The revolutionary Funk, politically charged, message driven, anthemic hip hop diverse collaboration, “SKIN IN THE GAME” video is now available worldwide. The song is a riveting plea for awakening and realization in the dangerous political and cultural climate that taunts our planet’s delicate landscape.
“Skin In The Game,” released via True Groove Records, is a collaborative effort between DJ Keith Shocklee from Public Enemy, the iconic hip hop group Son of Bazerk and New York’s fastest rising record label CEO, (True Groove Records) and performer Tomás Doncker, formally of James Chance and the Contortions. The video was filmed and directed by Dylan Mars Greenberg.
Keith Shocklee or Wizard K-Jee is a supreme DJ and record producer and an original member of Public Enemy and The Bomb Squad. Childhood friends with Flavor Flav, the first songs of The Bomb Squad were produced in his mom’s basement. Shocklee has gone on to work with artists including, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Janet Jackson, Sinead O’Connor and many others.
Son of Bazerk was originally formed via Hank Shocklee, a member and the producer of The Bomb Squad. The faction consists of Son of Bazerk, Almighty Jahwell and Half Pint. They are recognized for their unique style of hip hop expansion of the James Brown legacy, and managing to sound retro and relevant simultaneously.
Tomás Doncker is credited for coining the genre “Global Soul.” Aside from owning “True Groove Records”, he is a producer, lead guitarist, singer/songwriter and visionary. He has produced, written for and worked with artists including, Madonna, Yoko Ono, Bonnie Raitt, Bootsy Collins, and countless others.
Watch The World Wide Music Video Premiere of “Skin In The Game” featuring Keith Shocklee, Son of Bazerk and Tomás Doncker and the True Groove All-Stars here:
I was honored to speak to all in this collaborative force…..
Tomás, “Skin In The Game” is an extremely vivid and powerful song, how was it collaborating with the others?
Tomás: Basically, it’s an honor to welcome Keith Shocklee and Son of Bazerk into the True Groove family. They have always been one of my favorite legendary hip-hop groups. The concept of the group has always been one of most forward thinking in the history of soul, hip-hop and funk. We are excited beyond belief obviously to be working with Keith Shocklee. He’s “All That”, as one of the original architects of hip-hop, and black music all around and we are grateful. That’s all I have to say.
You’re going to have to say a little more because it’s partly your song. Was it you who wrote the song?
Tomás: Yes, it was a collaboration between myself and Son of Bazerk. We all worked together.
What inspired the song?
Tomás: It’s an old slang saying basically meaning that I’ve got nothing invested in whatever this thing is. It means I don’t care. When I came up with the hook, I had to think of what was the appropriate colloquial of our times because we all have something invested in this life, especially at this moment. The things that we should be focused on are being defined by skin. The color of skin. Literally. It’s a reverse metaphor, Skin the game, skin the game, we all got skin in the game. We all have something invested in this racism, “ism”, schism thing. We need to change that. So I thought that would be a funky enough musical thing to say but also it really does get to what I was trying to say across. It’s important stuff. We are all invested in our collective future, black, white, whatever. We are all supposed to be beyond the black/white thing. We are all supposed to be way past that. We’re hoping this becomes the color blind battle cry for unity.
If you could get this message out to one single person or group of people, who would you want to hear and understand it?
Tomás: Wow… obviously I would like it to hit as many different kinds of people as possible. Black, white, Latino, I want everyone to hear it because it is a battle cry for all people. That being said in these trying times we live in, ……and I must say this…I am an optimist,… I believe in people…. but I do believe there are a certain portion of people who are not interested in hearing this. Therefore, it would fall on deaf ears. So if I had to really focus my efforts, and if I could talk in a particular room of people who I think that ultimately the spirit and message of this song could galvanize them and go on to do something meaningful, it would be the Democratic Party….can we bring people together before we lose again?
Keith, what do you think of “Skin In The Game?”
Keith: I think it’s a good song based on the artists. We’ve grown differently in our lives. The song holds a positivity and it deals with current events as of today. It still keeps in a party, nice good vibe where it doesn’t sound like it’s preaching. It’s very fun. I hate preaching music. I hate when people preach on their records.
You’re a DJ too?
Keith: That’s how I started, before I was making records. I didn’t even know what making records was about.
What made you want to make records? Or did you just fall into it?
Keith: I kind of fell into it. When rap was kind of like in its early stage, like real early, that’s when we were in it, it wasn’t even a genre. The opportunities and the excitement of doing that was in our brain. Us DJs were working the party. We were burning down the house already. We were very close to what the rap was doing. Everybody was trying to be a rapper. There was a lot of rap records around. We didn’t try to be a rapper, it was just something we did when we were young and it just morphed into a lifestyle. It just morphed into our career. And the other part was we had to deal with our parents, and aunts and uncles and sometimes our friends, ” y’all better get a real job”, “stop playing around”, “you got bills “… and some of us had kids and were told we needed to figure out how to take care of those kids. Those days, those eras, it was crazy, unpredictable, but it was fun and it was challenging in the way of how we wanted to do things. It just became an out. Making music became an out.
Public Enemy had a rep.
Keith: It did. We developed that rep. That rep developed when we were young. We all became so good at it. Then we had a radio station and Chuck would do his thing. We’d find local, young, talent that was coming through. We’d bring them to the station and make demos and put them on the radio. At that time people thought those were real records. This was early. When you heard someone on the radio you figured “oh this must be a record.” People were going to the stores and looking for those records that lived in our area. They never existed they were just on the radio. Today we call those demos. It was something new. That’s all everybody had. It was just that. It was exciting. It was scary at times. It wasn’t about this is what we were going to do forever. We didn’t know. It kept us off the streets, but on the streets in a different way. While the cats were hustling on the streets, we were hustling on the streets but throwing parties, and doing what we liked. They didn’t know how it was going to end up. We just were doing it.
