skillz @ okayplayer

posted: 05-05-05
interview: hairy palms
What brought you together with Jeff for this Tour?
Me and Jeff been on the road since early this year. I ran into him and was interested in doing a quick run in Canada with him and since then I been on the road, working, trying to stay busy.
So is this going to end up in some sort of musical collaboration?
Yeah, yeah, definitely we already have music in the archive. We keep a studio base up; we definitely got some stuff coming out.
So what is your current label situation?
I don't have one.
And what is your affiliation with Okayplayer?
I mean I'm in the community. I been running around with the Roots for the past two years, I love it. They're very instrumental and keep the music that I like to do to the masses. I'll be around as long as they have me on Okayplayer.
Are you shopping for a Label?
I mean I had a couple of offers. I don't even know if I really want a deal. There's nothing really that's enticing me right now. I might feel different in a couple of months but right now I'm just making music I don't care how I get it out there: put it on the web or whatever; I'm just dropping music.
Where's the money coming from then? I guess you don't want to put it out for free.
I mean I already had money. Money was never the issue. I made a lot of money at Rawkus. Regardless of what people thought I made a lot of money that's why I wasn't really trippin' when the... I mean I was upset when the whole thing crumbled and I didn't get the chance to put that album out but I can't say I wasn't financially good.
So you ain't mad no more?
No, I'm just Skillz now.
I was more referring to the Album title that was supposed to drop on Rawkus. What's going to happen with that Album?
It's done it's finished. I know some people that have it. I know some people that don't. It was out on the web. Shit it was on the web two months before it was supposed to come out the first time. I'm not mad at the people who have it. If you have it if you downloaded it that's fine; I'm not upset. Get it.
I don't have it.
If you search for it you'll find it. It's not that difficult.
Are there any plans to re-release that Album?
I had it to a point where I was selling it at shows. I had pressed up CDs. Sometimes giving them away sometimes selling them at a discount price you know trying to get the music out. Like when we come on these trips it's hard to bring CDs because they weigh so much. It is what it is.
So do you have plans to work on a new album now?
Yeah, I got a couple new projects I'm doing. Me and Jeff gonna have a single in the near future. I'm working on a DVD. I'm working on songs constantly - on mixtapes. I did a Neptunes Mixtape that did really well. Then I did a best of mixtape which had a lot of the Rawkus stuff, a lot of the old freestyles. I did a Skillz vs. Shaq Mixtape, I did a James Brown Mixtape.
I just recently listened to your Kay Slay Freestyle and I have to say this is one of the craziest freestyles I heard in a minute. You sound so hungry.
I still am. You know I never lost my hunger in this game. All these days I be writing, I mean you can ask Jeff or anybody, trying to come up with something new, something fresh. I'm from that school where I never really had a lot given to me; it didn't come easy for me. Like I didn't get on a label, sell four million records and become a millionaire. When I do what I do it's more or less… I'm used to working harder than the next man. I'm used to go to the [radio] station and the DJ will get one drop from this dude and he asks me for one drop and I be like "who else needs drops? You got more DJs you got more people I wanna take care of everybody. Who else need a freestyle? who got a mixtape, who want me to say something?" I have always been like that. But I never get stressed about it. I just look at it as that's just the way it is. Hard work never hurt anybody.
You just said you don't even get stressed about it, not even when you think about all the label situations that went down. I mean you could have sky rocketed at some point; you were destined to be.
I don't look at it like it was over. If it were over I wouldn't be here. I never really looked at it like it's done; it's never gonna happen. I look at it like there's always something else to reach for; it's always something else to do. If I come out tomorrow and I sell five Million records then people probably won't wanna hear from me again. "Oh he sold out, this wasn't even a good album. I can't believer this album sold 5 Million copies. What happened to the sick freestyles what happened to the "Lick The Balls" and so on?" They'd be asking for things like that. I always feel like there's something else to reach for. I don't say I like being an underdog: I'm used to be an underdog. Because when I reach the plateau it's appreciated so much more. If you're in school and you're in 12th grade and your parents buy you a brand new car you probably dogged the shit out of that car. After six, seven months that car would have all kinda trash in it and won't be clean. You won't take care of it like you would if you worked for that car. If you worked in the 11th grade at the pizza shop or delivering newspapers; that'd be the cleanest car ever. Cause you worked for it. That's how I feel about the rap game.
Between the Big Beat and the Rawkus contracts what held you back to put stuff out? You have all the connects, like Timbaland and the Neptunes are your buddies.
I got to a point where when I call those favours in, I call them in for me. I don't call them in for a label or an A&R; I call them in for me. If I need Pharrell to do something he'll do it. It's just the question of who's taking care of it. With the Rawkus album it wasn't a question about the record; the record was nuts. And I didn't get shitted on by Rawkus. Me and Rawkus got shitted on by the parent company. Rawkus was at a point where they were an independent label. If I come to the label and say "yo this record is crazy" and they listen to it and they say "oh this record is hot", they will press it up the next day and send it to the DJs the day after that. It would be in all the DJs hands by the end of the week. So if we felt that was the one we'd have pushed for it. There was no protocol, there was no blueprint. It worked like an independent label.
Once Rawkus sold half of their company - well it really wasn't half it was 51%: "now you run a company and you own 49%, I run 51%. So everything you want to do now has to be cleared through my system. If you want to press up some flyers for a Talib Kweli party you got to ask me first. If I don't think it's the right thing to do and I don't want to spend this money on Kwelis party then guess what, Kweli ain't having a party. Unless you spend it on your own or Kweli does it."
