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Mad Skills
Buffalo rapper mixes hip hop and hockey

"I have to admit that I've always been a bigger fan of the Bills, but when you live in Buffalo, you follow anything we have going, so I've always loved the Sabres as well."

MP3: Listen to Eddie Haskill's "Sabres Anthem 06-07"

BUFFALO (LGS) — "Oh what a hit by Campbell! Holy mackerel!”

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard this Rick Jeanneret call over and over again while watching the clip of Brian Campbell flatten R.J. Umberger in last year's playoffs, most likely with a Metallica or Pantera song blasting in the background. It seems that a majority of hockey highlight videos turn to a hard-hitting metal song to really channel the aggression and grit that is the game of hockey.

However, next time you see one of those highlight videos, think about this: How would hockey come across if it was set to rap music? Thanks to Buffalo rapper Eddie Haskill, you won’t have to just think about it, you can actually witness it firsthand.

Haskill's newest song, titled “Sabres Anthem 06-07,” is the soundtrack behind a fantastic Sabres music video making some noise on YouTube. The song, off the mix tape “When Opposites Attack” in which he works with fellow Western New York rapper Simmantics, can also be heard on Haskill's MySpace page.

The video starts out with some breathtaking Sabres goals and saves, all featuring their respective RJ calls in the background. After a moment or two, a strong rap beat that will surely get your head nodding comes in, and Haskill steps up to the mic with passion in his voice.

“You better believe that we believe! Buffalo stand up! This is for your Sabres! We’re taking it all this year!”

And that’s just the intro. Haskill begins his flawless flow of lyrics, all inspired by this season’s team, and never slows down.

“Shots will get blocked from Kalinin and Lydman/If not, Ryan Miller still got it spinnin’/Face grinnin’, the boys gotta show a lot of will, a lot of skill/That’s why we’ve got Roy and Pominville” 

The old “We’re Gonna Win That Cup” playoff song this ain’t!

Buffalo fans who have watched the “Sabres Anthem 06-07” video and listened to the song online have come away with mixed reactions, but most are positive. One fan stated his admiration of the video by saying, “they should play this in the locker room before every game!”

Others are not so sure: “Hip hop and hockey? Sounds like oil and water to me; they don’t mix well.”

With over 2,200 views of the video on YouTube since it was launched a week ago and nearly 700 plays of the song on Haskill's MySpace page as of Monday afternoon, there’s certain to be a wide range of opinions. However, Haskill seems to take the negative reactions just as well as the positive ones. He’s a young adult involved in the hip hop scene who actually shows a ton of class and respect for others, something you might not expect from most rappers.

Eddie Haskill (a play on “Eddie Has Skill”) is a native of Kenmore, NY, right outside of Buffalo. He was born Garrett Manhart but developed his rap persona around 1995, initially just for fun. However, his love for hip hop dates all the way back to the late 80s, drawing inspiration from rappers like Gangstarr, Nas and Common, among many others.

While spending five and a half years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Haskill produced tons of music and wrote a movie script. In all, Haskill has released four studio albums of material, progressively shaping his sound and style to what it is today.

I conducted an hour-long interview with Haskill over AOL Instant Messenger on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and here's what he had to say about "Sabres Anthem 06-07," his rap roots and his new album:

LetsGoSabres.com: Hey Eddie, what’s up?
Eddie Haskill: Not too much. What a win last night! I was actually in Toronto for the Raptors vs. Nuggets game but got to watch the third period in a bar. Needless to say, nobody was happy with me there.

LGS: I was going absolutely nuts, and I hope you were doing the same to rub it in their faces.
EH: Oh definitely. You should have seen them at 4-1.

LGS: To see their faces at 5-4 was probably priceless.
EH: Definitely.

LGS: So, Eddie Haskill, that’s a play on “Eddie Has Skill,” right?
EH: Correct. I used to have it spelled differently, but then about seven years ago I realized that it would be better to have it spelled with the play on words.

LGS: Were you born in Western New York?
EH: Yes. I was born in Kenmore, lived in Buffalo and then went back to Kenmore. I left Buffalo for five and a half years for college at RIT and then came back here. I currently live in Tonawanda.

LGS: What did you study at RIT?
EH: I got my undergrad degree in Applied Statistics and my grad degree as an MBA in Technology Management and Marketing.

LGS: Your biography says that you started rapping in 1995. Was there anything that motivated you to give it a try, or was it just for fun at first?
EH: I was a fan of the music starting as early as 1988, so it just kind of happened. I heard of another kid in my school starting to give it a try so it kind of dawned on me that I should try it too since I love the music so much. Needless to say, the early work is something I would rather not remember.

