This is the full extended interview that ran in our April 2013 Interview Issue, on newsstands now.
Words by Kevin Duffel
Between his direct, 24-hour customer-service line for all the fans, scheduling his life so he doesn't get caught slippin', and following in the footsteps of his man Kanye to push himself and his image to the fullest, Keelan's taking this whole newfound pro status quite seriously. The rising star of DGK is living proof that if you want something in life, go out and make it happen—because ain't nobody gonna do it for you.
How'd you find out you were going pro? Was it a surprise, or had you talked about it for a while?
It was a surprise when it happened—because I didn't know the date. But I always heard them say I was about to go pro soon. And then when the video [Parental Advisory] happened, a lot of people expected it to happen there. But that didn't happen. And then they [DGK] hit it and dropped it on Instagram on New Years. I was getting ready to go upstairs for the countdown, probably like 15 minutes or 20 minutes before. Getting ready for a party. And then I saw it on Instagram. I was like, "Oh shit. This is it. They turned me pro [laughs]." I wasn't expecting that.
How have all the ratchets been treating you since going pro?
The ratchets, man? The ratchets been out here. Lately I've been having to kick the ratchets out. There's been too many [laughs]. Like, "Y'all bitches gotta go away. I gotta work. I gotta keep this shit up."
Do you think you get more now that you've got that pro board?
Yeah, that shit's crazy. Right when it all happened, like between the time the video came out and now, it's like shit done tripled up.
You gotta fight 'em off. Or pass them to the homie.
[Laughs] I try to pass them off. Or, lately I been trying to get them to be cool to each other, like invite them over at the same time.
How's that work? They're down for it?
First of all, the other day, it was Boo [Johnson]'s birthday, and we threw a little party over here. That shit got wild. I invited like four or five girls that I fuck with. Somehow I played it out. It worked out somehow. It was tight.
Damn, that takes serious technique.
Yeah, it's a little bit of training with Prince of Ratchet [laughs].
You were in a few of the skits in Parental Advisory. Was that the first time you acted in front of a camera before?
Yeah, that was my first time. That shit was like a whole movie set.
Would you ever want to get into more acting in the future if you had the chance?
Yeah, if I had the time. I wouldn't stop skating for acting or anything like that, but if I had the opportunity to do some acting as well, I would be down to do something like that.
What was the production like for those skits? Was it like a full-on Hollywood set?
Yeah, that shit made me feel like I was in a movie—like everything, trailers, all types of shit. It was like the whole Hollywood getup. I felt like Michael Jackson or something.
Way nicer than the typical skate sesh at JKwon.
[Laughs] Yeah, it wasn't like that.
How crazy is it having the camera on you and having to rehearse lines? Did it make you nervous at all?
You would think, "Damn, this shit's easy." But it's like, "Action!" and it's almost 100 people looking at you. You're like, "Ah shit, what was the line?" It's like one line and you're fucking up on one word. That shit is mad crazy. It's way more than what it looks like.
“You would think, ‘Damn, this shit's easy.’ But it's like, ‘Action!’ and it's almost 100 people looking at you. You're like, ‘Ah shit, what was the line?'”
For sure. And you don't really want to be messing up and waste everyone's time. It's not like a normal day of skating.
Hell nah. That shit's expensive-ass cameras. Like RED Cameras and shit, you can't be fucking up filming and shit. When me and Lenny [Rivas] go over the street blocker and everyone's all frozen and shit, everyone's really frozen right there—like no movement, it's a crane, one shot. Lenny has to go first, land his trick, then I have to go and get mine. And everyone's gotta be frozen. That's real shit you can't be fucking up. Somehow we did it in two or three tries. It was dope.
You skated to Kanye in your part. You've told me before that you dig the dude a lot. How does he influence you on and off the board?
He's my favorite rapper. My man got style. His music is good. His whole way he presents himself is good. I kinda work my shit around that. Try to make myself look good by the way I dress, by the way I pull up on my skateboard, by the way I try to talk to people and represent myself as a professional. He does the shit that he wants. It looks like it always comes out however he wants it to come out, and pretty much he's about his shit and doesn't care about what nobody else says. That's the same way I feel about my shit. I want to skate a certain way, and if you don't want to watch me skate this way, then you can watch something else. You've gotta just be into yourself and have fun with yourself, you know? Don't worry about the negative. The negative is always going to be there. You've got to turn that shit into positive somehow. You can't focus on shit like that.
Keelan breaks down his favorite music in his Tapedeck interview.
You leave your phone number on the bio section of your Instagram. What's the craziest call you've gotten?
[Laughs] Shit, most the time it's people calling, just like, "Hello? Uh…" And I'll say, "Hello?" They'll be like, "Who's this?" And I'll say, "You know who you're calling. What's up? [laughs]" Or sometimes kids will call and I'll pretend like I'm mad at them, like, "Why the f—k you keep calling me?" They'll be like, "Oh, my bad. My bad." But then I'll be like, "Nah, it's cool." [Laughs] I'll talk to kids for a long ass time. And a lot of them text me. Most the time I'll just text kids back and mess with them. They won't think it's me, and then I'll send them a random photo of me chillin' at the house. You get them all hyped. It's pretty tight to interact with the kids.
