To say that Brooklyn MC Sav Killz has paid his dues is like saying Al Pacino made some okay films in his career. From rocking stages across the country to gaining cosigns from respected vets like Planet Asia Sean Price, Sav Killz has opened doors and ears with his gruff delivery and intricate lyrics. HipHopGame caught up with the talented rhymer to discuss his latest mixtape Scratchin’ the Surface as well as his long path through the underground.
Your mixtape Scratchin’ the Surface dropped a couple months ago. How did it come about?
It all goes back to what me and Ronin have been doing over the last five years. We’ve been hitting the streets and the internet and working our asses off. It just speaks for itself. I’m at a point now where I finally feel like I’m scratching the surface to where bigger DJs and websites are starting to pay attention. There’s more attention given to what I’m doing. That’s why I named it Scratchin’ the Surface because that’s what it feels like I’m doing.
Do you feel like the grassroots approach you’ve been taking was the right way to go?
Oh, definitely! That’s definitely the route to go. A lot of cats, they skip levels in this thing. I’ve been spectating on this scene for a minute, ever since ’96, ’97. I didn’t really start recording until 2000, 2001. But I’ve been scoping out the open mics and doing the open mics and the little showcases ever since then and I’ve had some inspiration from Wu-Tang too because in my early years with me first discovering my talent on the block in Bed Stuy, it’s like I was around the gods and whatnot.
I was a little dude rhyming on the block and all that with guys around my way and that’s how it all started and one of the gods snatched me up and introduced me to Poppa Wu and all of them. He used to be in the studio with RZA and them. In ’96 I was around that, with Sunz of Man and Killarmy. I was a little dude around that and they’re taking me to shows and I’m 16, 17 years-old. I was in The Tunnel with them. I got some inspiration from that. I wasn’t trying to pursue music then, but I got an early glimpse of things and from that inspiration alone, that’s what set it off for me and made me see that I really wanted to pursue it as a career. But I’ve been a hip-hop fan my whole life from Mr. Magic and Marley Marl when I was eight years-old. I’ve always been a fan of the culture and where I’m from, that’s all we did was fight on the block, get our smoke on, drink our 40s, that’s all we really did and then we’d rhyme. It came from that. And that’s where it came from for me but as time went on, everybody gotta find their own selves. I couldn’t really be in the shadows of Wu-Tang. There’s so many cats in that circle and in that cipher.
Even RZA told me was that the best way to do it was to do it independently. I took that advice to the heart and did it. Eventually I jumped on the New York City circuit with Poison Pen and Breez Evahflowin and Swave Sevah and Immortal Technique, the whole Stronghold Crew. Breez brought me in and put the battery in my back on the open mic circuit in ’98 and ’99. Me and Beyond That had a group called All Seeing Eye. We were hitting open mics and recording joints here and there. Then he fell back from the scene for a little bit because family got involved and I went through some things. I had to grow up and get out on my own and get my own crib and become a man. That kind of set me back a little bit but as time went on, I got my shit together and I was on it in ’04 and met J. Ronin and he was moving in the same circles. We both got a little helping hand through Wu-Tang. I met him through RZA’s brother 9th Prince from Killarmy. We just utilized our connects and our resources and cats seen what we was doing with All Elements. He said he would manage me and it was it from there.
What do you think was the most effective move you made in the earlier stages of your come up?
Basically putting out quality stuff. Putting out quality music and putting my heart into what I do and keeping my integrity. I’m from a certain era where that’s what I was taught. I was taught to be me and be myself and that’s the most respected thing right there.
You’ve done a lot of work with Planet Asia. How did you first meet him?
Oh, man, how I first met Planet Asia, I met him from being on the scene. I used to go to Rocksteady Crew Anniversaries and we bumped heads one time at Rocksteady. I always manage to make my way backstage at events because I have a certain era. I met him in the ‘90s and then we met up again in ’05 and he was on tour with Inspectah Deck and it was magnetic. We both got knowledge of self. He remembered me and we started kicking it. That’s like a brother to me, man. That’s like my brother. Even if it wasn’t for music, we would be cool. He’s a real dude and personality-wise, we just mesh. He would be my brother regardless. We started rhyming together and it was a wrap. He had the mixtape thing going on so he started working with me and Ronin and that was it. He was the first one to really throw me on wax, to tell you the truth. I was on The Sickness in ’05 on “Baby Food.” That’s how it started with me and Planet.
What have you learned from Planet Asia?
From watching him, of course I was a fan of his music before I met him, but I realized I could build with the guy. Basically, just to stay consistent and to stay working and to stay on your grind. He’s been doing it for a minute. He built up his name and just trying to stay consistent and keep your name out there and stay afloat. That’s it. Watching him and seeing his body of work, I try to collaborate as much with MCs who are like-minded as possible and just do what it do.
How are you able to make your numerous collabs happen?
Some of it is people knowing me on the scene and knowing me for a long time. Others are from feeling my music. J. Ronin makes a lot of collabs happen too. It’s basically a chemistry thing too because everybody I’ve worked with so far is on the same page and it was a pleasure working with them. They extended their hand.
Are we going to hear a Sav Killz album soon?
We got the mixtape version of Scratchin’ the Surface and other versions. We got the digital version which is like a street album. That has stuff that’s not on the mixtape and it will be released by Soul Spazm. And there’s another version coming out in Germany. I worked with a lot of dope artists on this project, like Skyzoo, Sha Stimuli, Donny Goines, of course my dude Planet Asia, Vast Aire from Cannibal Ox. It’s crazy. Production-wise, we got Beat Butcha, Vanderslice, DJ Snips, Endemic, Louis Parker, who produced for Ghostface and a couple other cats. It’s a sick, sick tape. It’s a dope tape.
How far can Scratchin’ the Surface go?
It’s to get the name out while we’re working on the album, which is halfway done. We got about three or four more joints to bang out. I want to really display my versatility as an artist and show that I can do anything. I got something on here for the clubs and for the females and something on there for the MCs. I’m just really taking my time with it and displaying my versatility with it. That’s what it’s about. It’s good to do those kind of joints as long as you do it in your way without sacrificing your integrity.