American rapper Skillz is an in-demand songwriter, producer, artist and DJ who is first choice amongst those who really know their hip hop. Born in Detroit, Shaquan Lewis, otherwise known as “Skillz” spent time in Fayetteville, North Carolina before landing in Richmond, Virginia where he soaked up all the work of Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Run-DMC and anything else he could get his hands on. He was a stand out English student, honing his rap skills and enrolling in talent shows all over town. Answering an ad in the back of The Source magazine in the mid-90s, he sent in a one minute acapella rap, and won an opportunity to perform at the New Music Seminar in New York City. He finished second in a freestyle competition and drew the attention of Atlantic Records, who quickly signed him.
?His 1996 debut, From Where???, was an underground classic that made his name and talents known throughout the hip hop world. Skillz (then known as Mad Skillz) eventually turned to writing raps for others, appeared on albums like Tim’s Bio and Indecent Proposal, and toured with Missy Elliott in addition to acting as her hype man. He next signed to Rawkus Records, where he released his classic track, “Ghostwriter,” before becoming known as a first-rate lyrical gun-for-hire, going on to write songs for Diddy and Will Smith. Skillz went on to record six studio albums and is also the creator of Hip Hop Confessions, a TV show where purists and hip hop lovers alike reveal something that they’ve never told anyone. Guests on the show have included Q-Tip, Salt & Pepa, MC Lyte, Naughty By Nature, Joe Budden, to name a few. He has toured the world as a MC for DJ Jazzy Jeff and recently has stepped back behind the turntables himself. Though most would argue that the hip hop industry has declined in recent years, Skillz has managed to survive for a decade and a half by not embracing every trend. Instead, he emphasizes his old-school roots knowing quality music fans will follow him. These days, that’s a downright original concept.
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