Hong Kong Kids Rapper Skibs Reflects on His Music and Future

ARTISTS

'Hong Kong Kids' Rapper Skibs Reflects on His Music and Future

“We gon' live it up / We them Hong Kong kids / We don't give a f**k / The whole world better listen up / All you fake kids better run.”

These are the ever-familiar lyrics that any international-school-educated expatriate kid raised in Hong Kong from 2012 will instantly recognise upon hearing, overlayed against an instrumental backtrack of electronica-indie rock song “Loud Pipes” by Ratatat.

“So everybody put your drank in the sky / We can get high / We can do anything tonight / We gon' live it up / We them Hong Kids / We don't give a f**k.”



This is the infamous chorus to “Hong Kong Kids,” an unofficial anthem for Hong Kong’s international youth, synonymous with a party culture ingrained in the meeting of eastern and western cultures in the city, sung by then-16-year-old rapper Skibs.

Few know the story behind Skibs – real name Lucas Scibetta – his past life as a high schooler rapping in his bedroom, the story behind his 2012 single “Hong Kong Kids,” and what inspired a New Yorker to devote an entire career to lyrically exploring the east-meets-west fusion of cultures in Hong Kong.

The Beat Asia was granted an exclusive interview with 27-year-old Lucas, currently based in New York City, to chat “Hong Kong Kids,” rapping in Hong Kong, his story now, and the future of his career with his new album, “East Meets West.”

Lucas entered a recording studio for the first time in Kowloon at the age of 12, months after emigrating to Hong Kong, encouraged by his high school peers, recording the first rap beats and choruses that inspired his hit single.

Born in New York City, Lucas emigrated with his parents to Tokyo at six months old, where he experienced first-hand the divergent eastern cultures novel to him. He studied at a local Japanese school and was immersed in Japanese culture at a young age. “When we moved to Hong Kong, I was able to mesh with the local culture more because I had that experience,” Lucas told The Beat Asia on a call from his home in Manhattan, New York.

As a child in New York, Lucas had always held an affinity for music. In kindergarten, it was the rhythmic melody of the nursery songs that enthralled the New Yorker. In middle school at 10 years old, Lucas fell for the choruses of Eminem, memorising whole albums.

Arriving to Hong Kong in 2007 at the behest of his father’s job at JP Morgan, Lucas cites “a New York influence” on his childhood that helped the rapper “mastermind” the potential of a music career. “Something about Hong Kong just brought this great creative side of me.”

“I wanted to emulate my father’s success and work ethic. He was always home after I went to bed, out of the home when I was just getting up. [Rapping] was a way for me to put in the work, make a name for myself, and try as hard as my father to succeed.”

Lucas would write raps at Hong Kong International School during lunch breaks and listen to music on the school bus from the Peak to Tai Tam campus. At the turn of the decade, Lucas moved to Stanley to live, which saw the high schooler turn to friends who lived locally to catalyse a rapping career.

At 12, he released his first unnamed single on YouTube, rapping about his southside life on the island. “My friends made fun of me [for writing it], so I immediately took it down.”

“I just started rapping and hanging out with people in Stanley. [Writing songs and recording raps] was kind of natural. I met up with Bart (Barton "DXL" Chan, a producer-friend of Lucas’s from Island School) and we recorded and released 15 songs and a couple of videos before ‘Hong Kong Kids.’”

And then, Lucas Scibetta, under the rapper alias Skibs, released “Hong Kong Kids” in mid-September 2012 on YouTube.

“I always believed in myself, but I didn't really [overthink] it. At that point in my life, it just made sense,” Lucas answered, speaking on seeing “Hong Kong Kids” as a big break or a career changer for the rapper.

“Before we even put it out, all my friends listened to my music, we already had a feeling it would work. It just felt natural [to release it].”

The chill party anthem of “Hong Kong Kids” encapsulated Lucas’ laidback life living in Stanley and his adventures beyond the serenity of southside living: a hectic weekly party in Lan Kwai Fung, digging under the surface of Wan Chai, exploring the woods of Kowloon.

As a rapper who enjoyed writing when younger, Lucas said that when he and his friends began to live a lifestyle a la the rappers he enjoyed listening to – the partying, smoking, drinking – it felt right to present a Hong Kong version of such culture.

“[‘Hong Kong Kids’] went well because I didn’t overthink and just wrote about what we were doing. It was kind of a bible to that lifestyle [of Hong Kong life as an international school kid]. I love that it got finished and captured that time.” Lucas admits he doesn’t live that way anymore.

Lucas has fond memories of life between Tai Tam and Stanley, the source of inspiration for his single. “It was so fun (sic), man. You could get away with anything. We could do whatever the f**k we wanted. It was just the best place to have a youthful experience. The water and mountains are beautiful.”

“Everybody was so chill, drinking, smoking, living such a simple lifestyle. And I think for kids that went to an elite private school, we were just forced to do all this work. It was this lifestyle that was just so appealing based on [what] we were put through every day at school.”

Only four months after the single dropped on Soundcloud in June 2012 did Lucas finish editing and uploading the article to YouTube. "We were a bunch of delinquent kids, so it took little time to [get] the work actually done. Sometimes, I can't believe that we actually got all that work out (laughs)!”

