By Dynasty Williams
Few figures in Hip-Hop can boast a career that spans over a couple of generations. With one hit wonders and trendy gimmicks in and out faster than a car wash, it’s hard to maintain a resemblance of any career.
Such is not the case with E.A. Ski. Ski has been a staple in Oakland, California for over 20 years. He has produced hits for artist such as Too Short, Spice 1, Ice-T, Ice Cube, and a host of others. Ski’s production talents are not limited to Hip-Hop. He recently teamed up with actor Danny Glover and won an award for his short film “No Problems” at the 13th Okanagan International Film Festival.
With Business booming and a packed schedule, Ski took the time out with AllHipHop.com to discuss his secret to longevity, fighting the shadow of Dr. Dre, and the "Maschine" by Native Instruments (click here for more info), his new choice in production equipment.
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on out there on the West Coast?
EA Ski: It's a nice day out here in Cali man. The sun is shining bright so you know it's lookin' real good.
AllHipHop.com: My first experience with your music came through the early Spice 1 albums. I'm from the East Coast though. So how does it feel to know your music influenced many people on the other coast?
EA Ski: That's always been the goal. Being from the West Coast we looked up to the East Coast. I grew up on East Coast music and I'm a fan of East Coast music. Being in the music game, that was always my goal to be able to make something that could move everywhere.
AllHipHop.com: You've been in the game about two decades. What do you attribute to your success and longevity?
EA Ski: Not being stubborn, and always knowing that you can be better. You can reinvent and make new stuff. A lot of older producers and rappers get stuck in a time zone. They feel like older is better. I'm not saying that I didn't like a lot of the older stuff because I do. But as times change, what are you still going to record on ADAT when you got Pro Tools, and Logic, and Reason? You have to adapt. You can learn from the youngsters as well as learn from the older generation. I'm always learning, listening, and staying relevant to what's going on.
AllHipHop.com: Even though you have decades under your belt, you've still managed to stay under the radar. Is that by design?
EA Ski: For me it's kind of both. When I was going to put out full products, I got caught in transitions with labels. I was signed to Columbia, I was signed to Priority, I was signed to a lot of labels that merged. It allowed me to go into the lab and put out stuff here and there and go under the radar. I figured that, until I'm able to drop a full length project the way I want to, on a scale that I would do it, I would do it that way instead of over-saturating the market.
AllHipHop.com: Sometimes I feel that Dr. Dre's dominance put a shadow over many West Coast producers. Do you feel that you may have gotten caught up in that?
EA Ski: That's a real interesting question. I think Dre was so instrumental in being able to make a record that was so powerful on the West coast that it did overshadow a lot of people. I don't necessarily think that was a bad thing. I just think that it raised the bar so high that it made you have to go into the lab and figure out what your thing was. A lot of people tried to follow Dre's format and by the time they followed it, it was old. You can't keep on having the high pitched sound and he's already done that. People have to understand that Dre had a great team around him. He has a label and a lot of West Coast cats are independent. When you think about independent you have to work a little harder. Dre programmed so many people, and had so many people, and he had so much dope music, you had to be on point for people to say you were a dope producer. To get on that radar like Dre, you gotta come with it, and I like that.
AllHipHop.com: Music is constantly evolving and so is the equipment producers use. I hear you're using the "Maschine" by Native Instruments now.
EA Ski: That done changed the whole game again.
AllHipHop.com: I'm hearing a lot of noise about some of the top named producers switching over to this sequencer. What is it that makes it special for you?
EA Ski: To be honest with you I didn't know what to think about it until I got it. The way the work flow is allows it to convert from hardware to software. The way the pads swing give you that MPC feel but it's next level. Words can't even describe how incredible this machine is. The sounds in there are incredible. It's a small machine that you can take with you. You can't take a MPC with you. You can't carry that big thing with you like that. You can take this machine, put it in your backpack, take it on a plane and make some of the coldest records.
AllHipHop.com: What records have you done using this?
EA Ski: My last almost 20 records I've done using this. I just won an award for my video "No Problems" I did on the Maschine. I've been going crazy. I did the new Ice Cube and it's like the Maschine is just incredible.
AllHipHop.com: When you mention that it can switch from hardware to software, explain to people what you mean by that.
EA Ski: The hardware of it is that you can hit the pads, but you can still see it in your software if you go into Logic or Pro Tools or whatever. But for those who like to hit the pads, you have the hardware. It allows you to do both things at once. I work in "stand alone." That’s when you run the machine by itself. But they have a feature called the "Drag and Drop" where once you finish that track, you can drag that right into your Pro Tools or Logic session. Then boom, the track is right in there with no delay. It's the most incredible thing that I've seen being in Hip-Hop. They (Native Instruments) really were thinking about how to make producers be able work in a comfortable fashion without losing a step.
AllHipHop.com: Well since you’re cranking out all this material with the Maschine, what can people keep their ears open for from you?
EA Ski: Well right now I have an artist named Locksmith and this kid is incredible. I'm working on Ice Cube's new album called I Am The West that's dope. I'm working on my solo album The Fifth Of Skithoven and I got a lot of great features with Tech Nine, Ice Cube, and B-Real from Cypress Hill.