A hip-hop veteran who resurfaced on the rap radar in late 2002 with the hilarious commentary “Year End Rap Up,” Skillz (formerly Mad Skillz) discusses the fall of hip-hop, touring with The Roots, and 1980s music.
7: How come you “ain’t Mad no more” as the title of your latest album suggests?
Skillz: “It’s just a title. I took ‘Mad’ off because it sounded old to me. I’m still the same dude.”
7: What has being a member of the Okayplayer community done for you as an artist?
Skillz: “It’s opened me up to a whole different genre of people who support me and want to see me succeed.”
7: How did you hook up with The Roots?
Skillz: “I’ve known them for about 12 years. I’ve always been a fan and they would see me at their shows in Virginia. They were fans of my music, so we both respected each other.”
7: What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop music?
Skillz: “It sucks. The industry has made it hard to be a fan of the music. It’s so corporate that they can shove it down your throat and make it a hit, even if it’s not really a hit. Talent doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
7: I caught you on tour with The Roots last year in Seattle and heard “Year End Rap Up.” We couldn’t stop laughing. What inspired you to write that, and where can I find a recording of it?
Skillz: “I wrote it from a consumer’s standpoint. I knew a lot of people felt the way I did. You can download it; it’s on mix tapes.”
7: You’re regarded as one of the top lyricists of your era, what emcees are you checking for?
Skillz: “I don’t listen to a lot of music. I like Common, Cee-Lo, Black Thought, and Jay-Z, but nobody is really moving me like before.”
7: What are you listening to right now?
Skillz: “‘Stepping Out,’ by Joe Jackson. ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ I have a whole ‘80s section on my iPod.”