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Interview with Skillz(co-wrote Will's "Lost and Found" song)


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Skillz: Mad At All Of You

Wednesday - April 26, 2006

Josephine Basch

We all know Skillz ain’t mad no more. But outside of dropping the first half of his name, he’s been busy working behind the scene: ghostwriter, filmmaker, and label owner. Having made his mark on the underground in the mid 90’s via Rawkus Records, he went on to establish himself as the king of punchlines, synonymous with his slap-in-the-face-‘cause-you-done-****ed-up-homie “Year End Rap Ups.” Now with a new day on the horizon, Skillz sits down with HHDX to give us a sneak peak of what he has in store for his 2nd Round Knock Out…

Tell me about your Big Kidz label and film company.

The label is just an extension of me trying to help people that I think wouldn’t necessarily get a chance from where I’m from. The film division is more or less a new passion that I got. I don’t know what it is about film, but I think I got a bug for it like I had when I first started rapping, because it all pushes to story telling. I got a couple stories that I think I can tell. I think if you write songs that actually take people away from where they’re at, and they can visualize what you’re saying, then you’re already a writer. I got two scripts that I’ve written. So this summer I’ma try to shoot this little 20-25 minute movie. I’ve been buying film equipment and software. I’ve been shooting movies with my daughter. Just little things – and it’s kind of funny, ‘cause now she thinks she’s an actress.

You were around during the heyday of Rawkus and you’ve seen a lot go down. How do you feel the game has changed?

I guess now it’s cool to be ignorant. I don’t condone it, but it’s cool to not give a ****. And I ain’t mad because the music is gonna do what the people are doing. If the people are ignorant, then the music is gonna be ignorant. If the people are righteous and conscious of what’s going on, and “we ain’t gonna take this **** no more and we gonna stand up and make a change,” then that’s gonna be in the music. I’m not mad at the music they play, I’m just mad at the music they don’t play. If you give “Laffy Taffy” a shot - cool, but how come you wouldn’t give Little Brother the same shot? When you think about it, people get into a rhythm where they don’t want to hear **** from certain people. So it’s the yin and the yang man. If you’re going to show the messages, then show them. ‘Cause some of these ni--as have been through hardships, but they still don’t want to tell nobody about that… Like, ni--a you almost went to jail! That **** ain’t cool – don’t portray jail like it’s cool. Megan Good is not coming to give none of y’all ni--as some ass in jail… like ni--as actually think jail is cool – till they get there! Ni--as better come out here and start saying something. Especially y’all mother ****ers that just got off by a hair - and you still talking about how, “I’m on the block, I’m slingin’ them crills.” You just got off ni--a! You almost did not make it. Then when ni--as get locked up, everybody wanna free their boy. “Free James!” “Free Rodney!” Ni--a: Rodney ****ed up. Rodney knew what the **** he was doing. Rodney was out there with a 20-pack in his pocket. Rodney knew what the **** he was doing – why I got a shirt on saying “Free Rodney?” I should have a shirt on that says, “Rodney Should Have Known Better.” Be real! Come on man – kids walking around with “Stop Snitching” shirts on. Like ni--a, you seven years old, who the **** snitched on you? Your fourth grade teacher? Stop!

So where do you see yourself in this equation then?

I don’t ****ing know, yo. I just want to make music. And people like it, so… ni--as tell me, “you’re one record away from blowin’.” I’m like, “Am I? Did I already make that record and it just didn’t get the push?” Like, I understand the demographic of the music now. I understand if I really made a dumb ass record and it blew, my hardcore audience would flip… You can dumb down your flow, but that don’t mean they’re gonna accept it. I’d rather stick to who I am and if it happens, it happens, and if it don’t then it don’t. I ain’t chasing it. I know my bread and butter is my show. You won’t hear this on the radio, right behind Freeway or before Juelz Santana…I’m trying to invest more into my show, because I know that when you got a good show and you got a good record, you’re gonna be alright.

Do you feel like ghostwriting allows you to express and touch on the other side of your personality?

Right. It’s like almost becoming somebody else. I look at it as a challenge. I wanna act – I think acting is just an extension of what I do. ****, I’ve been acting like Mad Skillz for the past 10, 12 years. I’m not Mad Skillz 24 hours a day.

