Ski Beatz requires no introduction. Nor does he require a daily dose of inspiration to get a good night’s sleep. The NC-born, NY-groomed producer is adamant about the fact that he doesn’t force his inspiration. Ski doesn’t need to cause a ruckus around town, or cause drama with a chick in order to stir up his inspiration. In fact, Ski might be the only known genius alive today who doesn’t fancy a muse to get his shit done, and believe me, the dude’s produced plenty of cold shit. From “Luchini” to “Streets Is Watching” to “Michael Knight”, Ski continues to churn out more audio dope, all the while making cats like Jean Luc Godard, Salvador Dali, and hell, even Kanye West, appear more than a little ostentatious. Ski Beatz does it strictly for the love.
Read the complete interview after the jump.
I hear you got 24 Hour Karate School UK, Spain, and Japan, as well as Pilot Talk III with Curren$y. What’s the timeline on these projects?
24 Hour Karate School UK, Spain, and Japan are definitely coming. Pilot Talk III, we’re still trying to work it out. Hopefully I can get it done. I’m not exactly sure about the timeline.
Yeah, definitely. But I got another album that’s about to drop, on the 12th. That’s The Twilight Zone. On that album I have Curren$y, I have Smoke DZA, I have Mikey Rocks, Mac Miller, a bunch of cool rappers in there.
Oh shit, Mac Miller.
I worked with him a while ago. It was dope. Mac is cool. He’s a funny dude, easy to work with.
You balance a lot of work. How do you do it? What’s the recipe for managing so many responsibilities?
I don’t think about it, I just do it. I don’t sit around trying to plan it out. I just make music and people come in and we record it. It just gets done, you know?
What are you doing differently this time around, because I know before you kind of burnt out and moved back home to North Carolina?
I’m just loving it, man. The difference now, when I first started doing this it was strictly all love, and I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I was just doing it for the love. I think I’m back to that original formula. I just want to make a beat and then I want someone to make a song to it, because I want to know how it’ll sound like. Once you get one song under your belt it’s like an addiction, like, “I’m want to do another song and find out what this sounds like.” So I’m going to keep that same mind-frame.
With all this work, could you ever have a girl? What’s your experience with that?
What? A girlfriend? I could definitely have a girl doing all this, yeah. I work out of my house.
Rappers and producers these days claim they never stop working, they work all night, that kind of thing. Is this just something you have to say nowadays, or does it actually hold some truth?
I don’t know. I don’t work all day and all night. I just work when I feel it. You’re never going to hear me say, “Yo, I’m not stopping, I’m a machine. I’m in the studio every day.” We just be going in. I don’t know, man. Everything just happens perfectly. I guess on my musical level a lot of people come around at the right time, and I’m inspired at the right time to do what I have to do. Once we get it started I get it done, but I’m definitely not making beats every day. I’m not in the studio every day. It might appear that I am, because there’s so much stuff coming out, but it’s really not like that with me.
If one or two days go by and you’re not in the studio making beats, do you feel guilty that you’re not in there making music?
I used to back in the day, not anymore, I just let inspiration hit me. If I don’t feel like making a beat, I don’t have to make a beat if I don’t want to. I’m going to sleep, I’m going to watch TV, I’m going to chill, and not even think about it. And then when it’s time to make a beat, and the inspiration’s there, you’ll make a beat. There’s no need to be sitting up on your equipment with no inspiration.
You don’t want to force it out.
Exactly, you don’t want to force nothing. You just want to do it, like I said, for the love, because you want to do it. You don’t want to just sit there and say, “I have to work because I have to make these beats because I’m trying to get this money to do this and that,” and end up making a batch of not-so-cool music. You got to keep it hip. If you’re feeling good the music’s going to be tight. If you’re feeling tired, you’re going to hear it and you’re going to feel it.
I totally agree. And I wondered, what’s so appealing about working with Curren$y, because you work with him so much?
To be honest, man, it’s just loving to hear what he’s going to do to the beats. I’m always amazed at the concepts and the hooks and his choice of flows, all that. It’s a treat, man.
Have you seen his “JETS” video with Trademark Da Skydiver, when he’s rapping over the “B.M.F.” beat?
No, I haven’t seen that.
They’re walking around this huge house, I think it’s Dame Dash’s house, almost like a cottage-
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, my bad. I was there that day when they shot that video. That’s the house. We go there every now and then. It’s like our getaway from the city. We go there to record. I did most of MURS’ stuff up there too.
Where is that house?
It’s upstate. I’m not sure where. It’s like an hour upstate.
Speaking of locations, when you’re making music do you ever try to capture a feeling you had at a certain locale?
Uh-uh. I don’t try to recreate anything. I just make the music. Wherever I’m at I just make the music. Bruh, I promise you, I don’t dwell on the past at all. I just stay in the immediate now and wait for the inspiration to hit me and that’s how I go.
