A few blown out knees, a broken neck, a stint in film school, freestyle basement rapping, a family tie to Charleston, and meeting just one guy with a similar vision. That was what it took to turn an amateur snowboarder in Colorado named Alex Veazey into a Charleston hip-hop mainstay known as Damn Skippy.
As a rapper, Damn Skippy is very much a student of 1990s hip-hop, and prides himself on fast, colorful one liners. "To me, old school hip-hop was almost like stand-up comedy, like it was about originality, punchlines, individual personalities, and things like that," he says. "Not to say that I don't like some of the stuff that's coming out now. But the way I listen to it, I feel like there was more of an emphasis on creativity back then."
As evidence of his devotion to past generations of hip-hop, he even included an homage to Blackalicious' "Alphabet Aerobics" on his upcoming EP. His take on old-school alphabet rapping is titled "ABCDeez."
Veazey will release The Shove It EP on Jan. 17, the second installment in a trilogy of EPs that began with 2019's The Ollie EP and will conclude in the near future with The Kick Flip EP. For those unfamiliar with skateboarding techniques, an ollie, shove-it, and kickflip are usually the first three tricks that skateboarders learn. The novice skateboarding motif for the trilogy is a lot more than just a thematic knot to tie the EPs together for Veazey and musical accomplice DJ Fl!p.
"In a way I feel born again, like going back to being a kid," Veazey says. "And when I was a kid, skateboarding was the first sport that grabbed my attention. I don't think it gets enough credit but skateboarding is one of the hardest sports in the world."
His rebirth came from a move to Charleston after some time in Colorado where Veazey pursued professional snowboarding. "I loved it, but after I blew my knee out for about the second time I decided to take a break from it and went to film school," he recalls. "The whole time that I was doing that, I was writing music and raps but I just didn't have anywhere to put it. This was a little after 8 Mile came out and battle rapping was really beginning to go everywhere. There would be freestyle battles at the University of Denver and I would win, like, a lot. I wanted to take it seriously but again, I didn't really know where to put all of it."
After breaking his neck snowboarding, Veazey hung up his bindings, grabbed his lyric sheets, and set out for the southeast. While he never anticipated living in Charleston, it was more than a simple twist of fate that made the Holy City the perfect stomping ground for his musical career. "I think he was my great, great uncle but regardless I'm related to Fud Livingston who was this great saxophone player from Charleston."
Livingston was one of the great supporting characters of the Jazz Age, having played with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Bix Beiderbecke, to name a few. He also co-wrote the pop standard "I'm Thru With Love," which has been covered by just about every jazz singer under the sun, including Marilyn Monroe in the film Some Like It Hot. Sure, those are some big shoes to fill but if Veazey was ever going to find his musical foothold and experience that rebirth, Charleston was always going to be the place.
What made the transition to Charleston work so well was that Veazey met Devon Bloodsworth, better known as DJ Fl!p. Veazey found a sense of community in Fl!p that he had wanted ever since he started writing songs. "I've always rapped under the name Damn Skippy, that's just me as a rapper, but I really don't think that that would be anything if not for Fl!p. If it weren't for the injuries and coming to Charleston and meeting him I probably wouldn't be doing this, at least not to this degree."
Relatively speaking, Damn Skippy and DJ Fl!p have not been working together for a particularly long span of time. While they have prided themselves on making old-school-inspired boom-bap rap music, they acknowledge that they are still trying to find their sound. That's where the skateboarding analogy comes into the fold.
"We wanted to find our sound together and have it be a process. I don't want to be a stubborn dinosaur just making boom-bap," says Veazey. "I wanted to make a type of music that your uncle who heard Sugarhill or Run DMC can like as well as people who listen to the new stuff. We think that we can narrow down our sound by spacing it out and creating a lot of music on the way to figuring out who we are. The idea of three EPs is about progression and not rushing into one big album."
Like someone who's learning how to execute their first shove-it, Veazy and Bloodsworth are learning how to grow together as musical partners and what they want to be as they move forward. The Shove It EP is the next step in that cycle of growth. The division of the three EPs gives them the breathing room that they need to go in whatever direction they see fit. Variety and staying true to themselves are the fuel that keeps Damn Skippy moving. "If you follow a fad, then by the time you've mastered it, there's just going to be another fad," he says. "We want people to care about themselves. The bottom line is having fun and being yourself no matter what, because that's what we're doing."