SK Supreme is a rapper and producer born in Port Shepstone and raised in Pietermaritzburg, both of which are cities in South Africa. With a decent sized commercial hip hop scene in South Africa, but nearly no cohesive underground scene, it would be a next to impossible case to come up in as a hip hop artist. But if necessity is the mother of invention, struggle is the mother of ascension; SK is on the rise, regardless of what it takes to make that happen.
He has just released an Ep, called “Broke Heart” (available on soundcloud for now, and to be officially distributed sometime in mid-June). The first track on the album, called “Pharaoh God” which he also did the production for, has a needlessly long, spoken intro to this song, which is very well done and sets the menacing, ominous tone of the song very nicely, but at a full thirty seconds in length, it’s just a little too long for today’s audience and our ever-dwindling attention span. However, that is probably the most pronounced point of constructive criticism I can even give to a song like this. If you haven’t played it yet, prepare to be completely surprised by it.
Every region and every nation needs its own personalized take on music forms, its that kind of variation that allows music to remain truly individual and speak to us on a personal level. If you have heard Grime before, you know what it sounds like when a rappers accent becomes the most predominant focus of the verse. So if you’re expecting to hear Trevor Noah as a rapper, sorry to disappoint. The accent here is nothing even remotely that pronounced.
With a flow that can be, at times, somewhat reminiscent of Future (think “Mask off” and “Redlight” (Featuring NGHTMRE) and sounds eerily like A$AP Ferg. Ferg’s vocal intonation and flow tendencies on the song “Lord” off his 2013 album To Strive and Conquer is a particularly good vocal match to SK’s vocal orientation. It also mirrors the stylings (vocal and otherwise) of Ferg’s song “Nando” from his 2018 release, Still Striving. SK even adds the A$AP trademark “UGH” adlib at the beginning of his song before the down beat drops and the first 808-layered kick happens. Which A$AP Rocky, most frequently of all, also does. If he went a little harder with his vocal stylings, he’d probably land somewhere in the realm of 2 Chainz or Juicy J. If he went a little softer in style, he’d probably end up in that stylistically prodigious niche of artists like Jidenna or Aminé. I don’t think he could wrong, even if he were to totally switch stylistic gears.
SK Supreme is a rare combination of producer and rapper in equally-gifted proportion. From the looks of his Soundcloud release discography, it would appear he started out primarily producing beats (not rapping or making full songs by himself), as his earliest releases on that platform are small collections of beats he made in and around 2013. In 2016, he began releasing tracks with himself featured as the principal vocalist.
The instrumental for “Pharaoh God” has deep 808’s, and the main melodic sequences are comprised of deep, moody pads, perfectly layered to create a harmonic, feels-inducing, and utterly encapsulating atmospheric effect. A resonant, syrupy low end, and choral hymns sonically interlacing with the sub-mixed melodic layers, the effect is to create something much more profound than a “mood” or a “vibe,” this song almost puts you in a different frame of mind — and it’s satisfyingly shadowy kind of mind frame.
The beat is somewhat following the trap influence in it’s all consuming, deeply resonant low end and it’s use of sub bass and 808 layerings, but it is decidedly omitting the style-standardized hallmark of incessant trilling high hats at breakneck bpm’s, and the effect of their absence has the same dark-alley sound as most trap does.
Of all the artists, in memory, I’ve reviewed, SK Supreme is the artist I am most taken with, and most impressed by. He should have been here selling out stadiums or selling his beats to every major artist in the game already. He could easily come here tomorrow and find success, but, we really needed him here yesterday. In the outro of “Pharaoh God” he repeats, “I ain’t never gon’ stop this…” and I, for one, fully intend to hold him to that.