My first interview with one of my favorite producers, J. Slikk, took place in April of 2008. Now it's November, and shit's changed. My president is Black, Cipha Sounds & Rosenberg are doing morning radio for Hot 97, and J. Slikk has gone through some shit in his life. While we don't got into detail with that situation, we do speak on the forthcoming project that has been birthed from his trials and tribulations. We also get into what's good with the BPA collective, and some thoughts on Barack Obama's victory...
khal: The reason we’re speaking right now is because you have a new beat tape about to drop, right on the heels of your Separation Anxiety tape. Word is this project is under the guise “Black Sheep Moses”? Can you break down what that name means?
J. Slikk: Well, it means a lot of things. The last few months, I’ve been going through a world of things that have forced me to look at how I perceive life altogether. I’m not about to really get into what all has happened, but trust me, it’s a lot. Now, just about everything I’ve gone through centers around family, in how I see them and what I want to define as family; friends as well, for that matter. A lot has changed, and I’m still trying to figure some things out for my own advancement in life. It’s driven me to do a lot of things I didn’t know I could do. “Just trying to do something positive and productive” as I always say, as well as turn tragedy into triumph. That’s the gift in all this. As you know, where there is a gift, there often is a curse. On the curse side of things, by family and friends I have been ridiculed and basically crucified for doing something that I feel is right; something that I feel my future well being depends on. As a result. family-wise, I have been cast into a position where I’m always talked about throughout the family coast to coast, everyday, but not in a positive way. I was called a name by a certain family member in the past few weeks. When your family doesn’t acknowledge your presence, but yet still talks about you constantly when you’re not around in a negative manner, by definition what do you call the object of that obscurity? A Black Sheep. In addition, ironically, I’ve been told by people lately, by people I don’t really know, that I have the patience and strength of a saint; in the same breath, they also say I’m a person who can overcome anything and lead anyone to victory if given the chance. A co-worker of mine even went as far one day to say the same thing, but add a name to it. He said I’d lead to victory like Moses. Then went as far as to correct himself and call me Black Moses (noting that dude was obviously white). So when I was called a black sheep by my family, and called black Moses by my co-worker, I just put the two together. Now what Black Sheep Moses represents is a whole different story. Simply put, he represents me. But another side of me that seldom comes out. Moses is a product of his environment. He is a product of hate, deceit, depression and exhaustion. He is a product of a lot of things he for the moment can’t express but is willing to try through music. That’s kind of the gist of a name that’s just flat out hard to explain. Even simpler, he is my dark alter ego, if you will.
khal: I’m also told that this beat tape is going to be a bit leftfield compared to the sound many have grown to expect from you in the past. Where was your head at while making these tracks? Are they a reflection of what’s been going on in your life right now?
J. Slikk: If you listen to Separation Anxiety, you’ll hear my heart and soul put in to a bunch of beats. That’s great, and I was very proud of how the album came out, but a beat tape is all it was and ever will be. This album, which will be titled Emancipation Anxiety, will be a full experience once I’m finished, meaning it won’t be just a bunch of J. Slikk beats put together for cats to record on and whatnot. It’s going to be very stripped-down basic beats for the most part, just chopping records themselves and manipulating them to sound how I feel they should. The whole purpose of this album is to speak to people. If you listen to this album from beginning to end without skipping (although I’m not saying you can’t skip), you will hear it speak. Just listen closely to every element of every joint. There’s going to be a lot of parts of this one where I’m going directly at certain people in my life without me personally saying a word. For those who chose to listen and know what I’m going through, there’ll be parts that people may take to offense or wonder why I’d say that right at the moment. I have to put a note of caution to the fact that some of it are thought’s that I’ve had over the entire course of my trials. The harsh things, more so, that I’ve put in it in some cases still hold true, while others do not, depending on the person listening. Now don’t get me wrong, this album is not dark and depressing. I don’t do that. It’s just a lot deeper and just all out different. Since everyone I know already says I haven’t been “myself” in a long time, why not go a step further and not be “myself” via music if only for a second.
khal: You said you’ve been dealing with some heavy issues in your life. Has this darker time in your life flipped where you went with your production?
J. Slikk: Oh absolutely. I’d be lying to myself more so than others if I said it didn’t have an influence, and a tremendous one at that. The creativity in this album as previously stated is designed to talk to certain people. When they listen to it, they’ll know what part is talking to them and why. Maybe it’ll be too deep and nobody will catch what I’m doing. But at least I’m going to attempt to release some of the things that have been on my conscience for at least two or three months now in what I think is a very different and creative way. Like I said, some of it has old thoughts mixed in. For example, I may have thought to do something I may no longer feel is necessary. All of those thoughts will be expressed as well. If I don’t succeed, can’t say I didn’t try.
khal: What can people expect from Black Sheep Moses? Is this a one-shot deal, or will you revisit this side of your persona down the line?
