TDE explains the genius of Lance Skiiiwalker – Billboard
Imagine Kendrick Lamar walking into a store, hearing your song play over the speakers, then liking your song enough that he decides he wants to meet you. It’s a dream scenario for musical hopefuls the world over, but it actually happened to Lance Skiiiwalker.
In 2012, the aspiring artist and his wife were in Los Angeles passing through their native Chicago for a weekend. On their last day in town, the couple visited a clothing store in the Fairfax district, where Skiiiwalker’s friend was a manager. “He asked me if I had something he could play in his store, so I gave him one of my last two beat tapes,” says the singer and producer. Billboard. “Twenty minutes later, Kendrick and [former TDE president] Dave Free walked into the store, [and] I get a call, saying Kendrick wants me to come back – he wanted to meet me. Isn’t that crazy? “
Nine years later, Skiiiwalker is a TDE veteran, fresh off his second EP of the year for the label, Tales from the Telescope Chapter 2: Internal Shard. The five-song release followed her September EP, Tales from the Telescope Chapter 1: Rebirth, which marked Skiiiwalker’s first draft in five years after his 2016 album Introverted intuition. It is also a new beginning for Skiiiwalker, more active than ever with its own musical production and the evolution of the LA label.
“Musically, Lance is like water,” says label president Anthony “Moosa” Tiffith Jr. (son of Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith “). âYou can pour water into any container and it will take shape wherever it is. I feel the same for Lance. I can put it in any room, anywhere, anytime, it will be great just like the water.
Moosa first met Skiiiwalker in 2013, when the singer and producer began appearing at the Carson, Calif., Residential home, which also served as TDE’s studio and headquarters. Since then, the singer and producer has been involved in producing and writing songs for nearly every TDE signer, including Lamar, SiR, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, and Isaiah Rashad. âHe gets involved from top to bottom with everyone,â Moosa says.
Sonically, Skiiiwalker draws inspiration from jazz, R&B and hip-hop, but fills a lane completely of his own – something that has drawn other TDE artists to his world. His approach to music is unintentionally anti-commercial, as each indescribable song challenges listeners to tap into their inner child – that is, to use their imaginations.
Maybe you are rushing down the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland, except it’s Chicago, and there are saxophones and pianos played by floating ghosts. Or it’s 1965, and you’re in a coral-toned jazz lounge half-empty after hours, as “Save My Number” echoes softly through the speakers.
âAs a human being, Lance is like a problem in the system. I don’t know anyone like him who does what he does,â says Rashad. âHe’s on a totally different frequency.â
Skiiiwalker describes himself as an anxious middle child who primarily raised himself while growing up in Chicago’s northwestern Wicker Park neighborhood. As a child, he struggled in school and later dropped out of high school. While the traditional academics approach hasn’t worked for Skiiiwalker, music always has.
âI beat the tables a lot and found my own melodies while listening to the streetcars,â he says. “I never really had a lot of friends, I was constantly in my own world since I was born.”
In 2013, Rashad, Skiiiwalker, and SZA lived together for about a year in the Carson house. Meanwhile, Rashad says he understood the genius of Skiiiwalker. âHe’s still got some kind of gadget that he uses to make music, he’s totally broadened my view of what you can do as a creative. It’s like a mad scientist.
Skiiiwalker contributed vocals to Rashad’s critically acclaimed 2021 album, The house is on fire, which happened after a five-year hiatus. Skiiiwalker’s 7-year-old daughter Natalia was also featured as a singer on “HB2U”.
âLance usually does the parts that I don’t have the confidence to do,â says Rashad. “I’m calling Lance at 11:00 PM to make some sounds for me, and he’ll be there at 11:30 PM.”
When it comes to his 2019 jet-set album In pursuit of summer, SiR, another TDE signatory, said conversations with Skiiiwalker helped cultivate the cohesive sound of the project. “When you hear the saxophone on” The Recipe “or the guitars on” Mood “, it’s [from] those conversations that we had, talking about how we wanted the album to feel, âhe says. “In pursuit of summer is a labor of love, and Lance was definitely there from start to finish.
Skiiiwalker and SiR arrived at TDE a few months apart. âWe clicked right away because we were both new kids in the neighborhood,â says SiR. “Seeing what he brought to the table was just a breath of fresh air and we’ve been buddies ever since.”
SiR, which appears on the opening piece of Tales from the Telescope Chapter 2, says that at first Skiiiwalker’s creativity drove him to become a better artist and producer. “I think we were working on HER, and he just had a whole bunch of vibes that I gravitated towards, and we were talking about samples and how we wanted to keep the music inside our music, âhe says. “It made me work harder to get the end product and not be a lazy musician like I was heading towards.”
While the duo have been making music together for years, âPesoâ, which samples âDo For Loveâ by Tupac (which himself samples âWhat You Won’t Do for Loveâ) by Bobby Caldwell, is their first. collaboration to come out. âI was at Carson’s just to buy some merch and Lance was right there and I just jumped into the studio,â SiR said of making âPesoâ. “It’s a great song and a great vibe, it’s actually evolved from the last time I heard it.” According to SiR, the couple have continued to enter the studio together recently, as the LA native composes their next album.
With the help of his label, Skiiiwalker hopes to bring listeners into his world, and not the other way around. “[Conforming] it would mean losing part of who I am, and I love being who I am. No amount of money or attention could change [that], “he says.” TDE gave me the freedom and the time to understand myself and that made me a stronger producer, songwriter and singer. “
Outside of his studio musical prowess, Moosa considers Skiiiwalker a ‘pit stop’ when it comes to recruiting new artists. “I’m going to take them to see Lance, so he can see their character and what they’re capable of.” Lance is capable of so many different sounds, he’s going to see if he can rap, see if he can sing, just to get a full feel for the artist I’m bringing in.
While Skiiiwalker won’t be putting on his label director’s cap anytime soon, he does draw his focus on inspiring emerging artists to “paint the world in whatever color you want.” I think this will help us all. Recently, Skiiiwalker has been in the studio with artists like Smino and Alabama-raised rapper Pink Siifu working on songwriting and production. âSome of them are really underground, but they all sound loud,â he says.
As TDE saw Free’s departure as label president in 2019 and Lamar’s recent announcement that his next album would be his last with the label, Skiiiwalker is excited about the direction TDE is taking moving forward. . âThey’re open to anything in a creative way,â he says, âwhich is great, because the new artists that I’m building with – across and outside of the label – they’re going to embrace.â
In addition to the emerging artists, there are two people Skiiiwalker must inspire: his daughter Natalia and his toddler son. âSomething that I will always push in myself, my family and my music is to never let anyone put you in a box,â he says. “Because for me, that’s when you start to die.” “