Public On Sale:
Wednesday, September 12 at 10am
This event is 13+ (12 & under admitted with parent/legal guardian)
“We literally made a suicide pact,” notes Scott Arcenaux, Jr., who makes music under the alias $lick Sloth, of the inspiration behind the name $uicideboy$ – the incendiary, genre-rupturing hip-hop duo he co-founded with Aristos Petrou, aka Ruby da Cherry, who nods in agreement. “Working 9-to-5 just isn’t in our pedigree: if didn’t make it by age 30, we were going to end it all,” Ruby adds. “And we didn’t grow up with picket fences. Success just doesn’t happen to people like us, from where we’re from. Thankfully, the rest is history.”
$uicideboy$ remain an unexpected success considering the group’s roots in the violent, neglected, crime ridden section of New Orleans. But seemingly out of nowhere – following a blizzard of disturbing psychedelic videos and sprawling viral releases starting in 2014 (put out via hardcore Crescent City hip-hop indie G59), $uicideboy$ transcended scrappy local hype to begin garnering millions of views across social-media platforms – playing the likes of Lollapalooza and selling out international tours from Asia to Europe. Building on these left-field victories, $lick and Ruby ultimately signed a multi-release deal with Caroline, for which they’re readying their first releases. “New Orleans is like cement quicksand: you stay too long, you get stuck,” $lick notes of $uicideboy$’ infamous hometown. “We’re products of our environment. We weren’t raised to believe we could ever get to this point.”
Even from their earliest social-media shock and awe, however, $uicideboy$ piqued tastemakers with their apocalyptically lysergic twist on rap – equally incorporating abrasive screamo hardcore and lurking, darkly cinematic atmosphere into $lick’s beat soundscapes punctured by Ruby’s fractured Southern-fried lyricism. Tracks like “Low Key” and “FUCKTHEPOPULATION” soon became underground anthems. Meanwhile, the steady stream of $uicideboy$’ epic Kill Yourself mixtape series quickly became the stuff of online legend. $uicideboy$ released volumes XI through XV of Kill Yourself on one day in May 2017 alone. “We have 30 or 32 releases – really, I don’t know how many there are anymore,” $lick says. “We saw how Lil Wayne and Curren$y did it, in our own city,” Ruby continues. “Curren$y inspired us because he didn’t do it for fame – he did it to live his life his way.”
$uicideboy$ had so much material in the vault, much of it has seen release under a surreal series of pop-cultured alter egos. “I’m a super nerd into graphic novels, anime, old-school slasher films, so I understand creating characters,” Ruby admits. “At the same time, I loved how Wu-Tang took on different aliases – like Method Man was also Johnny Blaze, and the Wu-Gambinos. And then when Leftover Crack borrowed that vibe from Wu-Tang, I thought that was interesting, too.”
Media quickly lumped in $uicideboy$ with the burgeoning post-Lil Yachty movement dismissively termed “Soundcloud rap” – arbitrarily linking regionally and sonically diverse acts like Lil Uzi Vert, XXXtentacion, Kodie Shane, Rico Nasty, Playboy Carti, Smokepurpp, Trippie, Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, and the late XXXtentacion and Lil Peep in their sudden digital omnipresence; flamboyant grunge styles; with slurred, decadent, emo-pained rhymes; fractured tracks that blithely blend glitched boom bap with rocker aggro (not for nothing did Post Malone have the smash of 2017 with “Rock Star”).
“Obviously, we all share a similar background in that we grew up on the Internet,” Ruby notes. “Our main philosophy, though, is ‘fuck the stupid rap industry.’ Everyone we meet is a silent diva: It’s just a weird big dick contest we fucking hate. But then again, fame has already warped our brains and made us even colder.”
Then again, $uicideboy$ has never fit into any environment – even from their earliest beginnings as first cousins, just one year apart in age ($lick is 28; Ruby is 27). “Ruby’s mom and my mom are sisters,” $lick explains. “Our family has always lived in the most ratchet parts of New Orleans. As a result, Ruby and I grew up usually as the only white boys on the streets in our neighborhood – me on the West Bank of the city and him on the East.” In their teen years, the two cousins began getting caught up in the cycle of violence around the drug game happening all around them. As such, $uicideboy$’ music has always reflected its hometown’s distinctive psychedelic haze of murder, addiction, abuse, devastation, and decadence.
“I had a job delivering pizza, but instead, I delivered drugs – even though I myself was straight edge,” $lick explains. “One night, I was riding down the street on my bike when I felt a box cutter cut into my side; I fell down, and the dude who stabbed me ran off my backpack filled with drugs. When I told the plug what happened, he beat my ass. Then when I went home all fucked up, my dad beat my ass again for being a pussy: ‘Where’s this motherfucker – you need to fight him man to man!’”
