Lance Skiiiwalker has been waiting a long time—a year and a half, to be exact—to put out Introverted Intuition. The moment came last Tuesday, ending months of mystery about who this “John Doe” artist on TDE was, and what type of music he would bring to a roster made up of lyrical powerhouses.
Since TDE artists @-ed him with identical tweets (a single question mark) in May, Skiiiwalker has dropped four video vignettes—“Could It Be,” “All Stops,” “Lover’s Lane,” and “Attraction”—to give a closer look at his personality. He’s charming, lovable, and mysterious in the videos, but most importantly, the music stands up.
One of the most prominent themes on the album is unrequited love. Lance Howard identifies as an introvert, and any like-minded listener can relate to his struggles of trying to impress women and coming up short. In his videos for “Could It Be” and “Lover’s Lane,” his persuasions sometimes verge on devious (like using poison apples to get someone’s attention).
But Skiiiwalker grew up on this kind of one-sided love as a kid in grade school and in high school. He remembers the times he used to daydream about women from afar. “When it comes to that, sometimes you can do everything for a person and you’re not that person that they care to see for a moment,” he says with a laugh. But these days, his perspective on love is surprisingly optimistic. “When it comes to love, if you find the right person, if it feels right, that’s something that you don’t wanna detach from your life.”
During the course of our conversation, I ask him questions about the album and his musical background, but I get the feeling that maybe he was one of those creatives who doesn't like talking about his artistry. Being an introvert too, I get it. On the subject of how he got discovered by Kendrick Lamar, however, Skiiwalker becomes much more animated.
Here, Lance Skiiwalker shares how a Chicago native got signed to TDE, his influences as a producer, the story behind his stage name, and more.
What are you hoping people take from Introverted Intuition?
I just want people to take some feeling out of it. I make music for feeling... As long as they felt something throughout the project, I'm happy with it. Whatever else on top of they take from it is great as well.
Have you always been experimenting with your voice as a singer or rapper like you do on Introverted Intuition?
Both. Yeah, definitely. Throughout the years, just being funny with my daughter with funny voices. Or you know, being funny talking to myself because I do that often. But it was just really that and it came natural that’s why it was really put on there.
How old is your daughter now?
She’s two and a half. And she loves my music man. It’s a good feeling.
Does your daughter have an influence on the creative process of this project?
Definitely, she plays a big influence on that. I want all my music to come on in the future, you know what I’m saying? Just because I want it to be something she would love to hear. I don’t want to leave music in other people’s hands for her to love. I want to be that person that makes music that she loves. For the most part, give her that different world I feel like she wasn’t getting as she gets older.
I want to be that person that makes music that My Daughter loves.
What about producing? You’ve done a couple tracks on here as Rocket.
In school, I was always the person who beat on tables, with the pencil too. I always had that ear for production as a child. As I got older, just listening to music, I was a big fan of N.E.R.D. and their first album In Search of… That definitely influenced me a lot getting into production.
It’s just certain things they did. They played with it a lot. Like no rules to their production. It made me look at music a whole another way. That really inspired me as well. I played video games a lot. The production of video games, just hearing those kinds of things, it was interesting to me. Even watching cartoons a lot still influences me to this day. That stuff just pushed me towards doing what I’m doing now.
Let’s talk about TDE. How did that happen?
I was just going back and forth from Chicago to L.A. with my current wife. We’re just going back and forth, me networking. This one time I was out there I wasn’t really networking but just seeing what I can do to get in a better situation musically. Just out there spending time in awesome Los Angeles. We happened to walk into this store, Dope Couture. And a good friend of mine that I knew from years past out from the Midwest area, he was the manager of the store. He always liked what I did musically as far as just production. We knew each other personally. He asked if I had anything I could play at the store. And I actually had this beat CD. I gave it to him and left out.
I guess he was playing it in the store. 20 minutes later, he called me and was like, ‘Man, Kendrick Lamar is at the store, he wants to meet you.’ 20 minutes later, Kendrick Lamar walked in and heard my production playing in the store. My friend called me and I shot back over there. Kendrick Lamar was like, ‘Man, I am a big fan of your production.’ I’m like, ‘My production?’ This was around before good kid, m.A.A.d city that came out. Around that time.
20 minutes later, he called me and was like, ‘Man, Kendrick Lamar is at the store, he wants to meet you.’
When he was in the store, he was like, ‘Are you free at the moment?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m free!’ He wanted me to follow him back to the studio they have on Carson. I went back there and played him more production. He wanted to get me on good kid, m.A.A.d city as a producer 'cause what he was hearing was my production. He didn’t know that I was an artist as well. This was happening before I had to leave [for] my flight back to Chicago on a week trip out there. That was pretty crazy.
