Ski Beatz: I’m Feelin’ It

C lassic albums come along few and far between in the music world. The hunt for the perfect combination of lyricist and production chemistry can sometimes resemble a well-developed scientific experiment. The aim is to get a cohesive effort that gels and soothes listening ears, and at best, you get a mix that combusts to […]

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lassic albums come along few and far between in the music world. The hunt for the perfect combination of lyricist and production chemistry can sometimes resemble a well-developed scientific experiment. The aim is to get a cohesive effort that gels and soothes listening ears, and at best, you get a mix that combusts to blow the hinges off the laboratory doors.

Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album is one that many consider to have exploded with a devastating combination of a fresh new rapper combined with hot innovative production. While most were familiar with the legendary sounds of Gang Starr’s DJ Premier and Clark Kent, Ski Beatz has offered the right chemicals to open the area to a new style of track mastering.

With his beginning in the group, Original Flavor Ski made his mark as a lyricist and producer through still-revered tracks like “Can I Get Open.” He went on to architect three songs on Jay-Z’s monumental debut. He continued working with Roc-A-Fella among other notables like Foxy Brown, Fat Joe, and Camp Lo. After a successful stint in the Big Apple, Ski has taken his talents and lab materials back to North Carolina to impact the new southern movement. The return to his birthplace, a different approach to music, and a stable of new artists, has the technician once again ready to concoct more classic material. You’re probably most known for your contribution to Reasonable Doubt, which many consider to be a classic album. What was the thought pattern in making those tracks for Jay on that album?

Ski: I was basically doing music that felt good to me. At the time I was in the group, Original Flavor, and I was making music that I would rhyme over. One of the songs on the album was my song, but I gave it to Jay. The song “Feelin’ It,” I wrote the hook and the way I was flowing to it, he didn’t use my words, but he used my flow. At the time I didn’t know it was going to be a new groundbreaking type of sound. It was just what I felt doing. “Feelin’ it” was actually one of my favorite joints off the album. That and “Dead Presidents” were like riding music. Is that the type of sound you go for?

Ski: If you notice, all the songs I did, they were mostly like a melodic base. It wasn’t really hard, but it wasn’t really soft. I’m real big on melodies and music. I hear music that’s similar to that sound now. How do you feel you’ve influenced others in the game now?

Ski: I think that Reasonable Doubt album, me, plus a lot of other producers, pioneered the whole Just Blaze sound, the whole Kanye sound. They just basically grabbed the baton and kept it moving forward. Do you feel like maybe you should be on a whole other level when you look at those guys’ accomplishments?

Ski: From time to time, I feel like I should be on a whole other level – that I should be labeled as a super producer or legend, but you know, at the time, I was going through a lot of stuff. I had the label, Roc-A-Blok… I think I was in the pot, I was cooking, but I jumped out the damn pot too early. I tried to do my own thing too quickly, when I should have waited and built my name up with the Roc a little more. But I’m not mad, and I don’t have any regrets because that was a classic album and I get the respect of being one of the main producers on the album. What made you decide to jump out on your own and do Roc-A-Blok?

Ski: Just opportunities man, everybody was coming at me. Ruff House/Columbia came at me and gave me a label deal. Then I had my group Camp Lo over at Profile, they were doing it real big. I just had a lot of stuff going on. When you started your own label, did your relationship with Roc-A-Fella deteriorate?

Ski: I did music for them, but I didn’t do as much. I did the “Streets is Watching” for Jay, I did “Who You Wit’” for Jay, I don’t know if you heard the song, “I Hear the People Talk,” it’s on the MTV Unplugged album, but it’s a hidden track. To me, that’s one of the hottest records he did in a minute. Do you know this is the Reasonable Doubt tenth anniversary and they are doing a concert with the music?

Ski: Yeah, they called me and wanted me to come, they’re sending me my ticket tomorrow; I’m flying to New York on Thursday. I hear he’s doing every song through its entirety. How are you incorporated in the show?

Ski: I have no idea; they just called me. I have to see what happens when I get there. Hopefully, he gives all the producers of the album a million dollar check. How’s the relationship with Jay and Dame?

Ski: Yeah, me, Jay, and Dame, I talk to them from time to time. We still cool and are friends. Not to harp on Jay, but he’s turned into an icon. From your point of view, has he changed since the days you worked with him?

Ski: Whenever I speak to him, he’s still the same dude. It’s no arrogance or nothing towards me. I mean, I don’t know what other people say, but he’s cool with me. What did you think of the break down of Roc-A-Fella and Jay and Dame going their separate ways?

