Massachusetts-bred, LA-based emcee/producer Skipp Whitman presents "Fireworks", his self-produced new single in which he tells the story of his last July 4th weekend. Skipp has collaborated with Skyzoo and Grafh, and has opened for Kanye West, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Kool G Rap, Nas and Guru. Skipp recently released visuals for "Wild World". Describing the events that led him to write this song, Skipp says "I had a lot of personal stuff happening on July 4th last year. I was at my place, trying to decide if I should go partake in the festivities. I wanted this video to look like a dream. surreal in every way. and to tell the story of the two realities that went on inside my head that day - staying home alone at the pool vs. partying on the beach with pretty girls." "Fireworks" appears on 'Piece', Skipp's new EP, composed, produced, written and recorded entirely by Skipp which he says "tells the story of my reality at that time - work, relationships (the failing of), life, death, music, the pursuit of things, failure and minor success."
VannDigital: What made you decide to become a rapper?
Skipp Whitman: High school. The fact I sucked at sports and still had to figure out how to get girls. I always wrote short stories and poetry. I actually was accused of plagiarism by my 6th grade science teacher because I wrote some descriptive shit about the effects of wind all in my words but he was old, and didn't believe me. By high school I would write these verses with beats in my head. I guess you could say like a reverse Jay Z thing, right? I would write these verses and had these notebooks packed. At one point I had the chance to get into a studio and made this super rough recording of some raps set to these preset breaks/grooves. I passed a bunch of CDs out in my school and the feedback was nuts. It was actually so good that it put me into a 2 year writers block, which I eventually got over and learned from. And I still have a couple of those tracks somewhere.
What's the first rap song you ever heard? Describe the moment.
I can't tell you the first rap song I ever heard. The first rap song that hit me though was "humpty dance" by Digital Underground. Man, I still hear that and it brings me right back. I was at my boy's house and I remember he showed me the disc. And it had 'parental advisory' on it (the album, Sex Packets), and there were these rumors that kids walking around listening to explicit rap cds could get hemmed up by cops. Sounds ridiculous now but that's what we'd talk about. My boy lived in this huge house in Brookline, MA. And we sat in his living room with these high vaulted ceilings and he had a talking parrot and this crazy finished basement with a pool table and shit. and we sat around and played "humpty dance". And all I can say is it gave me this emotion that nothing I had heard before it did. I learned the lyrics quickly and often got in trouble for rapping them at school. 'I once got busy in a burger king bathroom,' at which point I had no idea what "getting busy" even was.
How does Boston compare to LA?
LA has better weather. It's hard for me to look subjectively at Boston as a city and scene, because more than that it's my home. Where I'm from. Maybe you know the feeling of growing up and coming home to your parents' house and all of a sudden you're 14 again. That's 'Boston' for me. Not to take anything away from the scene but it's hard for me to look at it subjectively. I actually haven't even been back since I moved to LA a few years ago not for any reason besides I can never find a good time to take the trip and it's been a busy few years. However, it's always exciting to hear about and see different acts making noise from Boston and there seem to be more making noise on a larger scale which is great. Mainly, I stay in LA because of the amount of talented live musicians I've met (when I was in Boston I was still rapping to tracks). And. Right. Weather.
How did "Fireworks" come together?
On July 4th 2016 I was in my studio. Off of work (for the holiday). Trying to be 'productive' but I was real distracted because at the time my wife and I had just decided to separate. So there I was, trying to create and thought the best thing I could do was just discuss that exact moment as it occurred. So that's what I did. It was July 4th 2016, and I knew there were celebrations happening all over the place, but I was depressed and didn't want to partake and ultimately it created an interesting juxtaposition. I'm somewhere in a basement. Hacking away at Logic (programming software) while the rest of the country is out have a great day. The video was a blast also .. shot almost a year later and released this past July 4th. We did scenes at my homie's pool (who was also the director, Michael Wessel), and on this amazing beach in Playa Del Rey where they have firepits, around these beautiful girls that we got in the video. The whole process was definitely, for lack of a better term, cathartic.
What's your secret to being so prolific?
I work my ass off. When I worked full time I would get up at 4am to grab a few hours of studio time before going to my job. Some mornings I would just sit there. Dead. Running my hands over the keys and trying to produce something. But, there just wasn't any other time to do it. Fortunately, now, I only work a couple of days a week (real estate) and so have more time to stretch out. In a way it's even harder now though, since I don't have a rigid schedule. It's amazing how easy it is to waste a day. But ultimately it comes down to discipline either way. Most times I don't 'feel' like sitting down to work. Sometimes I don't catch a vibe for a few hours. Sometimes I don't catch a vibe at all but that's still important work. Additionally, I have been receiving 'advice' for so long, that I think I've figured out how to filter it to my benefit. Listening too much - weather it's advice, praise, critique, whatever, can be incredibly destructive to the creative process (see question one when I caught writers block for 2 years). Ultimately, if I catch chills from something I'm doing, then it's worth putting out. That's sort of my meter. One of my favorite found quotes which I like to think I live by - "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." -Andy Warhol.