DJ Skizz has built a solid catalog of production credits over the last few years, dropping high-profile remixes, solo albums and collaboration projects with the most respected emcees in the game. We recently spoke to the beatmaker about some of his best work.
Your catalog includes collaborations where you are the sole producer (Cashmere Dice with Da Villins, Billy Ocean with Big Twins). Do you approach these differently to projects where you are one of several producers? And are these projects more personal?
As far as the approach, it was really no different than other projects in that I wanted to give it a particular feel, sonically, and make the collection of songs fit together in a dope way. The Villins record was on some groovy, slick, “cashmere” vibes that fit Rim and Villin P’s rhyme styles, whereas Billy Ocean was on some 80s yacht rock, queens pimp shit and worked as a contrast to Twins gruff voice.
When I am the sole producer, I do feel more of a responsibility to “produce,” rather than just contribute beats. I always try to provide the artists and listeners with the filthiest beats I can make, but I find that it’s also important to deliver tracks that allow for the MCs to shine. Sometimes “the craziest” beat might not work for a particular artist or project. It’s got to make sense in the wider lens on the record. But yeah, as the sole producer, I can really dictate the sound of a record. And that’s not just with the beats, its with the sequencing, skits, interludes, etc. as well.
The Way We Were by Milano Constantine was one of 2017’s best albums in my opinion. It has beats only by you and Marco Polo, sometimes alternating from one track to the next. Did you and Marco Polo compete a little to see who could bring the most heat?
Thank you! And I agree. I think as Hip-Hop producers we are always competing. We come from that school of Hip-Hop. Whether it’s competition with other producers or just competition within ourselves to inspire and create better and better music…Marco and I have been great friends for a long time and I have huge respect for his craft. He definitely helps inspire me to make beats and he definitely inspired ‘Lano to write some filthy bars!
Cruise Control from 2016 was another great album, and personally I think it was criminally slept-on. Is it frustrating to put a lot of work into something that may not get heard by as many as you’d like?
It can be frustrating, but for me it’s about my legacy as a producer. If someone doesn’t hear the record now, they might hear it in 5, 10, or 50 years and appreciate it then. In today’s climate, music seems to be here one day and gone the next with it’s popularity built on social media hype etc., but my goal has always been to create pieces of art that last and that age well. As an indie artist, with limited financial resources, it’s challenging to truly compete in a business with artists who are helped by large corporations. In our case, the sharing of the music has to be completely organic with help from the fans and supporters, rather than just paying to play.
What I like about that album is the variety. It feels like beats were tailored to the emcee: a sparse, minimalist track for Bosses with Roc Marciano and Conway; headnod shit for Evidence on Geppetto; space for Your Old Droog to spit dense rhymes on Listen To Jazz. Do you often make beats with specific rappers in mind?
Sometimes I make beats with specific rappers in mind, but usually it’s just how I’m feeling on a particular day. Many producers have “a sound” and I’m not sure I have a particular sound. Sometimes my beats are hard, stab you in the trachea type beats and others are more groove/melody driven. I think having the ability and willingness to try different things and create different sounding beats allows me to work with different artists and also allows me to create different projects that are dope but that sound nothing alike.
What’s your actual process when you sit down to make music? Are you able to turn on the creative juice whenever its needed, or do you need to be in a certain mood?
Since producing is part of how I earn money, sometimes I feel pressure to turn on creative juices at any given moment. I think I make the best shit when I’m not forcing it though. Also I seem to get into a groove when I’m in the studio with an MC or someone who is inspiring me. The vibes can set the tone and the beat is just a bi-product of that vibe.
I know a lot of producers don’t like to give up their formula, but I’m interested in the gear you use. What’s your basic equipment set-up and some essential bits of hardware and software?
My setup consists of either an MPC 2000, MPC 2500, or MPC Studio, an Akai keyboard, ProTools, Serato, 2 turntables, a mixer, and vinyl records. I have also been using Kontakt from Native Instruments and a few other Virtual instruments to make sample-free beats and to manipulate and add on to samples.
You’ve worked with a huge selection of artists already, but who is on your ultimate wish list?
Kendrick Lamar, Cam’ron, Jay-Z, Redman, Anderson Paak, SiR, Sade, Ghostface, Dr. Dre, Nas, to name a few.
Aside from the obvious masters of the art, which other producers are you feeling the most right now?
Can’t think of anyone in particular at moment. I will get back to you on this…
What’s next on the horizon?
I’ve been putting together an instrumental project that should be ready for release this spring. Also working on a few EPs with rappers that I’m not gonna speak on just yet. Also got some placements on some big projects that shat should be coming out soon… But yeah just know I’m cookin and there will be plenty of Skizz work out there in the near future!