Eighteen years ago, Skee-Lo took an independent video single in “I Wish” and translated it into a gold-certified album and multiple Grammy Award nominations. A member of the acclaimed Project Blowed collective which includes Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude, Ahmad and Volume 10, Skee-Lo, an 40-year-emcee and producer, was recently asked to list his own five favorite crossover hits from underground Hip Hop artists.
The Chicago, Illinois native highlighted tracks from East and West coasts, with an affinity for late 1980s and early 1990s Hip Hop. Skee-Lo, who released Fresh Ideas last year after a 17-year retirement, also profiled at least two acts who shared stages with him at The Good Life Cafe.
Last month, Skee-Lo was asked for his own personal favorite records from underground artists that went into the mainstream. “Oh shit, this is gonna be hard, off the top of the head,” began the Los Angeles, California-based Skee-Lo. “[My favorite] underground records that went mainstream…Oh! Here you go: Wu-Tang [Clan’s] ‘C.R.E.A.M.,’ ‘Get the money!'” The song, which appeared on 1993’s group debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was the nine-member collective second single to hit the charts, at #60 the year following release. At the time, Wu included Cold Chillin’ Records act The Genius (as GZA) and former Tommy Boy Records hopeful Prince Rakeem (as RZA), as well as seven fresh voiced emcees.
Next pointing to two Good Life peer acts, Skee-Lo listed, “There’s Pharcyde’s ‘Passin’ Me By.’ Easy! Souls Of Mischief’s ”93 [Til’ Infinity]’.” The Pharcyde’s second single, “Passin’ Me By,” was released the year following their 1992 Delicious Vinyl Records debut album, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. The indie album would later go gold, in large thanks to the Top 100 J-Swift-produced single which sampled Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones and The Weather Report. The S.O.M. single was also a 1993 release. Sampling Billy Cobham’s “Heather,” the song was a Top 100 single from the Hieroglyphics crew group’s Jive Records debut, which debuted at #85 on the charts in the fall of the year.
Staying in 1993, Skee-Lo crossed coasts to honor the early works of Mobb Deep. Signed to 4th & Broadway Records for one album, 1993’s Juvenile Hell, Prodigy & Havoc worked with production giants DJ Premier and Large Professor on their underground debut. “Oh shit, Mobb Deep, you can pick any record [from Juvenile Hell]. [Laughs] Straight up! They were underground, yo!” Following their debut, the Queens, New York pair would release six major label albums, including a #1 G-Unit/Interscope Records debut in 2006’s Blood Money.
Also embracing an entire catalog, Skee-Lo pointed to the late 1980s, early 1990s collective from Compton. “N.W.A., you could pick a record.” Signed to Eazy-E’s own Ruthless Records, the once self-released group would score a #1 album on their final LP, 1991’s Niggaz4Life.