So who is Mad Skillz?

He a father, a writer, a regular mother ****ing dude. I got the same flaws; some of the same **** happens to me that happens to everybody else. That’s me – that’s Shaqwan Lewis. I’ll be like, “don’t try to separate me from you because I make music.” That’s bull****. I don’t make music 24 hours a day. You might catch me helping my daughter with her homework. You might catch me cooking, because I love to cook. You might even catch me watching some porn.

Has being known as a battle MC helped or worked against you?

I think ni--as really respect me as a songwriter, because most of my songs have punch lines in them. I mean I’ll be honest – my first album was all ****in’ battle raps with hooks thrown in there. I would write a song where the hook would be like, “yo, you look hot tonight.” And then the rap would be, “yo, what the **** is you lookin’ at?” My first album was 85% battle raps because I didn’t know… But I think through the Rawkus run and through ****in’ with Timbaland, I’m learning now that a good songwriter will be an alright rapper any day. Because I can rap ‘til the cows come home, but I gotta be able to make a song too. I think it has been a double-edged sword because when I write a song where ni--as be like, “that’s a hot ass song” they think I got lucky, like, “damn, Skillz stumbled onto magic.” Nah ni--a, I planned that ****. Being able to evoke emotions is only gonna build on other things. Like it still baffles me to this day how the **** I could make Shaquille O’Neal, who was in the middle of the playoffs, go into a vocal booth and say some raps about me. What did I do to get under his skin that much? I still have no idea what the **** that dumb-ass ni--a was thinking... I cannot imagine what it could be. I mean, look at how much money you make. You’re trying to win another ring. And you went and got in a booth? Come on man! But evoking emotion – I love to do that.

Tell me about your Year End Rap Ups. When did that start?

The first Rap Up came from a freestyle that I did on my Neptunes mixtape. So the Common song [“Come Close”] was hot and I did the Rap Up. I’d been watching all these year-end shows and I was like, “yo – someone should do that with hip hop.” So I did a Rap Up and **** took off. **** was bigger than me. 2002: **** was nuts. I performed that record ‘til August. I sat at home and MP3ed it to damn near every DJ in the country – individually. And the next thing I know, I’m on the road from a Rap Up. I’m on tour with mother ****ers that I ain’t even supposed to be on tour with because of a freestyle. Musiq Soulchild, Xzibit, 50 Cent when he first popped… It got to a point where, with 50 and them, in the middle of the tour, these ni--as was at the show. Like he had no reason to come to the venue early, but the last two weeks of the tour we lookin’ to the side of the stage and we see Banks and them. Next year comes around, I do another one – it ain’t as hot as the first one, ‘cause the year wasn’t that good. 2004 I did another one. I said I wasn’t gonna do one, but I did one anyway. It was ok, it got a couple chuckles here and there. But the one this year feels like the first one. It’s long as a mother ****er – it’s like seven minutes long. The beat is slow and the Rap Up ain’t one of them songs where you need to be rapping – you just need to say it so everybody can hear it and digest it. It’s the ultimate barbershop record. It’s like I found something that’s mine that people only want to hear from me. In hip hop that’s unheard of. I started wearing the Kobe jersey under my other jersey. When I took that shirt off and said, “damn Kobe/in high school you was the man Kobe/what the **** happened to you” they just went crazy. I was in Bolder, Colorado, two nights, sold out, and somebody sent me a Lakers jersey with the number 8 on it that had Bryant on the back and Colorado Penitentiary on the front, in the Lakers lettering. And I was rappin’ that **** and I turned my back and dropped my **** off so all they could see was Bryant number 8. And when I turned around – they went nuts. And it was all white people. Yo that **** is way bigger than me - dude offered me $2,500 for that jersey that night.

Have you gotten any other reactions to things that you’ve written – in particular with the year end rap ups?