It all started because you were at the right place, and you had a beat CD on you.
Exactly, that’s crazy. I brought like five or six beat CDs with me from Chicago. I didn’t really bring out too many for some reason. I was down to my second one because I placed beat CDs on buildings that I thought would work, but it didn’t work. I was down to my second or last one. He probably took my second or last one.
Was that moment when you started working with TDE? We’ve seen your name sporadically on ScHoolboy Q or Jay Rock's project. Did they just want to keep bringing you back to work as a producer?
After meeting Kendrick, we exchanged numbers, and I caught my flight back to Chicago that day. We kept in contact over time. A little down the line, I sent some music of mine as an artist that he really liked. Around that time, that’s when he contacted Dave [Free]. Dave and Kendrick both reached out to me and wanted me to come to the label, and sign to the label as an artist and producer as well.
When did that become official? Was it this year?
No, it was a couple years ago. It was still in 2014. They was still helping me develop more as an artist. They helped with my artist development.
What exactly did they do?
Me being just in certain studio sessions and seeing things visually helped me a lot more than anything. Seeing a lot visually on how they operated and how they worked on music in the studio. I really didn’t go to studios a lot at all. I used to work in a room, and I still do work in a room at home with a red light or a blue light in a backroom and just working on beats all day. Kind of work it like a lab rat. I wasn’t really in the studio at all.
I want to go back to the project and talk about “Toaster.” How was making that record with ScHoolboy Q? Because that’s not something we hear from Q often. He almost stepped into your world and started doing what you do.
Honestly, it’s very dope working with Q because he’s a very creative rapper. He can very easily jump in experimental worlds because he’s a creative. When I kind of painted that world, and I sent it to him through email. We worked through email on that song. We didn’t even jump in the studio. That’s how much he got it. When I sent it to him, he already had in his head what he wanted to do. Obviously he sent it back with the crazy segue on there. Cause I had the hook on there and I sent it to him and he sent his stuff back. It was so cohesive, it was crazy.
You used to be in a group called The Rocketeers too. You went by Johnny Rocket at the time. What did you take away from that experience?
That was my first time experience with music people. Like being around people in the music world. Before then, I was always at home. I never left the house, only when I went for my regular job and came home. I was staying home for my mom and stuff. It was like no social life at all. It was just music.
So around that time was really when I just stepped out a bit and got in a group with another artist [D-Win]. I think we met on a bus one day randomly. But yeah, it was just a random meet. He was an artist who happened to do music as well. We kind of formed a group or whatnot. That was my beginning stages of music. That went for a couple of years. After that, it kind of just went left. The relationship went both ways—musically and personal.
How did you come up with the name Lance Skiiiwalker?
My first name is Lance. Skiiiwalker kind of came from being a fan of Star Wars. I just like Skywalker as a name, it was dope. My name being Lance kind of just worked. And me being part of TDE, that kind of came around that time. They kind of helped me with the name too.
The Skiiiwalker part I think came from Dave Free or something. I think it came from Dave early in my discovery with the label. I wanted to keep some genuineness too though. Lance, like I said, that’s my first name so it just kind of works with Lance Skiiiwalker. But the three i's, that definitely came from Dave.
So when the press release came out, Dave Free said, “Lance Skiiiwalker is going to be such a breakthrough artist for this generation. He challenges the traditional format of today’s music, adding another layer to TDE’s unique roster.” What are your thoughts on TDE’s direction now and signing artists like you and SZA?
Honestly, I kinda see TDE as the X-Men. Like Top being Xavier, and all of us being mutants in a way. We all have our own different talents. X-Men have their own skill sets, you know what I’m saying? We are all different from each other, but we are all great. And honestly, that’s how I feel about us. We are all different with our sounds, but we are all great with our sounds. I feel like we are going to our own realm. I feel like there’s not a lot of groups out there that’s stepping out of their own world as far as music goes. I feel like we are all doing that because we are doing something different. So it’s bringing something new to the table overall. I think it’s a great direction.
I kinda see TDE as the X-Men. Like Top being Xavier, and all of us being mutants in a way.
I saw a tweet from you that said “nowadays creativity is a lost art.” Why does that matter so much to you as an artist? And how does TDE allow you to do that?
Honestly, it means a lot to have that freedom. I feel like your creativity is your voice. To me, that’s my voice, my creativity. Some people’s lyrics are their voice. Me, personally, creativity is like my expression. That’s why it is so important to me. It’s like magic to me. When it comes to TDE, they really help with that because TDE was a creative label to me before I even came with Kendrick Lamar, Q, and with the rest of the artists on the label. They are all creative in their own way. Me coming to the label, they already knew how to approach it. That made things great. I feel like it is a perfect label to come to and be a part of the music that I am making.