$kinny came from a world where music’s taboo—so he created his own world. Surrounded by smoke, covered in tattoos, and rocking three-foot dreads, the Saudi Arabia-born and Los Angeles-based rapper, producer, and visual artist invites listeners into this space with his 2016 EP, Flights to the MOON [Empire]. His artful amalgam of airy instrumentation, lush production, and hazy rhymes has already earned praise from The Fader, Noisey, LA Weekly, Vibe, and many more as well as millions of plays across YouTube and Soundcloud.
“Music is pretty much against the religion,” he sighs. “There’s no such thing as growing up and being a rapper. It’s not even a dream. That made me want this more than anything else.” Summer visits to Los Angeles as a kid introduced him to influences ranging from Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G. and Kanye West to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Sade. Relocating to Southern California in 2005, his mom bought him a iMac, and he taught himself how to play keyboard and record with Logic. He started turning heads, landing a session with Timbaland and a publishing deal with Warner Chappell. Thousands of hours grinding in the studio later (and more than a few blunts burned in the process), he fashioned this enigmatic style.
“My music sounds like watching old school criminal movies on the moon,” he grins. “I’m creating the soundtrack to my life by putting all of these different influences on the spaceship. It’s more than songs; it’s an experience.”
$kinny paved the way for this “experience” with his acclaimed 2014 mixtape Ghetto Disneyland. However, Flights to the MOON sees him realize his vision even more clearly. “Ghetto Disneyland got my feet wet,” he explains. “Now, it’s time for me to start focusing on a much stronger sound. This is a rollercoaster.”
That rollercoaster begins with the single “Makaveli.” A booming vocal stomps over psychedelic keys before he croons, “I’m Makaveli, baby.” $kinny personally directed the stunning cinematic video, unfolding a narrative of its own in the process.
“You hear that eighties influence in there,” he goes on. “I wanted to bring that element back and do me. It shows people where I’m headed. Lyrically, it’s about me, you, and everybody. The message is, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ That’s why the kids are in the video. Their story is just starting.”
The follow-up “Eight Dollar$” tempers a delicate percussive bounce with intergalactic reggae flavor. “You’re stuck in a relationship, and you feel like you’re in prison,” he says. “You’re always arguing and finally you say, ‘I’m going to take what’s in my pocket, eight dollars, and leave. You can do you. I’m going to do me.’”
Since first busting onto the scene, he’s gained the recognition and endorsement of his peers across media. Visionary music video director Director X watched the $kinny-helmed clip for “PMK” from Ghetto Disneyland. Entranced by the style, he quickly went on to sign $kinny as a Directer to his production company Creative Soul in 2015. In addition, Black Bear invited him on a national tour, and he’s built connections with modern L.A. luminaries Ty Dolla $ign and Skeme.
Ultimately, the existence of $kinny’s world serves as a reminder that anything is possible no matter where you begin. “Music is my calling,” he leaves off. “I’m blessed to do what I do. I really want to show people that even though it’s a cold world, you can break through barriers, keep fighting, and take it to another level. I hope it inspires the next person to do whatever it is they’re dreaming of.”