Skillzbeatz is one of the UK's formidable forces in Hip Hop, he doesn't limit himself there though even branching out into R&B, Drum & Bass and really anything from urban music to pop. We caught up with this South London producer, so read on to find out what he is all about.
Can you introduce yourselves and what is your name/s about? Is it an old nickname or is there something behind it?
Skillzbeatz: I’m Skillzbeatz, it comes from the family name and at school people would call me Skills, so I modernised it a little and Skillzbeatz (All one word) was born.
Can you tell us a bit about where you are from and your crew?
Skillzbeatz: I’m from South West of London, I grew up in Feltham not too far from Heathrow airport, I don’t really have a crew as such but my people are Fredi Kruga one of the UK Hip Hop pioneers, Clencha an up and coming south London artist and of course the legends Navigator, Skibadee & Harry Shotta best known from the D&B scene. Theres more but I could go on all night.
Back in the day, what were the first bits of Hip Hop you herd and how did you get to hear it? What was it that you liked?
Skillzbeatz: My first real taste of Hip Hop that really got into me was Nas and The Firm Affirmative action, I’d heard Hip Hop records before that that I liked but when hearing that at about 14 I was hooked. The beat is sick and they all go in on that record.
Who influenced you and made you think that you could be a producer? Why did you choose this element as it is so much more expensive and producers often get less shine than the MCs?
Skillzbeatz: I loved the whole 90’s sampling era, I used to listen to J Dilla, Marley Marl and people like that and think… Damn I want to do that. So eventually when I could afford some equipment I invested and the rest is history.
I guess nowadays people can start producing professional quality music straight away with a home PC and downloaded software. Could putting all this technology before producers perhaps stifle their creativity because they don’t have to use ingenuity to get round problems or can they push the boundaries further than anyone before? Maybe people don’t spend enough time mastering the basics?
Skillzbeatz: I think the problem with how cheap and easily available software is these days people don’t master one specific piece of software, back in the day someone would have to save up, buy the equipment then master it and you’d always find new stuff it could do, these days people just cop the next new thing and leave the other one behind without realising its true potential.
How has your style developed over the years? Can you put that down to anything in particular?
Skillzbeatz: I started out sampling and loved the whole process but it started to get harder to sell beats as more and more composed beats were hitting the market and people don’t want the hassle of sample clearances so I ended up converting to composing purely on a business move, it paid off as that’s what’s in demand from me now but I still sample for the odd artists, typically from NYC.
How would you best describe your production style now? Do you edge towards breaks and loops, chopping them up and sequencing, or more playing sounds in a more musical way, perhaps you would say that you don’t specialise and try to cover everything?
Skillzbeatz: I try to do a bit of everything but 90% of what I do is freely played on the keys, I studied a lot of music theory and learned how to play piano to an OK level which really opened up what I could do.
Do you think that producers are often a bit hermit like, maybe a touch nerdy too? Is that fair?
Skillzbeatz: Haha, it can feel like that sometimes trust me, sometimes I’ve been a couple days without really seeing much day light and you start to feel a little crazy. At the end of the day if you want to be the elite in any field you have to be obsessed somewhat and do more than the competition, Beckham stayed after training everyday to practice free kicks, if that makes him a nerd then I am too.
What do you do to get the best out of other artists you may be working with?
Skillzbeatz: A producers job is to oversee the full project, its our job to inspire, encourage, be honest, do whatever is necessary to get the best performance from the artist without gassing them up if there not on point.
Are you signed to Gridloc Music then, or is it your own label? It appears quite affluent, making videos etc. Is that the RnB side supporting the Hip Hop side?
Skillzbeatz: I’m the managing director of Gridloc Music, I have a team that deal with the day to day runnings but all final decisions come through me, it’s the sister company to Gridloc Films which is owned by Fredi Kruga.
So can you talk us through your career so far? What was the first release you produced, how did it come about and how was it received?
Skillzbeatz: I had a lot of tracks out but the first official release was ‘Shake It’ Kruga ft Cam,it went down really well actually, it was a featured video on ThisIs50.com, it made more of an impact over there than it did here.
What else have you released then? Which records would you be particularly proud of and feel are representative of your work?
Skillzbeatz: Other releases include ‘Xtravagance’ Harry Shotta ft Meleka which came out this year and has had a good response, also ‘What they Talkin Bout’ Skibadee ft Harry Shotta has made a good bit of noise.
Who are the UK artists you listen to and admire? What is it about them you like?
Skillzbeatz: There are loads really but I’ve got to hold my hands up to Tinie Tempah, what he’s doing for UK music is incredible.
Who or what are you other influences? What do you do when you are not doing Hip Hop stuff?
Skillzbeatz: When I’m not making music I love to travel, I spend a lot of time in Canada as my parents live there but I have to say its not really a holiday as I work with the hottest Vancouver artists everytime I’m out there soo.
Where can people hear your stuff?
Skillzbeatz: I’m all over the internet but if you checkout www.Skillzbeatz.com it’ll link to everything else.
Where can people pick up your stuff?
Skillzbeatz: Theres a few things on iTunes if people search out Harry Shotta I’ve done a lot of work with him that’s on sale, also a US singer called Voice Singh – Distant Love is out now.
Some free stuff available is the Bigtyme and Calico Jones mixtape hosted by Snoop Dogg and the Maybach Music ‘Maybach Dice’ Mixtape 456 is available too.
OK. To wind this up, what is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?
Skillzbeatz: I’ve just finished the Drum & Bass Allstars 2011 track which is a high energy Dirty South style beat which features the best of the best in the D&B scene, that will be out soon so getting ready with the biz side, plus I’m working with many artists at the moment so I’m flat out.
What are your longer-term plans and objectives for you as producer?
Skillzbeatz: Long term as a producer I just want to make sure I set myself so I can do this till the end of my days as long as the business side is straight there’s no reason why not, I’ve had some amazing placements like working for Disney and stuff so I wanna establish lifelong relationships with the biggest brands in the world and go down as someone people respect as a creator.
What artists do you like and would most like to work with, not necessarily Hip Hop artists?
Skillzbeatz: Although I’m most known as a Hip Hop producer I listen to R&B more, but the real stuff from the 90’s. I’ve done an official remix for NYC’s Five the general which features Slim of platinum group 112 which was cool but I’d love to get in the studio with Ginuwine.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Skillzbeatz: Yea, just that if people like what they’ve read then come and check me out on the social networks and my website, feel free to come and say hello too, I don’t bite.
Check me out at:
- Facebook – Skillzbeatz
Thank you for your time.