He Left Nothing For The Swim Back
My safe space has a gun in it.
- SKECH185 “He Left Nothing for the Swim Back”
Whether on stage or on wax, there are few artists that can match the levels of chaotic intensity and incisive verbosity of Willie Lee McIntyre Jr aka SKECH185. His upcoming record, He Left Nothing For the Swim Back is a collaboration with producer Jeff Markey coming out February 3, 2023, on Backwoodz Studioz. The album weaves together stories of growing up in working class Chicago and spiritual survival in winner-take-all NYC; gleefully piercing the veil of rap braggadocio and idol worship. Meanwhile, Jeff Markey’s beats provide a lushly cacophonous foundation for SKECH’s jab-hook-uppercut delivery.
Chicago; a city whose hip hop roots and history are often widely overlooked by even the most studious of heads, was where SKECH185 cut his teeth and developed his style, implanted within the legendary Tomorrow Kings crew. Growing up on the city’s southeast side with his head typically buried in a drawing book or comic, SKECH can recall being told to stop rapping to himself as early as first grade. A life and family tree peppered with artists, business owners, bible thumpers, farmers, drug dealers and teachers, SKECH185 describes his younger self as “odd comparatively, but enthusiastic and inquisitive enough” to receive the right kind of support from his elders. His love of drawing and fascination with anime served as a logical launchpad into graffiti by high school, a medium that he credits for his namesake.
On He Left Nothing For the Swim Back, SKECH oscillates between the past and present, which at the time of writing was largely in an isolated, locked-down Brooklyn apartment. As such, he dove deep and came back to the surface with armfuls of gems. Whether sharing the ups and downs of being behind a bar for over a decade or bitter realities of growing up in a warzone; he spares no one and nothing.
“95 was Butcher tickets, in between Bulls predictions / Auntie got her shit stolen by a cousin for his last hit, Uncle got shot cuz that’s what happened to uncles back then.”
SKECH isn’t here to hand-hold or make his truths digestible. “My music isn’t designed to explain Black culture to people outside of Black culture. Not my goal, never fucking was. There are plenty of things that sound very abstract that, in truth, just might not be something you grew up hearing that I did,” he says.
While many indie rap fans got their first taste of SKECH as a feature on Armand Hammer’s “If He Holla” from their critically acclaimed 2018 album Paraffin, he’s got a rich catalog of his own. From his work as part of the aforementioned underground trailblazers Tomorrow Kings, to his multiple releases as War Church (a collaboration with producer ATD), SKECH has been building and refining his uncompromising approach for some time.
That inimitable style is why, when called upon to provide a beat for a SKECH185 song, there’s a lot of nuance, complexities – and quite frankly, syllables – to develop a sonic setting for. Jeff Markey makes it look easy with deeply layered production that somehow sounds as effortless as this era’s best loop diggers. All this allows the MC’s imagination to “settle in places where I get to figure out rhymes and approaches I otherwise wouldn’t,” SKECH says of Markey, “Where his mind goes for samples, arrangement, textures and synths truly separates him from the pack”
Jeff Markey’s contributions to the Backwoodz oeuvre may have been few and far between, but they have all been notable. The credits tell the tale; he produced the opening track- “Native Sun”- on Half Measures, Armand Hammer’s debut mixtape (2013) and that same year he did “Black Ark” on Race Music, the duos first LP. He doesn’t pop up again until six years later, but it’s as co-producer on “Western Education is Forbidden”, a now-iconic first single off billy woods’ Terror Management.
While he has put out a few other projects over the years and has an equally long history with Reservoir Sound, the arts collective founded by producer A.M. Breakups, Markey spent most of the past decade on the periphery of the NYC indie scene.After early careers spent quietly enmeshed in some of the most progressive underground hip hop circles, SKECH185 and Jeff Markey are now partnered with an equally avant-garde institution in Backwoodz Studioz. He Left Nothing For the Swim Back is both an opening salvo, and the culmination of everything that’s come before.