By Nathan Smith
A few months ago, my good friend Braden aka Nedarb Nagrom posted a video for a song called “Awesome” that one of his associates, the emo rapper Cold Hart, had recorded. I listen to a lot of what Braden posts, but this song in particular grabbed my attention, because it was with an 11-year-old Internet rapper named Lil Shark. The average age for rappers on the Internet has gotten progressively younger and younger over time, but I’d never heard of an 11-year-old rapper before, online or off. We’ve actually seen a lot of “lil” rappers, from Kris Kross to the “Hot Cheetos & Takis” kids, but none of those artists grab me in the same way as Lil Shark. He raps about what you’d expect kids to rap about: go-karts, skateboards, and yes, Hot Cheetos. But in his songs, he also talks about weed, women, and “pussy [that’s] wet like a water spout.”
Initially, I found Lil Shark a little disturbing and strangely compelling. There’s something about his lisp-induced flow that, from an aesthetic standpoint, is actually quite good, imbuing his over-the-top lines with a greater sense of satire, his darker and more serious ones a greater sense of pain. When Lil Shark talks about God helping him through “his struggle” in the song “Suffering,” it legitimately hurts my heart. Lil Shark, like many kids at that age, seems to take a lot of musical influence from his older brother (also a rapper), who has pointed him in the right direction, turning him on to internet rap artists like Spooky Black, BONES, and Black Kray. He’s also worked with some fantastic producers, including (the artist formerly known as) *hitmayng and the aforementioned Nedarb Nagrom (who, full disclosure, are both friends of mine, but I enjoyed their music long before I actually knew them).
You might wonder about the effect of music like this on kids, and that’s a fair thing to wonder. But in this post-modern world of ours, most kids are more hip to the differences between fiction and reality than we might give them credit for. A few notable examples aside, kids can figure out where media ends and the real world begins. Letting a 5th grader play Grand Theft Auto doesn’t make him want to kill prostitutes and beat the shit out of cars- it just makes him want to play more Grand Theft Auto. Similarly, showing an 11-year-old “profane” and “indecent” rap songs doesn’t necessarily make him or her want to do the “profane” and “indecent” behavior, it just makes them want to say they do it in a song. When a child can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not when it comes to media, it’s usually not because of a natural inability to distinguish fact and fiction, it’s because of an underlying and already-existing mental health issue. Plus, if you’re shocked by what you hear in Lil Shark’s songs, go back to when you were 11. When I was that age, kids were already pretty filthy, even if they weren’t this obscene. But then again, they also didn’t have the capability to record rap songs. I’m sure that if Yung Lean had existed in 2005, a few more of them might have tried. And besides, in the only other interview I can find with Lil Shark, he says that his mother doesn’t care what he raps about, so long as he doesn’t actually do it. When a kid is that young, it’s between him, his parents, and nobody else.
There’s definitely a novelty appeal to Lil Shark’s music, but you have to remember- Yung Lean started at the age of 15, went viral early on, and became a legitimate force to reckon with at 18. By that rate, Lil Shark could be an all-out phenomenon by the time he comes of age. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to get in a conversation soon. After a somewhat strange email exchange, Lil Shark decided in the middle of the night that he wanted the interview conducted over Twitter direct message, so I obliged. The medium explains the somewhat stilted nature of this interview, and because Lil Shark is 11 years old, he gets to the point fairly quickly. This might not make for the most conventional interview, but we might be able to all learn from it. So here, in its (mostly) unedited glory, is our Twitter DM interview with 11-year-old Internet rapper Lil Shark.
hey what’s up lil shark? this is nathan from smash cut magazine.
how’s it going? you down for the interview now?
dope. so first question: every time i google you it pulls up the “lil shark pool cleaner.” you have a lot of lyrics about pools, so is that where you got your name?
i guess thats just a machine but yeah you have to look up lil shark rapper
as of about 20 minutes ago, spaceghostpurrp threw down on you. what exactly happened?
he said “fuck [Lil Shark]” when someone mentioned me but its ok i will diss him
how does it feel to be in your first big rap beef?
because people will do anything for attention like hurting my feelings
that sucks. i imagine you probably get a lot of heat because you’re so young. how do you deal with that?
i usually ignore it
why did you want to start rapping?
i like rap music a lot and my bro raps
what kind of rap music are you into? i know you’ve talked about wanting to work with bones and black kray- who else do you dig?
what was the first rap song you ever remember hearing?
do people at your school know you rap? if so, what do they think of it?
no i started rapping after school got out for summer but some of my friends know and they think its cool. they try to and they suck
hanging out playing minecraft and swimming and stuff
what do you usually look for in beats?
good drums and really trappy i like chief keef beats
well, if you ever see it, you should write about it for us! that’s all the questions i’ve got- anything else you want to talk about?
sure i will watch it soon if its on netflix and shouts out to all my friends, bones, black kray, kanden, ghoste, and all of the goth boi click
thanks again dude
for sure :D