How $UICIDEBOY$ transcended their darkness to become unlikely saviors | Revolver

How $UICIDEBOY$ transcended their darkness to become unlikely saviors

The traumas, trials and triumphs that made the NOLA punk-rap duo a stadium-filling phenomenon
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Ruby da Cherry, one half of the cultish rap duo $uicideboy$, is ready to tell the public about his most intense fan experience. "Here goes," he says, his cheeks reddening.

His story begins at his dad's restaurant in New Orleans, a building that's appeared in multiple $uicideboy$ videos — an important landmark in the $uicideboy$ pilgrimage. On any typical day, you're likely to find a crowd of typically obsessive $uicideboy$ devotees loitering around there.

On this particular day, Ruby went straight to his dad's office in hopes of avoiding them. Stephanie, his father's secretary, brought one up anyway. She knocked at the door. Ruby rolled his eyes, braced himself. "Talking to fans can be so awkward," he explains.

"They usually freak out and go silent, so you have to lead the conversation: 'Hey, man. How are you? What's your name? How old are you?'" "22," the shaking fan replied, nervously holding a bunch of $uicideboy$ CDs he'd brought with him on his drive from Oklahoma.

"He told me he'd just broken up with his girlfriend," Ruby relays. "I told him not to worry about that shit; he was a young kid." The fan thanked Ruby, left his dad's restaurant, drove the long journey home.

That night, while half-mindedly flicking through his Instagram DMs, Ruby clicked on a message that caught his attention. It was from the fan's mother. She'd been messaging Ruby all day.

"Help!" read the first one. "My son's driving all the way from Oklahoma. He just broke up with his girlfriend, and he's going to kill himself. He's going to your dad's restaurant for his final meal. If you see this, please talk to him. He really looks up to $uicideboy$."

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"I was like, holy shit, good fucking job I talked to this kid," says Ruby. "That's when it hit me. I almost wasn't going to do it. I rolled my eyes and almost let my ego get the better of me."

Ruby received another message from the fan's mother later that night: "Oh my God, you met him! He's coming home!" It was a message that immediately moved him to tears.

A few months later, the musician received a final message. "It said, it said…" Ruby pauses, trying to get the words out. "I'm so sorry, he killed himself." As soon as these words leave his lips, Ruby begins to cry in front of me and his cousin and bandmate $crim, his face now bright red, his anguished wails unrestrained.

"They put me on his funeral pamphlet, they thanked me."

Since emerging from the shadowy underground of the upside-down crosses, witch house-inspired internet of the mid-2010s, $uicideboy$ have retained one of the most fervent fanbases in modern music. Through their songs, they've reckoned with their own suicidal ideation and substance abuse head-on, inspiring a kind of ardent fandom that goes far beyond just sticking up posters on walls.

Their dark personal themes and raw, abrasive mix of shock rap, trap metal and punk appeals to a wide demographic, and has hooked hip-hop fans and head-bangers alike. $uicideboy$ have long championed the leading lights of modern hardcore and have brought out Turnstile, Code Orange, Knocked Loose and Trash Talk on various tours.

Their influence on heavy-music culture has been recognized by the masked gods of the genre, with Slipknot themselves tapping $uicideboy$ for a marquee spot at Knotfest Iowa 2021. The hype is real, and the audiences are only getting bigger.

And at this point — after almost a decade as doyens of underground rap — Ruby and $crim have heard from thousands of young people that $uicideboy$ have helped save their lives. It happens so frequently that the pair say they started to grow numb to it.

"When you hear it all the time that kind of loses its intensity," says $crim.

Suicideboys live uncropped , Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Coachella
photograph by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Coachella

All of their accolades — launching their own successful label G*59 Records and inking a lucrative distribution deal with The Orchard; dropping three acclaimed studio albums (the most recent of which is 2022's Sing Me a Lullaby, My Sweet Temptation) and scores of EPs and mixtapes (including 2019's Live Fast, Die Whenever, which featured blink-182's Travis Barker and Korn's James "Munky" Shaffer); earning billions of streams (placing them among the 100 most streamed artists of all time) and multiple Billboard Top 200 hits; selling out venues across the globe with their famous Grey Day Tour — seemed to lose their luster, too.