“Most the time I'll just text kids back and mess with them. They won't think it's me, and then I'll send them a random photo of me chillin' at the house.”
That's insane. So they've got your straight direct line, 24-hour customer service?
They've got the direct connect [laughs]. I got some pretty cool pictures sent to me [laughs]. Most the time it's kids saying, "What's up? What's going on?" And I'll try to give them tips or whatever, pretty much tell them to stay on their shit and keep skating.
What do you think: Can there ever be such a thing as too much ass on a chick?
Too much ass? Nah, not too much ass. But there could be too much body—like two thick. Like, some people will say, "Damn, she's got a big ass booty." "Nah, that bitch is fat." [Laughs] But there can't be too much ass.
Who's got the best booty out there?
Best ass? I don't know. I'll tell you a fun ass to look at is Serena Williams when she plays tennis. That shit is tight to watch. She's got a big old jungle booty. Who else has a nice ass? Shakira has a nice little juicy booty. There's a lot of ladies out there with nice ass.
What if a chick had the most banging ass you've ever seen, but she rolled up with the most haggard undergarments—like full on granny panties? Would that be the session killer?
[Laughs] Shit, by that time, you're pretty much just trying to take them off. If she's down to her underwear, you're trying to take them off anyways, so just take them off.
You're just as likely to jump down something super big or grind a big rail as you are to skate a manual bad or ledge. I know you look up to Stevie for tech skating, but who do you look up to for the rails and stairs?
I watch everybody's skating, ya know? I watch everything. When I was younger I skated with Bryan [Herman] and people from Pharmacy. So that shit got me to where I can jump down shit and jump on rails. But shit, people I like to watch go big—there's a lot of people. But I like to watch Boo skate. That's when I go jump down stuff, is when I skate with Boo. That's when I skate big-ass rails and shit. Nyjah goes fucking ridiculous. You just watch Nyjah's shit to be like, "Okay, I'm gonna go kinda big. I'm not gonna go that big, but I'm gonna go big." [Laughs].
What's the plan now that you put out that part and turned pro? You got anything in the immediate future lined up?
Right now I wanna stack some footage up and then put it in any videos that come out—pretty much just stay in everyone's eyes, you know? Pretty much I'm trying to sell boards right now, so I want to give everyone a reason to skate my board. I want to put in as much as I can so that the world will want to buy my stuff. So, pretty much just that and skate and learn some new tricks. I want to come up with some cool shit too. I want to do a contest—I want to come up with a cool little contest with the kids and shit.
You want to start one yourself? Like a skate contest or a giveaway?
Yeah, like a little skate contest would be tight—like at a local park or somethin'—go hook up some kids.
You got any words of advice for the little homies trying to come up?
Skate as much as possible. Don't get caught up with anybody else's bullshit. Don't ever let anybody bring you down. Just stay on your shit and believe in yourself. One day it will happen. It might not be the exact date you want it, or the time, but if you're working hard, that shit's going to work. But don't look for something if you're not putting the effort into it. Don't look to get sponsored if you're not skating or filming. You've gotta grind it out.
Even you, it took you a while. You definitely had to pay your dues and work your ass off. Did you ever get discouraged through that whole process or did you always know it was going to work out?
I can't really say I knew it was going to work out, I just knew something was going to happen. If I was never going to go pro, there would be at least one person who would say, "Damn, Keelan should've gone pro," you know? I just kept the passion and never gave up skating. At the end of the day, I always remind myself that I started skating just to have fun. So I would never let myself get caught up with like, "Oh shit, I'm not sponsored, or when am I going pro?" Or whatever. I wouldn't get myself caught up with bringing myself down. I reminded myself that I got to this point by staying on top of that shit, and that shit is going to come one day.
Now that you are pro, do you feel like you have to take your time more seriously?
Yeah. Now that I'm pro, it feels like there's no time in the day. For real, there's really no time to play. It seems like days are going by faster now. I feel down if I don't get anything done throughout the day, so I've gotta make sure I make a schedule for the day. I don't wanna get caught lollygagging and sitting around. If I make a schedule, knock some shit out, then I can chill for the rest of the night. That's what I was trying to set myself up for, for when I got to this point—so now I can just map it out and get it done. Today was my kick it day—like do some work day, clean up the house, get ready for tomorrow, which is Friday. It's almost time for JKwon. I've got it all planned out. I've got my ratchet days planned out, I've got my business days planned out, I've got my skate days planned out. I've got to keep it organized.
Where do you want to be as a pro skater in 10 years time?
Shit, I would want to be a legacy, you know—the biggest thing out at that time, something like that. Be that guy where everyone's like, "Oh, Keelan put a lot of work in the skate game. Keelan didn't waste his time as a pro and waste his board like a lot of other people did." I don't want to be another skater who was pro and blows it for no reason—like because I got a hot head or something. Pretty much, I just don't want to let nobody down. A lot of people put their time into me, and I put a lot of my time into this. It's time to get this work in. No bullshit.