LGS: What artists were your favorite way back when you discovered rap, and who do you like today?
EH: When I first started I was listening to a lot of Gangstarr, Nas, Redman, Black Moon, Common and Rakim. Today my favorite rapper is a guy named Sage Francis, but I also like Little Brother, MF Doom, Cage, Necro and Celph Titled.

LGS: Have you ever not been taken seriously or had someone doubt your rapping skill because you're white?
EH: The white issue has never really been an issue for me, at least not to my face. Pretty early on I was rapping amongst the black people and getting respect... at least to my face. I was actually supposed to be on the White Rapper show on VH1 but decided not to go because I sensed it was going to be corny, which I was 100% correct about. It was a tough choice and I had to let it weigh on my conscience until the first episode aired. Then I realized that a God must exist because he kept me away from that mess.

LGS: Alright, let’s tie this in to the Buffalo Sabres. Have you been a fan all of your life, or did you start liking the team at any given point?
EH: I have to admit that I've always been a bigger fan of the Bills, but when you live in Buffalo, you follow anything we have going, so I've always loved the Sabres as well. Hell, I used to watch the Bandits lacrosse and the Buffalo Blizzard and get into them.

LGS: If you can pick favorites, which players would they be? They can be past, present or both.
EH: I used to love Mogilny and Hasek, and now probably Briere and Tallinder.

LGS: Do you get to go to Sabres games often?
EH: Without being a season ticket or mini-pack holder, I've been to about 12-15 games this year and have rocked the Eddie Haskill home jersey to all of them.

LGS: How did the recording for “Sabres Anthem” come about?
EH: My roommate, Drew, heard the end part which came from the Fergie CD (“get ready 'cuz here we come") and told me that I needed to make the anthem for the Sabres that we love so much. I work best when given a topic to write on, so I was confident that I could make something sweet. So I got the piece off her song (I do hate her by the way... Fergie that is) and started getting Jeanneret clips and mixing them in. Then I took the Scorpions song and reversed the beginning and added more clips. Once I got that down, I picked the beat that I thought would fit best, which was "Too Much" by The Game. By that point, I realized that the song was taking shape and already dope. I knew some tight lyrics would take it to another level, so I just started writing.

LGS: I understand that the song is to appear on your forthcoming album “When Opposites Attack”?
EH: Yes. My friend Simmantics and I are going to be releasing a mix tape of the both of us in a couple of weeks. We'll be doing that independently.

LGS: Tell me a little about what you’re working on for the album other than the Sabres song. Is it going to be different from your previous work? Any favorite tracks that you've done so far?
EH: My career has gone through a lot of changes. I started out pretty immature in a lot of ways, especially lyrically, and until I released "A Beautiful Rhyme," everything was pretty misogynistic. “A Beautiful Rhyme” got away from all of that, and when I released "The College Graduate" in 2004, it was a very sharp turn into the world of being as real and open as possible while dismissing all of the things that the mainstream artists were talking about (guns, violence, drugs, money and bitches). It was a real-life account of what had taken place with me over the past two years. "When Opposites Attack" is more of a side project so there is going to be a little something of everything and not much structure to it. I also used all industry beats, so that adds and takes something away. My favorite song on there other than the Sabres song is a remix I did to Nas' “Hip Hop is Dead."

LGS: Finally, any performances coming up?
EH: Yeah, we have a few booked so far but are sure to have more. May 5 Simmantics and I are going to Club NY in Niagara Falls for a show put on by Kenmore's Finest. Then on May 12 we'll be at the Penny Arcade in Rochester opening for Obie Trice. We'll definitely be having a show at Buffalo’s Club Envy as well.

LGS: I would like to thank you very much for your time.
EH: No problem. I appreciate the support.

There you have it. Eddie Haskill is a level-headed emcee whose focus is not on what’s hot in today’s hip hop and rap scene. His love for music and for his hometown Buffalo Sabres make for a fantastic match. They just click — kind of like Brian Campbell on R.J. Umberger.

For more on Haskill, visit Eddie's web site.

Cory McKnight is an 18-year-old native of Rochester, New York. His two biggest passions in life are the Buffalo Sabres and playing music, so writing this article was certainly a treat for him. He aspires to one day pursue sports or music journalism.

Cory also hosts his very own Buffalo Sabres postgame show on YouTube, “The Buffalo Sabres Wrap Up,” the night of every Sabres game from his bedroom in Rochester.

He also works for All Western New York Radio, an Internet-based radio station run by Scott Leffler of Buffalo. Cory does a two-minute version of the “Wrap Up” the day after every game at 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m.

By Cory McKnight, LGS Columnist
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