With a second-place finish (behind Midwest rapper Supernatural
) in the freestyle competition at the nation's most prestigious MC seminar in 1995, this aptly named Detroit native turned Virginian demonstrated his limitless verbal potential.
The first salvo fired from Mad Skillz (aka Skillz) was the single "The Nod Factor," a lengthy stanza of which appeared as a memorable Hip Hop Quotable in The Source magazine. Mad Skillz reigned supreme with his brand of harshly wicked witticisms, uncorking the type of sinister rhymes that would make a freestyle foe hang his head in shame. The consummate lyricist, Skillz mastered the unique art of the double-entendre with rhymes like "put your clothes on backwards if you feel like frontin'." The lampooning onslaught came to a head with Skillz's debut in 1996, From Where???, which called attention to the virtually untapped talent within his home state. The album featured a few gems on production from Large Professor
and Buckwild and a guest appearance from Q-Tip
on "Extra Abstract Skillz." The MC reappeared in 1999 on Rawkus' Soundbombing, Vol. 2 with "B-Boy Document," which also featured Mos Def
. In 2000, he released his own single on Rawkus, "Ghost Writer," produced by fellow Virginian Timbaland
, the title of which alluded to the fact that he made much of his living by writing rhymes for other MCs. In 2005, the rapper, who was at this point going solely by Skillz, issued the full-length Confessions of a Ghostwriter on Sure Shot, though Rawkus released I Ain't Mad No More, which contained many of the same songs, the following year. The Million Dollar Backpack was issued in 2006 through Koch. ~ Michael Di Bella, Rovi