b. Shaquan Lewis, Richmond, Virginia, USA. This freestyle rapper has worked with some of rap’s biggest names, although he remains relatively unknown outside a small group of hardcore hip-hop fans.
First making a name for himself as Mad Skillz the freestyler’s supreme rhyming talents were recognized by others, eventually resulting in a recording contract with Atlantic Records in the mid-90s. The rapper’s 1996 debut, From Where???, is credited for putting VA on the hip hop map. Dropped from Atlantic, Skillz continued penning rhymes, but dropped off the radar for the next several years to plot his next move. He re-emerged going by the shortened moniker of Skillz by the early twenty-first century, dropped 6 albums & became a lyrical hitman for hire before totally retiring from rap altogether in 2014. He also is the inventor of a yearly staple called The Rap Up which he summarizes all things pop culture that took place in the previous year. He has written for and worked with the likes of Diddy, Will Smith, Nas, Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Travis Barker, The Neptunes, Cee-Lo Green, Common, Freeway, Talib Kweli, Chris Brown, The Roots, and A Tribe Called Quest just to name a few. He also toured with DJ Jazzy Jeff as his MC for 13 years & has recently stepped behind the tables himself & has been releasing new music under the same moniker.