In the summertime of 2017, Erik and Judy Thureson picked up their son, Jacob, from a church occasion at a North Austin escape room. As he slipped into the automotive, he bumped his head and slumped onto the again seat. Pulling away from the curb, Erik peered into the rearview mirror and watched his 16-year-old son laughing groggily and mumbling below his breath. When he tried to have interaction him in dialog, asking about his time with the church’s youth group, Jacob slurred his phrases, muttering incoherent sentences that trailed into oblivion. Earlier than lengthy, Erik watched as he collapsed into an agitated slumber, unresponsive to his and his spouse’s pleas.

Gazing one another in rising panic, Erik and Judy started to attach the dots between what was unfolding earlier than them and an incident 9 months prior, when Jacob divulged that he had experimented with marijuana and antidepressants to alleviate his mounting nervousness and melancholy. Whereas disturbed by the revelation, they’d taken solace in his re-assurances that it was an anomaly—a short and determined effort at quieting the ache. His overtures have been so convincing, so heart-wrenching, however now, they have been starting to suspect in any other case. Was all of it a lie, a efficiency?

After they arrived residence, Erik sat him down on the sofa and commenced to mine him for info. Was he speaking to Jacob or Hella Sketchy, his son’s stage identify within the on-line hip hop group? Solely a junior in highschool, he was already a prolific producer with a singular model of lure music—an rising style of rap infused with auto-tuned vocals and 808-heavy beats—who had labored alongside main artists like PnB Rock, Tay-Ok, and Ugly God. He’d even lately began rapping over his beats, a step that remodeled him from a participant in underground circles to a rising star being courted by business heavyweights like Atlantic Data.

However none of this mattered to his father as he watched his son wanting round dazedly, his eyelids flickering. A second later, his mom emerged from his room, visibly flustered. In her palms was a backpack crammed with capsules of Molly (slang for MDMA, which stimulates the mind’s output of serotonin, often known as the “completely happy chemical”) and Xanax, a extremely addictive anti-anxiety remedy.

On the sounds of her crying, Jacob tipped over a glass of chilly water onto his shirt, jolting him out of his stupor. All of the sudden lucid, he ran upstairs to alter garments earlier than grabbing his backpack and sprinting out the door. Lower than an hour later, he was within the ER. “We have been in complete shock and denial on the time,” his mom displays. “He’d by no means been via something that was so traumatic, one thing we couldn’t overcome. I used to be viewing this as one thing to get via, to handle and transfer previous. Actually, it was just the start.”

Inside two years, Jacob’s musical profession had introduced him to Los Angeles, the place he was on the cusp of nationwide stardom. However because the hits piled up, his struggles with psychological well being and dependancy festered. On June 13, 2019, his dad and mom obtained a late-night textual content message from him: I like you, it learn. Lower than 5 hours later, Jacob’s girlfriend, Evelyn Walker, known as screaming for assist. Handed out and unresponsive, he was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, the place docs discovered a lethal mixture of Xanax, marijuana, cocaine, and Oxycodone in his system. He quickly slipped right into a coma from which he’d by no means emerge. Two weeks later, at simply 18 years previous, he was gone.

***

Earlier than he was Hella Sketchy, Jacob Thureson was a precocious child residing within the Beverly Glen space of Los Angeles. At college, he confirmed early indicators of superior intelligence, boasting a sixth-grade studying stage whereas nonetheless within the first grade. “His lecturers didn’t need him to be a distraction, so that they utilized him as a category TA as an alternative,” Erik says with amusing.

This mind bled into each a part of Jacob’s life, particularly his early musical pursuits. At age 9, he was enjoying guitar in live shows across the metropolis in a College of Rock–kind program known as Be part of The Band. Jamming Inexperienced Day songs collectively of their storage, Jacob and his father bonded over music, in addition to video video games and expertise.

“I’ll always remember coming residence one afternoon and discovering him on the pc typing Java code to regulate the settings in Minecraft. I simply sat there in awe, pondering, How does this 10-year-old child know the way to do that?” Erik says.

As spectacular as his acumen was, Jacob’s compassion and emotional intelligence grew to become his defining traits. Extraordinarily delicate, his heightened consciousness was fine-tuned to any indicators of wrestle or strife, together with his household’s troubles within the wake of the Nice Recession. House owners of 5 totally different properties, together with a million-dollar residence close to Beverly Hills, the Thuresons misplaced every thing when the housing bubble burst in 2008. As avid churchgoers, they have been undeterred, sustaining that God was watching over them.