J. Slikk: Hmmm. Well you can just expect the same quality of music that J. Slikk has been known for years now to give, just in a different way of delivering it. To kind of give you a hint of how it’s going to sound, I played some of it for my cousin from LA a week or so ago, then played it for one of my artists while they took a visit to my house last week. They both shared the opinion that it’s definitely out of character for me to do, and that it comes off a bit Madlib-ish, due to the stripped down sound of just gritty sounding sampled records chopped and compressed as an SP1200 can partially provide. Like I said, I didn’t want to load these beats with heavy procession that I can provide. I just wanted to keep the beats simple and get complex with the messages and sequencing that go into the records. That’s why I called it Emancipation Anxiety, because I’m not trying to physically free myself from things on this record, but simply release the things on my mind that I, for whatever reason, have not been able to let out. As far as it being a one-shot deal, Moses is a part of me whether I like it or not. That alternate persona has been in me since I can remember. This is the first time I’ve allowed that side of me to actually sit down and make music, if you know what I mean. It’s not normal for me to do music in this manner, therefore I can’t really determine whether or not I will make music like this again. I just might if the outcome and feedback is positive. Who knows!
khal: What’s the future of the BPA right now? I know you’ve had CPU crashes, as well as reconfigurations and additions to the squad, some of which ended up pushing back projects. What’s 2009 shaping up to look like?
J. Slikk: I’m glad you asked. We got a lot on the table actually. BPA, as a crew and more so as a family, is still alive, intact, and well. It just becomes quite the task when the 3 heads of the crew are trying to overcome personal changes, whether they’re good changes or bad. The two producers are both having to adjust, as well as one of the camp’s more visible artists. We all know that if your producers are going through things at the same time, that slows down the team overall, unfortunately. The rest of the artists, ironically, are overcoming changes of their own. Through it all, we all have music, which is why we are moving forward the best we can, based on our situations and working around them. As you know, some members are gone, some are still here, some are new to the team. We will get them all out there to you as soon as we can get a little time to develop a solid product. The albums that were coming this year will come next year plus a whole lot more that we had planned for 2009. You have my word on that.
khal: In conversation, you mentioned briefly that you have a new group coming, The Infants? What’s the story behind this? When can heads expect to hear some tracks from this new venture?
J. Slikk: Well, it’s a group that’s actually been around for a while now, just without an actual name or definition. It’s a group consisting of Roe and myself. Roe and I have done so many tracks together over the years it just seemed to make sense. A few weeks ago, I was at a show watching good friends of mine (the 80’s Babies) perform. Just sitting there, watching them and how they put their show together, plus the album is nuts; I just had an idea to put together yet another group and market it towards real Hip-Hop heads and more so towards Chicago’s real Hip-Hop heads. I haven’t really done an album that was geared towards my city’s real Hip-Hop demographic first yet. It’s always been the world first, then my city in the mix. I can’t tell you much about the project yet as it’s in the development stages, but I can tell you this: the album is just one part of the experience. We’re going to go all out, get the album pressed up and ready for distribution. Then we’re going to get a few shows together and put together an entire routine for the show. It’s going to be incredible the way we envision it. I’ll explain the name at a later date. It has a deeper meaning, just like all our names lately. The music, if all goes well, should start surfacing from the group the first two or three months of ’09. There’s already one or two concepts for songs drawn out, beats done and written. We have commitments from some decently known cats across the Chicagoland area to appear for guest verses on the album. Who? I’m not at liberty to discuss just yet. But for now, let’s just say it’s good to have talented friends!
khal: Not to toot my own horn, but my introduction of JunClassic to you opened the floodgates, which resulted in him not only becoming a BPA affiliate, but an EP emerging from this. Any word on what that project is sounding like? When can we hear that?
J. Slikk: Details are sketchy for the project, although the four (yes four) joints’ I’ve heard off the album sound great. It’s called Late Nites, Early Mournings and should be done and out by sometime in January as we hope and assume. I’ll probably leak some of the rough low quality snippets of the joints I produced so-far soon. I did one called “The Ooh Aah” featuring Cy Yung that, if I had a choice would probably be the first single right now. I love that one. Then I did one called “The Basics” that I’m also very proud of. It’s a very relaxing joint. Just like the Oscah EP before it, the production on the EP will be completely handled by Cynergy Soundz and myself, with BPA guest features wherever we can stick them. If we can’t properly place certain features, that’s alright too. Although details for the album are sketchy (as previously stated), once we put the album together and drop it, it will be up to the standard that BPA is well known for! We won’t accept anything short of a classic effort. Or else we’ll keep doing it until we get it right.
khal: What are your plans for the remainder of 2008?
