When it comes to one hit wonders, Antoine Roundtree, better known to the world as Skee-Lo, could be the poster child. In the summer of 1995, “I Wish” became one of the biggest hits of the year, as it received heavy radio rotation and video play, eventually earning the LA based rapper a gold plaque. He would soon follow the single with his debut album with the same name and the subject of today’s post.
Skee-Lo and his partner Walter “Kandor” Kahn would handle all of the production work on I Wish. Like the single, the album would earn Skee-Lo another gold plaque less than 6 months after its release. At the 1996 Grammys the single “I Wish” was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance and the album received a nomination for Best Rap Album. I Wish received mostly positive reviews, while true hip-hop heads gave it the side eye and dismissed it as popcorn, even if they never listened to it (maybe due to Skee-Lo’s corny skips and jersey on the album cover). Skee-Lo would go on to release two more albums on independent labels, but neither would make any noise on radio or the charts.
My older brother used to play this album back in the day, so when I came across a used copy of the cd for a buck, nostalgia moved me to cop it. Plus, there were a few songs I remember liking on the album. Let’s see if I Wish should be remembered for more than its title song.
Top Of The Stairs – The first song of the evening was also the lead single from the soundtrack for the Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson movie Money Train (which also starred the beautiful and sexy Jennifer Lopez, who is aging like fine wine, with an emphasize on the fine). Skee-Lo gets his “woe is me” swag on, as he comes from the perspective of a man at the bottom looking up to the guy on top. Well, at least that’s what the hook is about; his verses are all over the place. It was also kind of funny to hear him list off all the dirt he’s done, which includes shoplifting and destruction of property, then follows that up with “that’s not all, even made crank phone calls”, as if that offence is equivalent to murder. The instrumental is built around a G-funked interpolation of Patrice Rushen’s classic “Remind Me”, which is probably why I like it so much. The funky guitar licks at the end of the song was a nice added touch.
I Wish – This title track was the one hit for this wonder that will always define his career and single handedly propelled the album to gold status. The mellow vibes in the instrumental still sound great 25 years after this anthem for losers was made.
Never Crossed My Mind – Skee spins three different stories about when your everyday norm gets interrupted by things you didn’t see coming and have no control of. The hook is senseless, but I like Skee-Lo’s concept, even if the execution wasn’t great, and the sensitive G-funk instrumental was nice.
Superman – I believe this was the last single released from I Wish. Skee-Lo and Kandor hook up an instrumental built around an interpolation of a portion of The Isley Brothers’ “Between The Sheets” that our host uses to attempt to get into some braggadocios emcee shit. Skee-Lo poses no emanate threat to whomever you had on the thrown in ’95 (what the hell does “Emcees get faded, ’cause I’m overrated” even mean?), but I enjoyed the instrumental and the smooth jazz horn chords.
Come Back To Me – On this one Skee-Lo’s trying to get his ex back, who apparently broke up with him after he cheated on her with her sister. Good luck with that one, bruh. The semi-sorrowful instrumental matches our host’s content, and this ends up being a decent song. Side note: This song was in the movie and on the soundtrack for Big Bully, just in case anyone cares.
Waitin’ For You – This is probably the closest Skee-Lo will ever get to sounding hardcore on a track. He and Kandor build the instrumental around the frequently borrowed bass line from Fred Wesley and The JB’s “More Peas”, as he commences to talk his shit, or should I say “stuff”, since our host frowns upon cursing (in the first verse he says “Cause cuss words are hush words, so shh, I’m disgusted”). It’s safe to say that Skee-Lo’s bars left no one shaking in their boots.
Holdin’ On – No. I think I’ll let go and move on to the next song.
You Ain’t Down – Our host gets back in his “woe is me” bag, as he talks about the homies and women who did him wrong in the past. Skee-Lo sounds decent on this one and I like the laidback Kool & The Gang “Summer Madness” inspired instrumental, and the female vocalist on the hook adds some extra flavor to the song.
Crenshaw – Skee-Lo invites his buddies Funke & Trend to join him on this one, as the trio celebrate kickin’ it on Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Blvd on Sunday nights. Nothing to see here, folks.
This Is How It Sounds – Skee-Lo takes an interpolated loop from The Isley Brothers “For The Love Of You” and jazzes it up with horn chords. He says absolutely nothing on his verses, but you can’t really go wrong with this classic sample.
The Burger Song – Skee-Lo must have been trying to get some McDonald’s branding with this one, as he creates a strong contender for worst hook in the history of hip-hop. The instrumental was kind of dope, but everything else about this song is ass.
I Wish (Bonus “Street” Mix) – Skee and Kandor synth the shit out of one of the beautiful melodies from DeBarge’s “All This Love”, and it sounds terrible and feels blasphemist. Ain’t nothing street about this mix. I’ll take the original, please.
On I Wish, Skee-Lo comes off as the squeaky clean G-rated rapper who’s not afraid to show his vulnerable side and just likes to make fun records. On the production side, he and his partner, Kandor succeed, for the most part, as they cook up a batch of polished West Coast flavored instrumentals and sprinkle a little G-funk on classic R&B loops, turning them into enjoyable soundscapes. At a time when hip-hop was flooded with gangster posturing, Skee-Lo’s unguarded everyday Joe persona is admirable, but you still have to be nice with the rhymes to sell it (or do you?). It’s not that Skee-Lo is a terrible emcee, he’s just not that good, and he writes some really bad hooks. So, if you’re ear buds are craving crispy clean breezy synth heavy hip-hop beats with a rapper who’s not that talented, but his rhymes will allow you to listen to the album when your kids are around, then I Wish is the album for you. For all your other hip-hop needs, look elsewhere.