Then, in early 2013, Judy had a life-altering dream. A voice spoke to her, telling her to take a being pregnant check. If it reveals up constructive, transfer to Austin, it mentioned. With out hesitation, she went to a close-by pharmacy and did as she was instructed. Two pink traces appeared on the check stick—a sign that she was certainly anticipating.

Just a few months later, she and Erik pack-ed up their household—together with Jacob and his two sisters, Emma and Sydney—and headed to Texas, the place a decrease value of residing and quite a few shut household buddies awaited them. The transfer shocked his son (then 12), Erik admits. “At that age, pulling him out of the surroundings that he was used to, away from all of his buddies, I feel that’s when issues began to alter in an enormous manner for him,” he says. “He already was fairly introverted, and it was an enormous shift. He understood why we have been shifting, however it nonetheless damage.”

Greater than a thousand miles from his former life, Jacob started to sequester himself in his room, selecting to lose himself on-line reasonably than discover his environment in Spherical Rock. Music classes and different extraneous expenditures had develop into a distant reminiscence in his household’s new fiscal actuality, however whereas his guitar collected mud, he found SoundCloud to fill the void. In contrast to Spotify and different digital music sharing platforms that cater largely to listeners, SoundCloud was made for artists. From its earliest days, the platform was a haven for deejays and producers making digital dance music (EDM), says Mason Flynt, an Austin-based producer and shut buddy of Jacob’s. “Folks have been making hours-long digital mixes and sharing their music freely; that’s what actually helped encourage a complete technology of producers on SoundCloud,” he says. “Finally, all these EDM producers began rising up and increasing their musical horizons, driving them to experiment extra with hip hop beats and join with rappers. That’s the place SoundCloud rap actually sprung from, the place Hella Sketchy got here up.”

With entry to a brand new musical realm and a sea of on-line buddies, Jacob dove headfirst into the SoundCloud world. He spent days on finish, headphones gripped round his ears, making beats on his pc. By 14, he was already changing into one of many hottest underground  lure producers on this planet.

“I bear in mind joking to him within the automotive after faculty, saying ‘Sooner or later whenever you’re wealthy and well-known…’ and he interrupted, ‘Effectively, I’m type of already well-known, Mother,’” Judy says. “I checked out his Soundcloud that night time and thought, Oh my gosh. His beats had 20, 30, 40,000 downloads every. On his 15th birthday, he posted a video on his YouTube channel revealing his identification. Folks have been shocked; they began calling him the kid prodigy.”

From the surface, every thing appeared to be going his manner: the ever-expanding musical portfolio, an enormous digital following, and greater than $40,000 in income from promoting beats. However internally, Jacob was battling deep-seated demons that have been resulting in dependancy. Lengthy earlier than his dad and mom found the stash of capsules in his bed room, he’d used his tech savvy to transform cash into cryptocurrency to purchase Molly and Xanax off of the darkish internet. “We aren’t naïve, we all know youngsters attempt substances round that age,” Erik says. “Nonetheless, we by no means might’ve imagined he’d have the ability to actually order capsules straight to our doorstep.”

***

By early 2019, Jacob was residing in Los Angeles and on the quick monitor to fame. Signed by Atlantic Data, his life was consumed by the recording studio, the place he threw himself into creating tracks for his upcoming self-titled album. “He can be in there all night time,” says Eli Piccarreta, an Atlantic Data A&R govt who labored carefully with Jacob. “In terms of making music, it’s quite a bit like sports activities: the extra you’re within the health club, the extra you’re in studio, the extra you’re going to develop and evolve as an artist. He understood that and embraced that mentality wholeheartedly.”

Previous to arriving in California, Jacob   had spent the previous six months residing in Phoenix, the place his dad and mom had relocated to the earlier yr. The slower tempo of life—one amongst his household and a number of therapists and counselors—had been good for him. However with an opportunity to document his first main album, Jacob grew stressed. “After his therapist cleared him to go away, there wasn’t quite a bit we might actually do,” Erik says. “He was 18, and he had the go-ahead from his physician. On the finish of the day, we wished to help him in his musical pursuits whereas giving him the instruments he wanted to manage.”

From a profession perspective, Jacob thrived in Los Angeles, making new tracks whereas elevating his profile within the underground rap world. Piccarreta was more and more impressed by his consumer’s capability to push himself creatively whereas bringing different artists into the fold. “One of the crucial particular issues about Sketchy, past the music, was his capability to attach with different artists and creatives,” he says. “He was at all times ensuring different individuals had the prospect to win, too. It was really unbelievable to witness.”

