Who is Lance Skiiiwalker? I knew of his past when he went by Johnny Rocket and was ½ of the Chicago hip-hop duo The Rockateers. That part of his musical career has ended; he is now a solo artist, signed to one of the most talented and revered rap labels in the music industry. Five months ago, when TDE unveiled Skiiiwalker as their first John Doe, I assumed there would be a flood of interviews surrounding their newest signee that would dispel all the mysteries around the man. Isn’t that what happens when an artist who is hidden behind the curtain finally steps into the spotlight? He was right before us—a name, a face, but that’s all we knew. He was still a secret. In my eyes, he was still a John Doe. I pondered the question while staring down at my phone awaiting confirmation that Lance was ready for our brief chat.
“A creative,” was how he first responded to my question inquiring who is Lance Skiiiwalker? He paused briefly, and then continued with, “A superhero.” There was another pause, a longer one as if he was truly digging somewhere deep for the answer. He openly admitted to having a hard time finding the right words to describe himself best. It reminded me how important identity is for a new artist, and how the right words could be the difference between great branding and an image disaster. Surprisingly, the answer he gave me as the best description of Lance is his recently released debut album. Introverted Intuition isn’t just a cool play on words, it’s the personality trait that defines both the man and the artist.
'Introverted Intuition' (Ni) deals with understanding how the world works through internal intuitive analysis. Ni relies on gut feelings and intuition about a situation to help them understand. 'Introverted Intuition' does not look at what is seen. 'Introverted Intuition' forms an internal map and framework of how things work. The map is slowly adapted and adjusted over time to allow the user to get a better sense of the “big picture of things” and what steps to take to get the desired outcome. - Introverted Intuition (Ni)
The above explanation of Introverted Intuition is only a small definition that doesn’t begin to explain the different kinds of characteristics that are attributed to the personality type. It’s extremely intriguing and could be rather educational for those who care to do added research. One trait that I came across on PersonalityGrowth.com is how Introverted Intuition users are great at creating personas. If you had a chance to listen to Lance’s album, you've noticed there are various characters throughout the album. His voice undergoes various changes and manipulations. There are so many pitches and tones that are played with that it does feel as if he’s several artists in one. He creates a world of sound that is distinctively his own. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard from an artist coming out of TDE. Just listen to ScHoolboy on “Toaster,” it’s him entering Skiiiwalker’s world and not vice versa. I asked if he was worried about bringing something so uniquely different to the label:
Honestly, not really. Seeing how none of the other artists sound the same, they all basically have their own world as well. I kind of had a feeling they would accept the world that I was in because it was original as well. You hear a lot of same stuff these days. A lot of similarities. I didn’t want to be similar. I never wanted to be a similarity. That’s why I always stayed focused on what I was doing, what I liked doing when it came to my music.
Chasing a career in music comes with detours, roadblocks, potholes and dead ends. Doubt is a very natural emotion that is experienced during the hardships. When asked about doubt, Lance told me confidently that he's never experienced the feeling. Once he fell in love with producing, he knew this is what he was supposed to do with his life. I’m certain that from Johnny Rocket to the TDE office, his journey wasn’t pancakes and cotton candy, but nothing that got in his way affected what he believed was his purpose.
I always moved to my own beat. When I started making music I felt like it was something that I was meant to do. I put God first and follow God’s lead. Wherever he lead me, that’s where I was going. I had faith in God, so I had faith in what I was doing. I always felt encouraged, I never lost faith to doubt.
At the age of 17, Lance heard N.E.R.D’s In Search Of... and the album inspired him to pick up producing. He joins the likes of Tyler and countless other artists who cite N.E.R.D.’s debut as a pivotal moment that ignited their passion for making music. After getting into production, it was a gradual transition into songwriting. Rappers like Big K.R.I.T. and J. Cole have told their stories of not being able to find beats, so they learned to make their own. Since Lance was already producing, he knew the kind of music that would sound best over his beats. That's when he started songwriting.
As a producer you hear things. You know what would sound dope on your own music, your own production. So that got me into writing. I just heard things. Rather it be melodies or words I heard things with my production. In the beginning I sounded terrible, of course. But I loved what I was doing. I was in my own world. So at the end of the day I didn’t care what people thought. So I kept getting better at what I loved doing. If you work hard enough at anything you’ll get better at it. I love music. As my production got better, vocally I got better as well.
Production is a quality that immediately stood out as I played through Introverted Intuition. There are intricate layers, unexpected twists and stylistic explorations that make the album unpredictable from start to finish. There have been times I could hear traces of sounds that could be related to Flying Lotus, Thundercat or N.E.R.D, but it all comes off as idiosyncratic. When asked to define his production with a color, Lance replied with a laugh, “I think it would be a flashing color of every color. My music is kind of everywhere. Like a flashing rainbow.” Similar to his personality that is constantly jumping around, his music also is ever flowing; in a constant state of change. It’s amazing that with so many different sounds the project still has a sense of smooth cohesion.
While discussing creativity, he said something that caught my attention:
There’s no rules to music, there’s no rules when it comes to art and creativity. You should be able to put music and paintings in the same artistic category. You walk into a gallery and you know you're going to see art. You aren’t going in there to say what is and what isn’t art. You’re looking at an expression through painting. I’m expressing myself through music. It’s all creativity. It’s all art. There’s no rules to creativity and I hate how some people try to place rules on creativity and putting rules in music.
This goes back to what he said about similarities, his views on rules only further proves he’s not here to fit in. Lance is a rule breaker, a creative mind that refuses to color within the lines. It’s clear on the first listen that his album isn’t different for the sake of being different, but the music he would make even if he were the only one to hear it. TDE has uncovered quite the interesting character in Lance Skiiiwalker. I’m intrigued to see how he will maneuver the insane music industry with such strong views on art and creativity. Creative freedom is important to Lance, along with family. The freedom to create is where he finds happiness, where he finds success. The kind of success that all artists should hope for.
By Yoh, aka Obi-Yoh Kenobi, aka @Yoh31.