It went from the smallest things to the biggest things like from a video a guest appearance on a song to a flyer. They [Rakwus] didn't control anything; they sold that. They gave up that control. And once you give up that control it's done. I knew it was done then but I just waited around to see. You can't do that especially when you don't respect the people that you're working with. And MCA's biggest groups was just like Rawkus groups: you had The Roost, Common, Mos Def. That's all Rawkus; that's the same kind of music. Like at one point they single handedly controlled underground Hip Hop and fucked it up.
You live and you learn.
There are still stories floating around about the ghost writing: did Will Smith pay those cheques regularly?
Everybody paid. I just did some stuff for Will, he's a good guy. But the rest of the motherfuckers they're dickheads, but you know, they all paid though… it took a while.
So there must have been some sort of fear from these people when you put out "Ghostwriter."
Probably so. Everybody was a little shook. I never even thought that I still even be talking about that in 2004. When did that record come out? 2000?
To me that record is so old. But to some people it is still fresh news. Like that record was a very controversial record. Well, it is what it was but I always said if I ever went broke, like flat broke, I put it out with all the names in it. If I ever thought my lights were about to get cut off or some shit I put it out.
So the ghost writing is still an current thing.
Yeah, I still do it from time to time. It's a business. I don't look at an artist any less because they can't write their own stuff. Some people need help, some people need ideas, some people are so caught up in other things they don't have time to sit down and write a record. And just because you sit down and write a record that don't mean nothing, you don't know it's a hit. Like I could sit down right now and write a record but I can't sit down and tell you this is a hit, cause I don't know. It depends on so many different things: the timing, the sound. Anybody who tells you "I knew soandso was a hit when I wrote it," you're a fuckin liar. You can't call that. You know you like it and you want it to be a hit, but there's no way you can predict it.
How did that Shaq thing come about?
FUCK SHAQ, but that in capital fuckin' letters. He's a nobody. You know what I still don't know why he started it. I don't know what I did to tick him off to make him rap about me. It was so many other things that he should be concerned with. Like y'all win the playoffs? You're about to lose to Detroit and all of a sudden you're on a mixtape talking shit about me? Come on, I'm not the one. Don't give me time to prepare. When you get me time to prepare you fucked up. Don't tell me in two weeks Shaq is gonna be at blablabla, you better have your rhymes ready. Don't do that. Because it's over. That's like training, you don't let me train. You're better off surprise me, just pop up like "What's up let's get it on, put the beat on."
Plus come on, I wasn't gonna do it. I wasn't gonna say shit about Shaq but then I thought about it and I'm like: Nr. 1 he's a dickhead for even attempting this (laughs). Nr. 2: He was never a good rapper. Like nobody that I know in Hip Hop ever said, "yo Shaq is dope." That's nonexistent. Nr. 3: It wasn't anybody in the world that doesn't know who he is. Like when I'm saying "Fuck Shaquille O'Neal" you know exactly who I am talking about. So he said what he said, he tried to get some publicity off it. And you noticed I haven't even said anything back to him. I'm done. I did a whole mixtape demolishing your whole character. And I didn't get into, I'm not no killer, I'm not no thug, I'm not no gangster, I'm not going to say "yeah I catch you and blow your head off." That ain't me, I ain't got a gun on me right now, you know what I'm saying. All I said was: "you can't fuck with me on the mic. Rap wise you can't fuck with me." Now Basketball in the paint you can't probably whup my ass. Physically you could probably beat the shit out of me. But rapping you can not fuck with me. And that's what made it entertaining. I wanted to make people laugh I wanted to make people look at the situation with him and say "Oh that's some funny shit." He's a dickhead. His head is exactly shaped like a dick.
So you still maintain your job at Virginia University?
I said I was going to take off for the summer cause school's out. I said in May and be back in August. But I haven't been back. I been up there visiting but I haven't been back. But I can go back at any time.
So keep that job besides rapping no matter what?
Cause I ain't no dumb rapper. We don't get health benefits. I ain't stupid.
Will there be a 2004 Rap Up?
I don't want to turn into the Rap Up Man. You know what I'm saying. But I guarantee you I will bet money on it if I don't do a Rap Up somebody else will. And it'll be fuckin corny and it's so much shit that happened this year, the whole election shit, R. Kelly and Jay-Z hate each other now, Janet whipped the titty out; like I could make it entertaining. I told a couple producers to hit me with a beat. Cause if I do it I'ma do it in a way it won't be like the last one; it'll be a little more different; it won't be the slow [imitates last years beat]. I might speed it up a little bit. It's important that you hear what I'm saying. That's not a record that you want to dance to that's a record you want to listen to and be like "oh shit he's right on the head with that." You know it is what it is.
In the last couple of weeks there has been so much shit happening I'm like "how could I not?" It's funny cause people hit me like I know you put that in the Rap Up and I'm like "dawg, it's motherfuckin' June I'm not even thinking about that" (laughs). Like Questlove hit me like "Oh shit I know you going to put Janet in the Rap Up." And I'm like "it's fuckin February" (laughs), you know what I'm saying.
So I'm like if you do the beat - I told Amir "if you do the beat, I do the Rap Up." Jeff might have something for it, Nottz from Virginia asked me about it. We'll see, I don't know. I always wait until after Thanksgiving. It depends on how I feel after Thanksgiving.
But I don't really want to be the 'Rap Up Guy.' Cause it seems that so many people… like that record gets so big they don't think about shit else. They're not like "what else did he do this year? He didn't do shit." And they don't be like "he had the lead single of the Okayplayer compilation, he was on Pete Rocks album, he was on tour with Jazzy Jeff, he had a big lyrical beef battle with Shaq." They don't think of any of that shit they just say he's the fuckin "Rap Up Guy" (laughs). You get the Naysayers but you get people that are like "oh that shit is funny I know he was going to do it again."
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