It was the music video of “Hong Kong Kids” that cured an instant viral sensation, attracting more than 35,000 views in just two weeks. Reuploaded and deleted multiple times on the video- sharing platform, the hit single and flashy music video saw its allure capture the hearts of many internationally focused school children in Hong Kong at the time – and beyond.

Lucas admits that he hadn’t paid much attention to the video itself and wasn’t primarily concerned with virality. “[My editor] sent it to me when they edited it. And I was like, that's dope. I don't even know if I [watched] the whole thing. I had no idea what it would become.”

“I think we just wanted to express that, especially in Hong Kong, there's so much strict discipline that the young community of Hong Kong experience, that I sensed a need for something fun. We were having fun and I feel like not enough people that were [enjoying] life in Hong Kong were speaking about it. Hong Kong is not just strict SATs and everything. Like we have fun here. This is a dope place to live, it’s an amazing place to grow up.”

When asked who or what a Hong Kong kid is, Lucas replied, “a Hong Kong kid is somebody who grew up in the east and can relate to that freedom, that feeling of being young and young in Asia.”

To myself, my peers, friends living in Hong Kong and abroad, school-age children graduating in Hong Kong, or any young international youth aged 15 to 35, born, raised, or passed through the city, “Hong Kong Kids” has connected deeply with a mass psyche on connecting with an eastern culture and the playground of fun that Hong Kong has to offer.

Life took on a new pace for Lucas following the release of “Hong Kong Kids.” He played local shows at night clubs, pushed out successful releases with professionally shot music videos, worked with Douglas Young at G.O.D. to release an exclusive fashion line, and opened for Pharrell Williams at Hong Kong Blohk Party in 2013.

The “next logical step,” Lucas describes, was to build a career out of his rapping. “I had no idea what was going to happen [after ‘Hong Kong Kids’]. It was amazing what happened. [After] I put that video out, in the next few years a lot had changed, but I didn't really expect what was gonna (sic) happen.”

He told The Beat Asia that as he grew up, "my artistic vision changed and where I wanted to be changed. I followed my creative impulse and whatever's up there is whatever got finished.”

Lucas graduated from Hong Kong International School in 2014 and travelled to New Orleans to study at a local university. Dropping out a year later, Lucas set off to New York and began writing and releasing music from 2015 to 2018 in Queens. In July 2018, Lucas released his then-largest project, “East Meets West,” a consolidated body of three -years of music comprising his journey moving to New York, the west, and Hong Kong-inspired singles.

Three years later in 2021, Skibs dropped “Hong Kong God,” a 35-song packed album comprising his most popular hits, including “Hong Kong Kids,” “Hong Kong Print,” “Hong Kong All In,” “Hong Kong Warmer Days,” “Draco Malfoy,” and “852.”

“I recorded another album when I moved to New York, and I am putting it out now. Finally, it has taken me five years to release it,” Lucas said, referencing the release of his new, upgrade “East Meets West” collection, “a more complete album,” the rapper said. “This project is getting my feet wet with trying to make a cohesive album front to back.”

His new album touches on a stuff that Lucas said he was unable to do previously. It is professionally produced, mixed with live bass and sin featuring guest singers, and focuses more on detailed lyricism and melodies.

He commented that the themes will touch upon his emotional journey travelling back to New York from Hong Kong and a blend of east and western tales of his life: partying, travelling, and reminiscing. "It is a diary of coming to New York and what it's been like the past few years in the city.”

“I love the first ‘East Meets West’ [album]. But, looking back, I have always felt like I never did enough. I've always had this kind of mentality, like I can go hard, or I can do better.”

“The album is a piece of work that really has to be listened to from front to back, a full body of work. It's not really meant for TikTok, it’s meant to be listened to and appreciated with good speakers and headphones.”

Lucas intends to release weekly Friday singles on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Instagram, before launching the full album on all music platforms in early August.

Lucas is set to finish his first semester in his freshman year at Columbia University studying an undergraduate degree in English, where he transferred from a local community college in Queens, New York, and Fordham University a year ago.

“I like writing. I would love to write books one day,” said the rapper and lyricist. “I’m gonna (sic) keep going with English and see how it goes. My English degree can help fuel the music I want to continue putting out. I am just getting started. I want to continue making music and putting it out.”

“I want to see how far I can take it. I believe in myself, and I know I got a lot of good music to put out. But I'm patient and I love the craft. I look up to a lot of people that continued to make music in the 30s and they just got better at their craft, and I just want to get better and better at my craft. I have a mentality that I could literally work for 10 more years with no results, and I would still do it.”

The rapper said he still feels inspired by Hong Kong, his hometown city that he has not visited in more than three years. “I do feel [that] Hong Kong lives within me in how I see the world, how I interact with people. I keep it with me in my art.”

“Honestly, whenever I'm in school or working on music, I miss Hong Kong. Every day, man.”

Skibs is set to release his “East Meets West” album on August 19, 2022. You can find his new music releases every Friday on Spotify.

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