I want to strengthen those muscles so I can perform better and sing better in the studio. 
“I want to treat my music like an apple tree—taking from many places, and mashing everything together. That doesn’t only include Saint Vincent sounds, but visuals from my home of Montreal.”
Many of your collaborators are equally well rounded, especially BADBADNOTGOOD. 
Yeah. I toured with them in Canada. And they were so thrilled by how I performed on the nights I came out and did my thing. They told me they wanted me to come on the rest of their tour [in the U.S.]. And I said “Why not?” 
It was super dope to make a song with them. I pulled up at the studio and showed them this old reggae song that YAMA and I wanted to sample. BADBADNOTGOOD just replayed the chords, and YAMA put it all together. It gives you that ’80s, dub reverb vibe, which will be new to some listeners. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had, especially seeing just how many instruments BADBADNOTGOOD can play, and how great they are at what they do.
Tell us more about that “’80s dub reverb vibe,” and introducing your Caribbean heritage to fans who might otherwise be unfamiliar.
I want to treat my music like an apple tree—taking from many places, and mashing everything together. That doesn’t only include Saint Vincent sounds, but visuals from my home of Montreal. No one likes to shoot here, and would rather leave for L.A. or Paris or somewhere, then come back to Montreal to show their video off. But I love this city so much that I wanted to show it off, and do it more and more and share it with the world. Maybe people in Montreal will recognize some of the settings, but the world hasn’t seen it yet. So part of what I’m doing is giving a POV of Montreal, and Island sounds, all mixed together. 
And a big part of your audience hearing that is from the UK, who wouldn’t be very familiar with Montreal. What has it been like to unconventionally break out there?  
Ever since I started, I knew I’d get somewhere, but wasn’t exactly sure when. As soon as I made “Ting Tun Up” I knew my life would change. So, when things happen right now it feels like it was supposed to happen. I’m excited, but I just don’t show it in many ways. When I drop a song, I want to go out to a club and have a few drinks with friends, and have a good time. I don’t see it as a major success, I just take it all in and tell myself I have to put in more work to truly feel like I’m succeeding. 
What does truly succeeding mean to you?
When I can buy my mom a house, and buy a nice place for my grandma back in Saint Vincent. And win a Grammy or award of some sort, just to look at it and tell myself, “I really did this, and people are seeing it, and I won because I put in work for it.” I have so much more success to gain. 
What does your grandma think about your musical successes? 
She’s very excited. She doesn’t know too much, because she’s there in Saint Vincent. My cousins show her videos, and she sees stuff. But I haven’t gone back to spend time with her, and explain to her everything that’s going on. I tell her a few things, but mostly just let my cousins tell her. Because when the day comes that I surprise her with a home, I will feel so great about myself and happy to be able to do that for her. She raised me from a young age. I know she’s very proud, because I was always her favorite. It’ll be pretty dope to be able to provide for her. 
I’ve read you moved away from your grandma in Saint Vincent to Canada at eight years old, then struggled with culture shock, and people fixating on your accent. What’s it like to proudly rap in that accent now for so many listeners? 
I always talked to my mom at home like that. So the accent just stuck with me. Back then, it was too strong, so I had to filter it with friends, because my mom would be mad and say, “You have to learn how to speak proper.” She just wanted me to adapt to where I was living. 
“I try my best to do everything tastefully. I don’t want to put anything out that’s not good enough for myself to listen to.”
I understand most, but frankly not all, of the lines in your songs. Yet when I heard them, they sounded exciting and made me curious for more. Tell us about sparking that kind of excitement in the UK.
The Caribbean communities there are as big as here in Canada. My whole high school would be filled with Caribbean kids, but they wouldn’t want to speak that way because they didn’t feel it was swag enough. I would only have friends who came from Haiti that would talk that way. We felt like we were outsiders. So for me to have fans in London is amazing. Some people feel attacked in a way, asking why I rap that way when I’m not from London. But all the Caribbean people that came to Montreal and went to Nova Scotia or Toronto, we all talk like this, and have the same lingo but different ways of expressing it. Some people love it, some don’t, but those that do understand it know why I rap the way I rap. And some people will need to do their research to understand what it is.
For people that are new to it and curious, and excited about it—I think that’s dope. Because, when I turn on my Spotify and go on these rap playlists, it’s all the same thing. For listeners that are just looking for something new to hear, I want them to finally find it with me. I’ll read the comments sometimes, and I’m glad to see I’m bringing that to people. 
How is your producer, YAMA//SATO, the right partner for that goal? 
I go behind the mic and say whatever comes off the top of my mind. I’ll have to go back and write my lyrics after being in the zone and doing it on the spot. Then he’ll mix it on the spot. That’s what’s been working so well. We work very fast on music. Most of the time I will go in the studio not knowing what I want to talk about, and I’ll get tuned in to create some magic. 
That’s the beauty about working with YAMA. He’s not only a producer, but also an engineer. So unlike other artists, I don’t need a bunch of people. I can just tell him what I want to hear, how I want this switch up to sound or that beat to change. We’re very collaborative—it’s almost as if I’m executive producing my tracks. 
And I don’t need to go home with a shitty mix—YAMA and I can record a song within five hours, and I’ll bring it home as a rough mix, that he mixed well enough for me to almost be able to put out then and there. It’ll already sound amazing, and I’ll just need him to mix it once more to make it sound cleaner. I trust him a lot. I’m very precise about what I want and what I’m doing. 
Speaking of collaborations: what was it like working with Knucks, one of the UK’s top MCs?
When I put “Ting Tun Up,” out, I had the idea of doing a part two. I didn’t want to do a remix or switch up a bunch of shit. I just wanted to have someone else on it, and they do their thing. What Knucks brought to the table, no one else could have done it. He wasn’t just the best person to hop on that track—he also brought Venna, this amazing sax player, who laid down that sound. I was so impressed by that, and never would have thought of it. We’ll put out more music together in the future. Because he’s the most talented, coolest guy ever. 
So you’ll put out more music with him, and other artists, soon? Can we expect an album before long?
I’m definitely putting out more music this year. I’m always working on music, finding the best way to put out more, and to always make a big impact. I’ll definitely put out more videos as well. I try my best to do everything tastefully. I don’t want to put anything out that’s not good enough for myself to listen to. 
Hence the vocal lessons.
Exactly. And yes, I’ll definitely sing on the new releases. 
Lastly, is your name a reference to the James Bond movie Skyfall? And if so, how do you feel about Daniel Craig moving on?
I’m a huge action movie fan. For my video “Bentayga Dust,” I wasn’t just channeling that, but also my love of luxury, fashion, and cars. That’s why I got a particular car for the cover art of WOIIYOIE TAPES Vol. 1. When I was very young, I had this picture of a 1989 Benz, and I knew I had to get the same car for my tape. That’s the kind of image I want to channel. 
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