You’ve simplified your process.
You sampled Roy Ayers for the one Original Flavor record, “Keep On (Searching)”. I actually met Roy the other night in Toronto, which was awesome. Have you ever met him?
I’ve never met him, man. Hopefully one day I will.
Is it crazy to finally meet someone that you’ve sampled and listened to their voice over and over again?
Yeah. Have you ever heard of the band called Doctor Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band?
They’ve got this song called “Sunshower”. I sampled that and I got a chance to work with the actual vibe player. The guy who plays the vibes is really good. I worked with him. We played the sample. He played the sample for me, which was kind of cool.
I’ve watched The Alchemist pick his records to sample, he just picks records at random from his crates and then makes the beat from whatever he picks. Is it the same for you, or is there a reason for each record you chose to sample?
Sometimes I like the record for the cover, sometimes there might be like- say you got a famous horn player who you know is dope, I might just see his name on something at the store which makes me buy the record. A lot of it is just grabbing a stack and going home and going through it. That’s how I found “Luchini”. I wasn’t searching for it. I just grabbed a stack and found the record. I have the utmost respect for those guys who can go dig and they know where every break came from and where every sample came from. That’s a crazy talent by itself, but I was never able to do that. I just grab a bunch of records.
The inspiration was probably coming so fast.
Your North Carolina mate, 9th Wonder, he has a crazy story about working with Jay-Z on The Black Album. But I think you’re just as good of a storyteller. You talk about working with this cop, Jerome, and shacking up at his crib in New York. Was Jerome a tight rapper?
Naw, he was actually pretty wack. [laughs] He was pretty wack, man, but he was definitely official for me at that time because without him there wouldn’t have been any Original Flavor.
Where do you get these storytelling skills from?
You know, it’s the truth, it comes from the heart. It’s just shit that I went through. [laughs] I’m not a storyteller. I just say it how I remember it.
It’s pretty entertaining. When you were talking about Jerome, you said you were judging church talent shows. Sometimes it’s crazy where you can find talent. Where’s the most obscure place you’ve encountered a musician who you believe is extremely talented?
Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t even know.
You run into people during the day? I know the people in the subway in Toronto can be pretty crazy, even these dudes playing the bagpipes.
I know, right? The subway people are the best, man. They be the best. It just happens, man. Life brings dope things in front of you. You think, “Damn, I like the way this kid sounds, or she can sing.” It just happens, you know? I never go out and search for people, like, “I want to find some talented people, let’s have a talent festival.” Naw, I just run into people. My whole life is this accident. I live an accidental life.
[laughs] It’s working pretty well for you. I was talking to a friend the other day and I was saying how great it would be if Jay went back and did a whole album with you now, and switch things up completely, go from larger than life to minimalist.
I think that would be an amazing idea. I think that would be kind of crazy, to bring Jay back down to Earth. But his mentality has to be there and I know his mentality is on Mars right now, because he’s at the top of his game. It’s hard to bring someone back down to the streets when they ain’t in the streets. But if he reaches out to me, like, “Ski, let’s do it,” I’d definitely do it, you know that.
When Jay released Vol. 2, was that during your hiatus, or was it a blow to see nothing on that album?
That’s when I started on Roc-A-Fella, on Roc-A-Blok. There wasn’t any love lost, at the time I was just producing Camp Lo and all this other shit that I was trying to develop for myself. Did I do anything for that?
Well, I wondered if you got in the studio and he just didn’t-
Naw, naw, I wasn’t in the studio. Was “Who You Wit II” and “Streets Is Watching” on that one?
I think that was Reasonable Doubt. Reasonable Doubt is one of my favorites. Jay always says he doesn’t smoke weed. Did he back then?
He didn’t smoke anything back then. There was a lot more Moet and Cristal poppin. There wasn’t any weed smoking, not back then.
Movies influence you at all?
I used to watch a bunch of Kung Fu shit. It didn’t influence me to make music. What influenced me to make music is when I got caught up in that whole hip-hop culture, you know, everybody knows I started as a breakdancer, then I started DJing, then I started doing graffiti, then I started rapping, then I started producing. I went through the whole culture of hip-hop. That whole colorful backdrop, the graffiti and all that, it became embedded in my DNA and that’s how my music comes out.
Do you still bust out the occasional dance move?
Matter-of-fact my piano player is a down-hard B-boy. So any time I see him dance, he’s like, “C’mon, Ski, do a move.” I always break with him.
Have you been in Toronto lately, touring?
Yeah, we went to Canada. I can’t remember the name of the spot. Oh, man. It was my second time going there. The first time was with Murs. Yeah, it’s a good spot. I’m actually going back to Toronto. I’m doing this Beat Academy thing with my homegirl.
– By @petermarrack
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