Well what do you think about how it ended up?
Keith: I don’t know how it ends up. It’s crazy. It was at a time like I said when this was so new, this was so beyond reach of understanding for most people. It was just one of those things. We were trying to figure it out.
Have you figured it out yet?
Keith: Nope. We’re still trying to figure it out.
Keith, who is your hero?
Keith: James Brown, Lloyd Price, you have to hear the Lloyd Price story, Nile Rodgers is a hero. He’s really cool. Smokey Robinson is one of the biggest, and that’s just in my music world. I can’t get into my sports world because that would take forever.
If you could have your ultimate stage fantasy what would have to happen?
Keith: I think I would like to groom a young artist and watch them become a force in the industry, and I’ll just watch him from the back.
That’s the nicest answer ever.
Keith: That’s the coolest because you can only do this for so long and then young ones come along. I like the ones with the same energy that I had growing up. I’m running out of energy.
Well the new song is great and I’m glad that you all are collaborating together.
Keith: It was cool. Tomás wanted Son of Bazerk and the band. I tried to make the song not too much like it was from the past, but I wanted it to feel like it was from the past. It kind of does but I have all the new sound things happening so it doesn’t sound like it’s old. I’m a DJ so I’m doing all styles of music.
How did this project happen for you Son of Bazerk?
Bazerk: Keith Shocklee introduced me to Tomás, who wanted to do a project with us. We started brainstorming on the song called “Skin In The Game.” We didn’t have a hook or a chorus but I laid down some lyrics and Tomás came back a week later with a hook and the chorus. From that point we just started building the song.
I’ve heard that you are a drummer. Obviously, you have a fluid and funky relationship with rhythm, and the tone of your voice. How much does playing the drums influence or support yuour unique approach?
Bazerk: Drums have a lot to do with it because that’s what I ride. That’s what I base my whole writing and everything to the drums. I’m influenced by James Brown too and his band. The first time I heard James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”, my mom bought me the drum set.
The core of your style as a group is most definitely a continuation/expansion of the James Brown legacy. You all managed to be retro and contemporary at the same time. What are some of the challenges you face as a collaborative group in achieving this?
Jahwell: There are no challenges because it’s not something that we try to do, it’s something that just came forwardly. I’ve known Bazerk since we were 9/10 years old living in the projects and he was drumming then. We all did music, I just took a different instrument. When you play and start to do it you don’t necessarily know that you are emulating somebody. When you’re in a band situation you start doing your own thing. The influence is there but you don’t really know it. There were a lot of influences that we had. I think that James Brown is probably just the biggest one and the one that stands out the most. We have Joe Tex, Bob Marley, The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia, I mean whatever it is….
Bazerk: We are influenced by a lot of different groups. The style is just a style that we have. The stuff that we have going on with these records, we just come up with. That’s automatic.
Half Pint: It’s organic.
Jahwell: Probably nobody else could have done that song, nobody could’ve written that song. It’s just like a normal thing to us. The producers tell us you can’t do this and you can’t do that until they saw what we saw. Bazerk saw it first but we had to drag some sticks through the mud for them to see it. Once they saw it they put everything into it then.
Do you have a hero?
Jahwell: I might tell you one person today and then tomorrow it will be someone else but for different reasons. I have a lot of musical heroes for different reasons but that’s because I don’t like to put labels on anything. You put labels on music and you miss good music.
Half Pint, how did you get yourself involved with these guys?
Half Pint: I knew them from when I was younger because they lived in the neighborhood or they were friends of our parents. They would always come to the house. My house was one of those places that everybody would come to. As they were already part of a group I was just doing my thing. I was playing ball, rhyming on the back of the bus and in school. Then in my Sophomore year of college I happened to be with my friends playing ball and we were trash talking because that’s what I do. Hank Shocklee came up to me and said “You sound like you can make records.” I said, “Yeah, whatever.” He insisted and said he was in PE, but I didn’t believe him. Who comes up to somebody on the basketball court and says you sound like you could make records? That’s like a dream happening. He took my number down and came to my house to speak to my grandparents because I was under age, about being part of the group that he was putting together. My grandparents asked me if I wanted to do it and I said “I wanted to try it.” My grandparents gave me permission and they supported me. They already had the vocals to the record so I put my vocals on and then the rest is history.
Half Pint, you are a school principal is that correct?
Half Pint: I am an educator. I teach during the day time at the Roosevelt high school and I also am the principal of the alternative program in the evening. I spend 12 hours of my day working with young people trying to empower them and bring them to the next level so they can follow their dreams.
Half Pint, that so cool. Anyone of you can answer this one, what is the message of the song from your view point?
Half Pint: For me I think that in this climate era it is a politically charged song. Our music is not as politically charged as most have been without predecessors like PE, but we are able to express and articulate Bazerk and Tomás’ views and what they feel through the music about today’s climate.
Bazerk: I think that “Skin In The Game”, …..there’s so much going on in the world today. There is crime and the government and things like that. I don’t really get into the politics but I want to do my part with Tomás and be funky at the same time.
Jahwell: My whole thing was sometimes we are at such a discord and can we get divided and forget that we all have skin. When I’m looking at you and I don’t like you because of the shoes you got on or because you’re a white girl, or because you’re a dude with a turban, but we all have skin in the same game. I’m being shot down like a dog on the street and you think it doesn’t affect you, but you have skin in this game. So that song is pivotal to me in that manner because everyone has skin in the game.
Are you working on any other projects?
Bazerk: What we’re going to do right now is we are going to try to work out something with True Groove. We will be around and see what’s happening. We are just feeling things out right now.