Interview: SKII Blurs The Lines Between EDM & Hip-Hop

Philly-based producer SKII develops his signature EDM sound within the established Progressive House, Dubstep, and Big Room beats inspiring him to create his own path since first stepping into the music industry. After growing up playing the piano, guitar, bass, and drums, his transition into EDM has been a significant change in his life connecting him with listeners interested in his eclectic, contrasting sounds full of expressive storylines and a captivating ambiance.

Describing his musical style in just three words: Chill, Hard, and Contrasting, SKII doesn’t take the process of creating new music too lightly. He shares his contentment with the realization that all the songs he’s released don’t hold that special place in his heart as the one’s he’s currently working on and remain unreleased. There’s something about the process of creating something out of nothing while relying on the beat production to guide him towards the finished product and feeling more emotionally connected to his favorite DJs and music producers in the EDM community such as Boombox Cartel, Flosstrodamus, and NGHTMRE, who all break barriers and cross into other genres, further inspiring SKII.

Thanks for speaking with us! We’d like to take it back to the very beginning – your musical journey begins with learning how to play the piano, guitar, bass, and drums before transitioning into EDM. 

Music was a big part of my life from a very young age. My parents influenced me a lot and so did my friends. I started learning to play the piano when I was about 7 and once I got the hang of it, I just wanted to do way more. I was always hungry to learn. I ended up teaching myself guitar, bass, and drums and that still wasn’t enough for me so I started bugging my dad to buy me production software. At the time I was using a program called Cakewalk which was professional but it sucked. I didn’t know how to use it so I hated it. I just couldn’t figure it out.

Growing up around Philadelphia, I was really influenced by rap and hip hop. All of my friends were listening to it,  and I wanted to become a part of it. I knew I wasn’t a rapper, so naturally, I stayed with recording and production. Eventually one of my close friends wanted to rap on some beats and he introduced me to a software called FL Studio 7. At the time I had not really heard of EDM or any electronic music so this was all I was passionate about. Sooner or later, my rapper friends stopped making music but I was still hungry for more. I kept going and I really pushed myself to do a little bit of everything. When I was young I was heavily influenced by sampling and old-school hip hop type beats. I fell in love with the styles of Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and eventually Lex Luger. Naturally, I started to transition into Trap and harder styles of rap beat production and was working in this kind of music all the way up until midway through High School.

Do you remember what inspired you to make the switch?

I played football in High School and during warm-ups or workouts, my buddies would play a lot of crazy music. I remember the first time hearing artists like Martin Garrix and Skrillex and just thinking “WOW, how do I become a part of THIS now.” That became my next challenge.

I moved away from Rap and Hip Hop to focus on EDM but I never completely neglected it. My love for beat production started again midway through college when I became so inspired by all these new artists I never heard of,  so I started to switch lanes again. I soon realized that my real passion was in both beat production and in electronic music production so I incorporated both into my artist persona and brand.

Our favorite singles range from the tranquil and smoothly produced “Sierra Leone” to the chill “Again (feat. Teodora)” creating thematic visuals accompanied with simplistic beat production and distinctiveness of a woman’s vocal tone. As the year continues and the pandemic rules begin to subside, SKII feels the excitement of returning back on the main stage. SKII’s biggest dream as a Hip Hop artist is performing at a stadium where major sports games occur but also at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado popularly known for hosting EDM artists from all over the world for a variety of concert events in the genre.

Take us through your process of creating a single release.

There’s often a debate about this, but when I start from scratch, I ALWAYS start with a melody.  Others will do drums first, but I need to have a good melody first and that melody is usually the one that’s in the chorus of the song. After that it’s drums for the chorus, then melody for the intro,  then the bridge, and of course drums for the intro then bridge. Truth be told, I usually end up copying and pasting my chorus’ but I ALWAYS make sure it’s different from the first. I start mixing and engineering the sound I want once the idea is down. Oftentimes I won’t get a vocalist or a rapper on a song until it’s mostly done but that’s a whole other process. After that, the rest is just post-production, marketing, and creating hype. I’ll usually submit a song to a label or distributor about 1 month prior to its intended release.

What do you miss the most about performing live for a crowd?

The energy. There’s nothing like being on stage and just vibing out harder than you ever have before. The crowd feeds off it, and I’m just in my own world when I’m up there. I can’t have my sets consist of just my music, but I do play my own obviously, and seeing people enjoy the art you’ve created is an amazing feeling. That’s really the main reason why I do this. Then meeting people after a show and discussing your music,  is also an amazing feeling. I haven’t played a ton of shows in my life, but the ones that I have played, always allow me to meet some amazing people.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this past decade?

There are so many. I’m constantly learning. One of the biggest would be to just, trust in nobody but myself. I’ve let others sort of guide my intuition in the past and at the end of the day, I know what’s best for me. I think everyone should consider this honestly. I see way too often, people get too easily influenced by the wrong people and the wrong advice. It’s better to educate yourself and take your own advice from something you know is valid. And if I’m going to let others influence me in some sort of way, I make sure that I trust that person and that I’m taking action for all the right reasons. I know I said that in a broad kind of way, but this lesson applies to a lot of things in life. You are responsible for your future so don’t put it in other people’s hands.

Besides that, I just learned that organization and hard work are the real keys to success. Some people get lucky, some people just work hard. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and just keep your nose to the grindstone. Everyone’s time will come. In all honesty, I do have to constantly repeat this to myself time and time again.

Are there any specific elements you like to throw into your songs?

I’m glad you asked this. Since I associate with 2 different music communities I feel like it’s almost my responsibility to add elements from the opposite style. I’ve made some crazy euphoric EDM songs and thrown in Rick Ross vocal samples into them. I love that. When it comes to my EDM work, I’m mainly making Future Bass/Festival Trap. These genres already have a lot in common with Hip Hop so the barrier between them is a lot thinner than people think, which is great. I like to transcend genres while still keeping my identity and there’s really nothing that I won’t try.

How has this year affected you creatively?

It’s been a roller coaster. Not being able to perform is sort of depressing. That’s one of the best ways I can cultivate a solid fanbase so I definitely feel down in regards to shows and what-not.  With that said, this pandemic has been a blessing because it helped me really focus on my craft and create a game plan. When you’re always out, you have no way of organizing yourself, and you’re constantly on someone else’s schedule. Right now, I’m on my time. I’m on SKII time and I’m just sitting at my desk or at a studio putting in work. I’ll definitely be well prepared when the pandemic is over and shows start to come back. I’m gonna bust out the gates running.

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What's up? I'm Evelin, founder of Music Trails. Sometimes music just speaks to me and creates a memorable experience I can never forget. This is my space to share some of those new independent artists doing their thing. Check them out!

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