By Micah Rind
On Oct. 1st, 20,000 people chanted in unison as $uicideboy$ closed out their North American Grey Day tour with a sold out show at Phoenix Raceway. The Phoenix heat couldn’t have been a better fit for the fiery artists. The massive arcing stage was lined from end to end and stacked hundreds of bodies deep as fans packed in to get as close to the action as possible. Anyone remotely familiar with the underground rap scene was there. For an underground rap festival, the turnout didn’t seem to be that underground. From open to close, it’s clear $uicideboy$ didn’t come to play. Complete with new stage sets for every artist, and an army of die hard music enthusiasts, Grey Day was a sight to behold.
The festival, organized by Relentless Beats, opened with the sounds of DJ Scheme and Maxo Kream hyping up the crowd. As the night progressed, Code Orange took to the stage – a reminder that Grey Day celebrates the intersectionality of all hardstyle underground music.
$NOT followed, and it’s no wonder why the artist has gained notoriety in recent years. He originally came into the light in 2020 with his hit single “GOSHA,” but has put in the work and released three albums and numerous singles in the past two years alone. Fresh off his recent collaboration with rapper A$AP Rocky, $NOT’s stage background depicted a tribute to the late Virgil Abloh as seen in their music video for “Doja.” It’s no secret that the Off White designer had a strong impact on the rap community and still continues to inspire artists even after his passing. Abloh ushered in a new era of luxury streetwear and became the first black artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton. The designer’s influence touched artists around the world, and his passing in late 2021 affected nearly everyone in the art scene. When the background was revealed, audible gasps came from the crowd – $NOT’s reminder to us that Abloh still safeguards the world of art.
Ski Mask the Slump God also played, or rather rapped, on the heartstrings of the audience with his tribute to the late and beloved XXXTentacion. The late artist, a core contributor to the early underground rap scene and close friend of Ski Mask, was shot and murdered back in 2018. X’s voice influenced not only underground consumers, but other artists in the scene as well. In an interview with Complex shortly after the artist’s passing, Ski Mask claims that X’s death was what really pushed him to pursue music seriously.
“A big part of what gave me the confidence, which is sad to say, is X passing,” Ski Mask said. “He just told me that I had to step up a lot, even just in music in general, because I knew I could do it. But I just always sold myself short. You know what I mean? Like, I didn’t think that I could come out with some good singing shit, because I thought it was cliché.”
Now, four years later, born out of tragedy and forged in the cut throat industry, confidence has stitched itself to the artist like an extra limb – an extension of X that Ski Mask carries with him to every performance. Despite his lingering grief, Ski Mask’s humor, as frequently showcased in his music, shone through to the audience in his crowdwork. After throwing out several jokes, Ski Mask hopped on a beat up mattress and the crowd surfed through the sea of chanting fans.
After Ski Mask’s performance, the audience, sweaty and ready for more, anxiously awaited the underground legends they’d come to see. Then, without warning, the crowd pressed even further to the stage, as if a sixth sense had been unlocked. In the distance, through the forest of fans clad in G*59 merch, two figures finally appeared on stage. $crim and Ruby da Cherry, bound by blood and business, emerged cloaked in flames. The duo opened up mosh pits and the seventh circle of underground rap with song after song. Their setlist was strongly supported by music off their new album “Sing Me a Lullaby My Sweet Temptation,” as well as popular throwbacks such as “Carrollton” and “For the Last Time.” The two artists ran up and down the massive stage, as fans head banged and moshed to their favorite songs.
If one were to take anything away from their performance it would be that $uicideboy$ are not just rappers, they’re a beacon of hope in the dark times that cloud our generation. Their music reminds us it’s OK to be angry, it’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to feel everything, and sometimes nothing at all. Their lyrics scream that someone else gets it and that we aren’t alone in our struggles. Rather than listening to the music, it’s like the music is listening to us. But above all, they remind us that sometimes we need to lean on each other, and it’s OK to seek help.
Together, the cousins celebrated several years of sobriety on stage and took a moment to speak candidly with the audience. As they looked out into the crowd, sweat dripping off their faces, they recounted the dark and rather blurry history of their tours. They encouraged anyone in need to seek help from professionals and those around them. And, for the last time, reminded us that we’re not alone.