If you’ve paid any attention to the Chicago hip-hop scene since 2013, you’ve probably come across west side native ShowYouSuck in some way. While he may not have the national accolades as rappers such as Chance the Rapper, Noname, Saba or G Herbo, he has consistently released popular songs and projects, booked shows at large venues and performed at notable music festivals. With his fondness for obscure popular culture and devotion to pizza, ShowYouSuck remains one of the most unique talents the city has to offer.
Last year he paired up with The Hood Internet to form AIR CREDITS, a “band from the future.” Their music revolves around a sci-fi storyline where “the planet’s water supply has all but ceased, the landscape turning to desert, the desert turning to wasteland.” In addition to his work with AIR CREDITS, ShowYouSuck is also at work on his next project, titled Vacation Forever. He’s already released a single from the album (“Cool”) and is prepping another called “Mentally Healthy,” which he describes as a “super turnt ass song about good mental health.” Vacation Forever is set to include collaborations with The Hood Internet, Nick Catchdubs, Fess Grandiose, Professor Fox, MikeJaxx and Big Dipper.
ALARM spoke with ShowYouSuck about forthcoming AIR CREDITS offerings (including a collab project with Sims of Doomtree and a novel), being overlooked in Chicago’s booming hip-hop scene and how he went from working retail at Zumiez to having his face plastered in every store.
ALARM: You’ve had yourself a pretty busy summer. Have you been able to sit down and reflect on those experiences? What were some highlights?
ShowYouSuck: I guess the biggest highlight of this summer was that I got to enjoy the summer as like a normal human being. I wasn’t like on the road super heavy, and my fiancee was home a lot this summer. My highlight was just like kicking it on the couch for most of the time. That was really the highlight. There was some cool shit, like I played the Taste of Chicago, I got a poster in every single Zumiez store – fucking weird– but yeah, super huge things. I got the benefit of being able to enjoy those things, while still kind of like, man I got to live at my own pace this summer.
Does that not usually happen?
Yeah, not at all. [laughs]
You teamed up with Slushcult for the release of “Cool,” how involved will Slushcult be in the rollout for your next solo project, Vacation Forever?
Yeah, there will be a capsule collection that kind of like expresses the whole album. It’s going to be cool. It’s like a jacket, a hat, and like a hoodie sort of deal. There’s a third partner that I’m trying to lock in right now for it, to like really make some cool pieces for it. There’ll be a capsule collection. If not with the same time of the album, closely after the album releases.
How’d you get linked up with Slushcult?
I actually co-founded Slushcult four years ago, four-five years ago. Me and a good friend of mine, who we refer to as the SlushGod. I put out a song called “All Rad Everything,” and a lot about it was about slurpees and shit, and not drinking lean. My guy got inspired by it and kind of thought of this brand based around the ideology of cool drinks. And we just like ran with it. We made hats, and I passed it to all the homies, started like pushing the tees and the ideology out there. And it just kind of grew on its own.
It’s awesome that some people don’t even know that I’m a part of it. It’s grown into its own thing. Man, it’s wild.
I’ve seen a lot Slushcult stuff in Zumiez.
That’s where I came from; I came from there. That company is very instrumental in me like being able to just make music for a living. Just like, go, and like have the freedom to fucking quit and go. And that company always told me I could always come back, if shit got too fucked up I could always come back.
You worked retail for them?
Yeah, I worked at Zumiez for like six, seven years.
A lot of your songs kind of have goofy, playful concepts, but have deeper meanings when you listen closer. Like, “One Man (Pizza Party)” is more about loneliness than the song’s chorus might lead you to think. Do you ever feel like people miss the message in your songs?
Oh yeah, totally. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. I don’t even know if it necessarily bums me out. It used to bum me out when they missed the message, but I had to learn that I’m not so concise with my delivery. And now I’m kind of okay with that. I deliver the story in kind of a disjointed kind of way. If you pay really close attention, you’ll get the full thing, but if you don’t you still have a good time. You might not get everything, which is okay. I kind of draw my catalog to, I compare it to “The Office.” Do you watch “The Office”?
