At 24 and 25, New Orleans based cousins Aristos Petrou and Scott Arceneaux Jr. made a pact to allot the next five years of their lives to making it in the music industry. If they failed, the consequences were steep. “We decided to give this ‘til we were 30 and if we didn’t make it by 30, we’d fucking kill ourselves,” Petrou, who’s now known to the world as Ruby da Cherry, says. “This is all we wanted to do and if we couldn’t do it, we didn’t see a point in living.”

The duo cultivated a passion for music at a young age, with Petrou playing in punk bands from 12 onward and Arcenaux beginning to produce beats at 19. Neither had an initial intent to pursue hip-hop, but after reconnecting as adults, the pair began rapping together in their spare time. “Around 2013, we linked up and I got this DSLR Canon P3I as a present for graduating college, and I wanted to start shooting and editing to practice,” Petrou says. “I called Scott because he was making solo music just for fun, he was making 30 songs and mixtapes every three months and putting them out there for no one to listen to. I picked one of the songs and told him that I wanted to do a video for it.” From this video, Petrou and Arcenaux began leaning on each other for their solo music, but after a few months they decided to come together on a song. “He made this beat that I really liked and he really liked, so we both hopped on it,” Petrou shares. “After making that song, we were both blown away by how well we worked together and how well the song came out with us both doing a verse. So we decided to fuck doing shit solo and started doing this together.”

When they came together as artists and made the pact, both Petrou and Arcenaux were struggling financially and didn’t have many options. “I had no job because I’d gotten fired for my tattoos and was a heroin addict who never wanted to go back to working the 9-to-5,” Arcenaux, who’s now known as $crim, says. “He was working two shit pizza jobs just to keep the lights on in his house.” With nowhere to go but up, the cousins began their hustle, promoting their music on a local level old-fashioned method didn’t lead them in the right direction, which prompted Petrou to find the underground rap scene on SoundCloud. “After a year or so of failing, watching people throw [our CD] away, and not really going anywhere, he called me up really excited and told me to come over. When I got to his house, he pulled up SoundCloud, which we were completely ignorant to how powerful it was,” Arcenaux explains. “He showed me a bunch of people who were finding success in the internet rap scene and it was kind of the missing piece to the puzzle. It showed us everything we were doing wrong and how the game was changing.”

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi

Petrou and Arcenaux took inspiration from rappers like Bones and Yung Lean who’d found success on SoundCloud, as well as OGs like Lil Wayne, and began pumping out tracks to build a presence on the platform. “The way we started by dropping Suicideboys’ songs was doing the ‘Kill Yourself’ series one through 10,” Petrou explains. “Each series had three tracks on it and maybe a few bonus tracks.” Suicideboys started dropping music in June 2014, releasing one song from the EP each week and moving on to a new EP at the beginning of each month. By flooding the site with constant tracks, Suicideboys gained a following on SoundCloud and in less than a year, had 10 EPs under their belt. After the “Kill Yourself” series, the pair decided to take their approach in a new direction and in early 2015 dropped their first mixtape, “Gray/Grey.” They took a liking to cultivating larger bodies of work, and from there, dropped another seven mixtapes within a few years. “We just wanted to be in everybody’s face at all times,” Petrou says. “We figured if we weren’t dropping music at this constant rate, somebody else would be and nowadays people’s attention spans are obviously worse than they've ever been. If you don’t stay relevant, don’t stay in people’s faces, and don’t even switch up your style from time to time, there’s always gonna be another dude or another girl that’s coming up.”

Suicideboys found SoundCloud at just the right time, as they gained a following when the community was pure and the mainstream hadn’t caught on to the phenomenon. As artists like Lil Pump, Lil Peep and XXXTentacion graduated the underground and broke into the mainstream, the phrase “SoundCloud rap” came along with them—which, according to Petrou, polluted the site with artists. “Back in 2015 and 2016, there was this whole community on SoundCloud and it was pretty insane how many artists were on there working together,” Petrou says. “It was a beautiful thing, but that’s all over with now. People started saying, ‘Oh my god, all I have to do is upload this to SoundCloud and start posting it around,’ then the floodgates were opened. I would argue that Suicideboys were one of the last artists to jump through those gates before they were shut. By the gate closing I mean it getting too fucking littered with too many artists and way too many comments of self promotion—before it got spammy.”

