Filed under: Beantown,BK All Day,Hoody Rap Ain't Dead,Interviews,Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
As a veteran of the Halftime Show with DJ Eclipse, DJ Skizz has also been putting out some quality beats with the likes of Big Noyd in recent years. In 2012 he dropped the Kings From Queens mixtape, and his B.Q.E. album is out on the 17th September, featuring a varied selection of hoody rap heavyweights, with project an album with Problemz and an EP with Frank Dukes to follow. I visited his studio in Brooklyn to check the album and talk about his history in the game so far.
Robbie: How did it all start out for you?
DJ Skizz: I grew up in Boston and went to school in New Orleans for a couple of years and deejayed there at the college station. In 2000 I went to New York and started doing the Halftime Show with DJ Eclipse and DJ Riz. A couple of years later, Riz left and I kept on doing the show with Eclipse. As far as the production side of things, I’ve been making beats since around 2000. I was living in Astoria, Queens at the time, and met Big Noyd at the barbershop. He came to the crib and we banged out two songs. I got more serious about the beats and did a lotta joints for him. Over the years I connected with a lot of MC’s through the radio and Fat Beats.
Can you tell me more about this Queens’ barbershop you met Noyd at?
Another time I was getting my haircut, and all of a sudden all of the dudes who were cutting hair and in the seats just got up and ran to the back of the barbershop. This tiny little barbershop, real skinny. They all run to the back, and I look in the mirror and some guy has a loaded 9mm gun pointed at this dudes head. He’s got him down, execution style, and the dude’s yelling, “No!” I got up and ran to the back, but I couldn’t even fit into the bathroom at the back, ‘cos there was so many people in crowded in there. So I just turned so I wasn’t looking at the guy, ‘cos I didn’t want him to shoot me. He didn’t kill the guy, which was great. The guy was pleading for his life and he let him live, so he left and I got my haircut. That barbershop is crazy.
What inspired you to DJ?
I was always playing instruments when I was growing up, but my boy DJ Lazy Boy – he’s won DMC’s and shit, real nasty DJ – he’s a year older than me and I would always watch him cut it up. Once I got down to New Orleans I got good enough to go on the radio.
Who were your favorite DJ’s when you were coming up?
My friend DJ Lazy Boy, DJ Revolution – he’s my favorite as far as scratching on records – ff course Q-Bert and Craze, Roc Raida and DJ Riz. He’s probably the nastiest all around DJ I’ve seen in terms of cutting and mixing. He’s smooth and makes it look so fuckin’ easy, definitely an inspiration.
What was your first paid DJ gig?
Probably somewhere in New Orleans. I have a terrible memory though – too much weed! [laughs]
Do you still make much time to practice your scratching?
I don’t spend as much time as I used to, but I try to cut it up at least once a day, plus when I’m on the radio or playing out.
What did you study at NYU?
I studied Music Technology – basically studio stuff, music for film, electronics, that type of shit.
Did you finish the course or just spend all your time at the radio?
I actually graduated. I don’t know how much it’s helped me in my life, but I did.
What have been some of the highlights of your years at Halftime?
My biggest moment was interviewing Nas. He was promoting the Street’s Disciple album, and it was the first time that “Bridging The Gap” had been played on air. Eclipse was out of town, and I brought PF Cuttin’ to DJ. It was pretty nerve-racking at the time, but it was cool. Unfortunately he didn’t really rhyme a lot, but it was dope. Another really dope moment was when Kanye came up with Rhymefest. This was when Jay-Z’s Blueprint album had just come out. Riz was playing instrumentals, and Kanye basically would not rhyme over a beat that was not his. Rhymefest went at him about that in his rhymes, and then started battling. It was fuckin’ great. This was before he even had an album out, it was Kanye just being Kanye. Xzibit came up and he must’ve rhymed for half an hour, around the time he had the show on MTV about souping-up cars.
Nas usually seems to be blunted when he does interviews, so that must have been tough to get much out of him.
At first, he was like that. I was like, “What the fuck? Am I interviewing myself?” He was very reserved, and all of sudden he just started talking and wouldn’t shut up, as he got more comfortable.
What’s been your favorite touring experience?
I went out to Europe with Cormega and Large Professor and did about eight shows. Large Professor is my hero, he’s such a character and you can learn so much from him. It was just cool hanging around those dudes and seeing how they operate. They’re very professional.
You’ve also deejayed for Group Home?
I did a few joints on the I.A.DAP album, and him and Gusmo were talking about going to Japan and they needed a DJ. Melachi did not come that time, but the response from the crowd man, they just loved it. That first Group Home album has the best Premier beats of any album, so just playing those beats was awesome. The crowd would just go nuts, it was dope. Dap’s very eccentric, in a completely different way than Large Professor. But he’s a good dude.
When did you decide to make the BQE album?
I had been doing a lot of stuff with Noyd and Twin, and I wanted to break out and get my production out there. It’s a crazy process, but luckily I know people like Marco Polo who have done it before, so he would almost act as a psychiatrist, because it’s really, really frustrating at times. A lot of it is dealing with other people’s schedule, it’s waiting on people for verses – you can’t control everything. But I definitely appreciate all the MC’s who looked out and are part of the project.
Have you had to reject verses that aren’t up to par?
Unfortunately, a bunch of times. When you have a specific vision and you want it to sound a certain a way, and if it’s not sounding that way then it isn’t going on the project. There’s also stuff that didn’t fit into the flow of BQE that I might use on an EP later.
What can you tell me about Big Noyd?
Noyd can be quite hood, and he’s proud of it. He’s been a friend for a long time, but I think it’s been tough for Noyd, because he’s had his fan base but he’s under the umbrella of Mobb Deep. He’s always been there for them and he’s been the energy of that group, especially on tour. He really connects with the crowd, but at the same time, he’s not Mobb Deep. He’s always had this solo side too, and I think it’s been hard separating himself in his career. I feel like there’s been some missed opportunities, business-wise. Maybe some of it’s his fault. I hope he works on a new album soon, he’s actually living in Florida right now.
Who would you get if you could make your version of “The Symphony”?
Ghostface, Nas, Scarface and GURU.
What’s up with that kid from LA calling himself Problem?
We’ve had many conversations about that. I’ve been working with Problemz on a new album, called R.A.W. (Right Amount of Wrong). We have about twelve joints done, so that will come out soon. The first song on the album addresses that. That’s some wack shit, that would never be OK back in the day.
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