It’s amazing when you follow the character development and the extra storylines that carry on. But you can like totally watch that show out of context and totally love it. You can love it completely out of context, but you’re not going to get every nuance. You’re not going to get that Kevin always says something crazy like every episode. This is funny because he says something crazy every episode, you’re not gonna get that. Like, Creed always does this crazy look. You know, little nuances you’re going to miss.
That’s kind of how I love to make my projects and make my songs. It sounds disjointed and random off-top, but if you follow them all, you’re going to hear things recur. There’s inside jokes.
You’ve been making a lot of moves in Chicago since 2013, even before that. Do you ever feel like you’re overlooked not only within the city’s hip-hop scene, but nationally?
“I been right here, like reinventing myself year after year.
Does that ever frustrate you at all?
It has, but I’m at a point now in my art-making career. I’m just in a way more comfortable place. So this same question a year ago, a year or two ago, it would definitely bother me a lot more. I think now, I just know my place isn’t defined. Now I know I can make my career what it is…
I been a working rapper/musician for like the past three years now. It used to get me down when you know, you see that person move a lot quicker or that person get that opportunity over you. I’m lucky to be here, it’s very wild. People don’t get the runs I get, like they tell you, you either got to be huge or like move somewhere. I been right here, like reinventing myself year after year. It used to be me like, thinking I had to re-prove myself every year.
It seemed like every year I would go through the cycle of put out a song that people like, always keep the internet presence, I land some big show opening for some big act, I get some type of big festival thing and then the winter cools off and next year I do the same cycle again. I never like go up or down, I just kinda stay in like this mid area. But I do get really big wins, and they’re all self-contained.
So how did you come up with the concept/storyline behind AIR CREDITS?
Well it came from Steve of The Hood Internet; we have collaborated before. With the entire Hood Internet, we toured Europe together a few years ago. We was talking about getting together and doing a bunch of work together. And March of last year, he hit me up and said “hey I’m going on tour with Tobacco, do you want to go?” And I was like sure, I’m not doing anything else, I’ll go. We decided to make some songs to perform on the tour, and they weren’t even finished. They were “CAMARO,” “NO LIMIT” and “WESTSIDE.”
So we made those songs and took them and like did a five, six show run and tested those songs. And it went over really well. Like, we didn’t even have a name at the time. When we recorded, it was like okay, we’re going to make these songs. We had made two songs, and it was very much a ShowYouSuck rapping over something The Hood Internet produced. It didn’t kind of live anywhere, what’s the point of doing this. Then in my head, I was like, I’m just gonna write some weird shit. Steve played the beat for “CAMARO,” and I was gonna write something. That made me feel like rapping about some about some fucking futuristic like thing. I heard the synths and shit was like, fuck it, I’m going to go there.
When I did it, and rapped it, Steve didn’t discourage it. He didn’t go, “what are you talking about?” He let it happen. He put on something else, and I kept going with this theme and it just kind of flowered out into AIR CREDITS… This project is like the most organic thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s the first time I’m making music that’s in my head.
Is this something where like each song you wrote, you kind of came up with a new idea that expanded the story?
Yeah. Sometimes the beat actually gives me storylines. Sometimes Steve will mention something, he’ll have some weird idea about the world that we’re kind of building, and I’ll take that and like write around that. I want to get to the point where fans are making fan fiction, and I make songs based off of the fan fiction. I’m really, really pushing for that.
We got a novel being written, based on the project like right now. We got a lot of cool stuff, we’re shooting more stuff, based around the world. We did the “GEAR SHIFTN” video with Sims, I don’t know if you saw that…
Yeah, that was crazy. Where’d you shoot that?
We did it at Joshua Tree, like right outside California.
They did a really good job of making it look like, post-apocalyptic and all that.
