When you heard Eminem’s “Guilty Conscience”, what were your thoughts? Because, it seems weird that Dre wouldn’t clear your song with theoretically the same idea, but then come out with a record so similar soon after…
I was a little disappointed, no doubt, because I had done that for him in ’96, and then for that to come out around ’99 with Eminem’s album I was disappointed. It was the same concept, good & evil, but I’m a veteran and I always look at stuff in a different light. It is what it is, and I got nothing but love for Dre and what Eminem did at that time. How can you hate on that record? That record was an incredible record, it was one of my favorite records. Of course, you’re like, ‘whoa, I did that first’, but a lot of people didn’t hear that I did it, so for me to go and try to talk shit about it looks bad on my end, so I just let it be what it’s going to be. Definitely for the record, I did it first!
One record you did that seemed kind of out of the blue was the remix you did for Naughty By Nature on “Feel Me Flow”. How did that connection come about?
As you get big doing production, you get contracted from labels that want to have a part of your sound and what you’re doing at that time. It just so happened I was doing a lot of business with Tommy Boy at that time, I had done a remix for Digital Underground which was on Tommy Boy. The west coast was really cracking during that time, and they wanted to get a little piece of that feel to make records even more dominant for different demographics. It turned out to be dope, and it was actually featured on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air show.
Have you worked with any other east coast cats that we may not know about?
I’ve worked with a lot of east coast cats that haven’t ever really been given a chance to come out to their full potential. I’ve worked with Trigga the Gambler, Smooth Da Hustler, DJ KaySlay who had a lot of things popping on the east coast; I’ve worked with a variety of east coast artists, as well as the south. I’ve never discriminated on doing records with anybody; it’s just all about making sure the records can make sense across the globe. People are always trying to divide the coasts, but if it’s a dope record it’s a dope record, so I’ve never had a problem doing something with the east coast cats, southern cats, Midwest or whoever; as long as we can make a dope record.
As a producer and working with countless artists over the years, who are some of your favorite artists you’ve worked with throughout your career?
That’s a hard one, man! I’ve had a lot of artists I’ve dealt with that are dope for different particular reasons. Honestly, working with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre was phenomenal because of the way they work. The way they work is incredible. Working with Dre, writing the part I wrote for his part on the “Dr. Dre & Mr. Ski” record, he went in and knocked it out, and I was still trying to learn the parts I wrote for him and he went in and did it better than what I had wrote!
And then Cube is just a genius, man. He just goes in and gets it done. Of course, I can’t forget Locksmith; he’s a dope artist that makes it happen. There are others that I’ve worked with that are cool, but those are the ones I just felt great about going in there.
You, Ant Banks and Mike Mosley really set the tone for the Bay’s sounds in hip-hop, yet you each had distinctly different sounds. How were you guys able to be so versatile and set a part from each other, being from the same region?
I think that basically everybody grows up on different types of music, even if it’s the same type of music or different, we interpret things differently. It’s certain things that different producers get from records. I might hear something different and change certain things up to make it sound the way I want it to sound, and I think that’s what makes the bay so incredible with those producers. They all have their own integrity about how they wanted to build their records and they didn’t care about other people’s views. I used to be with Banks all the time, and he’d play me some stuff and I’d be like, “whoa! I would have never did it like that, but the way you did it was so fucking cold!” You can’t help but to bow down and just appreciate it, you know what I’m saying?
That’s what producers are supposed to do, you’re supposed to bring your own edge and niche to it, and that’s what made the bay unlike what it is now. Everybody’s trying to find the same niche and the same thing, and that’s when you suffer, when you’re trying to be like the next person.
You and Too Short recorded “The Resume.” What took so long for you guys to link up on a record together?
You have to understand, Too Short is iconic. He’s traveling, he’s touring, and he’s doing so much stuff; at the end of the day, when you have a guy like Too Short and you have somebody like myself doing my thing, it’s just all about timing. I think the timing finally had come to where that’s why the song is called “The Resume”. It came to a point where we were doing our things, and we finally linked up, and it was like since all this time had went by, the perfect title is “The Resume”. It made so much sense to make a song to put down what he’s been doing and what I’ve been doing, and it just made a great, classic record. It’s all about timing.
I know <em>5th of Skithoven</em> is your focus right now, but what happened to <em>Earthquake</em> and <em>Apply Pressure</em>? Both of those projects seem worthy of release even today. Any plans to officially release those in proper form?
I’m a perfectionist, and those records are records that I did when I was at Relativity, Columbia, DreamWorks and all these labels that merged out, and really set me back. Because of these mergers, new A&R’s, put me in a position where I felt like the material had become dated. I’m not in to putting out dated material, my thoughts have changed. I’m not going to put out nothing that doesn’t represent me right now. I think it’s best to do it backwards, drop this <em>5th of Skithoven</em> and then let them hear some of the things that didn’t get to come out that were classics at that time. Eventually, yeah, I definitely might put out those things, it just all depends on how I feel.
The new project, <em>5th of Skithoven</em> has the hip-hop community buzzing right now. What’s the concept behind the album and what can we expect?
No doubt, you hit it right on the nose. I think music right now is stale, it all sounds the same. I think people, musically, are not trying to push those boundaries. As you can see, I called it the <em>5th of Skithoven</em> based off the Fifth of Beethoven. Beethoven was a musical genius in making music, using strings, using sections; that’s where I want to go with this album. I want it to be very incredible sounding, but still hip-hop, still where it moves you, it knocks and hits hard. No different than “Please”, where it has the elements, the strings going through it, and you can really feel the emotion in the music. That’s where I’m taking it, as far as the concept musically.
As far as verbally, it’s a problem. The stuff that people won’t say will be touched on. I have songs on the record called “Fast Food”, “Weapon of Choice” with me and B-Real; Freeway, Techn9ne, Locksmith, Frank Nitty, Colossal, Eastwood are on there, so the album will be an incredible piece, but at the same time the features on there make sense. There aren’t going to be features on there just to have features to help build my record up, I don’t care about that. What I care about with those features is that when you hear us, you know we meant every word of what we’re saying. It ain’t going to be no bullshit.
You dropped the first video, now what’s next? What other projects do you have coming up for us?
As far as E-A Ski, it’s the <em>5th of Skithoven</em>. As for other projects and the label, of course I got Locksmith who’s working on multiple things. He’s got a EP project with Ski Beatz, who did Jay-Z’s first album <em>Reasonable Doubt</em>. We’re working on the <em>Frank the Rabbit</em> album, so we’re just making sure people know there’s dope music coming from the west coast, but it’s diversified, not any games. Just be on the lookout, I.M.G.M.I.