AMERICAN music producer Dre Skull discovered Jamaican music through his collection of Lee 'Scratch' Perry records.
But it was his first visit to the island five years ago that sealed his affection for the country's music and culture.
Since then, he has produced songs for a number of reggae, dancehall and hip hop acts. He also produced Popcaan's debut album, Where We Come From.
"I've been making music in different forms for roughly 15 years, but I really started taking it more serious about six years ago when I started Mixpak Records," he told Splash.
Born Andrew Hershey in Cleveland, Ohio, Dre Skull resides in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he studied English and focused on literary theory as well as computer science.
Music and production have always fascinated him. He has worked with rappers including Lil Scrappy, Pusha T and Snoop Dog (he produced tracks for his Grammy-nominated Reincarnation album).
Recently, he has spent a lot of time with reggae and dancehall acts. His latest project is the Blacklight 'riddim' which has songs by Konshens, Spice, QQ and Tifa.
His first track with a Jamaican artiste was Sizzla's Gone Too Far which also launched Mixpak. He next worked with Vybz Kartel on a single called Yuh Love, which led to the Kartel album, Kingston Story.
"From there, I really had the opportunity to spend more time in Kingston, work with more artistes and grow from there," he said.
Mixpak's focus is mainly producing singles, EPs and riddims. Its only albums so far are by Kartel and Popcaan but Dre Skull plans to change that.
"We're currently working on the next Popcaan album and a few other album projects and hope to continue to grow as a label that does more album projects," he said. "As a fan, I still love albums and I feel strongly that albums are still an important part of the music business, and with the rise of streaming may become even more important. Artistically, I think albums are still the most powerful way to share the vision of an artiste and bring people into the world of an artiste'.
Despite the global decline in music sales over the last 10 years, Dre Skull retains an hectic release schedule with Mixpak.
"The business is complicated, but perhaps because I wasn't active in it in the era when physical sales were integral to doing well, it's been easier to navigate the new realities of the business," he explained, adding: "Mixpak is growing and doing well and that's largely a result of picking and choosing what to take on and staying strongly focused on the projects we pick. I think the music business remains in a period of transition, but I'm feeling hopeful about where it's going."
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