April marked the twentieth anniversary of Das EFX’s debut album, Dead Serious. Despite stylistically influencing dozens of emcees including Ice Cube and Common, the album’s anniversary hasn’t enjoyed the fanfare of classics like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic or even Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s Mecca And The Soul Brother. Das EFX still enjoys a rather healthy touring schedule off the strength of Dead Serious and their four other albums. And unlike some artists, they refuse to run or be defined solely by their most commercially successful single.
“If it wasn’t for that record right there, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now,” explains Skoob, fresh from a 12-hour flight back from Russia. “I gotta respect the people that pay my bills. They spend their hard-earned money to go and buy my music and to see me in concert. If they love that record, how can I not love it?”
Part of the lack of fanfare about Drayz and Skoob’s overall catalogue can be attributed to the age of the average consumer. Das’ debut album is most likely older than the average visitor of HipHopDX. And a lot of things have changed since the pair of emcees unleashed a style that featured obscure pop culture references and an “iggity” suffix.
“That time period between you making a record and having to wait has shortened a lot,” Skoob adds. “When we made ‘They Want EFX,’ I made that record two years before it was released. But it was still that much of a monster that people accepted it…It’s completely different right now, because you have more means of getting your music out. When I was trying to be discovered, somebody would have to know somebody else.”
It’s not that Skoob doesn’t sound appreciative of the five records Das EFX landed on the Billboard charts. The fact that he refers to them as “a blessing” and his “legacy” makes that clear. And despite the presumed jet lag from changing time zones, he doesn’t really get animated until that same crowd too young to remember his hits is mentioned.
“I’m really excited about using these two programs to work with the youth by reaching back and connecting them to my music,” Skoob says. One such program is the Summer Stars Camp For The Performing Arts spearheaded by Nina Biggar Delvecchio and Donna Milani Luther. Skoob will teach a workshop on Hip Hop, but this isn’t just a chance to reach some new consumers. In fact, most of the camp’s participants probably don’t spend their disposable income on Hip Hop albums.
“It will be low income, inner-city youth for a camping trip that lasts 10 to 12 days,” Skoob says. “Some of the kids rap, sing or act—really anything related to the performing arts—and exercise their creativity instead of being cooped up all summer long.”
And when he’s not performing domestically and internationally, there will be more camping courtesy of one of Skoob’s own initiatives. He and some other peer mentors, including former Navy Seals and Secret Service agents, will set out into the woods for a decidedly less comfortable type of teaching environment.
“The basis of the whole thing is, ‘If you don’t go out there and catch that fish, you don’t eat tonight,’” Skoob explains. “We’re trying to make that spill over into other parts of their lives so they can figure those issues out as men. It starts with us as far as the youth are concerned. If the kids are really lost, then we’re not doing something right.”
In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities for people to either familiarize or get reacquainted with the Das EFX catalogue. Skoob says he’s 90% done with a solo effort, and he and Drayz will join Redman, EPMD, Keith Murray and K-Solo as the full Hit Squad lineup performs at Rock The Bells. Things should be much different from Das EFX’s first few live shows—when Skoob says they were getting booed off of stages while serving as EPMD’s opening act.
“I was nervous as hell!” Skoob recalls. “I was like, ‘I don’t know, man…I’m going back to the hood, dog. This right here ain’t for me.’” Over 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine Skoob doing anything except rocking mics—although, to hear him tell it, camping out might be a close second.
For more information on Summer Stars Camp For The Performing Arts, visit summerstars.org. To see if the Hit Squad will be performing at a venue near you, visit rockthebells.net.