Lucas Paul Scibetta is the epitomy of a young teenager who is doing all he can to make things happen for himself.
For awhile, he was just like every other youth in Hong Kong. But there were a few differences. The American had lived in several cities around the world by the time he arrived in this part of Asia. Here, as another third culture kid, he’d been infected by the rap bug (you’ll see the details down below) and believed he had the skills to set himself apart from his classmates. After incessantly practicing, he ended up meeting people who could help further his talents. Then, a couple years ago, Skibs, as he is known professionally, literally became a local YouTube sensation of sorts after releasing the explicit video for “Hong Kong Kids”, an ode to teenagers living the good life in the city.
From there, private shows and a fashion tie-ins beckoned. Several innovative and cheeky East-meets-West styled videos have also caught the eye of producers overseas. And early in December, the 18 year old will make his main stage debut at the inaugural BloHK Party event in Hong Kong, where it’s possible that headliner Pharrell Williams will recognize his budding talent. In the meantime, he continues to write rhymes and practicing his rapping, even going so far as to present a freshly written song during our interview…
How did you first get to Hong Kong?
Skibs: I first got to Hong Kong because my Dad got a job here and moved here from NYC in 2007. He’s a big banker dude who ran JP Morgan for a couple years, quit and started a couple businesses. He’s working with an author right now and started a furniture business in Vietnam.
What were your first impressions of the city?
I had lived in Tokyo and London and NYC before that, so I was familiar with big cities. But my first impressions of the city were of Hong Kong International School. I was just a 7th grade kid trying to fit in. Right when I came here, I didn’t have any major thoughts about it. I was just trying to make friends. I didn’t really get to know about the city until a couple years later.
I started realizing ‘Wow, I’m actually living in Hong Kong.’ As a kid in Hong Kong you have a lot of independence. I started meeting more and more people and the city caught my attention.
What are your first musical memories?
My first musical memories are riding up to Vermont from NYC. My Dad would have Avril Lavigne playing in the car, or Bon Jovi, Hootie and the Blowfish. He really likes music. He wasn’t involved in the industry though.
The first rap song I got my hands on was “Mockingbird” by Eminem. I remembered every word and could rap the whole thing in 5th grade (about 10 or 11). I just loved Eminem’s intro, thought he was awesome. He sang but wasn’t a singer. His wordplay and meaning….I just thought it was so cool…
I got my first iPod and started to listen to more and more stuff. It would be 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, Akon and whatever was commercial pop. As I got older, I started to do more research and did a lot through the internet. Even when I moved to Hong Kong, there was music here that reminded me of the States. I like to keep the music close because I’ve lived in a lot of places.
So you started to find out about more of the underground scene?
When I was about 12, I really got into it. Then I started writing. By 8th grade I really wanted to be a rapper.
Tell me your first rap…
It was probably some kid bullshit. I did record in 8th grade. I went out in Kowloon somewhere in a warehouse, brought a couple of my friends and we recorded three songs. I even made the beat. They’re probably in my high pitched voice.
But then I gave up. People told me I sucked. I put a song on YouTube, a couple people heard it and they started making fun of me. I took it off YouTube and stopped. I didn’t do it for around a year.
One night in 10th grade I was freestyling with friends for about 15 minutes and one of my friends said ‘Dude, you should record.’ They were calling me Skibs at the time.
Where did the name come from?
This has been a reoccurring nickname my whole life. In 6th grade summer camp people would call me that—even before I was rapping. In 9th grade, the name came back. My last name is Scibetta and people say Skibetta. Then they just call me Skibs for short…and it stuck I always liked it. I think it’s an okay name. I’m not crazy about it, but I guess it’s me.
So what next?
I was freestyling the whole time and I met this kid in Stanley. We were just smoking pot every day after school. I met this kid named Barton. He’s a big Asian kid in one of the videos. He told me that he makes beats and that I should come over to his house. He sent me three beats. I spent all night writing and went over to his house. It was terrible. I didn’t know anything about my voice. I was just thinking ‘I’m, going to rap!’
We had a lot of fun doing it though. We kept on recording and I eventually made one song that I actually liked, called “Drowsy”. The chorus was like ‘I’m so damn high!’ It was Hong Kong Kids version 1, you could say.
Then people were saying ‘you suck’ and others said ‘you’re awesome’ and I just kept going.
The whole time I was scheming that I was going to get famous. We put out an EP called The Hong Kong Kids EP.
This happened when?
All 10th grade I recorded. At the beginning of 11th grade, I released The Pink Slip, 15 songs, a mixtape. The name came because we always had to get drug tested. When they came with a pink slip, that’s what it meant. We’d have to go down to get a hair test.
How did the “Hong Kong Kids” song come about?
