Even the most casual of Hip Hop listeners should be aware of Ski Beatz as, at the very least, the producer of iconic Hip Hop anthems on Jay-Z‘s 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, and several albums for Camp Lo, having also gone on to produce for Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Fat Joe and others.

15 years on and the digitally inclined will have caught last year’s excitable wave of activity leading up to the release of the North Carolina hailing producer, DJ and former emcee’s own album, 24 Hour Karate School, released in September 2010, which saw Ski working with a mouthwatering spread of Hip Hop talent established and new, including Curren$y, Smoke DZA, Jean Grae, Jim Jones, Jay Electronica, Joell Ortiz, The Cool Kids, Stalley, Tabi Bonney, Ras Kass, Camp Lo and Wiz Khalifa.

On a mission to find out more about the man behind the beatz, SoulCulture TV sat down with Ski Beatz at Damon Dash‘s creative base of operations in New York, DD172, and asked the producer about his beginnings in Hip Hop – as a rapper first.

Watch below as Ski talks us through his journey from the mic to the boards, from getting jaded by the industry and moving home to North Carolina to more recently returning to New York to work with a new breed of emcees – and how his initial passion for rapping gives him the edge when producing for top rappers.

“When I was coming up I didn’t even know what a producer was,” Ski admits. “I just knew that if I wanted to rap, I had to make a beat to rap to… so that’s why I started making beats… I was a rapper first.”

First in a group called The Bizzie Boys, then a member of the Damon Dash-managed Hip Hop group Original Flavor in the ’90s, Ski started making beats to accommodate his own rhymes and was quickly commissioned to produce for others. “I just started making beats and I just loved it,” he recalls, “and the more beats I made the less time I spent writing and it totally pushed the whole rap thing to the side.”

Whilst working on Camp Lo’s debut LP Uptown Saturday Night, Ski was called on to produce four tracks for Jay-Z’s now classic debut album, Reasonable Doubt [“Politics As Usual,” “Dead Presidents II,” “Feelin’ It” and “22 Two’s”].

“Knowing how to rap gave me the edge when I made my beats ’cause I knew when I made a beat if i could rap to it, anybody could rap to it,” Ski reflects. “I felt like if I liked it then every rapper that could really rap would like it – and that’s basically how I made my beats for Jay-Z.”

Success came quickly for Ski’s production work – with a cost. “I got jaded through the industry and I started changing my music up, I got lost for a minute,” he calls. “Like, ‘Oh shit, what the fuck am i doing? Who am I? Where’s my music going? I’m not on top. Am I supposed to be on top?’ …Then I just broke down and stopped.”

Having stepped back from New York’s hustle and bustle and moved back to his hometown in North Carolina for a number of years, his developing connections with a new breed of Hip Hop – the likes of Curren$y, Da$h, Trademark and Nesby Phips – reinvigorated his work and brought him back to the Big Apple, where he “hopped back in” like he never left; with the simple desire to make the music he wants to make. Period.

“When I came back I said, ‘Fuck it, I’m making music because I wanna make it… I like this,’ – and that was that,” he affirms.

“I had to know it, forget it and then remember it again. I had to go through that phase. And now that I know it again I can’t ever go back… I can’t ever try to make a record like ‘this’ or try to be on top – I don’t give a fuck about that, at all. I promise you I don’t.”

Interview conducted by Marsha Gosho Oakes, Filmed by Versetti, Edited by Louis Melvin

Stay tuned for more parts from our interview.

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