Cool Like That

“Toxic, toxic, toxic! Everyone talk shit, talk shit, talk shit!” Eskiimo yells into the camera over hard kicks that bang away in triplets. The track is angsty and energetic, popping off forcibly like a shaken bottle of beer. “I was meeting a lot of people that I didn’t like and needed to express myself. I needed to do something angry,” he explains. And a Jersey Club beat was the perfect choice for a track like that. “I love Jersey music. You can do anything to it. You can dance, you can rage, you can vibe.”

Figuring out ways to redirect his anger is something Eskiimo learned in childhood. Growing up half Senegalese and half Thai in his hometown of Trang was difficult for a while. He was the only Black kid at school, and during elementary school kids would incessantly bully him, starting fights and talking shit. Classmates even kicked in the bathroom stall door to punch him while he was on the toilet. He started fighting back, but his mom said he needed to find a different way to solve his problems. So instead he made friends. Whenever he’d see someone alone, he’d go up and talk to them until he had his own circle. By middle school, his problems were over. These days, he says being Black in Thailand is cool. “The girls love my curly hair,” he says with a big grin.

Eskiimo found rap during high school through a girl he liked and the first track she sent him was Chris Brown’s “New Flame.” Before that, he was listening to stuff like J-rock, but now he was all about American rap, devouring it on Youtube. It also helped him learn English. He would look up the lyrics to the songs he liked, and he started paying attention in English class. He even joined the music club, where the teacher would play music and he’d have to write down the lyrics.

In 2019, he started listening to Thai rap and spitting for fun with friends. One day he saw that Nino, arguably Thailand’s top rap producer, was performing in Bangkok, so he drove his motorcycle 12 hours to the city to see the show. Afterward, he found Nino and asked if he could send a demo and Nino agreed. He drove back home and immediately recorded “Slum Boy.” Nino released the track and signed Eskiimo to his Hype Train label.

“Slum Boy” is a true story about someone Eskiimo knew personally, who ran away from an abusive home and went on to sell drugs, creating a new life for himself. Although it’s about someone specific, a lot of people have lived the same life. “I’m not from the slums, but I know a lot of people from there, lots of outlaws who tell me stories. So I told their story in the song.” It’s bucolic where Eskiimo grew up and he was surrounded by the beach, waterfalls, and mountains. “I love it there, it’s my safe zone.” He lives in Bangkok now, just across the street from Nino’s studio.

Eskiimo—whose name refers to Eskimos because they’re “cool”—stands out among his peers in the Thai rap scene, often rapping over dance music genres. He’s made a couple of Afrobeats songs, breezy tracks that flow leisurely over West African dancehall riddims. “I only found dancehall a couple years ago but I love it,” he says. “It’s African, that’s my roots!” His next track is an upbeat, drill-influenced cut featuring clacking baile funk snares. “I love to dance, ever since my mom bought me a copy of Step It Up 3 when I was little.”

He found Jersey Club on Tiktok, where it’s the soundtrack to every other viral dance clip. Through that he discovered Newark club rappers like Bandmanrill and Philly rapper 2Rare. He’s even keeping up with the French club rap scene. Nino knew he was interested in the music and suggested they make a track. The two went back and forth in the studio sharing ideas until they wrapped up the beat and then Eskiimo went into the booth and did his thing.

Club music has gone global repeatedly. It’s roots stretch back to Baltimore in the 90s and it quickly influenced parties around the world. Then in the early 2000s Jersey adopted it, and they caught the world’s attention yet again in the early 2010s. In the past couple years rappers have embraced the music, and it’s being picked up internationally for the third time. Now it’s in Bangkok, and hopefully it’s not just a one-time thing.