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Cool “Cal-S.K.I” The Street Kid Intellect





Where did you grow up?


I grew up in the 70's in Poughkeepsie NY in low income housing projects. My parents split up when I was young so I was literally a "Street Kid", always hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing crazy ish. Later on in my teenage years, my mom moved us out of the hood out to the suburbs but I got even worse when I got around kids that weren't street wise. I got into a lot of trouble and learned a lot of hard lessons as a young teen.



What are your earliest memories of the culture?

My mom's boyfriend was a drummer in a local R&B band and was big into music. We had one of those big wide wooden stereo systems that had a record player and I think an 8-track tape player built in too. He had a lot of classic wax and I remember listening to everything he had all the time. I have very fond memories of blasting that thing on Saturdays as we all cleaned around the house. My first piece of wax that was actually mine that I think was a birthday gift was Funkadelic's Uncle Jam Wants You, the one where he's sitting in that big wicker chair with his legs crossed next to that big flashlight and the ray gun. I was about 10 years old when that dropped and I was straight up hooked on soul music from that point on.



When did you first start rapping?


Growing up in the hood I had to learn how to be tough and witty. Because I was from an interracial relationship, I got picked on growing up until I learned how to be tough and ruthless. The kids would make fun of everybody no matter what so you had to learn how to fight back verbally and physically in order to just be left alone. So, I mastered cracking also known as playing the dozens and if you got me good and embarrassed me one day and made people laugh at me, I would go home and actually write cracks about you and then memorize them. I would practice the delivery of the crack too. Then the next day I would wait like a freaking hyena in the bushes till everybody was around you and then I would bust out and let loose with a premeditated verbal barrage. This quickly gained me a reputation amongst my peers and because I was already big for my age, peeps just started leaving me the F alone. When Sugar Hill Gang was blowing up, I learned every word of every song and was constantly rapping them everywhere, I wanted to be just like them too. I started listening to all the big rap artists like Run, LL, Fat Boys, Kool Mo, KRS1, MC Shan, Dougie Fresh, Slick Rick, etc. My cracking skills eventually evolved into lyrical skills. I started writing little versus, memorizing them and then battling other MC's at school. Kids would beat box or even pound beats on the lunch room table for us to rhyme to. I started entering and winning rap contests and started getting a little street rep. It was around this time in the early 80’s I gave myself my rap name Cal-SKI. Everybody on the East was adding SKI to part of their real name so I did the same. Years later I added the rest, Cool "Cal-S.K.I." The Street Kid Intellect.



When and how did you first start recording?

I actually used to record using two tape decks and some headphones. A lot of people don't know that head phones will act just like a mic if you plug them into a mic jack. I got me a little beat machine and was making crude demos over the summer between 8th and 9th grade and then just playing them for me and my crew. During my high school years, I continued rapping but never got serious with it. I was too busy chasing girls and getting in trouble. I was heavy into graffiti around this time too. I used to wrack up spray paint and markers then tag my other nick name which was Extra-Extra. People used to say that I thought I was extra cool by the way I dressed and spit lyrics so the name Extra-Extra kinda stuck and I used to bomb it all around my city. My senior year I realized I was probably gonna fail so I tightened up, started going to night school in Newburgh, NY to get extra credits and did what I had to do to pass high school. Right after graduating high school, I moved down to the city with my real pops. I actually lived in Yonkers with him for one summer and then Spanish Harlem after I graduated. Hanging with the wrong peeps again, it got to the point where I realized I had to get out of NYC or I was gonna end up on Rikers Island or dead. So, one day I went into a military recruiters' station on 125th street in Harlem right next to the Apollo Theatre and joined the Army. After basic training and AIT, the Army immediately sent me to Germany where I hooked up with and recorded music with a producer near Frankfurt called RJ Cole. One of my close homeboys in my army unit also from the East Coast named DJ Ronnie B became my DJ. We would make demos with RJ Kole and do local shows but nothing ever came of it. Eventually I met DJ Cutmaster GB and Roco from Earth's Edge Records. We recorded demos in their home based studio in Frankfurt and eventually we put out some wax. You can find the 12" single we pressed up, the two songs were called Ghetto Michelangelo and How Ya Livin. When Kurtis Blow, Grand Master Flash and the Sugar Hill Gang toured in Germany for the God Fathers of Rap Tour, I actually opened up for them in a couple cities including Frankfurt and Munich. I was also a member of the Zulu nation at that time and I still have my official Zulu nation membership card too!



