One Hit Wondering – Skee-Lo
One Hit Wondering is a series of columns where I listen to the album of a one hit wonder, and find three songs, other than the hit, that people should hear.
“I wish I was a little bit taller / I wish I was a baller / I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her.”
If you were listening to music in 1995 you fondly remember Skee-Lo’s playful hit “I Wish.” The incredibly fun tune featured Skee-Lo lamenting his lot in life as a short guy (although not that short, as he’s listed as 5’8’’) with a less than stellar car.
The song peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late April of ’95, and the chorus has stayed in our heads ever since.
Over the years, “I Wish” has been used in multiple ad campaigns, including the current Pepsi Mini Cans commercial, which stars Shaq, and has Skee-Lo flipping the lyrics to help Shaq wish he was a little bit smaller. Skee-Lo even makes a cameo at the end of the extended version of the spot.
The popularity of “I Wish” led to Skee-Lo’s 1995 debut album of the same name achieving gold status.
It was an impressive start to his career, but it was also the last time we’d hear from him for quite some time.
Two more singles were released from I Wish, but neither of them ascended the charts, and by the time the third single, “Superman,” came out in February of ’96, Skee-Lo had retired from rapping. His abrupt departure was due to a dispute with Sunshine Records, who he says never paid him a single cent in royalties.
After reportedly doling out a $150k advance, Sunshine Records took control of Skee-Lo’s publishing, and even attempted to take his production credit away for “I Wish,” which he’d composed entirely in his bedroom.
A five year court battle ensued, and Skee-Lo would come out victorious, winning back the rights to his music. This led to his return in 2000 with the single “I Can’t Stop,” which would be the title track of his second album, released in 2001.
It would be another 11 years before Skee-Lo released his third album, Fresh Ideas, via his own label, Skeelo Musik.
While “I Wish” remains his lightning in a bottle moment, Skee-Lo continues to work on new music, and in 2021 he sold the BMI performance royalties for “I Wish” for $254k on a buy back deal to fund an album project. He noted that even after the deal he still owns the publishing for the song.
I still own Skee-Lo’s I Wish on CD, and when I popped his opening salvo into my CD player I found three songs, other than the title track, that you should hear.
“This Is How It Sounds”
“This Is How It Sounds” has a wonderfully jazzy, Digable Planets type of vibe. I think if it had been released as a single it would’ve repositioned Skee-Lo the way “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?” repositioned A Tribe Called Quest after they debuted with the humorous hit “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo.”
“Top of the Stairs”
The highly underrated second single from I Wish, “Top of the Stairs” was released in October of ’95, and later featured in the closing credits, as well as on the soundtrack, to the 1995 film Money Train. While the song didn’t crack the Billboard Hot 100, the life lesson raps are just as relevant today as they were when Skee-Lo first wrote them roughly 30 years ago.
“Waitin’ For You”
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an emcee who performed at the famed Good Life Cafe in L.A. could bring it on the mic, “Waitin’ For You” is prime evidence that Skee-Lo’s skills could translate to any era. With classic hip-hop vibes, he’s always ready to take it to the park on this album cut, because that’s where he’ll be “Waitin’ For You.”
Until next time, here’s to discovering more great music from one hit wonders!