“If you have to go on your journey alone, then so be it, as long as you are moving forward is all that matters.”
Check out the interview with Gino Skarz exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
SKILLY: Where did this all start? Tell us about your journey in the entertainment business.
G.S: I became interested in rap and hip-hop around the age of 12, or at least I started listening to whatever the DJ’s and urban radio stations were bumping back then. Somehow the music struck a chord in me as I began collecting as many records as I could because I was really amazed by the talent the artist in the 80’s and 90’s conveyed. The music that inspired me to start writing my own lyrics and songs seemed to come across truthfully, as there was always a message in the artform trying to express life through each individual lens. I didn’t have any musically inclined parents or anything like that, however, I do have an uncle that is a musician; and is still performing with his band throughout the East Coast till this day. I used to watch his band practice in their studio, and since my uncle knew I was starting to rap, his drummer would do beats for me and record the sessions on a DAT. My mom had caught wind of my talent through my uncle, and somehow she connected me with a preacher who was also a rapper. This rapping preacher introduced me to his own producer and brought me to my very first professional recording studio sessions. By the time I was 16, I was trying to record in every type of studio I could get into, and luckily I had a cousin who was married to a hip-hop producer and DJ. This is where I had the opportunity to cut my first actual underground tape, and although it never saw the light of day; it was still a banger in my opinion. From junior high and throughout high school, I was involved in talent shows, as this gave me a chance to show people what I was passionate about. I also started doing my thing at house parties when the DJs wanted rappers to get on the mic and pump the party up; as this also fueled a few rap battle experiences. It was through my own network of artists that I met a producer out of New Jersey who had moved to my area, and we bonded pretty good as that led to a demo that fell in the hands of Warner Brothers Records. Although I never did get signed because I ended-up incarcerated for a long while, and since lost touch with that producer. I just continued to musically do what I could after those experiences.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for the young kids out there trying to do what you do?
First thing is I would tell them to follow their dreams and to always believe in themselves, even when people have doubts about what you think you are capable of doing. If you have a strong enough desire to do something in life, or are passionate about something, then you go for it so long as it doesn’t cause harm to anyone else. The second thing would be to practice, and I mean practice, practice, practice; because in anything you choose to do, you gotta find ways to develop and perfect your craft or skills. You may never become the ‘best’ at anything, and definitely not everything, but you can at least be good enough at something. Third thing, if you have to go on your journey alone, then so be it, as long as you are moving forward is all that matters. There will be people who support you, and there will be others who don’t and just won’t; nonetheless, you must continue to do you. If they truly have the love for you, then it will show in their actions, and if they don’t, that will also reveal itself; as with anything you choose to do in life, there will be times of disappointment and times of success. All of these experiences will shape who you are as a person and a professional. Lastly, you have to return the same love back that is given to you, as you may not have gotten where you are today without those people who did manage to support your endeavors.
What are some of the hardest challenges and tasks in your position?
The hardest challenges and tasks I typically face is having to do just about everything on my own; meaning I am my own producer, engineer, writer, mixer, graphic designer, video guy, you name it. Although I do have a very small support system, I still end up doing the majority of my production alone. For instance, I have no street team, and although I have been part of a label years ago that had one, and I know the benefits of one, but I still never had one. I think part of my issues have to do with trust, and I have an issue with people that don’t understand the definition of commitment and dedication. To make life easier on myself and not worry about any extra bullshit that would distract me from what I want to accomplish; I just go at it alone. I will call on my most trusted and beloved peeps to aid me at times; but in most instances, I handle mines. I ended up developing this mindset that if I want to make music and the world to hear it, I better have my own studio and equipment, protect my intellectual property, and do it all myself with my own paper.
We all know the entertainment business is very tough, but what do you find is the best way to promote and advertise your music?
Nowadays, the internet has made most artist lazy as hell, because I remember when artists really did the whole music-out-the-trunk thing, or sell their tapes or CDs on the block. I think part of it has to do with the fact that the consumer is lazy as hell too, because more and more people shop online now, and won’t get off the couch and hit the malls for a record. Thus, the only outlet left is the internet, and although it is a good tool for exposure and releasing music, it is also highly saturated and competitive due to the fact that everybody and they grandparents are an artist now. Most artists in any genre approach the internet this way no matter what, and yes, this includes myself, and that is because there really are no other methods yet discovered. Situations like this are where a street team can be vital, but who wants to support you when you just getting started or just now generating a buzz? People only support you once you already got the ball rolling and shit is really popping; meaning that you already starting to see some money come in. When they see you shining and things are going good, and you eating good, of course, they wanna get on board at that point. It’s hard as hell to accept people in your circle at that point because it was your own hard work and efforts that built what they see; and anyone smart enough already knows the deal. Nonetheless, you can advertise your music online, but I still think it would be beneficial for both artist and local businesses to be an outlet to promote new talent and market recording projects; as this can be an effective way to develop and build a community, to hell with a street team at that point.
Tell us about your city. How are the artists and the fans?