That was from an EP that was five songs. It was recorded later. We would just keep recording. I’d be writing every day. This was when I was in 11th grade. I was always planning and releasing things. I released it when I was in 12th grade.
Let’s talk about Hong Kong Kids…
I was just a kid making a song. We lived dope lives. If anyone looks at our lives from that time, people would think it’s cool. I knew this and as much as I love rapping, I wanted to be successful. Originally, I wanted to have 500 kids in the video. For the video, I literally had one camera. We would shoot when we could. The rapping parts were shot in one day. I invited 200 people via Facebook and 12 of my friends showed up. Three or four verses were shot and the rest was footage that I assembled. We edited it over a couple weeks.
How did the song blow up?
Before I released it, I showed it to my parents one night and explained that I thought it would be controversial. My Mom was freaking out. When I put it up online, there were 3,000 views in one night. Went to school and a bunch of people said they saw my video. Then my Mom told me she saw it had 15,000 views and it kept going up. Then one night we went to a park and we were mini-celebrities. A 30 year old woman even came up and yelled at me.
Then it just kept spreading all over Hong Kong. It was at 180,000 views and YouTube took it down due to the underage drinking. Later, I re-uploaded it. But it was strange in some ways because I got a little taste of what celebrity can be like, both the good and the bad. It was a unique way to spend my senior year.
What happened after that?
I released a couple more songs on the internet and then came out with Delay No More, the mixed tape, in April of last year. I had recorded the song before “Hong Kong Kids”, and then I approached the CEO of the G.O.D. shop in Hong Kong. I had a concept that I wanted to do a clothing line, so I emailed him. The CEO emailed me within 15 minutes. We made a clothing line consisting of five t-shirts. I got to design them. We had five different designs, 100 of each t-shirt and they sold out.
“All In” was a single and video that I released right before the t-shirts. A “Delay No More” video was released after that.
The filming seems to have become more mature.
I just had a professional budget, approached a professional film team Thin Film HK. Nathan Wong is the director. We want to combine a Western approach with an Asian motif. At the same time, it’s not like I have a million ideas. I’ve had one idea and it’s just spread out. My biggest fanbase right now is in France. There’s a big French community in Hong Kong and I just think they’re bringing it back there.
So let’s talk BloHK Party…
This is the first time that I’ll be performing on a main stage. I’ve done several private parties and I’ve done a couple club shows. I thought they would be bigger than they actually are.
I’m going to do at least a 30-minute set. I’ll be doing some old stuff and new stuff. I’m growing as an artist and rapper and it will be a new flow. I’ll have a DJ and there will be a new Hong Kong singer named Parker Rudd who will sing some of my hooks. I’ve never been on a big stage and I’m really excited to do it.
Who do you look forward to seeing at BloHK Party?
I’m excited to see Pusha-T, who is a cool rapper. Pharrell of course…and I’m also looking forward to seeing what these Hong Kong rappers do. I just think that it seems like a lot of people don’t really care what’s going on in the scene here and I want to see what happens. From my perspective, I’m excited to see a festival for the first time here.
Do you think Hong Kong needs more of these events?
Yes, 100 percent! It’s a good start. I see a vision for what Hong Kong could be and it’s not there. There are so many Western kids here and nobody seems to care about what’s actually coming out of Hong Kong. You should be able to find any genre of music in Hong Kong and you just can’t right now.
What’s the dream and what’s the near future for you?
The dream is to put together a project that I can feel comfortable with, where I did a solid job expressing what’s going on in my mind. I have a lot of ideas, but they are only ideas. To my mind, I’m one of the best, if not the best rappers in Hong Kong. I would like to tour Southeast Asia…I want to be one of the first to do it. The other plan is to forget about rapping and go to college.
When you’re not rapping, who is Skibs?
I’m a young, white gweilo in Hong Kong who is living out here on my own. I just love music. I love throwing on old records. I love making things happen and following my dreams.
What are a few of your favorite recordings of all time…
College Dropout by Kanye West. The Eminem Show by Eminem. Jay-Z—Reasonable Doubt. Those are just three albums that I look back on that really influenced me.
We have 24 hours. You can go anywhere, do anything, see anything…whatever. Time and travel are no consequence…
I would definitely see all my favorite rappers that are touring. I haven’t seen a hip hop show my entire life. I’d see Jay Cole, Dizzy Right, Logic, meet with them, talk with them and make some music.
BLOHK PARTY DETAILS
BloHK Party 2013 with Pharrell Williams, Steve Aoki, Pusha T, Breakbot, Busy P, Grandmaster Flash and more
7 December 2013
West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong
Tickets from HK$600, www.hkticketing.com or +852 31 288 288
More info: www.blohkparty.com and www.facebook.com/BLOHKPARTY