Fri | Jun 24, 2022

RCA Records exec says Skillibeng ‘means business’

Sold-out venues, album already in the works for June release

Published:Tuesday | March 29, 2022 | 12:06 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Skillibeng is gearing up for his live shows in London this weekend.
Skillibeng is gearing up for his live shows in London this weekend.

Fast-rising dancehall artiste Skillibeng has officially signed on to be part of the RCA Records roster and he is not wasting any time said Richard ‘Skane Dolla’ Ford, the senior vice-president of A&R at the American record label.

Speaking to The Gleaner in a recent interview, the label executive said that the young lyricist out of St Thomas exuded global appeal from the moment of meeting him.

“I was familiar with Skilli even before Crocodile Teeth but when Nicki Minaj jumped on it, then and there, I saw the way, not just the Caribbean region but here in the states, the rappers, the children and other folks reacted to him. I was determined to meet him in person,” Ford said.

He added, “We actually thought he was signed already. Upon meeting him, aesthetically speaking ... just looking at the deejay, he gave me star vibes and he was showing that he means business. When he played the first record for me, I watched the way he moved, the cadence, and immediately got in touch with other members of our team to say that we needed to sign Skillibeng now.”

Ford has more than a decade of experience in the music industry, working with major labels such as Def Jam and Desert Storm Records. Now, he is bringing a forward-thinking approach to finding musical talent for RCA Records. Noting that the label’s direction was primarily R&B, pop and rock at one stage, he said, “there has always been an interest in dancehall but it was just about finding the right style and fit”.

“Skilli is refreshing, he knows how to catch the attention of people and has a big following in the rap community. I was also impressed with the conversation we had – he protruded beyond book smart – the decision was easy, in my opinion, because he has that ‘it’ factor that cannot be described in words,” he shared.

And after listening to unreleased music during a studio session with Skillibeng, Skane Dolla saw the urgency to not only sign the dancehall deejay but to kick-start the process of working on a new album.

“I knew we needed to get the business done ASAP ... he is bringing a new style to the dancehall scene that we never heard before. As far as our reasons for looking into a younger act within the Jamaican genre, it was simple. Children relate to them, and they bring a new sound that may not be the norm but that is palatable,” he said. “Skilli’s album will be coming in June and, while I don’t want to give any secrets away, I can say he has some really big features and I know people will be surprised by his artistic range. It’s gonna be humongous; we have producers from the UK, US and, obviously, from Jamaica.”

He explained that the UK is a major audience for Skillibeng, adding that the deejay is more than aware of this. “He kept telling us, I need like a 5,000-seater and instead we gave him 2,500-seater and, within the first hour, ticket sales for all three shows sold out. It was a shock to us but we know the shows will be good either way,” Skane Dolla shared.

The artiste is gearing up for his live shows in London this weekend, he said. Meanwhile, Skane Dolla revealed that he has eyes on another dancehall act. “There’s someone else I’m paying attention to. I like Spice a lot and I have been digging to find out her situation, so I might just reach out. I don’t know if she will think our deal makes sense but let’s see,” he said.

Born Emwah Warmington, Skillibeng is known for hits including Crocodile Teeth, Mr Universe, Not, Torpedo and the latest single, Whap Whap.