How did you come to be part of the TJA crew?


After I got back from the Desert Storm war and started rapping with Earth's Edge Records, things were really starting to blow up for us in Germany. We were touring and things really looked like they might go to the next level. Eventually I put in a request to get out of the military early and live in Germany. The Army denied my request and sent me to a Special Forces unit at Fort Lewis in Tacoma Washington. It was here that I met DJ Shaggy C one night at the NCO club on base. He was DJ'ing with his crew in a packed club and I walked right up to him and told him I was a dope MC from NY and that he should put on an instrumental and give me the mic. He was reluctant at first but I was persistent and the rest is history. I immediately joined up with Thunder Jam and later I formed a group with two MC's from my Army unit called Duk and Jaz and we formed a group called Dem Kidz. I recorded several songs with them but I had so many ideas and unused lyrics that I also recorded with other members of Thunder Jam and also recorded a lot of solo songs. We did local shows and even did some stuff up in Canada. We made a lot of good demo tapes but unfortunately no one in our big Thunder Jam group was able to land a record deal and that was very frustrating for all of us especially me. Around this same time I got out of the Army and I also got divorced soon after. I seriously needed a change of scenery after all of that so eventually I made the tough decision to move back to my home town of Poughkeepsie New York in the mid 90’s.


Were you pushing demos in the 90s?


As soon as I got back to NY, I quickly hooked up with another crew called Legacy Entertainment or L4L Records with producers Alf Diggi and Drawzilla. We also had two other MC's in the crew called Mad Vex and Ntense. We built our own home-made studio and recorded 24/7 up in that 3rd floor studio apartment called Top Floor Studio's where I eventually ended up living. This was also the same studio apartment where the famous DJ Paul Nice used to live. We were mad cool with Paul and hung out with him from time to time right around the same time when he was blowing up in the music industry! We did small local shows in our city and even out in San Francisco. Eventually after shopping our demos, we received an offer from Tommy Boy records but they only wanted us as a group. Our crew out voted me and wanted to get us signed individually one by one and eventually things got weird and Tommy Boy pulled the offer. Around this same time around 1998 I think, Shag put one of my singles originally called “One Dose Away” but was changed to “From Bullets to Poetics” on a West Coast compilation CD called Classic Elements. The album was reviewed by XXL magazine and the writer said this about my song and I quote "but the richest element of the album is Ski's "From Bullets to Poetics." It flows like a classroom lesson in urban politics, while still maintaining its distinct street edge and touch of hardcore." Eventually everybody in Legacy went their separate ways and I got on as a radio personality at a local college radio station, 91.3 WVKR at Vassar College. It was there I hooked up DJ Mr. Vince. I was his hype man on the road and the personality on the radio. We would do gigs all the time all over Upstate NY, NYC, attend out of state events and we even rocked Germany one time. I met and hung out with so many Hip-Hop celebrities of that era especially the ones signed to Tommy Boy records where DJ Vince worked as a college radio rep. During this time I hooked up with my current wife, started a family and eventually ended up putting the mic down and moving us out to California.


How does it feel to see your work from 25 years ago finally be on wax for the heads?


For me, seeing and hearing my stuff again is really crazy. I was content with putting that whole chapter of my life behind me but recent events have really surprised me and made me feel good again about our old music. Recently Chopped Herring Records put out our first Thunder Jam compilation album on wax and that was just an amazing feeling to actually hold it. I actually went out and bought a brand new record player just so I could play our album! I can’t wait for my solo joint to drop, that’s really gonna be special for me. I really hope everybody that cops one can at least find one or two songs on there that they really like and can’t vibe with. In the end I just know that God works in mysterious ways, I've learned that so many times in my life that I don’t even question it anymore, I just accept the good with the bad and keep looking toward a brighter future.


Cool "Cal-S.K.I." The Street Kid Intellect

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