We hooked up with legendary west coast producer E-A Ski to discuss a number of things. The recent producer of an Ice Cube track which appeared on the bonus version of “I am the West” and the recent Locksmith & Crooked I “Gray Area” collaboration which sparked online, E-A Ski has seen quite the amount of success as of late, and there is much more of it to come. Those are two tracks in which we discuss with Ski heavily.
A real west coast original pioneer, we also get Ski’s thoughts on the current west coast and what needs to be done in order to “fix” the scene and return it to the forefront of industry.
Interview: We’re here with west coast pioneer E-A Ski. We’re gonna start this interview off by talking about a song which just leaked that hit the blogs and websites real heavy that you produced, “Gray Area” by Locksmith and Crooked I. Tell us about that song.
E-A Ski: It’s really funny how that came about. First and foremost, much love to Crooked I. That is a good homeboy of mine. He is the west coast representation of true lyricism in my book. Locksmith is my artist and he’s dope as well. I met Crooked on the Rock the Bells tour out this way in the Bay area. We were all together, Royce, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden all talking. We started talking about a few things. I told Crooked I was working on Locksmith’s album and I wanted him to be apart of it. I wanted to do something different than have them just spit bars. As an artist who produces, to me, it’s about making a great record. I feel like Crooked I and Locksmith have that talent too.
I think everybody can really appreciate them doing a record about being in the industry and about being in the gray area of the record business. It’s about the stuff that goes on that a lot of people don’t talk about. It’s kind of taboo because everybody is just trying to make commercial records. They’re trying to make records that please the radio and clubs; records with no substance. These are two great lyricists that made something that I think can really impact people, especially by hitting them with something that will educate them on how this business really is instead of just spitting bars.
That was the idea for “Gray Area.” It’s not all black and white; there is a grey area in this business. People think they can come in here and be successful, but they don’t tell you about all the other stuff that goes along with trying to get to that point of success. It’s that gray situation that nobody ever talks about.
Interview: I like that. I think I speak for all of our readers when I say that the concept is great, and although Crooked and Locksmith are phenomenal lyrical rappers, it was cool to see them do something a little bit different than what most expected. I want to move onto “Pros vs. Joes”, the bonus track on Ice Cube’s new album which you produced.
E-A Ski: Cube has always been a friend of mine. Even though he’s a busy dude and he’s always on his grind, we’re good friends first and foremost. Basically I had heard he was working on a new record. When he’s working on something, he knows I make heat. I have an official homeboy that works for Lench Mob who told me Cube was working on a new record. After that, we just connected to make great music. Cube is all about music and I was able to give him something that he thought was hot. It’s really about the music. If the music is hot, that’s what it is.
Interview: And how do you think he did with your instrumental? Did you love it?
E-A Ski: I think he really killed it. I really believe that. I think he did what classic Ice Cube fans want to hear from him. He really went in. He was speaking on real things. Ice Cube boombaye is what they say. A lot of people don’t know what that means but it means kill them. That’s pretty much what they were saying during the [Muhammad] Ali-Foreman fight. Basically this is what he does. You have to pay respect to somebody who’s been doing it this long and is still relevant in 2010 going into 2011. “Pros vs. Joes” is about being a pro, this is what I do. I know a lot of cats coming up in the game don’t wanna’ do that and that’s cool, but you gotta’ keep working and working to get to that level of where he’s at and I think “Pros vs. Joes” says it all.
Interview: No doubt. What are your current thoughts on the west coast scene?
E-A Ski: They’re a lot of good things going on but it flies under the radar. People don’t acknowledge the west the way they should even though they stole so many things from the west. We’re in a very hard position right now. A lot of people don’t look at the west. They look at everywhere else but the west. I’m waiting for them to realize that half the stuff these cats are doing is a branch off the west.
The west coast scene is trying to reinvent itself. I believe it’s becoming more powerful. Anytime you have nothing going on in the west, you have to know something is brewing. There is a lot of bitterness, but with that bitterness and anger I believe comes creativity. And when that happens, you have to be on the lookout because they’re a lot of great artists from the west coming up that you need to look out for. That’s really how I feel. The west doesn’t get the look on a lot of stuff and people bypass it. I don’t know if they’re intimidated by the west, or that the west has a violent reputation. Whatever it might be, the west is booming right now and it’s about to be a problem.
