A skateboarder first and a rapper second, the Atlanta-based Gnar nonetheless took quickly to his second outlet, and within a year of making his informal debut scored a major-label recording contract that led to the release of the mixtape Gnar Lif3 (2018).
Born Caleb Sheppard, Gnar rapped for fun as a teenager, then got involved on a deeper level with skateboarding and, eventually, his Gnarcotic apparel line. Among his fellow Atlantan skaters was Germ, whose rap aspirations provoked Gnar to take the form more seriously himself. First going under the moniker Lil Gnar, he gained serious traction in 2017 after an early track, "Ride Wit Da Fye" — featuring Germ and production by SS.Kev — approached half a million streams within a couple weeks of being uploaded. He swiftly attracted major-label interest and signed with Capitol in 2018. That June, Capitol commercially released "Drop Top Benz," a collaboration with Lil Skies, as the rapper's proper debut. The track highlighted the mixtape Gnar Lif3, which arrived three months later with appearances from IDK and Skies as well as Travis Barker and Zillakami, the last two of whom helped to add an aggressive rock edge to the predominantly low-key (if intense) material. The next year brought a string of new singles from the rapper (who had dropped the "Lil" from his name and was now known simply as Gnar), including "Life on Fire," "Death Note," and "Octane Sex." ~ Andy Kellman