To all the young people who feel like they’re drifting through life, hip-hop artist Snak the Ripper says: Persevere.
“Keep on working on whatever it is you’re interested in, and believe in yourself — even if no one else does …
“Thinking too much about what other people think of you — that’s what stops a lot of kids,” said Snak, whose real name is William Scott Fyvie.
A decade or so ago, the popular Vancouver rapper and founder of Stealth Bomb Records was a homeless graffiti kid, sleeping on other people’s couches.
“I was really unsure of myself and I didn’t have a lot of friends,” recalled the 32-year-old, who performs on Wednesday, May 20, at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar in Red Deer.
His early childhood was mostly spent drawing and painting at home. “I always knew I was an artist,” said Fyvie, who developed an appreciation for music — from Neil Young to Eminem and Nirvana — while growing up in Maple Ridge, B.C.
His dad was never a big part of his life. But his divorced mom worked hard selling fruit, vegetables and flowers by the roadside to feed her three kids. And Fyvie feels she set a good early example of entrepreneurship.
When his mom later moved to the U.S. to marry an American, he felt like an aimless 20-year-old, left behind and cast adrift.
“I was kind of a troublemaker,” he recalled, moving from place to place, doing odd jobs, spray-painting public property, drinking and using drugs.
“That time was a real struggle for me. Sometime I didn’t have a place to sleep and had to steal food to eat. … It was a rough time, but a good learning experience.”
By age 25, he’d hit “rock bottom” with his substance abuse.
Realizing “I needed something to do on my weekends that was not partying,” Fyvie began staying home and writing music lyrics. The challenge of coming up with cohesive rhyme schemes became “addictive,” he recalled, and “I started not caring that I wasn’t partying.”
He took the stage for the first time in front of an audience at Vancouver bar The Bourbon — and felt immediately at home.
“For me, the easiest part was the performance and joking-around-on-stage part. The hardest was coming up with the lyrics. I would really take my time writing the lyrics and working on my albums,” said Fyvie.
He put out a debut CD called The Ripper in 2007, followed by the albums Sex Machine, Fear of a Snak Planet and White Dynamite. Among his biggest hits are the inspirational tune Forgotten, with 2.8 million YouTube views, Yup (with 1.9 million views) and Bombay Dreams (1.2 million).
His title track of his latest album, Just Giver, could be interpreted as taking an irreverent poke at the party lifestyle he once ditched. The video stars actor Paul Spence of the 2002 cult film Fubar, which Fyvie describes as a big influence, and a cross between This is Spinal Tap and Trailer Park Boys.
Fyvie said Just Giver could be interpreted as an ode to hard partying or as a motivational anthem. “I transformed the meaning at bit to if you do something, you’ve got to really do it — as in ‘just give ’er.’”
The same work ethic has applied to his own music career.
Once Fyvie became dissatisfied with the way his label was treating its artists (“They were just taking money out, not investing money in”), he quit in 2013 and formed his own label. Stealth Bomb Records now represents five other artists — Merkules, Caspian, e.d.g.e., Young Sin, and Fyvie’s girlfriend, singer Jaclyn Gee.
As Snak the Ripper, he has collaborated with the likes of Swollen Members and the Onyx collective.
If anybody had told the 20-year-old Fyvie that he could make all this happen someday, he said he never would have believed it.
“If any young person listens to my music, what they can take from it is you can do anything you want to do,” Fyvie added.
“I’m not an angel. I’m not perfect. … If I can do it, you can do it.”
Tickets to his 10 p.m. show with Caspian and Jaclyn Gee are $30 in advance, $35 or $40 for VIP access from www.trueability.ca.