FLINT, Michigan — There’s a level of maturity emanating from Jeff Skigh as we stand outside the Paterson building in downtown Flint. “I stepped away and went out to experience sh*t,” he says as we catch up on recent happenings in our lives.
He speaks casually, with his signature locs hanging past his shoulders, as our conversation veers into examining the musical landscape in Flint that has changed dramatically. We both agree that Flint music “overall [is] trending in a good direction,” but “politics and stuff prevent some things.”
Our first conversation
left me with questions, and my goal, as we transition inside and up the elevator to Wav Village
, is to make due on an internal promise made to understand Skigh. Coincidentally, I’d learn about his battles with seasonal depression, confidence, and self-worth through revealing social media posts over the years.
The pandemic, he admits, was something that exacerbated everything and saw him “lean a little bit more on drugs than I probably should have.” However, Skigh’s learned a few lessons while creating his newest project, The Flatlot Chronicles
“People will relate to your struggles. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be.” - Jeff Skigh
“I want to show people my progression musically and what I’ve been going through. I think it’s more so me becoming comfortable with myself. I stopped taking myself so [seriously]. But at the same time, still talking about serious content,” he says, leaning back in the chair, “people will relate to your struggles. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be.”
Much has transpired in the last two years since we’ve talked. The city was and still is amid a creative renaissance, its influence spreading nationwide and globally, giving Skigh and his peers of all genres opportunities to perform in major cities and headline festival stages like at SWSX
. On his own, Skigh’s music has exploded, with his catalog having over a million streams.
South Africa and parts of Europe have played his music and invited him onto overseas podcasts. Back home in Flint, Skigh has raised the bar on creativity with his recent song "Mantra
" featuring Neisha Neshae — a groovy, laid-back track with a Netflix-inspired video that sees the artist peruse through his version of the streaming app called ‘Jefflix,’ netting over 65k+ views on YouTube. Yet, even with all of that, there’s doubt lingering in the back of his mind.
Pictured from left to right: Flint rap artists Baybro, Ace Gabbana, Jeff Skigh, Tay Boogie, and King Ca$hes.
“I think we tend to set a timetable when we feel like sh*t should happen or how it should happen,” he says. “When it’s kind of not going that way, that doubt starts creeping in. I kind of feel like I’m stuck at the glass ceiling. But I felt like that multiple times.”
The duality of patience and expectancy weighs on him, feeling like “he should be doing more,” noting that “its different avenues of Flint music, but nobody from the other side,” of Rio, YN Jay, and others, “has scratched that surface yet.”
There is a moment of silence controlling the atmosphere as he fumbles around the studio, flipping switches, rotating knobs, checking wires, plugging, unplugging, and replugging cables. Without saying it, a sense of pride exudes from Skigh and a desire to be recognized as a master craftsman.
He talks to himself, thinking out loud and, for sure, internally, clicking buttons and scrolling through audio settings on a MacBook Pro. He leans to the left, then to the right, and somewhere, I become acutely aware that this is to give me a first-class listen to The Flatlot Chronicles
in the most pristine way possible.
In good company, Jeff Skigh shares a moment around the pool table inside King's Cigar Lounge in Flint.
The project sees Skigh “approaching things completely different” and melds his signature sound with his contemporaries: Ace Gabbana
, Tay Boogie
, King Ca$hes
, Figga Da Kid
, and Twicee. The artist has masterfully created an avenue where everyone, himself included, steps outside their comfort zone and into a space of true artistry.
“I think we all wanna push and pull each other up as best we can. [So] that’s what I’m hoping for with this album,” Skigh says in between tracks. “I like a little bit of everything, so I’m always interested to see how my sound fits with someone else’s.”
His sound spans genres and different influential eras of Black music. Some tracks elicit a feeling of 80s and 90s West Coast hip-hop while others give a sense of trading sneakers for loafers and dress shoes for a grown and sexy night out. There are sensual, soulful tunes and songs “expressing and showing all aspects of myself.”
In addition, he manipulates his voice showcasing his comedic side, choosing to do “other things besides being visual,” while skits and interludes paint a Flint version of ‘Boyz N The Hood.’ There’s even a full-on jazz number complete with live instruments, to my shock and delight. It is, in my opinion, the project’s best song and shows Skigh’s desire for “people not to categorize or be able to put me in a certain box.”
Skigh welcomes a pair of young fans on stage during his live set at Alley Fest in Flint.
There are moments, however, when his sensitivity is on display as one particular track sees the artist directly address the rumors and gossip he’s endured over the years, whether by jealousy of his success or apathy towards having a hometown advantage.
“It kind of makes me not want to go out,” he says, reflecting on the track and the feelings of being in the public eye. And it is this that prompts me to announce, “wow, you’re a sensitive guy!” Then, with a smile and laugh, he responds, “yeah.”
“I think people probably think I’m not [sensitive] is because I’m nonchalant. People mistake nonchalant as ‘you just don’t feel sh*t.’ I feel it; I just don’t react the way you react. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not going through sh*t or sensitive about what you’re saying. [I] take it out in the music and leave it at that.”
And left it in the music is what he has elegantly done. Listeners like myself will immerse themselves in a new world created by the music artist through head nodding, dancing, reciting every lyric, and laughing at the skits.
While Skigh hopes to find grander success and break the next wall to put him and his crew into mainstream light, the intention behind Flatlot Chronicles
itself is to bring him and his audience even closer than before. Knowing that people all over the world listen to his music is in itself the greatest satisfaction.
“You know how you go through sh*t, feel sh*t, and sometimes allow yourself to feel like you the only [person] to think that way or feel like this. So people listening to what I’m saying and relating to it, honestly, made me feel less alone in the world — [to] keep going.”
For more Jeff Skigh, find him on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and his website. If you're in the area on Saturday, July 30, Jeff Skigh and King Ca$hes will be headlining The Antidote Fest at Brush Park in Flint from 7 to 9 P.M.