Skillz (formerly Mad Skillz, born Donnie Shaquan Lewis in Richmond, Virginia) is an African-American rapper Known as a talented freestyle rapper, Skillz has not received widespread acclaim outside of the hip-hop community, but within it is considered one of its best performers.
He first made a name for himself by finishing in second place in a national freestyle competition in 1995, which resulted in a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Skillz' Atlantic debut, From Where???, and its single, The Nod Factor, were released in 1996, but sank without a trace. In the late-1990s, he allied himself with fellow Virginia natives Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and The Neptunes. He made appearances on Timbaland's albums Tim's Bio in 1998, and Indecent Proposal in 2001; Timbaland made plans to sign Skillz to the Blackhand label he was developing, the label failed to materialize. He along with Danja Mowf, Lonnie B, and Patrice O'Neal, members of Mad Skillz' Supafriendz collective, also appeared on a remix of Aaliyah's hit single "Are You That Somebody" in 1998.
More recently (2000) Skillz is known for his tell all single "Ghostwriter". In which he names (but edits) artist for which he has written hit singles. With lines like 'I'm a ghostwriter, I'm the cat that you don't see/I write hits for rappers you like and charge 'em a fee'. Un-edited versions of the track have not surfaced but Skillz is known to do a live performance in which he includes the names. One artist that openly admits Skillz has written hits for them is P. Diddy.
From 2002 through 2009 Skillz has done a year end "Wrap-Up" song that encapsulates the events of the prior 12 months. Pop radio will recognize him more for this as the hilarious comedic lyrics are timely & funny. During the last years Skillz has claimed each to be his last doing this track.
Skillz eventually got a deal with Rawkus, where he recorded his 2002 LP I Ain't Mad No More, the title of which commemorated the official change of his MC moniker from "Mad Skillz" to just "Skillz". The afore mentioned LP was never released in the U.S. and re-packaged with additional tracks as Confessions Of A Ghostwriter in 2005.
A client for the Mama's Boys management company which also includes Musiq, Skillz has been a featured artist at okayplayer.com, run by ?uestlove of The Roots. Read more...
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