New hip-hop project from lys scott brings hints of emo, punk, and early-’90s rap | Pittsburgh City Paper

New hip-hop project from lys scott brings hints of emo, punk, and early-’90s rap

click to enlarge A woman holds a mic and points at the camera
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
lys scott performing at The Government Center in 2021

Editor's note: This story contains references to suicide. If you or a loved one are in need of immediate support, help is available 24/7 at the Crisis Text Line: crisistextline.org

Alyssa Scott was spiraling. After getting kicked off her college basketball team, the previously lifelong athlete was left without a regimented schedule, general aim, and, most importantly, a sense of self.

“I was, like, ‘Who am I without basketball?’” says Scott, a Beaver county native and first-generation Thai American. “When you have goals and aspirations for yourself, and life doesn’t go as planned, you go into a really dark place. I was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was suicidal, and I couldn’t see a reason to stay here.”

But then, as Scott would listen to a song or go to a concert, she says she felt music whisper to her.

“Music was a little thing in my life saying, ‘Life is not that bad.’ It’s not as dark as I’m making it,” she says. “It had healing elements to it …”

So she started writing, “and when you write about things, it becomes tangible, and your problems aren't stuck inside your head anymore,” she says. “I was getting to know myself, my cycles, my traumas, and I was able to work through them and rewrite them.”

"There’s an entire community of Brown and Black people who are representing, but I didn’t see a Thai person. I wish I could have had myself as a role model.”

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Scott, who releases music under the moniker lys scott, chronicles that turbulent period and her path to self-discovery in her debut album, squashed dreams & broken wings, set to be re-released on her birthday, Mon., Oct. 24, via local label Crafted Sounds.

The hip-hop project — named after Scott’s late Uncle Tommy who she says told her, “I know how it feels to have squashed dreams and broken wings” in a dream — alternates between mellow and wavy (“flowerchild”), bass-shaking (“big shot”), hard-spitting (“sickobabyy”), and, at points, feels like it could be something straight out of the women-rapper dominated era of the late ’90s or early ’00s (“familiar faces,” “the flightline of a butterfly”).

Initially released in 2021, the repackaged nostalgia-soaked squashed dreams & broken wings features two new emo-punk leaning tracks: “breathe in” and “turnaround” with Alenté Giovanni, Sleep Movies, and Loop Zilla. Scott wanted to include additions that were complementary to the project, but also gave listeners a taste of her musical versatility, which can also be heard in her early 2022 album punk kidwell. Although, she says, “punk kidwell was me just having fun, surface level stuff.”

“A lot of what I stand for, and who I stand for, is in squashed dreams & broken wings,” explains Scott. “It represents me as a person. I talk about being queer, being Thai, just who I am. There’s an entire community of Brown and Black people who are representing, but I didn’t see a Thai person. I wish I could have had myself as a role model.”

Following the squashed dreams & broken wings reissue, Scott is set to drop a new song and music video on Halloween titled “vampire dreams.” The hip-hop artist — along with her live band Lys Scott Deluxe (LSD) — has already started to make a name for herself in the Pittsburgh music scene, performing at venues like Mr. Smalls Theatre, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, The Government Center, and Black Forge Coffee. But, at the end of the day, if Scott’s music can help just one person, she’s happy.

“The same way it saved me, I want to hold onto that,” she says. “Life is super short. Do what you wanna do. It’s too short to let it pass you by.”