When you think of Washington, D.C. and Hip-Hop artists like Wale come to mind quickly, but the movement hasn't stopped with just Wale. Enter Skweeky Kleen, another D.C. emcee on the rise and making a name for himself in the industry. Yo! Raps had the chance to speak to Skweeky Kleen about his biggest musical inspirations, his latest single Get Mine, the D.C. Hip-Hop movement and the origin of his name.
First off, let's start off with your name Skweeky Kleen. How did you come up with the moniker?
I got the name from never getting caught up in the streets. You would never suspect me. You seen the movie Fresh? Well, I was a "fat fresh."
[Laughs] It's been noted that you've been rapping since the age of 14. When did you know that music was the career path for Skweeky Kleen?
I say about 19. By that time, I had a couple of songs out and the response was incredible so it made me believe that it was truly possible.
I read that legends like Jay-Z, 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G are noted as your biggest inspirations. Is it anything you've taken from each artist to craft your style?
I would have to say 2Pac's diversity and subject matter, raw emotion and honesty. Biggie's swag, wordplay and storytelling ability. Then there is Jay-Z's laid back flow and vivid depiction of his life.
Are their any current artists today that you admire?
I wouldn't say I admire, let's say respect. If we're talking about new artists then I would say Wiz Khalifa. He built his from the ground up and that's what I respect.
Hailing from the D.C. area, do you feel that the success of Wale has helped the Hip-Hop movement in D.C. or made it more difficult to get discovered?
I feel it was great for the whole DMV. Wale's doing his thing. Maybach Music!
Diversity is key in Hip-Hop and you cover several genres like Reggae and Alternative. When it comes to crafting a song, which style do you prefer best?
I can't specifically say which I prefer. Even though they are different genres, it's all music to me. They all touch me in different ways. You never know you might hear me on some R&B next. Carl Thomas look out! [Laughs]
You've also been noted for having a unique voice and this came from complications from birth?
Yeah, I was born with scar tissue above the vocal chords. I was in and out of the hospital a lot. I guess it turned out to be a blessing. My voice sounds much more different than everyone elses.
Okay, let's jump into one of your latest releases Get Mine. The video has been out less than a month and has over 55,000 views on YouTube. How satisfied are you with the response of the record?
This is my first video and the feedback has been very positive. Love the response from the fans but we're just getting started. I can never be satisfied. That's just not in my vocabulary. I do this for my city. DMV, it's our time!
On Get Mine, you really spoke of overcoming and grinding to you get to where you want to be. How much of "the struggle" do you put into your music?
Oh man, blood, sweat and tears…everything I go through. One way or another, rather writing, performing, or recording my life shapes my music and the more you listen, the more you'll feel me.
Is an album currently in the works? How far is it from completion?
The album is almost done! We are just putting the finishing touches on it. It's a collector’s item in my opinion but maybe I'm a little bias. It's a great eclectic piece of work. I got something for everybody on it.
Many people speak about the current state of Hip-Hop and how "Hip-Hop is dead" because it's no more substance in music. I feel that there is a good blend of music out there, but only certain styles of Hip-Hop are being showcased to the masses. How do you feel about the current state of Hip-Hop?
I agree. Artists are putting out music with no substance. It seems as if the powers that be are only into promoting one style of music and some good music gets lost in the mix. Seeing artists like Lupe Fiasco makes me feel a little more confident that good music can still be relevant.
Think deep, if you were supreme ruler over the music industry, what would you change most about the current state of Hip-Hop?
The standard of music. Having an older brother who was really into music and schooled me to the game. You had to be real nice to rap…like Jadakiss said, "All you need is a mic and a Pro Tools set up". [Laughs]
This has been great, thanks for taking time out today for Yo! Raps. How can the people stay up to date with everything Skweeky Kleen?
Follow me on Twitter. Check me out on Reverbnation, Facebook, and YouTube. I'm also on OurStage as Skweeky Kleen. Much love and respect!
- By Eric Merriweather