Mac Miller, Childish Gambino and Anderson .Paak are some of the rap artists who struck a chord in sophomore supply chain analytics major Jake Skinner. When he was in middle school, rap inspired him to start producing music, and it’s recently caught the attention of a record label.
Skinner grew up in a “musically centric” family in St. Louis and credits Mac Miller for inspiring him to start producing his own music. He began to produce in middle school, using nothing but his phone and the help of countless YouTube videos. Today, he has three producers who help him with production from St. Louis.
“(Mac Miller) was the first guy, the first white rapper that made me like, ‘I could totally do that. I can wear a snapback and be a white rapper too,’” Skinner said, laughing at himself. “That really propelled me.”
Skinner said much of his songwriting inspiration comes from listening to other artists such as Anderson .Paak, who inspired him to combine multiple different genres into his music. Other sources of inspiration come from personal experience.
“Places of trauma,” Skinner said. “That’s where a lot of art comes from obviously. I’m an edgy little SoundCloud rapper, so I have to have a lot of trauma, you know?”
Although Skinner makes lighthearted jokes about his SoundCloud projects, he still takes it seriously. Over the summer, he worked on his music in his studio in St. Louis for six to seven hours a day. During the school year, he dedicates around one to two hours a week on his music.
“For me, music is therapeutic,” Skinner said. “I do it in my free time to decompress and relax, so a lot of (inspiration) comes from stress relief.”
Skinner also creates music with his friend and fellow musician Ethan Redick, sophomore business finance major at the University of Arkansas, who has over 38,000 monthly listeners on Spotify under the name “Ethan Patrick.”
Although Skinner and Redick recently released a song called “Feelin’ Good” together, the two did not always like each other. They met as teammates on the football team in fourth grade but sparked a rivalry that would last longer than four years.
“Ethan didn’t like me because I was the starting quarterback, so he used to say that my dad being the head coach was the only reason I was quarterback,” Skinner said. “We hated each other all of middle school, so we had this ridiculous beef. Then, I started making music in high school and Ethan hit me up one time, and he was like ‘Hey, man. I’ve been making music too.’ Then, we just kind of got together, and I was like, ‘Okay, I won’t hate you anymore.’”
Now good friends, Skinner and Redick have been collaborating with each other for the past two years, but they still butt heads frequently.
“As an artist, he’s very meticulous and would sometimes get on my nerves because I just wanted to finish, but I mean, that’s what I needed to make sure we were putting out the best possible stuff we could,” Redick said about Skinner. “As a friend, it’s great. We would go play basketball or just chill in his basement for entire days just thinking of ideas and having fun together.”
Redick said their differences work well for them because Skinner enjoys “the lyrical deep meaning side of things,” while Redick looks for “the catchy hooks and melodies,” and they combine both aspects to create a story they think listeners will enjoy.
“Ethan and I have separate personalities, and we definitely butt heads a lot because we’re both control freaks and like to be in control of the creative process,” Skinner said. “We’ll always be arguing when we’re recording … but overall, we come together in the end.”
Skinner said he and Redick collaborate well because of the way Skinner’s higher range and Redick’s “raspy, bluesy kind of growl” contrast each other.
“I think when we combine that together, our harmonies work pretty well, and we just kind of came together naturally,” Skinner said.
Skinner’s motivation to keep making music over the years has been fueled partly by the number of plays his songs have been receiving, but what motivates him most, he says, are his hopes of building up his platform to a point where he can create “the very niche music” he wants, beyond what he thinks others will like.
His music follows no particular theme, but he said he tries to get a message of “truthfulness” across to his listeners.
“I don’t talk about things I don’t do, like I don’t say I’m out here with guns,” Skinner said. “I’m a very realistic person. I think that kind of needs to be portrayed more a little bit.”
Skinner’s next steps include traveling to Miami, Florida, in the coming months to meet with a record label who he says has signed a few big artists. He has been in contact with the label for the past year, but he says he still plans to put school before music.
“My first priority is getting my degree and building my resume because like I said, music has been more of a therapeutic thing for me,” Skinner said.
He said he plans to tour a school in Miami because even if he signs with the record label, he wants to finish his degree with a double minor in international business and Chinese.
“If I were to get to a point where I could sustain myself off of music, then I would absolutely pursue that, but I don’t think I’m there yet,” Skinner said. “Fingers crossed. Maybe I’ll come back with a record deal. That would be pretty awesome.”