So, we’re talking to SkyBlew, the North Carolina rapper who will have an album release party Saturday night for his latest CD, “Race for Your Life, SkyBlew.” And right when we’re about to wrap the interview up, he drops this nugget on us:
“I’m pretty big in South Korea,” says SkyBlew (real name: Mario Farrow). “I’m actually really big in South Korea. So, there’s that.”
Well, that came out of nowhere. It is quite surprising to learn that the 24-year-old, Alabama-born, Triangle-based MC (he’s lived in Chapel Hill for years, but has been living in Graham for the past few months) is a star overseas. “I released one album this year and one album last year in South Korea, and they both were in the Top 10 charts and everything,” he says.
So, just how – and why – did this guy get so popular over there? “Because my music is real jazzy and stuff,” he says. “They got a big jazz-hop movement over there, and this big, jazz-hop label named Link6.” The label first approached SkyBlew about re-releasing last year’s “Journeys in 1st Person,” which became quite the fan favorite. “When it dropped, it was just, like, on the charts. It charted on their iTunes-type of thing. It was on their news and all kinds of stuff.”
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SkyBlew followed it up with an exclusive collection, “Link6 Presents the SkyBlew Compilation,” which was also a hit. “It was some of my most serious songs, and that made the Top 10 charts within two days over there.”
So, how have the South Korean fans been treating him? “They show me a lot of love,” he says. “They be talking to me through Google Translate and all that. I’ve never experienced no stuff like that. That’s like next level, you know.”
Even though SkyBlew is officially an international superstar, he’s still trying to make a name for himself around these parts. In the past few months, he’s been performing with The Digi Destined, his very own, five-piece backup band. As a guy who grew up not just on hip-hop, but soul, funk and jazz – which he eventually melded together into his music – having a band felt like the next logical step.
“When I started seeing live performances with people with bands, I was like, ‘Oh man, this is amazing!’ I kinda had that sound in my beats already.”
There’s certainly that in “Race,” an album that has SkyBlew drawing inspiration from the feature-length Peanuts cartoon “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown,” one of his favorite movies as a youngster. “I knew one day I was gonna do that theme,” he says. “But I was like, when I do the theme, I didn’t want to be predictable and just make it about that movie.
“The theme is about the race for my life, the race for time, you know,” he says. “Like, the race for time, as in what we’re gonna do, what difference I’ma make. Like, what am I trying to do before time runs up, you know – before everything’s over?”
He certainly drew on most of his life experiences, from living in foster care to briefly selling weed to being homeless to growing up with a heart murmur. “I didn’t even know I had it until I got in foster care (in my tweens), and that’s when I was always having to go to the doctor – you know, normal checkups and stuff,” he says. “And that’s when they told me I had that.”
These days, SkyBlew is keeping his health in check by taking everything in stride. “(Doctors) told me I need to not stress as much,” he says. “I was stressing so much. Every now and then, I’ll stress a little bit, but being overly stressed will trigger it. So, I’ve been just trying to relax more, and if something doesn’t go my way, I don’t worry about it too much. Like, know it’s gonna work out in due time.”
And even if it doesn’t work out over here, SkyBlew knows he has a burgeoning fanbase in South Korea that’s ready to take in a brotha.
What: SkyBlew Album Release Party, with SkyBlew, Azon Blaze, DJ Reimei, War in the Pocket, OC & B2 and Samson
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com