4- The Michigan Daily - Wce..' £. - Thursday, October 12, 1995
Urban poet Skee-Lo writes music for short, sensitive man in us all
By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
You haven't truly grown until
you've had the first real laugh at your-
self. 21-year-old Antoine Roundtree,
a.k.a. Skee-Lo, has taken this fact to
heart in his first single "I Wish," and
in the other songs on his debut LP of
the same name.
"My songs are all based off of true
things that happened to me or some-
one close to me," said 5'4", 150-lb.
sheepishly. "It happened in New York;
they stole my Adidas."
"I also did a lot of writing. I wrote
journals and poetry, then got into spo-
ken word. I wrote a poem about the
Challenger explosion in elementary
school which I read in the school
auditorium." This was the first of
many Skee-Lo poems to receive pub-
The poem to gain the most public
recognition was one he wrote in ninth
grade but kept secret for over three
years before revealing it. It was "I
Wish," originally not a song but a
poem expressing the fears and uncer-
tainties which haunted Skee-Lo's
teenage existence, fears and uncer-
tainties very much like our own.
"The first time I performed 'I Wish'
was at a private, hip-hop club in L.A.,
'The Good Life.' It was the first time
ever that anyone had heard this poem
I had written in high school," Skee-
Lo recounted, himself seemingly
amazed by this fact. "I hadn't even
read it to my mother. It was mine. I
As anyone who has seen the "I
Wish" video can attest, it greatly re-
sembles scenes from the movie
"Forrest Gump" with Skee-Lo wear-
ing high-water pants, holding a box of
"choc-lates" and sitting on a park
bench. This is no coincidence.
"I couldn't relate to any particular
movie like I related to ("Forrest
Gump"). I mean, my whole life I've
been the underdog. That's what re-
minds me of Forrest Gump. He has
everything not going for him, and yet
he achieved some ofthe greatest things
in life. I can totally relate to him."
Even when it comes to women?
"I've always had girlfriends," said
Skee-Lo, admitting he lost his virgin-
ity at age 16. "But, you know that one
you really want? For some reason I
could never get that girl."
But even Gump got the girl.
"I admit, I've been through both
stages. I've been a dog; I've been a
gentleman ... And yeah, I've been
played big time, twice... The second
time, which I talk about on 'You Ain't
Down' (a cut on 'I Wish'), involved
this girl named Vanetta, playing mind
games with a brotha ... ol' buster."
Skee-Lo snickered. "This whole or-
deal was over just this year. That girl
The beauty of Skee-Lo's work lies
in its simplicity and honesty. The atti-
tude he shows in his music is one he
carries daily. He explained, "I'm real
cool with people as long as they cool
with me. At the same time, I'm the
quickest person to fight if you disre-
spect me or endanger my life. I only do
what's necessary, and I'm very honest
about what I would and wouldn't do.
For example, I would rather make a
song telling you how fast I would run
if somebody pulls out a gun than to tell
you if you pull a gun out I'm gonna pull
mine out first and get you. I'm gonna
run. Those are the kind ofthings I write
Skee-Lo hopes "that people will
see that it's cool to be whatever you
are and do your own thing because
hip-hop would without a doubt wind
up dead and gone if everybody keeps
doing the same old thing," he warned.
"We need the different styles in hip
hop to bring people into this culture,
to keep the music alive."
"When I got into this I remembered
the old-school days when they were
keeping it real ... See, that's what rap
was back then. Somehow it changed.
What I wanted to do was keep it real
from where it started and get that
same vibe in my album."
A devout Orthodox Muslim, Skee-
Lo admitted he isn't much interested
in politics. "I'm neither a Democrat
nor a Republican; I think both of 'em
crazy. When it comes down to it the
rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
Ain't nothin' changed. No one really
cares about the guy at the bottom."
And, of course, Skee-Lo has an
opinion about O.J. and race relations.
"I don't know if O.J. is innocent or
guilty; all I know is it wasn't proven.
As for race relations in the U.S.,
they're the same they've always been
- terrible. Same format, same slave
teachings, same stereotypes. Just dif-
ferent methods... that's all."
Blunt and to the point about both
his strengths and weaknesses--that's
Skee-Lo. It is this truthfulness and his
willingness to admit his imperfec-
tions that make him a breath of fresh
air as a rapper and a highly respect-
able human being in general.
"My motto is: 'Whatever turns you
on,"' Skee-Lo noted. "In other words,
I don't care what you wanna do ... I
don't care; just don't do it to me."
Vinyl: One decade's music, another one's frisbee
Skee-Lo. "I act them out as closely as
I can remember ... To me, I'm not
making fun of myself; I'm just being
Born in the Chicago ghettos, but
with a childhood which spanned from
New York to Riverside to Los Ange-
les (his father's Air Force career
moved the family often), Skee-Lo has
fond memories of his younger years.