Once SoundCloud went mainstream, Suicideboys had more eyes on them than ever before. This led many parents and journalists to clutch their pearls at the group’s image, which many, including the Suicideboys themselves, would call controversial. “I do think we’re controversial,” Arcenaux admits. “When we started we took inspiration from Riff Raff, who was so out there, and we wanted to figure out how to grab people's attention. If you take it at face value, of course it’s super controversial. But then you get to know our backstory and understand that we’re talking about real things that have happened in our lives. We weren’t rapping to really flaunt anything, we were talking about the hate we had for ourselves and it just so happened that’s how our image developed.” While some have condemned Suicideboys for their lyrics, fans from around the world have related to the topics their songs express. “Every story is the same and I get chills talking about it now, but these kids are talking about how we saved them from killing themselves or how they’re clean off of drugs,” Arcenaux says. “Kids who are scared to get therapy and scared to be stigmatized or, because of the way the system is, may not be able to afford to go get help—they find that in our music.”

Suicideboys have made a point to share their struggles with depression and substance abuse in their music, particularly in their newest project—“Stop Staring at the Shadows.” This mixtape came together after the pair took a nine-month hiatus from making music, during which Arcenaux entered rehab (he’s now been sober for over a year). The project marks a change in direction for the group, not only in their sound, but in their perspective on making an impact on their listeners. “I’ve always been very open about my life in my lyrics and sometimes I was very negative and dark,” Arcenaux says. “There’s part of me that actually hates our old music because of the mindset that I’m in now and it brings me back to that time. We’ve seen people drop like flies in the past couple years and I was next in line if my behavior kept up. I know a lot of kids look up to us and we’ve heard a lot of personal stories from them, so now more than ever it’s very important to give them something positive to look up to.”

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi

Through taking ownership of their own struggles, both Arcenaux and Petrou have worked to separate their personas from their personal lives. The pair created $crim and Ruby da Cherry as alter egos, to get people’s attention and help them get in the zone. “No matter how real you are in your music, what you’re trying to sell people is your persona.” Arcenaux says. “When I went through therapy, that was a big thing that I went through with my therapist. I was trying to avoid reality at all costs within my addiction and all the trauma I’d been through to the point where my persona actually became a part of me. It was a coping tool for survival and I was introducing myself as $crim to everyone. When I got sober, I finally started introducing myself as Scott again. I remember how shocking that was and how it felt when I did that.”

Although they are part of their persona and add to the dark allure of their image, Suicideboys’ tattoos are one hundred percent the real deal. Both discovered a love for tattooing long before coming together to make music and for Arcenaux his tattoos are part of the reason he left behind his life working a 9-to-5 in order to pursue music full force. “When I was working at the furniture store and whenever I got some steady income, I would get tattooed and I kept pushing it to the point where I’d gotten sleeves,” Arcenaux says. “Eventually, I got to my hand and I asked my job, which was super corporate, if I could get my hands done. They said no, but me being the little young, dumb, hardhead that I was, I went and got my hands done anyway—even against the tattoo artist’s advice.” After a few weeks trying to hide his forbidden tattoos at work, by wearing gloves or covering his hands with makeup, Arcenaux was eventually caught red-handed and was fired. Without a job taking up his time, Arcenaux and Petrou came together to create Suicideboys—and the pair hasn’t looked back since.

Getting tattooed has been an integral part of this duo’s story and without those hand tattoos, who knows where Suicideboys would be today. We by no means recommend getting tattooed in order to become the next hot rapper. By now it’s become a cliché, but that act of rebellion helped cement Suicideboys’ core belief—fuck the establishment and what anyone thinks of you.

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi

Photos by Muhammad Elarbi