That’s what’s crazy. Here’s the thing – I’ll tell you what it is: Ni--as don’t **** with you or feel like they gotta say nothing to you if you’re not on their level. Like ni--as are like, “ok, I hear your little song at the top of the year, whatever, then I don’t hear about it no more. Cool.” I guarantee you, if I was on 106 & Park ni--as would have a lot of **** to say! Put me on the cover of a magazine and let me say all of the **** I say… Flex said something, but he never followed through, and Jermaine Dupri had some words with me, but he never thought he would see me again.

Jermaine Dupri said something to you?

On the radio, he said some slick **** out his mouth. They were talking about the Shaquille O’Neal beef, and he said something like, “yeah, I heard his little record. But I wanna know, what else does he do? Does he do something else besides talk about ni--as?” Not knowing that the radio ni--a got my personal number, and was like, “well, I got his number, I can probably call him if you wanna holla at him.” And Jermaine called his bluff, like, “yeah – do that!” He called me at 7:30 in the morning, and ni--as emailed like, “yo Jermaine is on the radio talking **** about you.” I called the ****ing radio station, and this ni--a starts dancing around the question. “I mean I just asked a legitimate question. I asked what else do you do? I wasn’t trying to be funny when I said it.” He said whatever, but he never thought he’d see me again. Then I saw that ni--a at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, he was behind me in line. Can you imagine how ****ed up that is? And I’m like, “yeah, I’m picking up some credentials for Skillz.” And he had this look on his face, like what the **** is this ni--a doing here? And you know me, I’m like, “yo what’s good playboy? What’s poppin’?” I’ma always be like that. I’m an asshole. I can be a dickhead.

At the same time, that’s allowed you to be able to say whatever you want without repercussions.

I mean, [knocks on wood] I ain’t saying ni--a ain’t gonna steal me coming out of mother ****in’ LAX. It just hasn’t happened yet. And I said it in 2002, ni--as better say something ‘cause I’m getting too ****ing cocky. And I’ve said some slick **** about Eminem, but he said some slick **** about somebody that I’m cool with, and I ain’t appreciate it. You know, “Mr. I don’t care if you dis me on a record that only comes out in Japan – if I hear it, I’m gonna address it.” He didn’t address me. I wonder why. I’m a ****ing problem. I’m sorry, but I’m a ****ing problem. That’s the last thing ni--as want: a mad Mad Skillz. You piss me off and I will do some Shaq **** to you. Like I made a whole mixtape against Shaq in like two days. I overdid it. That CD had 14 tracks on it. I had comedians on that. I had me coaching him in the booth. It’s the funniest **** ever. I sold like 20,000 of them ****ing mixtapes – thank you Shaq! There was this one skit where I was in the Staples Center shooting freethrows, and I was like, “yo, this **** ain’t hard dawg.” And I said on one of the songs, “yo dawg, I understand, if you see me, if you wanted to beat my ass. Because I would be that mad at myself too.”

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Skillz is a dope MC and ghostwriter. he hypes the crowd really good at Jeff's shows. i have 2 of Skillz albums and i cant say anything bad about them, in fact i should listen to them more often

now if he could just clean up his mouth in that interview a little bit :shakehead:

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Skillz is a dope MC and ghostwriter. he hypes the crowd really good at Jeff's shows. i have 2 of Skillz albums and i cant say anything bad about them, in fact i should listen to them more often

now if he could just clean up his mouth in that interview a little bit :shakehead:

I definitely agree with you on how Skillz hypes crowds up and that he needs to stop saying the same 2-3 words every sentence.

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well dats his style, "hes the best f*ckin dj on the planet..." ^^

i have no problem if he uses that word once in a while on stage to add emphasis and hype the crowd

but when u read that interview it becomes apparent and somewhat annoying to see all the censored out words. especially in a time where Will and lots of other people are trying to educate peeps on the n-word and then he spews it out like 50 times in one interview.

that being said, im not dissing skillz cuz i like him for more than his yearly rap ups which is more than most people can say and i know he stands for hip hop i just think he could tone it down a little if he wanted to

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Skillz' is definately one of the slept on peeps in hip-hop even though he writes for half of the industry it seems, it's quite surprising though that he'd say the n word so much though like you said there

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okay, Hmm i guess i could see your point. I guess i was hyped about Jeff more. The crowd seemed to enjoy the show anyway

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