J. Slikk: Hell, if I can just get my various personals together and keep them together I’ll take that for the remainder of 2008. Anything else comes second at the moment, you know?
khal: Way off-topic, but since you live in Chicago, you had to have been up all night on Nov. 4th when history was made, and President-elect Obama shocked the world. What is it like living in Chicago during this time, as well as how does it feel to be a Black man witnessing true history?
J. Slikk: Well first and foremost, I wasn’t up all night that night. I had exams and a project due in school. But living in this city, you could feel something great was happening that day. It was almost as if you knew Mr. Obama couldn’t lose the minute you woke up. I stepped out of the house that morning and it was just a beautiful sunny, warm day, very uncharacteristic of Chicago in November. I had to walk up the street and everyone I saw of color driving up the street was honking their horns, one proud fist out of the window, some screaming inaudible things out of the windows of their cars. Although inaudible, you knew what they were saying because you could feel the pride and sense of change in the air that they felt. It was just a strange morning, but in a good way. So for the rest of the day, I either stayed close to a TV or just had a live TV feed going on my laptop when I had to go take care of my dailies. It wasn’t until about a quarter to ten when the news came across that he had gotten his 270 and beyond. You know, it wasn’t ‘til an hour later when Mr. Obama took the stage down in Grant Park that all of it hit me. The speech, the atmosphere, watching it all unfold on TV was just a very emotional time for me. Why? Because of the history of the fact, for one. The change we’ve all been waiting for eight years for, and as he went through his speech, I felt selfishly as if Mr. Obama was speaking to me personally about some things about my life right now, and it felt great. I then felt like I had just enough drive to change. You know, like adding fuel to go a little further in my journey if you will. All of it was an emotional high that I’ll never forget as long as I live and I firmly believe Barack Hussein Obama will make a difference for us all physically and mentally. It was just an incredible day! Then I celebrated the next night, versus everyone doing it that same night.
khal: After all of this, I have to ask – how are you holding up? I imagine you’ve had to re-examine your circle of friends and loved ones. Lil’ inventory never hurt anyone, right?
J. Slikk: Right! And I’ve done a whole lot of inventory lately. The results were not good and I’m still cleaning house. It’s going to take a minute as things keep on surfacing and changing every week. I liken it to an 800 page novel with like five plot twists per page, and that’s just the first book in the series. That part makes it tough when you’re already really not even in control of some aspects of your own destiny as strange as that sounds. God’s got those keys and is acting through others here on earth. Its all one big final exam before the rest of my life can begin, and to this point, I didn’t study anywhere near as much as I should have and it shows. Not a lot of people ask how I feel, believe it or not. They always ask me how others are feeling or five million other questions that I never feel like answering anymore. Overall, I feel good. Not great, just good. It varies from day to day, but things could be a whole lot worse. Thanks for asking!
khal: Finally, do you have any predictions for 2009, for yourself, the world, your crew, etc.?
J. Slikk: In the past I could map out a lot of things about the future. Right now I choose not to. Why? Obviously because of what I’m going through, I try not to get too far ahead of myself. You put your eggs in one basket and drop them, then what? All I can say is this, once I can get myself together, the world isn’t ready for what I got in store for it. Whether it be what I personally bring to the table, be it life in general, profession, music, or whatever I plan on assessing, admitting, and correcting the mistakes I have made in the past and becoming the great person I know I can be and have been told I am capable of being. Although I want to give up on everything and just disappear some days, I won’t accept failure because I’ve never been a failure, nor will I let anyone around me fail. Expect greatness that everyone in the world can see and feel on all ends. That would be the only prediction I can give.
khal: Any shout outs before we wrap this up?
J. Slikk: Well, I’ll leave it at none. Some people have earned them. Most haven’t and I don’t want to distinguish between the two and explain why I didn’t shout out some. I’ll end up hurting feelings that way and I’m trying to avoid drama as much as I can ha ha. As always, khal, I thank you for your voice and your support. You’ve been a tremendous help to us all and we appreciate it!
Make sure you keep up with J. Slikk on MySpace, the BPA blog, or this site for your fix on all things Slikk. Did you know that Kanye West was inspired by a J? Have you heard Logic Marsalis' "Power Moves"? What about Cy Yung's latest mixtape? Or his "Semisweet" remix? Get familiar, fam! Shouts to J for going so in depth. Emancipation Anxiety is set to drop December 9th. Keep it locked!