Meet Lil Gnar, the rap-rock skateboarder/designer/rapper on the rise
His debut mixtape Gnar Lif3 features everyone from Lil Skies to Blink 182's Travis Barker, and he's not going anywhere.
"My first CD was actually a [Jimi] Hendrix Greatest Hits CD, then it was Soulja Boy and a Bob Marley compilation joint," said rising rap musician Lil Gnar on his first music purchases to XXL Mag earlier this year. Is this important? Not really, but it's an excellent introduction to the world of the 22-year-old Atlanta rapper as his debut mixtape, this year's Gnar Lif3, almost feels like a meeting point of all three of these acts in some strange, twisted world.
So who is Lil Gnar? He's an Atlanta-raised skateboarder-turned-designer who, after his Gnarcotic skate brand started to pick up steam, decided to launch himself into the forefront of the brand by launching a hip-hop project named after the brand. "I’ve been doing the brand GNARCOTIC for like three and a half years straight and up until a few months ago, 100% everything was all me," he told HighSnobiety at the start of this year, launching his debut project Big Bag Gnar Shit. "[When] I locked into a distribution deal with this distro-centre out of Santa Fe Springs in LA, that gave me enough free time to start dropping the music I wanted to drop, and that was like four or five months ago."
On the music side of things, the rapper is the latest dread-haired product from the 'Soundcloud rap' era, but this time around, he comes with a twist. Unlike much of the washed-out and down-tempo 'emo-rap' coming from this era, Lil Gnar mixes his pacing vocal with charging, guitar-dominated productions that occasionally span all the way into metal territory, with his Gnar Lif3 project introducing us to an artist that although admittedly not for everyone, is one of the most versatile and reckoning coming from the US' latest reaping of rappers. Drop Top Benz, the rapper's Lil Skies-featuring mixtape break-out is a traditional 'Soundcloud rap' single that mixes a hollow production with quick-pacing lyrics from both Gnar and Skies, while GRAVE - his latest Skies-featuring single - is more upbeat and Migos-esque in tone. SiCK IN THE HEAD, which features Blink 182's Travis Barker is the polar opposite to the Skies-featuring collabs, giving us the rap-rock side of Lil Gnar as he cries above a confusingly cool production that mixes heavy bass kicks and trap snare with shouting samples and thick guitar, which makes a come-back on the mixtape's last song, Man Down.
"Music's easier, I'm not going to lie," said Lil Gnar to Pigeons & Planes, who named him one of the year's best new artists. "I did Gnarcotic for three and a half years, stressing my brain out. I've been putting out music for six months, and shit's going how it's going...[with] music, people can connect with you more. If they hear your music and see you as a person, they connect instantly. Clothes are cool, but clothes don't move people. Music changes people's mood." We don't really know what mood Lil Gnar puts us in, but he's an artist on the rise and it would be stupid not to pay attention.
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