Skype Williams’ debut EP is called “Sorry I’m Late,” which is funny because the first time I met the New York native born Tony Jackson Jr.—through a mutual friend at a dinner four years ago—he was two hours late. In his defense, it was New Year’s Eve and he was very drunk, which I know because shortly after arriving he puked under the restaurant table.
“Please lead with that story!” Jackson exclaims, when I meet him at Fierman, the small contemporary art gallery he manages on the Lower East Side. Wearing a decomposing Bullwinkle T-shirt under a black suit, with green Nikes, he looks every bit the multi hyphenate: downtown gallerina-curator by day, DJ by night, rapper-singer-producer whenever he finds the time in between. “It's basically a commentary on masculinity,” Jackson says of the massive head of a taxidermied water buffalo juts out of the middle of the gallery floor, which the artist Dominic Nurre inherited from his late father… “Because the artist is gay and his father left him the most straight shit ever.”
The pressure to conform to some of that straight shit almost derailed Jackson’s music career. In his early twenties, when Interview Magazine requested a photo to accompany an interview about his music, “I was like, ‘I kind of can't do it because I'm gay,’" Jackson recalls, thinking about his family in Queens. “I was so afraid of being found out.” Instead of rapping, Jackson pivoted to DJing, which allowed him to hide behind a moniker. He made a name throughout New York as Skype Williams, playing manic pop sets—a sped-up version of Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” comes to mind—at parties and institutions like Bubble_T, MoMA PS1, and Papi Juice. “When I first heard of Papi Juice I was like What the fuck? Papi Juice? It sounds like a gay porn, I have to go,” Jackson exclaims.
Now that Jackson’s out, so is “Sorry I’m Late.” The record’s five songs are pure summer pop, refracted through the prism of old school hip-hop and studded with elements of funk. It’s the sonic equivalent of lemonade dripping down your chin at the roller rink—breezy, laidback, and fun—with Jackson sounding like Biz Markie cosplaying the sixth Backstreet Boy. Following his release on June 1st at The Standard, East Village’s NO BAR, The Standard spoke to the artist about how hard it is to make happy music, collaborating with his idols, and cosplaying a Backstreet Boy in his fifth-grade talent show.