Gerry’s story begins in Mexico before he was even born. His parents then made their way into the U.S. where his father worked as a line cook at a restaurant.
“I am the first of my family to be born in the U.S. Then three months after I was born, we moved back to Mexico, and then moved back to the U.S. for good when I was three.”
Skrillz was born into a bit of chaos. His mom’s brothers were drug pushers and coyotes (people smugglers over the border).
“That is the atmosphere I was born into,” he said. “My mom’s father passed away when she was eight years old and her brother became the man of the house at 12-years-old.”
In the “My Story” music video, the guy making the drug deal in the beginning, is his uncle.
“He was a big influence on me because of how he impacted the family. Basically, what he did was never glorified, but it was always seen as heroic. It was never seen as the right thing to do, but it was always made to know that if he didn’t do the things that he had done, my family would have never survived,” Skrillz said. “For me, that was very impactful for my whole adolescence.”
Gerry’s uncle left a mark in his young life, and he strived to be this prominent provider for his family as well. His uncle was murdered when Skrillz was 5-year-old but he still felt the need to carry his legacy.
“Growing up we struggled. I mean, we only just had enough, but I always felt like I had to do these things so I can bring us to a new level,” he shared. “The video shows that backstory because it led me to live that lifestyle. I created this whole image for myself to be this sort of person, so I purposely sought those things out. It was tough because the area I grew up in was littered with drug pushers. The people I grew up with ended up locked up or dead. Every single one of my friends has felonies. I’m the only one out of every single one of my friends that doesn’t have a felony. God spared me.”
The reason he took to his uncle so much is that he was a man of influence and “authority” who had money, be it as a drug dealer. Looking at his own father, Gerry saw a man who worked and worked but it never seemed to be enough.
“My dad is not a gangsta. He always gave me that example that you can work for things. I saw him work work work and it was still, we didn’t have anything. I saw them go through so much,” he said. “How can someone work so much and yet barely make it? I’d help my dad clean offices around town. At 10 my brother and I would help him.”
Skrillz began hanging out with the wrong crowd when he was 14. He began smoking and drinking and by 17 he was considered a teen runaway because he was never home. He was getting involved in gang culture and was on the cusp of being jumped into a gang.
“My mom got scared and she sent me to Mexico. I lived in Mexico from when I was 15 to just before I turned 18. Things were crazy there, but I didn’t get into a gang there.”
He continued, “The lifestyle I was living, my parents didn’t approve of it. I started dealing at 18-years-old.”
Further along in the “My Story” music video, it shows Skrillz at 21 or 22. For him, that was his “prime.”
“I felt like I was achieving things. I had money. I was working and I was dealing,” he explained. “I worked two jobs, I was a waiter and I was dealing. I had cash on me all the time. I was making more money than my parents had ever seen. In my mind, I had made it. I was living a lifestyle that I feel like anyone else would celebrate. I never thought that I’d get married because I never thought I’d be with one woman. I had multiple. I had so many friends, I already started to make music. The music was going well, I was getting attention, looking at deals. I had investors, most of them drug pushers.”
However, this was Gerry’s Saul moment in the desert. He woke up one morning and his rock bottom was what most people’s highs are.
“I saw that I had everything but couldn’t explain why I hated who I’d become,” he admitted. “I knew that I was meant to do so much more. This made me see that God created me for something so much greater than all this. I felt if I continued down the road, I was so depressed that I might become suicidal.”
Skrillz ran from God his whole life but decided that he was going to give Him a shot now. He wanted to see if what they said about Jesus was true.
“If you can change me, you can change anybody.”
Immediately in that moment, his life changed. The outcome of where he was going changed and he slowly started moving from his old life.
“It’s funny because people don’t want to be around you when you keep telling them what God has done for you. I am always around people who may not be doing the right thing, but as long as what they’re doing does not cause me to fall, I am comfortable being around them so I can be a light to them,” said Skrillz.
With that being said, Gerry dove right back into the places he was in before. This time instead of gang banging, he was coming with a message.
“The reason God gave me this opportunity was to be a light to them. If I can change, they can change,” he said. “Slowly they started becoming uncomfortable around me. ‘Hey, maybe you should slow down in inviting us to church’…”
As for his music, Skrillz no longer wanted to rap about the gang lifestyle. He wanted to rap about his new life in Christ but drug dealer investors don’t want to back a gospel rapper. This caused Skrillz to stop making music for around six years.
The timeline for this was around 2002. He would return to music in 2008, but at that time he backslid a bit after a bad experience in the church.
He was attending a Pentecostal church for a year and was totally on fire for God, bringing people weekly and being used for the kingdom.
“One of the elders pulled me aside and said, ‘You know what. We see that you love God, we know He is doing things in your life, but we don’t really see a change’. I was confused. ‘You’ve been coming here for like six or eight months and you still dress the same. You still use slang and we don’t see that change that happens to a person when Jesus comes into their life.’ ‘Are you kidding me?’ I thought. Do you have any idea of what my life looked like before?”
That exchange broke his heart and turned him bitter. Skrillz didn’t go to church for years. He felt like as long as he had his relationship with God he’d be alright. Except, he wasn’t alright. Slowly he fell back into the old routine and eventually became worse than what he was before he got saved.
“You can silence the Holy Spirit, but he’s never going to give up on you,” said Skrillz.
He started reading the Bible again and met his wife, who helped solidify his relationship with God again.
“I was so strong in Him, where he told me I can no longer grow if I didn’t become a part of the body,” Gerry said of his return to the church. “I started making music again. I didn’t even know Christian hip-hop existed. Where do I put music like this out?”
After some searching, he found that it did exist, and that’s when he discovered Lecrae, about five years ago.
Check back with Rapzilla next week to learn more about Gerry Skrillz in part two of this interview.