Ski: That was one of the saddest times for me. I wasn’t there physically to see the break up and know what was really going on, but you know, I’m still Roc-A-Fella, and for that to go down, those three guys was like a machine. I think it’s the classic case of everybody in everybody’s ear. Jay had the powers that be kind of pulling him away from Dame. People was in Dame’s ear telling him Jay was doing this and doing that. You know animosity man. You’ve been out of the limelight for a while, what have you been up to?

Ski: I got an artist signed over at Jive, he goes by the name of MOS. That stands for “Money over Sex.” He’s from Carolina. I have another artist signed over at Asylum. He goes by the name of Hot Wright. I basically been developing acts out of North Carolina. It’s a bunch of kids out here that’s real talented, and they don’t have no outlet to get into the game. I’m originally from North Carolina, so I went back home and started helping people out. Was your motivation to go to North Carolina business or just to go back home?

Ski: At the time when I moved, I had lived in New York for like 13 years. I guess I was homesick because I just wanted to come back down south. It’s funny, because when I moved back down south, the [artists] started bubbling a little. It wasn’t as hot as it is right now, but the movement was just starting. Did you have to change your style up to get down with the southern sound?

Ski: I don’t consider it a change, but an evolution to what I was already doing. I can still take a record, chop it up, and do a million things with it, but for the last year, I‘ve been learning hot to play different instruments and things like that. The evolution kind of helped me because it turned me into a musician. At first I was just straight sample, you know what I mean? Now I’m able to pick up basses and guitars and keyboards and play. Do you still sample or did you just totally move to original stuff?

Ski: Oh nah, nah, that’s in my blood. I got to sample every now and then. It all depends on who the artist is and the mood I’m in. I do like one sample joint and like one live joint a day. Did you run into problems as far as publishing or clearing them? Is that what made you move away from that?

Ski: Yeah man, definitely. All the records I did, and all the records that were sold, the money definitely didn’t measure up to what I should have got. If that was all original music, trust me, I’d be straight. Sometimes you get people that say well I’m going to take 25 percent, and sometimes you get people that say, I’m going to take 90 percent. What does that depend on?

Ski: I guess that just depends on the person and their greed. Most people want all their money but then you got some cool people that kind of respect the craft of what you’re doing. I mean they know you used their record but if you flip it so much and they respect what you did, they may say ok I’m going to only take 25 percent. It’s my record, but you totally did something new with it. Tell me about the Camp Lo album. They were refreshing and different when they came out but then we didn’t hear from them again. What happened?

Ski: They got caught up in the transition with Profile. When Profile got sold to Arista, what happened was they got sold to Arista. It’s crazy because Arista wasn’t gonna buy Profile unless Camp Lo was part of the deal, but when they got Camp Lo, they didn’t know what to do. The best thing that ever happened to Camp Lo was Profile because they knew how to market and promote and get them out there. People don’t know that ‘ Uptown Saturday Night went Gold. The “Luchini” single went Gold-plus. It’s not over for them dudes because they dress and still look the same, and the music is still as hot as it was. How much of that album will you contribute?

Ski: I’m the third member, kid. They always call me the third member, but I’m their producer. I’m not trying to be funny at all, but a lot of people speculated that Camp Lo was gay. I’m just keeping it real.

Ski : [Laughs] A lot of n***as ask me that, but nah, they’re not. They got a real funny style with their dressing and s**t; they on their own s**t. But what I respect about them is that when I first met them they was on that. It wasn’t like, “we got a gimmick,” that’s [just] how they are. Do you think they paved any way for dudes like Kanye, Farnsworth Bentley or other eccentric rap dudes?

Ski: Camp Lo was the originator of a lot of s**t man. A lot of musical styles and fashion s**t. If they get a situation, they could be out of here because they just so different. Are you a part of the other side of the North Carolina scene where they are more lyrical, like Little Brother, or is it mostly the other element?

Ski: Nah, I’m definitely part of the underground scene – the backpackers. I’m down with 9th [Wonder]; that’s my man, they cool, they right down the street from me. The music out there is almost ‘90s-ish.

Ski: Yeah, but it’s refreshing. If you’re tired of hearing all that crazy s**t, you come listen to some music, it’s like ‘96 around here. Anything you want to leave us with?

Ski: I got a website that were working on now, it’s catering to Hip-Hop producers that’s looking for crazy hot sounds and tips and information on how to get it done right. It’s . Also I’m on you can hear one of the Camp Lo joints on there.