It’s difficult to define Gianni Veloz’s music within genres. The 19-year-old artist, who works under the moniker Shinigami, is known for crafting rap-inflected lullabies, covering post-hardcore bands like Escape the Fate, and seamlessly blending pop-punk, rap, and even video game soundtracks into one overlying sound. Growing up as an misfit in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, Shinigami spent most of his time alone in his room, seeking solace in video games and anime. Originally experimenting with EDM in middle school, he eventually started rapping over self-produced beats that incorporate guitar riffs with rap drum kits, touching upon topics like depression and anxiety.
2018 has proven busy for Shinigami. Over the past year, he's debuted i will never be a memory after releasing two other full-length albums, and also toured the greater part of the United States alongside the influential emo hip-hop heavyweight nothing,nowhere. Whether it be his anime-inspired stylings, his deep affection for video games, or his pop-punk sensibilities, Shinigami’s exponential growth as a young artist has been incredibly exciting to follow.
When I meet Shinigami at a NYC bus station, he greets me with a huge grin, “What’s up boss?” He’s hard to miss — his earlobe ripped from gages and donning chain-adorned pants, a Gosha Rubchinskiy t-shirt, and countless tattoos. After we headed to a Manhattan tattoo parlor for a walk-in appointment, we began our conversation.
How’s your tattoo feel?
Honestly? Really good. Wasn’t painful as my other hand tattoos. I’m hangin’ in there.
What's your favorite tattoo?
The demon on my throat. It's such a big statement — it's just very obnoxious and in-your-face. You can't ignore it. There's just something about a throat tattoo that just jumps out at you, you know what I'm saying? It's the biggest statement: “I'm serious enough about music to put this big-ass black demon on my throat.”
How would you describe yourself to someone who's never heard your music?
Alternative rap — or just alternative in general. I really don’t like the term emo rap. Emo rap is not the wave.
How was growing up in New Jersey?
Terrible! Rochelle Park is really small — literally nowhere. I graduated with maybe 100 kids, and everybody knew each other. When I moved there, I was already an outcast in that way. From a young age, I really looked up to my uncles and cousin. I credit them for the way I am today. My uncles were super into metal, punk, and pop-punk, and my cousin was super into anime, which are the two things that inspire my music the most. When I was a kid, I was listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Pantera, and Escape the Fate, while all the other kids at my school were listening to radio shit. In second grade, I’d draw upside-down crosses on my papers. I know it’s stupid as fuck, but I was just that kid. I was fine with just being alone. People made fun of me, but I wasn’t sad. I liked what I liked, and that’s all that mattered.
What did your parents think when you started making music?
I literally never saw music as an option — it just didn’t seem like something that would ever happen. I never even considered being able to make music on a computer, but my parents encouraged it. I started producing EDM in eighth grade — it was just a hobby, but once I got into my sophomore year of high school, I was like, “I want to do this.” My parents were kinda tight, 'cause I just didn’t care about school. I failed algebra twice in a row. I failed physics. I even failed gym 'cause I didn’t want to change my clothes [Laughs]. I was facing the possibility of not being able to graduate. I just didn’t fucking care at all, and that lasted until I graduated. Every fucking month, they’d ask if I was going to take the SATs, and I’d tell them, “Yeah, I’m going!” Then I’d be like, “Fuck! I forgot.”
By the time I graduated, I started seeing some money from music. It wasn’t a lot, but I was able to be like, “Hey, it’s working — kind of.” My parents weren’t against me making music, but they wanted me to go to college and get a job. The middle of last summer is when I got my first decent check, and that’s when they were like, “Alright.” Once I had an actual conversation with them instead of being a dickhead about it, now they support it. My mom posts my songs on her Facebook and shit.
How did you get in contact with nothing,nowhere.?
I've been listening to him since his first song came out in 2015. I was a sophomore in high school and I found “don't mind me” through my friend Gaff — we used to just go on SoundCloud and find really rare shit. SoundCloud isn't what it used to be. I used to go on there and find so much cool music and interesting producers — people doing really unique shit. My favorite person I found doing that was nothing,nowhere.. I tweeted at him — I was literally a stan [Laughs] I'd buy all his merch.
Jay Vee hit me up in May of my senior year, and he was like, “Bro I fuck with your music.” I knew of him already because I'd seen him in in skating videos that nothing,nowhere. posted. He was like “Yeah bro, we both fuck with you.” I literally cried. From there, we made our first couple of songs, then I played my first show with nothing,nowhere. in New York. I was so scared, bro. I was so stiff singing into the mic. I probably looked so stupid [Laughs]. After that, we just became really good friends. After a couple months, nothing,nowhere.’s management hit me up and asked me to tour with them, and that was that.
What was your favorite memory on tour?
I really liked the end of my set in Indiana. I love the band Neck Deep — that's one of my favorite pop-punk bands of all time — and Indiana is a pop-punk-ass place. I was wearing a Neck Deep t-shirt on stage, and when my set was over this kid in the crowd started screaming the lyrics to “A Part of Me.” I started singing it and the whole room started singing it together at the top of our lungs. It was so sick and unexpected.
Do your fans mean a lot to you?
Yeah — to be honest, I think about giving up a lot, like in regards to everything. I get discouraged very easily and think that I'm not good enough. I don't care about money and followers and shit. A lot of people say, “Bro if I had your followers I would be so happy,” and it's just really not like that. I feel the same as when I had a thousand followers. What makes me happy is when people tell me that I actually helped them through a difficult situation with my music. That's what drew me to music in the first place. I never listened to music for fun. I listened to a lot of music because it helped me and gave me hope — hope that there was other people that understood how I felt. To be able to do that [for others] makes it all worth it.
What else do you tell yourself when you’re feeling down?
Honestly, I'm not the best at that. I wouldn't consider myself a negative person, but I see things in a more realistic way. Sometimes, after dealing with stuff for so long, you really question if anything will get better. It's hard to be able to tell yourself that. A lot of times, my friends are the ones that help me feel better and take me out of that headspace. It's really hard for me to be able to do that on my own. The only way I can do that is to make music, but I can't make music all the time. I have bursts of creativity, and if I'm in a really bad mood and going through a period of being uninspired, it can be really hard. I have to take myself out of that headspace and go hang out with friends or go for a walk or something, because I personally can't make myself feel better. My brain just doesn't work that way.
Tell me about your most recent project, i will never be a memory.
That project is super special to me, because it was the first time I worked with other producers instead of producing it myself. I enjoy producing my own music, but I also find a lot of joy in collaboration. The whole concept of the album was to make PS2-sounding music, and I think I was pretty successful in my efforts. 4evr was the executive producer of the album, and he definitely brought things to the table that I wouldn't have been able to bring myself. Most of my favorite songs that I've made are on that project.
What can you tell me about future projects or music you're working on?
My plan is to drop more music videos and stack up a bunch of music. I'm not in a rush to put together a project right now, because I've dropped three in the past year, but I'm looking to explore more sounds and genres, as well as work with more artists to expand my catalog.
I've got to ask: Xbox or PS4?
PS4. Xbox is ass. Y'all don't got them fire exclusives.