Yeah, yo, like it still blows my mind that I was a part of that. So fucking weird. I’m just like a dude from the west side of Chicago. I’m from Bellwood, I don’t ride dune buggies. I don’t know, it’s weird.
I find really interesting about the concept is that you guys came up with this idea even before Trump got elected. With all this stuff going on, it’s starting to feel less like sci-fi and more like a prediction. Did you think at all that this could be something that could play out in real life?
It’s crazy that fans send me these weird science news articles about stuff that I’ve mentioned in songs, like all the time. So yeah, it’s getting very weird. But you know a lot of stuff I come up with in these songs are stuff that I see in really obscure sci-fi movies. I watch all this weird shit all the time, and I’m finally learning what to do with all this weird shit that I’ve watched my whole life. And that’s what’s kind of rad about my music career as a whole was like, oh, I finally found a purpose for – I didn’t waste my time sitting on this couch watching bullshit, renting all these movies.
AIR CREDITS released their second project, OMEGA VIRUS / ΩV, back in July, what made you want to put it out as a single, 19-minute track?
Just kind of curious what formats people would allow us to put them in. What situations will people pay attention to the most? I wanted it to come out and see how many complaints we got, as opposed to people who loved the format of it. There really wasn’t any. There was a few requests for a few singles, which we’ve obliged to later.
I think it’s something to be said about giving someone a project, and them making it a moment to listen to it. OMEGA VIRUS / ΩV wasn’t really made for you to listen to every single day. If you got a single song that you love out of it, that you want to repeat, that’s extra to me. That’s awesome, that’s great. What I wanted people to do was go, “I love this project so much that when I listen to this, I’m going to turn the lights low, like I’m going to devote 19 minutes to this.”
That project went through so many different versions, just in format. There’s a reason why those songs are lined up the way they are. Story reasons, sonic reasons, numeric reasons, there’s a lot of things in there. I just wanted people to experience it the proper way for a certain amount of time. And now we’ll break it down and give you the singles.
A lot of those were fresh, fresh songs, but a lot of them were demos that didn’t quite get fleshed out in time for BROADCASTED, so it was like how do we use these pieces. And a lot of times they just sound good as pieces. So we used them to bridge more fleshed-out songs, to kind of carry along the storyline.
“This group is just a huge playpen, just a sandbox for both of us.”
Like the one-minute, two-minute songs on there.
Yeah, yeah. A lot of times I rap on some shit, and that’s all I got to say on it is one verse. That doesn’t mean I gotta run and get another rapper to get on it. It’s okay that a song is a minute and fifteen seconds, it’s cool. That’s all I have to say. And sometimes you do want to build it out. I just feel like a song shouldn’t be heard just because it’s not a certain time length.
This group is just a huge playpen, just a sandbox for both of us. Just to do whatever the fuck we want. And if it doesn’t totally pan out the way we think, that’s cool. We just bring it back and like re-release it a different way the next time. We learning, we both are learning with this band.
I think I saw you mention on Twitter that you are working on another AIR CREDITS project. What can you tell us about that project so far?
We got an album in the can. We got an album with Sims from Doomtree. Yeah, we got a whole collaborative album that’s in the can. That’s looking like early 2018. We’re still in the demo phase of LP two right now. So yeah, we’re still chopping away at it.
We took like a two week break. Last week was the first week we got back to it, chopping away at demos. We got like 15, 16 demos for album two. In addition to the Sims album, and there’s a separate project we’re doing. Yo, we got some really cool shit that we’re doing.
Are you expanding the story a little bit more on these new projects?
What it’s looking like now, is the project is taking a focus on time. I’ve been studying different concept on time, different theories on time. That’s kind of the focus on LP two is time. With the project we did with Sims is kind of a bigger picture into the world that we kind of built from BROADCASTED. It kind of feels like that project is a proper follow-up to BROADCASTED, where LP two is kind of working its way into a different space. Still trying to figure out what it is, to be honest with you.