Every year since 2009, XXL Magazine has dished out its picks for the most promising rappers of tomorrow in the form of its XXL Freshman Class. Over the years, the quarterly mag has predicted the rise of the likes of Kid Cudi, Future and Vic Mensa. With shiny new up-and-comers like Anderson .Paak, Lil Dicky and Desiigner, this year doesn’t seem much different. What's surprising, however, is Dallas producer Sikwitit has a hand in all three of these Freshmen.
XXL gathers the chosen rappers together for freestyles and interviews, but the group freestyles — known as cyphers — is what gets most fans excited. This year's Freshman Class involved three separate cyphers, and Sikwitit produced two of them. The third, produced by another Texan, was done using Sikwitit's SOSIK drum kit. "I know my goal was always to be on the cover of XXL," Sikwitit says.
He grew up in a rough Corpus Christi neighborhood, the son of Tejano Roots Hall of Fame inductee June P. Garcia, and originally wanted to be a rapper. "I started out as a rapper and I was a part of a rap group called Tha Citiznz. [And] I told myself, ‘One day, I’m going to be a Freshman, I guarantee it.’
However, sometime around 2013 he says he decided that the best way to be seen would be to participate in beat battles. The only problem was that, at that time, beat battles in DFW were few and far between. “There was nothing happening in Dallas, so I started traveling. I had gone to Houston, I had gone to Corpus, Austin, Atlanta,” Sikwitit recalls. “Then finally, I was on J. Rhodes’ email list and I had seen him post something about how he was judging a beat battle in Dallas and it was Joel Salazar’s Too Fresh Beat Battles. All of a sudden, beat battles started popping up around Dallas."
Things have changed quite a bit since he came up: “I don’t know if Dallas realizes it, but we’re at the verge of becoming a producer city.”
By 2014, Sikwitit had been invited to participate in the first ever International Beat Battle at SXSW, which was followed by an invite to iStandard’s prestigious Battle of the Beats in 2015 — a battle that he won by beating 1,500 other producers from across the nation — and has worked with countless artists like Snow Tha Product. He's also had a song featured on Starz’s hit show Power.
Sikwitit eventually began to contemplate moving to one of the more seasoned musical hubs, like Atlanta or L.A., but he couldn’t quite reconcile the jump. Instead, he says he quit his job and chose to hit the road. “I just made up my mind that I was going to travel all year and I’m going to see if I can’t finesse my situation. If people see me enough and they think I’m around, then they’ll reach out to me whether I’m there or not," he says. "And then if I have to go back, then I can just make a trip — because I love Dallas, I love Texas so much. This is my home.”
This past April, Sikwitit was contacted by Don Di Napoli, co-founder of iStandard Producers with a very interesting opportunity. According to Sikwitit, Di Napoli contacted him to see if he’d be interested in submitting some beats to be considered for XXL’s 2016 Freshman cypher campaign. Sikwitit, of course, obliged and the next thing he knew, he received an email with the three selected tracks, handpicked by XXL’s editor-in-chief, Vanessa Satten.
All three tracks were produced by Texas-based artists. But, even more impressive, two of the tracks were produced by Sikwitit — one using a drum kit from Grammy winning producer S1 — and the third track was produced by Houston-based production duo, nateXcharity using Sikwitit’s SOSIK Drumkit.
With two of the three cyphers already dropped, and a third to hit later this week, Sikwitit is already on to his next few projects. One of which is the long-awaited production collaboration documentary, Sound Collectiv #DallasUp, which features Sikwitit and several other producers, and is set to be released later this year.
“I want to be the person that remembers where they come from, because it’s been a very hard journey, it’s been a very long journey and I’m still not where I want to be for crying out loud,” he says with a laugh. “I still have a lot of things that I want to do.”
SIKWITIT will be hosting a live cypher, ft. -topic, Bobby Sessions, Cameron McCloud, Jayson Lyric and Kaos Caine at 8 p.m., Thursday, July 14, at High & Tight Barbershop, 2701 Main St., Free
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Molly is a Dallas/Austin-based writer who's been published in the Austin Chronicle, Phoenix New Times, Euphoria Magazine, Listen Hear and Nakid Magazine. When she's not writing about music, this diehard non-vegan is tirelessly searching for the city's best elotes, discussing East versus West Coast rap and forever asking for 10 more minutes of sleep. For a good time, tell her your favorite band is Muse and wait for the five million reasons why you're wrong.