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Interview: Skeme talks about new album, west coast hip-hop

L.A. rapper Skeme performs at New York's Irving Plaza.
L.A. rapper Skeme performs at New York's Irving Plaza.
Photo by Jason Schellhardt

After lying dormant for nearly 20 years, West Coast hip-hop has made a major comeback over the past few years. Artists like Kendrick Lamar, Dom Kennedy and Nipsey Hussle have put Los Angeles back on the map, and paved the way for an intriguing crop of newcomers to be heard.

One of those newcomers is Inglewood's very own, Skeme. Skeme's latest full length, Ingleworld, was released in December, and has garnered a significant amount of praise from critics and hip-hop aficionados alike. The album features deft lyricism and an impressive handful of beats crafted by mostly unheralded producers.

In support of Ingleworld, Skeme has been playing direct support for Dom Kennedy on his "Get Home Safely" tour. During the tour's stop at Irving Plaza, Skeme took a minute to talk about his music, his relationship with Kendrick Lamar's TDE label and what he listened to as a young buck.

So, how’s the tour going?

Man amazing at the moment. I’ve been struggling to keep my voice a little bit, but other than that we’re good.

How are the crowds on the east coast compared to what you are used to out west?

I mean, we got a little more reach where I’m from. But, out here it’s been love though. I think the only difference is they’re not all the way familiar with the records, but the energy is still there. We’ve been looking for love everywhere we go and they’ve been showing it. So I can’t even complain. Even the night I lost my voice in Boston, they were still amazingly hyped for a nigga. And I was like, down on myself for not having a voice, but they were still rolling with us. It’s all love.

The West Coast movement has made a lot of progress over the past few years, how does it feel to be a part of that scene?

Man, that’s love. I don’t know how everyone else came up, but I came up feeling like I was going to be a part of something that had to do with California in general. So you know, that’s what I want. To be a part of it is an honor to me, to even be in the conversation with cats like Dom Kennedy and Kendrick Lamar.

Speaking of Kendrick... You reportedly had an offer to sign with TDE [Kendrick Lamar's label], but decided to release Ingleworld independently. What made you go in that direction?

I respect and have an admiration for what they’ve got going. By the same token, I’d like to be in that position on my own. I wanted to build something solo, but still have respect for TDE [and everybody] across the board. But I want to hold my own flag up at the end of the day. We had been in talks with TDE since 2010 but it was on-and-off and we would dodge around it and shit. Them is my big bros though, so I look up to them for sure.

You released Ingleworld in December. How is this album different than your previous work?

Man, I think it’s just growth. Every time what we aim for is growth. Everybody should be able to tell by this project that we grew from the last, and this shit is getting better. Beat selections should be getting better. Lyrically, this nigga should be advancing, you know? That’s the thing, I think I took a little more time on it this time around. I’m just trying to get a project that conceptually fits from top to bottom.

What made you start rapping?

It was funny, the first case of me doing it was my pops making a joke about it. He was like, “Oh, you should start rapping,” because I used to memorize other niggas' songs by heart. So I’m quoting everybody else, and he was like, “Why don’t you write your own shit?” So I started making my own shit, and here we are today.

What artists were you memorizing back then?

Mase. Harlem World, top to bottom. That was one of my joints. Who else man… Outkast. ATLiens was my shit, Stankonia was my shit. There was this Timbaland and Magoo album, I never remember what the name of it was [Welcome To Our World], it had “Luv 2 Luv U” on there. No Way Out was the shit, P. Diddy and the Family. Somebody else man… Oh, 400 Degreez! [ed. note: House DJ began playing “Back That Azz Up” almost on cue].

Are there any artists or producers that you hope to collaborate with in the future?

Man, on a production level, probably Pharrell. I would love to work with dude. He’s an amazing guy, I’ve been a fan for a long time. On an artist level, as a rapper, I really want to work with [Lil’ Wayne]. That’s been a guy of mine for a minute now. He's been very influential over my sound. The other guys have passed on, R.I.P. Pimp C. R.I.P. to Dolla, who was my older brother. He was probably the only guy that I was gassed to work with, I had so much respect for him. But, on a general music level, probably Erykah Badu and Sade, too. I’m a big fan of them.

What kind of stuff do you get into when you aren't working on your music?

Aw, man. Sleep. It’s really a constant thing. I was talking about that with somebody the other day. I believe in staying away from the whole writer’s block thing and the only way to do that is to continuously work at it. As cliché as it may be, I’d be rather be doing that. If I’m not doing that, I’m probably taking care of my son or going to sleep. Shit, sleep, wake up, make sure my son is cool and then studio. That’s my life at the moment.

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