Now, they're staring down the barrel of the greatest year of their lives: a sold-out tour with a supporting slot from Ghostemane, a stop at Madison Square Garden. Not to mention, the release of their best music yet: the fifth installment of their I No Longer Fear the Razor Guarding My Heel EP series — the pinnacle of the $uicideboy$ sound, with sweet flows and emotionally expansive subject matter meeting grungey off-tone beats.

This time, they're finally letting themselves feel it. They can't fuck this up. They've come too far … and the stakes are too high.

Growing up in New Orleans as part of a relatively small family, Scott Anthony Arceneaux Jr. ($crim) and Aristos Norman Petrou (Ruby) were always the closest of the cousins. As both their parents' firstborns, they were the family's future patriarchs. Together, they were highly competitive kids, shooting hoops until way past sundown.

"He was what I would consider my first real friend," says $crim. "Yeah, I've never actually thought about that," adds Ruby, "you were my first friend, too."

Ruby's home was an enclave for $crim, a place to escape and sleep. "It's not hard to find out that I had a pretty rough upbringing." Both of their mothers were raised in poverty, surrounded by addiction and abuse. Ruby's mother continued to suffer with alcoholism throughout his youth, before later recovering.

Still, the addiction had become a part of the family's bloodline, the depression hereditary. "Looking at the other kids and their families, nothing about it seemed normal," says Ruby, "but it was the only normal we ever knew."

The cousins began smoking at 13 and drinking at 14 — customary ages, they say, for many born and raised in NOLA. They stayed out late, neither of them knowing what they'd come home to. Ruby learned to adjust to the unpredictable environment at home by becoming a people-pleaser; he never felt that he fit in anywhere — so he learned to fit in everywhere.

$crim never felt at ease in his own skin either. "My earliest memory from childhood was just never being able to feel comfortable," he says. He craved external validation as a way to quell the rage that burned inside of him.

"I had a lot of angst and anger that I didn't really understand at the time because I had a lot of responsibilities at that age that I don't think any kid should have to live with." As a child, $crim was forced into a peacekeeping role. He became responsible for his brothers. He broke up fights between his parents. From the age of nine, $crim lived the life of an adult.

suicideboys 2022 PROMO, Max Beck
photograph by Max Beck

"I don't know if you relate to this, Scott," says Ruby, "but I hated myself for many years, and I found that kind of gave me the drive to do something with myself, because if I could succeed in something then maybe the love would come after."

"Exactly," replies $crim. "As a kid, I put this chip on my shoulder that I still have today: I'm not good enough. I'm not good enough for anyone."

While Ruby continued to feel socially adrift, $crim continued desperately searching for an identity. He found one in being a "punk ass." Being the bad kid made him feel as though he belonged to something. He was a class clown, a drug taker, a shit-talker. He rejected everything else, even as he searched for someone or something to save him from his punk-ass ways.

$crim found salvation in hip-hop. His uncle introduced him to Three 6 Mafia when he was eight, and soon after he discovered New Orleans' hometown-hero labels Cash Money and No Limit. (These trailblazing indies would eventually directly inspire $uicideboy$ to start their own label collective, G*59.) Ruby, on the other hand, turned to punk and metal: Misfits, Leftöver Crack, Slayer.

The cousins' paths began to divert. After violin lessons, and then cymbal-crashing in a marching band, Ruby acquired a full drum set of his own at 13 and began playing in emo, post-hardcore, punk and metal bands. He recently released a solo pop-punk album titled tragic love songs to study to [vol. 5] as a tribute to his musical upbringing.

Meanwhile, $crim acquired his sense of rhythm through competitive hip-hop dance. He tried applying it to a drum set that was purchased around the same time Ruby got his, though it didn't pan out. At 13, he turned to DJing instead, and spun decks all throughout high school. At the end of adolescence, he developed a deep interest in audio engineering and beat making. After a brief stint in school, $crim's path once again converged with Ruby's.

Punk and rap — the genres both cousins latched onto — have always complemented one another seamlessly. Both had roots in working-class New York City, and both primarily existed to articulate a gritty existence.