Interview: Which artists do you specifically think they have to look out for?
E-A Ski: They better look out for me because I have a lot to say. I say that because I’ve come from two different generations of west coast music; now and the past, and that’s a lot of knowledge I’ve gained. You have cats like me, WC, Ice Cube and new cats like Locksmith which are very intelligent cats that can put the streets, the politics and all the other things in one motion and give you the things that you need to have substance and stuff that is still relevant in the market place. I think they need to look out for me and Locksmith.
Interview: I definitely feel that. You mentioned “the west flying under the radar.” What do you think needs to be done for that to change?
E-A Ski: It really starts at home. We know that rap is 30 something years deep. We should be able to rely on each other in rap. We should be able to talk to the east coast and south coast and be resourceful with one another. Since everything is so segregated, people wanna’ rally around whatever is hot at the moment. It starts at home first. It starts with the DJ’s supporting west coast artists. Any section you go to, unlike the west coast, the south really supports the south and the east really supports the east. Overall, they look out for themselves while at the same time looking out for another.
On the west, it’s really different. It’s one of those things were you get west coast DJ’s fucking dick riding everywhere else but the west. They don’t rally around there own region. That’s the problem with the west coast. We rally around everybody but ourselves. It makes it ten times tougher to put ourselves in a position for success. We need to rally around each other, really do things and really build it. We don’t need to segregate cats from doing what they need to do. That’s where the game is at right now. It’s the only marketplace you can come into and everybody else will be more successful than your own artist. That only happens on the west.
Interview: E-A Ski is schooling the west coast on this one. I want to switch gears for a minute and talk about a short film you were involved in with Danny Glover which picked up an award.
E-A Ski: I tried to do something different being that I’m independent with EMI Films. I basically wanted to do something like what Michael Jackson did with Thriller. I wanted to make it like a short film and it’s called “No Problems.” In the process, it has me, Locksmith and my homebody Eastwood from Los Angeles. I had this whole concept about how I wanted to shoot it. I’m close with Danny Glover because we do a lot of activist stuff together like speaking to the kids and we motivate them to stay in school. We tell them that the music business isn’t easy to get into. We have that vibe and he wanted to be apart of something that can be exciting for hip-hop.
Before I put it out, I said I rather put it in a film festival. The first film festival it was in, they loved it. It was an international film festival called the Okanagan Film Festival and it won an award. It was a good look because it allowed us to show that you can do stuff on another level instead of just dropping videos. We put in a little more work ethic into it and we got creative instead of just shooting a video. I’m actually on planning to try and release this with HBO and make it exclusive. When you see it, it’s gonna’ be very impressive.
Interview: That sounds great, congratulations on its success. What’s next up for E-A Ski?
E-A Ski: I’m working on my solo album and I’m making sure that the album is incredible. I have great features from Ice Cube, Tech N9Ne, B-Real from Cypress Hill and Freeway. It’s not a compilation though. A lot of people would think with those names that it’s a compilation. The thing is I don’t drop a lot of records. I had a lot of great features and people that fit what I’m doing with my album. I’m an artist as well as a producer. Of course I’m working on my artist Locksmith’s album. He has an incredible album called “Frank the Rabbit.” I have an artist named Left which was one half of The Frontline group with Locksmith. I’m producing some stuff for him and Frank Nitty as well. I have a lot of great stuff I’m working on. I just talked to WC about doing something. Look out for WC’s new album. I’m putting a lot of stuff together.
Interview: Everything sounds great. I really appreciate your time Ski. Do you have any last words?
E-A Ski: Look out for the west. It’s very important that music is balanced. When you’re not hearing from all regions, something is left out because we have a lot to contribute. I love music and I love all regions, including the south, east and mid-west. It needs to be balanced.
When it becomes one dimensional, hip-hop starts fading out. I definitely want to be that voice for the west coast. Be ready, because it’s not gonna’ be nice; it’s gonna’ be as real as it gets as far as my views on certain things and it’s gonna’ be the truth. It’s honest. A lot of people don’t want to hear honesty. They want to hear music that makes them feel good because they want to get away from what’s really going on. We’re gonna’ get back to business though.