“I know I gotta lay up but I’m taking it from three/I’m pacing victory,” raps Skizzy Mars on “Time,” off his recently-released The Red Balloon Project. The New York-based emcee speaks the truth. Four years after he reluctantly uploaded his first song online, two years after best friend G-Eazy invited him to open for him on tour, and a month after his video for "Do You There" hit the web, Mars—born Myles Mills—released the EP, doing things on his own terms the whole way. The seven-track project chronicles what is arguably the dopest summer ever, talking love, lust, and drugs with assistance from the likes of Phoebe Ryan, Marc E. Bassy, and (of course) G-Eazy. We spoke Mars recently to discuss the origins of his name, the crazy summer that inspired his EP, and what we can expect from his upcoming tour.
Is it true that you originally wanted to pursue sports journalism? Yeah. I basically had a plan to be a sports broadcaster. I wanted to be on SportsCenter. Guys like Gus Johnson and Marv Albert might not be common, household names to everyone but they were my idols. I’m a die-hard Knicks fan. I used to even watch Knicks games and do play-by-plays aloud to myself. That was really my passion. I went to school for that. But once I realized that music was my passion, I dropped out of school and went full force towards it.
So when did you decide to pursue rap instead? I was 17 years old in 2011, and I released a song called “Douchebag.” It was the first time I had the courage to put out a song on the Internet. A bunch of blogs posted it, and then a couple labels hit me up and contacted me via e-mail. Pretty much, when that song came out, it was constant momentum: I met with some labels, and met with some people that became my manager eventually. Everything from then on has been progressive. Ascension.
What was the inspiration behind the name Skizzy Mars? My English teacher and theater coach in high school called me “Skills Mills,” since my government names is Myles Mills. I went to an all-boys school, and along with that comes a lot of locker room bullshit and talking about each other and stuff. We all had nicknames, and “Skills Mills” somehow became “Skizzy.” When I first started writing raps secretly, when I was 15 or 16, my name was “Mars” because I wanted this out-of-this-world vibe. Even before I became obsessed with Kid Cudi and his Man on the Moon thing, I was obsessed with outer space. So I put together “Skizzy” and “Mars.” I remember my friend telling me, “Dude, that’s a terrible name.” But once I started gaining some momentum, it was too late to go back. Now I love the name.
Congratulations on releasing your EP, The Red Balloon Project. How did you feel when you first saw it go up on iTunes? It felt like it was the beginning. I felt like it was definitely something to pat myself on the back for. I never thought I’d see myself on the front page of iTunes. It was one of the first times that myself and my team, Penthouse Music, got to see tangible results from our hard work.
What inspired the project? It was basically a documentary of my summer. I had a wild summer with friends. I was in New York. I was in the Hamptons. I was acting crazy. I turned 21 in June. It was kind of a documentation of that. Really, the main influence was The Red Balloon, the film directed by Albert Lamorisse. It’s a silent film, and it’s only 35 minutes, so it’s open to interpretation in a lot of ways. For me, I took from it ideas of fate and ideas of self-assurance, ideas of things ending up how they’re supposed to end up. Also New York City; walking around New York, it’s inspiring every day to me.
Speaking of which, how have you been prepping for The Red Balloon Tour? Prepping for a tour is awesome. This is a very transcendent moment for my career. It’s my first headlining national tour. 34 cities. I’m bringing two artists that I’m a really big fan of, Prelow and Swizzymack, who’s DJ-ing for me. Marc Bassy is also doing some west coast dates. It’s a new experience. I’m excited for it. I just want to give people the best 60-minute set they could possibly see. A lot of these venues are gonna be pretty intimate. Hopefully, we’re gonna sell them all out and just rock out. I want to give kids the best night of their lives. I want to give kids a night they won’t forget.
Describe the set in five words. “Vibes,” “vibes,” “vibes.” Those are the first three. The last two are “groove” and “sex.” “Vibes” is the main thing. I want people to vibe, to come to my show and be in an atmosphere where they’re comfortable, and they’re vibing and they’re just enjoying music because that’s what music’s for in my eyes. We’re gonna have some surprises for sure. We’re also gonna turn up very, very much. So don’t just think it’s gonna be a coffeehouse environment. We’re gonna be jumping up and down and sweating a lot.
Which city are you most excited to perform in? New York. It’s always New York because I get to see my friends and family, and I get to come back to my city. There’s really no feeling like that. Once you’re in the crowd and seeing hundreds of people that you know, and then hundreds of people that you don’t know, and they know every word to your song, it’s really fulfilling.
Text by Keryce Henry