Trevon Gardner, who is better known by his stage name, Skilla Baby, is a rapper making major moves outside of the great state of Michigan. The Detroit-based rapper has been in the game since he was 18 years old. So, this industry isn’t new to him. Now, Skilla Baby is looking to expand his reach. And he’s doing so rapidly — with his music videos for tracks including “Icky Vicky Vibes,” “Duck Yo Taco” and his latest release, “Ok Bet,” racking up some serious views.
“You learn it as you grow,” Skilla Baby says of finding your target audience and success in the music industry. “As you get more successful, as you start doing shows, as you see who’s showing up, who’s reposting your music, listening to it... it just comes with time though. You have to want to be involved in the business side of music. You really gotta do that.”
Skilla Baby is also no stranger to the stage and is already seeing the impact of his presence on others.
“I performed at Little Ceasar’s Arena, that’s where the [Detroit] Pistons play here, it was the Future concert [One Big Party Tour 2023] and everybody just, the whole arena, word-for-word, knew my songs. I was like, ‘Damn I could do something.’”
He also makes it a priority to interact with the next generation. Through performing live, he’s been able to showcase his talents not just to large stadiums and arenas but to his own community and similar sized ones across the country during high school performances. He says that his community is what shaped him, so he feels like giving back is just part of the process, his come up, and overall purpose of what he’s doing.
“I appreciate the schools more than anything,” he says. “I feel like if I can save one child then I did what I was supposed to do. I feel like I was put on Earth to do something like that to try and reach back and save somebody. I know when I was going to school, if I had seen somebody that I looked up to at my school or knew they were coming, or could possibly come, I might’ve been in school more. I might have done better in school.”
Skilla Baby aims to be the positive role model he wishes he saw in school growing up. He hopes to inspire kids through his performances.
“I be doing that to motivate them to do better,” he continues. “A lot of these kids come from broken homes, broken families, so if I do that and they know I might come to their school, they might go to school everyday ... Let them know that I’m still a real person. They could reach and touch me.”
Of course, there are cons that come with trying to make a name for yourself, but the reward far exceeds the initial societal struggles that an artist of his caliber might encounter.
“[I just live] life and try to be as normal as possible because it’s kind of hard when you get a lot of recognition for what you do,” Skilla Baby says. “It’s kind of hard to do normal stuff. I can’t even go to the gas station for real without somebody saying something. There’d be hate coming from my city but that’s with anything. Hate comes with success. Normal obstacles.”
Skilla Baby was also able to perform his song “Tay B Style” after being brought out by Lil Baby in Arizona during the 2023 Super Bowl, an experience he spoke fondly about, saying, “It just felt like I accomplished something because a major artist that everybody loves brought me out. He’s close with family of mine, and I have family that work for him — that let me know that people had their eyes on me. I really didn’t meet Lil Baby on some ‘I’m a rapper’ type timeline. I’m just along for the ride with my family.”
One thing's for sure — Skilla Baby isn’t trying to put up a front. He hails from one of few cities known for its influence on rap music. When asked about how he threads his Detroit roots into his work, his response emphasizes his ability to be true to himself, something that may, at face value, seem like a branding tactic, but for him, is innate.
“I don’t really try to incorporate ‘em,” he says. “It’s just automatically incorporated because that’s just who I am. That’s where I’m from. I don’t think people from Atlanta try to talk with an accent but they talk with an accent ... That’s why I think I’m so intimate with my music because it’s sacred to me because it’s real life that I’m putting on wax for real.”
The rapper revealed that one of his musical inspirations is Lil Wayne, as his 2004 album, “The Carter,” was the first he owned. He was also quick to name drop artists who he keeps on rotation in his playlist such as Adam Levine, Adele, Halsey, The Gap Band, Chaka Khan and, his personal favorite, Anita Baker.
Positivity percolates through this artist’s veins. Skilla Baby keeps his humility in his back pocket which makes him worthwhile to follow for both casual and loyal listeners alike. He is letting his fans know that if he did it, they can do it.
“I think I just push the culture because I’m just sharing my story,” he says. “I ain’t trying to share nobody else’s story. I share my story. Whatever somebody gets from it, that’s what music is for, whatever you get from it, you interpet what I’m saying and take it and use it for yourself.”