Omaha, Nebraska-born, LA-based artist SK8 has risen to acclaim with an insatiable desire for his craft. Beginning music in his early teens, the now 27-year-old recording artist has opened for the likes of Lil Wayne, Rae Sremmurd while also working with Wiz Khalifa.
SK8’s devotion to his music has been evident through the course of his career, earning him widespread success – which he doesn’t plan on ceasing anytime soon. 360 Magazine’s Vaughn Lowery had the opportunity to speak with SK8 regarding his rise to critical notoriety, where his creativity stems from and his star-studded new album Last Day on Earth.
To truly understand the talent that is SK8, it’s important to appreciate his start in the music game. Nathan Maloley, also known as SK8, has had a passion for music his entire life. He began making his own music and downloading his tracks onto CD’s when he was in his early teen years.
Even taking choir for a few years in school, SK8 remembers his early beginnings writing music. While growing up, he found “that [music] was almost my escape. I would always go home […] and look up YouTube beats and [begin] writing.”
Back in 2013 and 2014, artists were constantly being found online via social media. SK8 recalls searching for new artists to listen to, “I really wanted to find a new artist, like, who was the up-and-coming artist?” Little did he know, his time was swiftly coming.
Stuck in the middle between a potential basketball or music career, SK8 juggled his two loves throughout high school leading into college. The Omaha community knew about his dreams to become a rapper, and this led to further connections with the people around him.
SK8 attended Hastings College in Nebraska, a performing arts school which allowed him to also play basketball. During his freshman year, artists would frequently come perform at the school, which led to SK8’s early performance gigs. SK8 would open for the artists coming to the school, gaining him even more recognition within the music industry.
His freshman year, SK8, too, decided that he was going to go after his dream of chasing a professional music career, dropping out of college, and giving up basketball. Moving back home with his mother, SK8 dove into music, which took off quickly after.
His debut break into the scene came from his collaboration with Jack and Jack, popular Viners back in the mid 2010’s. The Viners went to SK8’s high school and decided to link up and work on music together. They came together to create “Like That,” a track that ended up going certified gold independently.
This collaboration ultimately kicked off his career, and SK8 joined Jack and Jack on their tour. Taking full advantage of his time on the road, SK8 made it his mission to connect with a new fanbase. “I was the guy that was opening up, like, yo ‘Imma get as many fans as I can.’” He remembers bonding with fans after the shows, gaining more of a following on social media after the tour closed.
Joining Jack and Jack on their tour opened even more opportunities than SK8 could have ever foreseen. Through the widescale exposure that he gained on tour, this allowed SK8 to connect and open for popular rap artists Rae Sremmurd and Lil Wayne.
Well on his way with a whole new set of fans, SK8 embarked on his first solo tour in 2016 celebrating his Skaterade project. The tour was a great time for SK8 to travel and meet his fanbase. He recollects the thrill, stating, “It was a really, really cool tour to see where my fans were at, and just [to] independently be on the road, it was a really good time.”
Soon after the tour wrapped up, SK8 began contemplating what his next steps were going to be. After accomplishing so much in the early stages of his career, what would come next? He had a longstanding dream of opening his own label, to which he began to pursue while connecting industry professional James McMillan.
McMillan and SK8 joined forces to start the imprint known as Alignment Records. The two began pitching their record label and found partnership with Atlanta Records swiftly after opening up Alignment.
Continuing further with the process, SK8 questioned who would help oversee the project, “Sh**, I got the label, but who’s gonna manage this sh**?”
And then, it seemingly all fell into place.
Having met Wiz Khalifa in Los Angeles a few times prior, SK8 recalled one late night in the studio where the two artists began their first collaboration track together. At 4 AM, Wiz happened to be at the same studio as SK8, where SK8 showed Wiz some of his new tracks. The pair started going back and forth in the studio, knocking out a hook and verse, completing their first joint track.
After this night, they kept in touch via Wiz’s manager Will Dzomback. Dzomback was very interested in SK8, inviting him to sign with Taylor Gang Management. Platforming SK8’s talents to a whole new level, this collaboration set his career to new altitudes.
Previously more immersed in the rap/hip-hop genre, SK8 showcases a newfound rock/pop punk era on his new album Last Day on Earth. He accredits his longstanding love for rock music back to his adolescence.
“My dad listened to Bob Marley, that was his favorite artist, […] I grew up listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and also my hip hop inspirations too, I’ve always listened to a bunch of sh** like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.”
The start of SK8’s transition to the rock/pop punk sound arrived after working with Machine Gun Kelly’s drummer, Rook, in the studio. Rook and SK8 met in LA a few years back and have stayed friends for quite some time.
Bouncing off of each other in the studio, they began recreating and mixing old rock classics. Popular tracks from artists like SK8’s beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana became completely transformed; SK8 had found his new sound.
“[Rook] started just playing some live instruments, […] he started playing some sh**, I think it was the ‘Pages melody, and that was kinda the first song that we were like ‘this is gonna be tight,’” said SK8. “I listen to a lot of old school stuff, […] I wanted to just strip the music, and not just go on beats. We really took the time, went in there with guitar riffs.”
Tracks like “Girl Next Door” came out of this genre blend experimental phase that SK8 boarded on. “It was really cool bringing Wiz into that feel, too,” he says about combining hip-hop with rock influences, “I’ll have my whole album finished, and you know, I’ll have verses open just in case, […] he came to me and was like ‘Nah, that one right there, ‘Girl next door.’”
The addition of live instrumental pieces took the album to whole heights. SK8 accredits this while speaking about the vision for Last Day on Earth, stating, “The motivation really was like, yo, I wanna create something that’s authentic to me but still I wanted to, like, have live elements, […] I didn’t want to just rap and do melodies over just beats. I wanted to create something that had all live elements.”
In the works since the start of the pandemic, Last Day on Earth has been a long time coming. Taking over two years to perfectly craft and complete the body of work allowed SK8 to fully enjoy the experience of making the project.
“I really enjoyed making this project,” he begins, “I had a really, really good team around me that helped me bring this album to them, so I have to give props to them, for real.”
Considering what’s next for SK8, the sky seems to be the limit. At the forefront of his priorities is to stay consistent and continue pushing out new music that he believes in.
The two-year hiatus between his previous drops allowed SK8 to have “a good period of time to actually really find the sound that I wanted to find, and now that I found it, I’m really dialing in.” He remarks, “I wanted to tap into the real me, I didn’t want to tell a story that wasn’t me, I didn’t want to do nothing that wasn’t me.”
For those with aspirations of starting a career in music, SK8 has some great advice. “It may sound cliché, but never give up. If it’s something that you really, really enjoy and really love doing, just don’t give up, there’s been a lot of ups, there’s been a lot of downs […] don’t give up, your time is gonna come, you’re gonna get your break.
“You don’t have to be mainstream, you don’t gotta to be the biggest artist in the world, you can still make music and make money at the same time. That’s what I, like, wake up and am always grateful and blessed to wake up and do music, that’s what I love.”
Article by: McKinley Franklin x Vaughn Lowery