However whereas his work flourished, Jacob’s melancholy and substance abuse spiraled uncontrolled. Quickly after the spring launch of his debut album, he tweeted a flurry of ominous messages that stood in stark distinction to his once-sunny digital persona. On April 28, he wrote: “I’m attempting my greatest to remain constructive.” April 29: “I at all times let everybody down.” April 30: “Please don’t care about me I don’t wish to damage you after I die.”

Jacob’s new music mirrored his altering temperament. The monitor “Misunderstood” options the lyrics “nobody is aware of the actual me,” “popping capsules like sweet,” and “these medicine could be the dying of me.” As soon as recognized for a signature fashion of “completely happy lure,” his sound had taken on a a lot darker edge, with an atmosphere his household thought-about “tremendous depressive” and “borderline suicidal.” The album’s remaining music, titled “What Occurred,” contains the road: “Used to make enjoyable of my drug use. You ain’t by no means had a wrestle with the abuse.”

Lower than 4 months after the re-lease, Evelyn confronted Jacob about his drug downside for the ultimate time. It was getting out of hand, she mentioned; he was going to finish up lifeless if he didn’t get assist. He nodded, promising that the Xanax tabs he’d taken hours earlier than have been his final. After flushing his few remaining capsules down the bathroom, he laid down subsequent to her and fell asleep. Inside hours, paramedics discovered him with out a pulse and rushed him to the hospital.

 ***

In early July, Judy steps out of her greatest buddy’s automotive onto a sunny summer time expanse of Zilker Park. It’s a cloudless day, and the inexperienced fields are crammed with barking canine, {couples} studying beneath the shade of Rock Island, and faculty college students enjoying soccer. Surrounded by the frenzy of exercise and the sound of distant laughter, she momentarily forgets the trauma of the previous three weeks, the a whole lot of hours she’d spent in a Los Angeles hospital, the dear little time she’s allowed herself to sleep.

However as she makes her manner towards a few younger males  plugging in sound tools on the park’s west finish, her eyes fall on a portrait of her son carrying gold chains and a black Intercourse Pistols T-shirt. Beneath a shock of vibrant pink hair, he stares again at her with a delicate swagger, one thing he’s possessed since a toddler. On both facet of the image is a pair of white candles, their wicks ready to be lit.

As late afternoon turns to nightfall, greater than 200 individuals collect to mourn and have a good time the rapper’s truncated life. Some knew him from church. Others have been highschool friends. No matter their relationship to Jacob, everybody shares an identical sentiment: sure, he was a phenom, however extra importantly, he genuinely cared about uplifting others.

After an hour of eulogies, the congregation’s temper darkens—a sense Judy finds unfitting contemplating her son’s infectious optimism. A brisk wind out of the blue sweeps throughout the gathering, knocking over Jacob’s portrait and extinguishing the candles bookending the body. “Unquestionably, that was Jacob’s manner of claiming, ‘Hey, we’re completed right here. It’s time to maneuver on and be completely happy,’” Judy says. “Regardless of his personal private issues, he at all times introduced levity and inspiration to the individuals round him.”

A second later, Jacob’s buddy holds his cellphone to the microphone. “Spent a Examine,” Hella Sketchy’s first main launch, performs over the speaker. The gang sings alongside, their voices rising to a crescendo every time the refrain repeats over the music’s playful beat.

Within the days after his passing, Jacob’s dad and mom obtained greater than a thousand textual content messages and DMs on social media from mourning followers. The bulk that reached out—nearly all of them youngsters—spoke of an emotional connection to Jacob, each via his music and messages he’d exchanged with them on-line.

Nonetheless right now, Jacob’s dad and mom aren’t shying away from discussing his afflictions. Actually, they proceed to work together with followers on the Hella Sketchy Instagram account and on their very own social media pages. Judy is at the moment within the strategy of writing a e book titled My Stunning Tragedy, which she plans to launch within the spring. She’s additionally within the midst of making a podcast centered on psychological well being.

With greater than 100 unpublished Hella Sketchy tracks, Erik says their household is working with Atlantic Data to launch a single this spring—a precursor to an eventual posthumous LP. “It’s a bit of unhappy to consider what was left on the desk,” Piccarreta says. “However his affect goes to be ceaselessly. He lives via his music, and he may have a long-lasting impression on the numerous individuals he met, myself included.”

Whereas it’s straightforward to cease and assume, What if?, says Flynt, Jacob’s spirit will stay, each in life and within the burgeoning Austin hip hop scene. “As a producer, as an artist, as a rapper, he was past expert. Hella Sketchy was the very best producer in Austin historical past,” he says. “However much more, as a buddy, as an individual, he had this gentle, this vitality; he’d use each ounce of himself to raise you up, to brighten your day. We’re going to maintain that going.”



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