But it wasn't until the late Eighties and early Nineties, with the emergence of the Beastie Boys, and Ice-T's hardcore side project Body Count, that they were really fused together. Punk was introduced to 808s while rap was introduced to mosh pits. Soon, Ruby and $crim would be uniting them once more.

Ruby, who graduated college in 2013, occasionally checked in with his cousin, but from a distance. At this point, $crim was making beats for musical oligarchs like Universal. Dissatisfied with the corporate grind, every now and again, he'd drop mixtapes of his own. Listening to them from the sidelines, Ruby became a fan of his cousin's work.

A $600 video camera was the first purchase he made out of school, hoping to produce and edit visual footage to accompany $crim's beats. "Dude, I want to make music videos for you, I want to learn and practice," he told him. $crim was initially reluctant, though he soon relented.

In 2014, the cousins formed $uicideboy$, named after a suicide pact they'd made together — an origin story that is, by this point, signed into legend: If their music didn't take off, they'd both agree to kill themselves. Did that pact really happen?

"Yes," they both reply in unison. "We'd take an overdose, take the easy way," says Ruby. "That was my last attempt at music. I'd been doing it for 10 years and I must have been in like 20 different bands. Scott was the first person I ever worked with that actually believed in me. $uicideboy$ was going to be my last attempt at trying to do something with music. And if it didn't work out, I was just gonna kick the bucket."

$crim, on the other hand, had already made a killing with music — but the knife was turning in on him. "I had made it up in my mind. I never wanted to go back to what I was doing before. It was either this or die trying."

As $uicideboy$, they uploaded their first track "kill yourself pt.1" onto SoundCloud soon after, in June 2014. Around that time, a scuzzy punk-meets-rap aesthetic had been germinating. A few years earlier, the L.A. rap collective Odd Future stepped onto the scene, branding themselves a "punk group."

Soon, alongside $uicideboy$, a new breed of punk-inspired rappers would take over, including Denzel Curry and XXXTentacion — both of whom they toured with early on.

With their emo attitude and Southern-inspired trap and drill production, $uicideboy$ became pioneers of what was soon to be termed "SoundCloud Rap" — a genre that combined cloudy, abrasive beats, wide-ranging sample styles and dark opiate-driven lyrical themes.

$uicideboy$ quickly earned fans in the emerging genre's major players; artists who were ultimately killed by their own subject matter, including a young Lil Peep, who died in 2017 of an accidental overdose, XXXTentacion, who was shot and killed in 2018 while being robbed, and Juice WRLD, who died in 2019 of an accidental overdose.

"It felt so surreal," Ruby recalls. "X died. Then a couple years later Juice WRLD died. We were very close to them. Unfortunately, we never got to make music with them like we wanted to."

"I got to know X really well when he came on tour with us," adds $crim. "We developed a really solid relationship and checked in with each other a lot. I cried myself to sleep the night I found out he passed."

After witnessing this series of deaths within the scene, the pair believed they were next. "I would use a lot of opiates with the thought of like, be careful," says Ruby of his growing substance use. "I always had this thing in my head of how poetic… and you know, just romanticizing the shit," adds $crim of his own fantasies about dying young, "which I realize now is just total bullshit. It's tragic, is what it is."

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$crim and Ruby both hit their bottoms some years later, just before the pandemic. $crim suffered a year-long narcotics-induced psychosis that isolated him from everyone in his life, including his bandmate and cousin. Deep into his psychosis, $crim began running low on drugs.

"I had no plan on quitting," he says, looking back. "But I would say in that time, something divine happened. I had a deep moment of clarity." From that point onward, he took a vow to save himself. He stayed for nine months in California, strenuously working on himself, attending therapy and joining 12 Step programs. He got clean, and to this day, remains clean.

It was during $crim's time in California that Ruby began to enter his own darkest chapter. In the middle of that first year of the pandemic, October 2020, $uicideboy$ had been put on hold while $crim was out of action. Ruby met with their managers to plot what to do next. During that meeting, Ruby excused himself several times.

Without his management knowing, he went to the bathroom to snort heroin, taking 40-minute breaks at a time — but thinking he'd only been in there for five minutes. After each bathroom break, he reemerged, noticeably nodding at the table. Towards the end of the day, their management staged an intervention.