I was raised in the Northeastern part of the U.S, and the rap/hip-hop artists out there were always trying to find ways to make themselves known to people. House parties, block parties, festivals, and such, were ways an artist could get their shine on, but you had to have a connection with these folks behind the scenes as anywhere else. The crowds were always honest in their reactions to an artist rhyme skills and performances, and they’ll let you know exactly as to whether or not you ready for the rest of the world to hear you out. I live on the West coast now and been involved in the music scene out here for a while as well, and it never fails to see an artist bring in their ‘own’ crowd. Not only do I find this disappointing, but I think it shortcuts the reality of how talented or untalented this person actually is. Your party friends ain’t gonna tell you that your music sucks so long as you getting them in the clubs for free, discounted drinks, and you got a group of thots with you; as that seems to be the tradition in LA and San Diego. I understand all that completely, and I can identify with the different cultural and societal norms in terms of the east coast and west coast music scenes; as both coasts boil down to who you are connected with in regards to gaining support. It seems nowadays the only real fans are the strangers who stumble on an artists’ music online; as they have no issue with letting artists know if they like or dislike their work.
Where do you see yourself a year from today?
I have to say hopefully still healthy in mind, body, and spirit, and still putting out music like I want to. I will have released an album or two with an ass load of singles, and with a bigger fanbase due to having more show dates, releases, and media exposure. I am still working on the whole music video thing, as shooting videos have been a learning process for me at any standpoint. I could go with someone way more professional than I; but I’m still unsure about that for now; however, in a year I will have quite a few more videos released for artistry awareness purposes. As a whole, more shine and more success than where my current state is, and not saying I’m doing bad at all, I just think that in time I will be even better and bigger than I was before.
Who and what were your biggest inspirations? Who do you look up to in today’s world?
When I was around 14, another female cousin of mine had a boyfriend who could rap his ass off, and he knew I wanted to do the same, so he taught me how to rhyme on a beat and expand my vocabulary in my writing style. He was about ten years older than me and I looked up to him at that time because he was able to do something good I only wished I could do. He literally would sit down with me and go over bars and rhyme schemes on notepapers in my mom’s kitchen, as this dude was a rap professor in my eyes. Another person I can say is my one uncle who is a musician, I always admired the way he engaged his audience when he performed; he would talk to them and after the show get his drink on with them. He had a way of building his rapport with people in the communities he’d perform at, and that is where I realized the importance of public relations as an artist. You have to relate to people if you want them to listen. Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J, Masta Ace, Ice Cube, Ice T, Nas, Mobb Deep, Noreaga, Camron, Jadakiss, and Drake, to name a few, are artists that I respect highly; and there are many more, but these artists specifically. As far as producers, Alchemist, Evidence, and A-Rab of the Diplomats to name a few, and J Dilla made so many dope ass records I can’t forget him either. Outside of music, President Obama, because he had to believe in himself more than any other person to have gotten him the success he has, as well as Colin Powell, because he is a soldier to the utmost who has endured his own hardships and struggles in the military service; as I am a combat veteran soldier with 22 years Army experience of my own. Lastly, my grandmother on my father’s side, because she always kept a nice house and held down a federal job until she retired from it; as she made it very clear to us that if you want a good life at times you gotta work your ass off to get it. She was one of the best examples of being responsible for myself growing up that I had, and till this day I think she had much to do with how I turned out. My grandmother was the type of person that if you want something bad enough, you go out there and get it however necessary; but in her way, it was working hard.
How do you feel about the music coming out today? Do you like it?
The music that’s being released now has its own messages in itself, you just have to find a way to interpret it so you know what the hell they talking about. For instance mumble rap, I would need a translator and I’m a little older now and like songs with a message besides making a dollar, feeling ‘wavy’, and getting women. I still listen to the same shit I did in the 90’s, so I suppose I’m not that interested in whats being marketed to people now; and I’m not stating I’m unaware either, just not overly interested. I don’t get that same excited feeling I had years ago with new music because I’m simply on my ‘grown man shit’. Grown ass men have priorities and responsibilities to be concerned with so I need age-appropriate music I presume. I don’t ignore the new wave of artists coming out either, as I tend to vibe with some of the music they pushing; but I can’t lose my mind over it too just because it’s popping or trending. Nowadays, I don’t seem to find much inspiration out there because the music industry has become more ignorant than ever before in my personal opinion. For example, young people are more focused on being some kind of celebrity than becoming a doctor, lawyer, scientist, professor, or someone in public service. Everybody (of various age groups) seems to want to be a rapper or singer now, and many of them do it for street recognition and rapid prosperity; so they ain’t trying to address or teach a listener anything because they probably can’t. There’s nothing educational in the music now since there is no real message, and way more emphasis is on getting high or experimenting with substances that lead to addiction or death. I never did admire the street life or was proud of being involved in it, but I didn’t have the direction or guidance a young man would have really needed to show me another way to survive. I still continued on with producing music during my military service because I never planned to stop pursuing my passion due to my job; but I also decided to take education more serious too by going back to school to get my associates, bachelors, and two master degrees. I soon found out that a lot of veteran rap and hip-hop entertainers started placing much emphasis on education because they too had come from living the real hood life or being in the streets, and that just doesn’t seem to be the wave anymore from my perspective. Glamorizing a life that only ends up killing our youth off and poisoning their minds before they begin to wake up is something I wouldn’t want to partake in or condone. I don’t wanna come off as a hypocrite either, because I’m not against artists who are just living their life the best they can and expressing it in their music; just don’t try to fool people with gimmicks, fake portrayals, and falsehoods. Talk about some real shit that you’ve either experienced or have knowledge of, and why they don’t want those kinds of problems in a creative way.
Thanks! Where can we contact you and find you online?
Other links: https://www.numberonemusic.com/ginoskarz1