We interviewed one of our favorite artists, Skiddalz!
The hip-hop artist hailing from small-town Centralia, Illinois talks about breaking through depression with music, midwest hip-hop, being a woman in the industry and of course, Cardi B!
Kyle Warner: Hi Skiddalz! What’s up?!
Skiddalz: Feeling good! I have a few exciting things I’m working on with my music. I am in a great direction with everything right now.
KW: That’s great to hear. What was your first experience with hip-hop? And how did you know it was something you wanted to make your life’s work?
Skiddalz: I’ve been listening to hip-hop my whole life. The first rap song I ever learned, word for word, was ‘The Crossroads’ by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I had to be younger than 10. I picked up beatboxing around the age of 12. And then, when I was in high school, I quit my love for basketball after battling depression and weight gain because of the death of my grandma, whom I was very close to. I ended up creating hip-hop music and rapping through writing poetry to cope with the depression I was dealing with. I performed my first show at a little club/bar in St. Louis when I was 17. I wasn’t even allowed to be in clubs, but my manager at the time got me in. After the crowd got a minute of my performance they went nuts. I loved it. Right then and there I knew that music was what I wanted forever. I knew I belonged on the stage.
KW: You grew up close to St. Louis, which has spawned some hip-hop greats. Have artists such as Nelly, Chingy, Tef Poe, J-Kwon etc. influenced you?
Skiddalz: Of course! Nelly was my childhood idol and I dreamed of meeting him. He was such an inspiration to me. I guess you can say my dreams came true because I recorded my first single ‘OMG’ at his studio, and he approached me without me knowing he was even in the studio and told me he loved the song. It was so surreal. I started being mentored by one of his bandmates from the St. Lunatics, by the name of Slo Down. The dude that wore the mask! He’s been like a brother ever since. I’ve got to meet Chingy and J-Kwon and they are really cool guys. I talk to Tef, and from time to time we will exchange messages or texts about music. If I ever have a question he will help me out. He’s a really dope emcee and one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met.
KW: St. Louis has a distinct hip-hop style, The St. Louis Bounce. Can you explain what the St. Louis Bounce is and what it means to midwest hip-hop? Is this something you actively think about when producing a beat or a song?
Skiddalz: St. Louis definitely has its own style, but I would say the scene is very versatile and eclectic. I think there is so much talent in St. Louis and the Midwest right now because there are artists out here wanting to be unique and have their own voice. When I go to write a song, I just think about who I am as a person and an artist. I want to be myself no matter what. Making sure I am staying original is key.
KW: What was the feeling like winning ‘Best Female Hip-Hop Artist’ in the 2014 St. Louis Underground Music Awards?
Skiddalz: It was awesome! I had been nominated 2 or 3 times before that, so I felt like it was finally my time to take it home! It just feels good to get recognized for the hard work you put into your craft and performances. It feels good to be well-received by your music peers, for sure.
KW: What challenges do you face being a woman in what has generally been a male-dominated genre?
Skiddalz: Well, there is a stigma on what ‘female rappers’ should look like and sound like. I don’t think I fall under any of those stereotypical categories so some may see it as a challenge for me because I don’t look the part that they necessarily think I should be. I see it as a positive because it means I have a chance to stand out among everyone else and also prove that you don’t have to have a certain look or sound to belong – as long as you have talent you can make it anywhere. Being a woman you are going to face more criticism and more problems in ANY industry you want to be in. I think it makes women work harder and strive for what they want. Women shouldn’t have to go that extra mile, but unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. One day female hip-hop artists will just be known as ‘hip-hop artists’ and equality will prevail.
KW: Women have been generating some major mainstream popularity recently. Do you feel artists like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Rapsody, Young M.A. and others have paved a way for female artists to break into mainstream hip-hop?
Skiddalz: Definitely! I am thankful for any woman that can reach major success and have a chance to have her own voice on a big platform. All of the women you mentioned are killing it and doing a damn good job! I have to say, Cardi B is my absolute favorite right now. She is so funny and she really doesn’t care what people think. She is herself! She came from nothing and made her way to the top. You have to respect that and want to aspire to be like that. She’s definitely breaking that mold of just being a ‘female rapper’ – she’s a superstar.
KW: Do you have any advice for that next small-town girl who wants to start making hip-hop music?
Skiddalz: It sounds cliche, but follow your dreams. I never knew how true those words actually are until I faced a lot of the ups and downs that come with being an independent artist. Be knowledgeable of the business. You have to believe in yourself first and foremost. Be yourself. Always be yourself. It’s important to remember that because that’s what makes great people. Be kind, patient, and persistent. I’ve come a long way just on that alone. You don’t have to have all of the money in the world to know how to talk to people and be a good person. You’d be surprised how far that can take you.
KW: That’s great advice. You’ve had some impressive success in the music licensing world, is sync-ability something you keep in mind when writing?
Skiddalz: It definitely is right now. I’m very focused on placements and getting my music licensed right now. So, I try to steer away from any profanity or anything that could make my music less marketable when it comes to getting TV placements. It’s helped my writing as well. It makes me think more and be more creative. It’s a good process.
KW: Have you seen an increase in exposure, plays or press resulting from your past placements?
Skiddalz: Yes! I’ve gained a lot of new fans from all over the world. It’s been incredible. I really live for trying to reach people globally with my music, so getting my music placed in different media outlets has really helped that dream of mine.
KW: What’s next for Skiddalz?
Skiddalz: I’m working on some new music right now! Hopefully, I will be releasing my next single soon. I have some big things in the works and I”m just patiently waiting for them to unfold. As soon as that happens, Songtradr will be the first to hear it!