When it comes to East Coast hip-hop, David “Ski Beatz” Willis isn’t kind of like a big deal—he is a big deal. For nearly two decades, the Greensboro, North Carolina-born producer has supplied an array of New York talent (including Jay-Z, Camp Lo and Fat Joe), not to mention several from neighboring states (Boston’s Krumb Snatcha, Philadelphia’s Bahamadia), with soulful, at times jazz-influenced, yet always head-nod-ready beats. He was also part of the group Original Flavor, which released a pair of albums on Atlantic Records back in the early ’90s. Yet, there’s a problem: Ski is hardly, if ever, hailed as one of the better beat-makers of the last 20 years. His track record certainly has something to say about that.
Before you learn the man’s history, though, let’s briefly focus on his present. In early 2009, Ski’s production reignited thanks to executive extraordinaire Dame Dash, who’s known the instrumentalist since the early Roc-A-Fella Records days. After moving back to NYC early last year, Ski began working with Dash’s latest collaborators (Curren$y, Jay Electronica, Stalley). The culmination of Ski’s newfound energy is 24 Hour Karate School, a long-delayed compilation LP produced entirely by Ski. The record is scheduled for release tomorrow (September 21), and features verses from Wiz Khalifa, Mos Def, Electronica, Curren$y, Jim Jones, The Cool Kids and Ras Kass, among others.
Your XXL fam, longtime fans of the producer’s work, is more than amped for 24 Hour Karate School. Aside from simply delivering a ton of quality rap tunes, the album should, hopefully, shed light on the man’s underappreciated resume. Chances are, you’ve heard plenty of Ski’s beats without even knowing that he made them. Here are 26 essential Ski tracks, listed in chronological order, for you to recognize.
Father MC “Ain’t Nuttin’ But a Party” 
Original Flavor feat. Jay-Z “Can I Get Open?” 
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