Exit interview: 23 Skidoo says goodbye to Asheville

He’s got to be him: Local kid-hop artist 23 Skidoo hopes to grow his career with a move to the West Coast.

It’s been almost exactly five years since GFE alum Cactus, aka Agent 23, introduced us to the concept that kids’ music could be fun for adults, too. And, as the fedora-wearing, rhyme-spitting, “I Gotta Be Me” chanting, local musician tapping, free-wheeling kid-hop ringmaster known as Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, he opened ears and hearts with his debut album, Easy.

Fast-forward a half-decade: Skidoo has seen his songs top the XMKids chart, he’s made award-winning videos, garnered NPR air time, played festivals from Lollapalooza to Austin City Limits, was featured on the Grammy-award winning album All About Bullies … Big and Small. And (perhaps best of all), he shared the stage with his family — wife Brooke sings and daughter Saki (aka MC Fireworks, now a tween) raps.

This year saw the release of 23 Skidoo’s third album, the effervescent Make Believers, which blends hip-hop with musical styles of the last century, from ragtime to rockabilly.

Says Skidoo, “I’ve spent 18 years doing music, but this is only the third year people are really recognizing it.” Which means now is time for him to grow his vision. “The iron is hot and I need to figure out how to strike as hard as I possibly can,” he says. Which, at least for the time being, involves a move away from Asheville.

Skidoo likens his WNC home base to “treading beautiful water”: It’s comfortable and pleasant. But, he says, “In my line of work, I don’t think tomorrow’s guaranteed at all.” So Skidoo and family are heading West to the Lake Tahoe area of California, where the hip-hop artist will begin working to line up West Coast tours. He already has some California inroads, such a playing Kids’ New Year’s Eve at LegoLand (for the second year). Skidoo also has ideas, such as a TV show (he described that as “pretty well-developed) and a theatrical production (”in its early stages.”)

These offshoots of the 23 Skidoo albums give the artist room to grow, but also also allow for a future where Saki, a star in her own right, might choose not to perform or contribute to the Skidoo sound. So far, Saki’s rapped since age 5 and even had her solo rapping debut aired on NPR. But Skidoo (hardly a stage dad) wants Saki to perform only as long it makes her happy.

As far as he’s concerned, Skidoo knows that making music is what makes him happy. And hopes that the move out west will help him to refocus. The great thing about living in Asheville for the past 16 years, he says, is “I’ve gotten to know everyone here, and it’s awesome. The hard part is, there’s always something to do and it’s distracting.”

Still, as happy as we are for Skidoo and his family, and as excited as we are to see what new and brilliant sounds and sights he’ll bring (West Coast or East, it’s sure to be uplifting, thought-provoking, funky, colorful, and a celebration of individuality), we’re going to miss the undisputed king of kid-hop. (Worth noting: Skidoo’s adult album, Monkeywrench, is a work of beat-savvy poetic prowess that should be revisited frequently.)

But that doesn’t mean he won’t return. “I’ll be coming back to Asheville all the time,” promises Skidoo. “I’m planning to record my next album here.”

Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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