After getting in trouble too many times together, their families separated $lick and Ruby for many years. Apart, the cousins seemed to be going down divergent paths. $lick remained in his block’s drug game – using its profits to put himself through audio-recording school and amass the very studio equipment he still uses to create $uicideboy$’ beats today. Ruby, meanwhile, despite having been raised on a steady diet of Cash Money and No Limit since being in the crib, was now forbidden to listen to rap. A talented guitarist, drummer, and multi-instrumentalist who began as an adolescent violin prodigy, $lick rebelled next by first getting into nü-metal like Slipknot, then diving head first into New Orleans’ hardcore political punk scene, finding inspiration in No Ca$h, Minor Threat, Misfits, and other uncompromising punk iconoclasts. Ruby claims it remains an ambition to record a full-on band punk album with $uicideboy$.
“Once you’ve been an outcast your whole life, you discover skating and punk rock, you finally feel like you belong somewhere,” Ruby says. “One of my bands actually played a show with [late shock-rock vulgarian] G.G. Allin’s backing band, the Murder Junkies. Now it’s a trend for rappers to wear [shock rocker] G.G. Allin t-shirts and say he’s their main inspiration. These fucking divas aren’t taking a shit onstage, though.”
Ruby claims “the real reason I started rapping was because I was dating this girl who was a G-Eazy fan. We broke up, and I figured if a dude that lame could steal my girl, I should become a rapper. But then I figured I could hide punk-rock consciousness in my music and suck kids in to some weird shit without them realizing it.” He found himself drawn to the increasingly radical, rebellious counterculture pop art percolating up in hip-hop – from T-Pain’s synthetic autotune deconstructions and Kanye’s drastic Bowie-esque persona shifts to OutKast’s boundary pushing, Souls of Mischief’s backpack flow, and Three 6 Mafia’s Southern gangsta grime. Ruby and $lick’s worlds fully collided, though, when Ruby discovered the pan-genre MC Bones. “Bones mixed goth metal with insane dark rap, and his hooks would have screaming on it,” he explains. “Waka Flocka was popping, too. That’s when I was like, ‘If that motherfucker can do that, this could be my bread and butter.’ Once those doors opened, $uicideboy$ was on.”
Ruby would go on to scream his ass off on $uicideboy$ classics like “I Want To Believe” after he checked out a track from his estranged cousin $lick on (yes) Soundcloud. “It came out really tight, and we made a video that got some local love,” $lick says. “We didn’t expect anything.” But inspired by $lick’s fresh beats and wordsmiths spanning Andre 3000 to Brand New’s songwriter/vocalist Jessie Lacey uber-emo confessionals, Ruby began taking his rhyming and flow into absurd, surreal, freaky directions that shocked even him (“I’m hitting Nirvana and fucking Madonna,” he rhymes on “Cherry P.I.E.”). “Writing lyrics became a sort of Fight Club thing for me – allowing me to transform into Tyler Durden from Edward Norton,” he explains. “Instead of just saying ‘I hate my life/I want to end,’ I could escape using my own creative imagination.”
That imagination is currently being put to work in service of $uicideboy$’ forthcoming album debut, I Want To Die In New Orleans. According to Ruby, the objective is to create a timeless, culture-shifting concept opus – combining the gold-dusted paranoid ambition of Kanye class My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with Nirvana’s call-to-arms Nevermind and the immersive futurism of Pink Floyd’s space opera Dark Side of the Moon. “The sound we’re going for captures the entire essence of the slow suicide of living in post-Katrina New Orleans,” $lick explains. “As opposed to a mixtape, we’re giving this more of an album feel, with an actual story. But it’s not literal. So much of it we’re intentionally leaving open to interpretation.”
$uicideboy$ began work on the album in early 2017, planning to write about their experiences on the road and how their lives had become slightly more extravagant. The focus shifted along the way, leading $uicideboy$ to reconsider the album’s original title, I Don’t Wanna Die in New Orleans.
They explained the change in title to fans in an Instagram post, which read in part: “After traveling the globe on two back2back sold out world tours, amassing a fortune, spending an insane amount of money on drugs, losing friends, making “enemies” and witnessing this scene that we helped create turn into what it is now, we have decided that none of this fame or money will ever make us happy. For a second there we thought it would. Therefore, we are changing the album title to…I Want To Die In New Orleans.”
For Ruby, the aesthetic aspirations, failures, and redemptions innate to I Want To Die In New Orleans are a natural evolution for artists of his generation, who grew up with Odd Future as its Nirvana, Earl Sweatshirt as their Kurt Cobain.
“After I heard Earl Sweatshirt, I took everything I’d done up to that point and threw it in the trash,” Ruby says. “What he did was immature and graphic on the surface, but so clever and thought provoking – Earl changed everything. But then Lil Ugly Mane’s mixtape Mista Thug Isolation took things to an extreme we didn’t even think was possible. Kids are looking for that kind of artist to take things to that next level of insanity, where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and that’s what we’re trying to do with our next moves. But we do this for ourselves and don’t fucking care about anything else. The only thing that changes with our records is our lives. We’ve said, ‘Fuck money and fame’ before – we’re just not broken anymore.”
“We needed to get out of there to get here,” adds $lick. “We make music for people who don’t know who they are, and where they belong. That’s the whole philosophy behind $uicideboy$: nothing is ever permanent – especially life.”