The man behind the 2009 “Rap-Up” has more than a three-hundred and sixty- five day ditty up his sleeve.
HHW: What’s poppin’ wit’chu, Skillz?
Skillz: Man, just workin’, just landed in Atlanta for a gig tonight. I got a new album, The World Needs More Skillz, hittin’ the stores Oct 25th. This’ my second album with KOCH, which is now E1. The last one was The Million Dollar Back Pack. It did fairly well. I had singles on there with Quest Love, Kwame, Jazzy Jeff, Common, Talib Kweli. I’m back with the second project. The first single is “Call Me Crazy” featuring Raheem DeVaughn.
So you’re absolutely not just the year – end “Rap Up” rapper, correct?
Correct. That particular song is just what n—– wanna hear. That’s the kind of s— n—– wanna hear [because] it’s funny, it’s always true, it’s always real, and it has legs of its own. My other material, I won’t say that it doesn’t get to my masses, but it don’t get played on Howard Stern! That [rap up] does because of that content, so, you know, whatever keeps people abreast of me… If that’s the song that you hear that pulls you in, and then you dig deeper and you find out that it’s more, then that song did its job.
The other artists you’re writing for, are they just in the hip hop genre?
Hip Hop and R&B, and I’ve done that for about 12 years.
So I’ve heard some of your work then, right?
Oh yeah, you definitely have! You might not have known it was mine, but you definitely have.
Can you tell me some of the more noted joints that you’ve written?
I don’t really reveal my clients just to keep a better rapport with them. You know, a lot of rap cats, they don’t really have time or the know-how to sit down and construct what they feel to be a hit. In today’s cookie-cutter, microwave music game, they don’t have that time to sit in the studio and construct what they feel is gon’ be a hit, so that’s where guys like me come in.
Generally, rappers like to keep the fact that they’re not writing their rhymes, pretty much, a secret. Obviously, it takes away from the validity of your content if people know that the words aren’t your own, even if they do express your thoughts and feelings. But what about your R&B clients?
It’s the same, you know what I mean? Back in the day, a lot of people usually just call me, “Aaw Skillz, there he go. He ghost wrote ‘this’, he ghost wrote ‘that’.” That’s when the term “Ghost writer” was becoming popular, but in this day and age it’s just more about song writing to me. I don’t even call it ghost writing no more.
What’s the connection between you and the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff? How’d y’all connect?
I do a lot of touring with DJ Jazzy Jeff, that’s why I’m in Atlanta tonight. I ran into him in Miami. We had some mutual friends, and he asked me what I’d been up to and what new projects I had. I told him, and he was like, “I’m about to do a tour of Canada in about two weeks.” He asked me if that would be something that I was interested in. That was seven years ago [and] I’ve been rockin’ with him ever since.