"I was a popular nerd for awhile,"
he remembered. "I was cool with ev-
erybody though, and when I got to
high school I was still a nerd. I dressed
funny, too. I don't know what I was
"In terms of my family, we went
through hard times and good times. I
remember the togetherness. We used
to get together and sing oldies and
stuff," said Skee-Lo. He said that his
constants outside of family were his
writings and his fights.
"I had a good share of fights. In fact
my last fight was in my senior year of
high school," he said. Skee-Lo has
won some and lost some, and he still
remembers some of his worst defeats.
"I've been beaten up by a girl before,
two of 'em," he admitted somewhat
By Josh Herrington
Daily Arts Writer
Sometime in early high school, it
seemed as though vinyl was heading
straight for a museum near you. Many
record companies stopped manufactur-
ing records altogether, preferring the
cheaper, more profitable compact disc
to make their profit. In spite of this
corporate manipulation, to some like
myself, the death of the record would
have been just peachy. After all, who
wants to store something so darned big?
What listener wants scratching and pop-
ping sounds wrecking their hi-fi experi-
ence? It made perfect sense to me that
the record should drop offthe face ofthe
But plenty of people are still buying
When I first sought the answer to this
question, I never realized how multifac-
eted it would be. I heard explanations so
diverse they could fill an entire book -
well, a small book, but a book no less.
Some themes recurred, however, and
some even made perfect sense.
Looking at the issue from a sound
quality standpoint, some argue that
the record clearly surpasses the CD.
Jeff Taras of PJ's Used Records firmly
believes in the "spatial" element of
records; where CD's give clearly de-
fined renditions of each instrument,
the analog component of records pre-
sents a fuller, more realistic sound (if
you can hear past the snap crackle
pop). In theory, analog sound does
have an advantage over digital CD's.
According to Taras, most CD players
convert digital sounds to analog ( in
order to produce sound through speak-
ers or headphones) at a rate of about
44,000 bits of musical information per
second; much like frames in a movie
reel, the experience is averaged to give
the listener an approximate rendition of
the music. Records, on the other hand,
give you everything audible, without
any kind of stops or starts. Jeff does,
however, admit that this superiority only
becomes truly noticeable when dealing
with top-of-the-line, sometimes $1000
- plus turntables. For most, this doesn't
seem to be much of a reason to run out
and start a record collection.
But people do, despite the fact that only
a fanatic few actually buy an exceptional
Related to this digital versus analog
question is the spiritual factor. To some,
records not only supply a fuller sound,
they bring you closer to the music, closer
to the same magical soundwaves that
once emanated from whichever musical
genius you embrace. Digital approxima-
tions are just that - approximate - but
records literally brings the listener to the
wave, unfettered by stops and starts and
useless lapses in musical perfection. The
thing about this line of thinking is that
44,000 bits of sound per second is real,
real fast; most music listeners won't con-
sciouslymiss thebitsofinformation which
become lost in this process.
So, other explanations need to be ex-
Economics can be an issue, but not as
prevalent as one would think. The realm
of independent music has always main-
tained the virtue ofthe mighty seven inch,
in spite of the fact that they are generally
more expensive to press than tapes or
CDs. Of course, they are cheaper to buy
than, say, the absurdly overpriced CD
single, and they generally offer a wider
array of music than can be found on either
CD or cassette singles. Thiscanbeenough
to entice a modest or greater than modest
music listener to want a turntable. But,
from a musician's standpoint, why would
anyone want to spend more money to
press a recordthan to use another cheaper
The bottom line may very well be the
hype factor. Even Taras, a firm believer
in the value ofvinyl, admits that "nos-
talgia" may play an important part in
record sales. Tim Sendra of
Schoolkids Records believes that
many buy records for their
"collectibility." Speaking of "picture
disks" which come with pictures of
bands printed right on the record, he
claims that "the guys I know just stick
them up on their wall, instead of post-
ers or pictures of family members or
something." Seeing that most shop-
pers don't have the technology to take
part in a high-quality record experi-
ence, he claims that many record buy-,
ers are following a trend. "It's the hip
thing to show how indie rock you are
by getting vinyl," he adds.
Some musicians and labels seem to
encourage this fadelement. Jon Spencer's
side project Boss Hog released their
eponymouys new album on CD this Tues-
day, but it appeared in stores on vinyl two
weeks ago. Are musicians like these giv-
ing vinyl buyers special perks? Ofcourse,
this pre-release may have more to do with
their label, Geffen, than with the musi-
cians themselves. It has been theorized
that it's actually a marketing technique:
pre-release the album, then release the
cassette and the CD, and those who liked
the record will go out and buy it on the
other, more common formats. It is diffi
cult to say whether or not this is reallyth
Of course, this by no means represents
adequately the diverse array of explana-
tions there are. Soundquaffty and nostaf-
gia, however, seem the most prominent
explanations. If those factors wane, who
knows if the next generation of audio.
philes will be able to distinguish records
rr ri r -
Boss Hog, the latest project for Jon Spencer (far left), leader of the Jon Spencer
Blues Explosion, and his wife Christina, released their new album on vinyl two
weeks before CDs and cassettes hit stores.
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