"I didn't see it coming," says Ruby. They gave him an ultimatum: Keep doing what you're doing and $uicideboy$ will be no more. "It was the wake-up call I needed, because that was the worst thing I could imagine happening."

Ruby immediately took a trip out to the same Californian retreat where his cousin had been staying. After two days there, once the drugs began to wear off, Ruby entered a state of hypermania. He would remain awake for the next two weeks. Then, like his cousin, he experienced a moment of divine clarity, and finally, he fell asleep.

He awoke a sober man, the narratives he'd been telling himself all throughout his life began to look flimsy under this new, well-rested light. "You know, I would think about quitting snorting pills or something, but then I'd be like, Nah, I'm a fucking rock star. Like, you tell yourself some wild shit to keep it going." Now, he describes therapy as "amazing," sobriety as "incredible."

$crim's relationship to sobriety has been more complicated. "It's been painful because I've had to deal with shit that I've never had to deal with," he says. "To this day, I'm not good at just sitting and feeling shit, it's always felt easier to run."

He pins his biggest psychic change — the reason why he's been able to sit with the pain rather than flee from it — on his newfound sense of accountability. Where he once felt himself a mere victim of the world, now, he's accepted that he's played a large part in his own pain.

"I had a part in every single one of these things: the anger, the resentment. To the normal person, that may not be a big deal, but for me, it literally blew me away."

Suicideboys live , Gary Miller/Getty Images
photograph by Gary Miller/Getty Images

It's been a long journey and a steady trudge for both men to have rediscovered themselves. They've spent much of their lives trained on self-destruction, and now they face a new, and arguably much scarier, unknown path: survival. Having built their career around rapping about suicide under the influence of heavy drugs, they had to rapidly shift tact and figure out how to create art about survival in a stone-cold state of sobriety.

"For the first four or five months of sobriety, I spent all my time in the studio unable to open my laptop," says $crim. "I'd built up this bullshit in my head that it was the drugs that were giving me my creativity. How could I even dare to be creative without them?" The process of simply allowing himself to create without the influence of drugs, he says, "has been like learning how to walk again."

Now, the boys are facing the biggest tour of their lives — sober. Having spent much of their previous Grey Day tours too fucked up on drugs to remember anything about them, now they're bracing themselves to play Madison Square Garden — one of the most formidable live music venues in the world — without their blinders on.

"We don't really celebrate our achievements a lot, but when we found out we were playing MSG we kind of had to stop ourselves in our tracks," says $crim. "Usually we're like, a billion streams, cool, let's get back to the studio. But this, being from New Orleans especially, this is a big deal for us."

Both cousins had been keen to bring Ghostemane on tour with them. "You know, he's just been kind of like sitting idly for the last couple years and I thought if we got him to come out that it would be pretty big, you know, for him and for the fans and for the tour in general," says $crim.

They called up the trap-metal artist last year; he hardly needed convincing. The Grey Day 2023 mix will be rounded out by New York rap-metal upstarts City Morgue, along with Freddie Dredd, Sematary and Ramirez.

Around the time of their tour, they'll be releasing the fifth installment of I No Longer Fear the Razor Guarding My Heel – what they both describe as "the best music we've ever done." Their forthcoming music is the result of three years clean; of reconnecting with themselves, their purpose, their deep love for one another and the music they make together.

"I finally got that feeling of like, I want to go to the studio and make fucking music with my cousin again," says Ruby. The proof's in the sound: It's breezier, more buoyant, tinged with hope rather than deathly dread. "Gained a million listeners on Spotify overnight," Ruby sings with well-earned jubilation on "Finding Shelter in My Larynx." Together, they sound euphoric.

Now, when they hear their fans say that they've saved their life, they can really hear it. "I used to not mean shit to myself, so it was hard for me to believe I meant shit to anyone else," says $crim. "But I feel this sense of responsibility that I'm now grateful for, like, I better not fuck up."

"Yeah," Ruby agrees. "We cannot fuck this up."

Get tickets for $uicideboys$' Grey Day Tour here and stream their new music here.