I ain’t gon lie. I’m on cloud 10 right now. Yep. But I am also a little salty because I’ve been meaning to do this blog for a few months, but I never got around to doing it. Then this happened today:
I mean…geez. When I saw the notification as I was driving, I was like, let me “like” this real quick and chill before I crash, lol. Once I got home, I saw this…
By this point, I was just in utter shock. Now, I know some of y’all are probably like “Who is Mad Skillz?” and “Why are you on this man’s [jock]?” Let me backtrack (cus I got time today).
At the age of 8, I moved from my birthplace of Philly and moved to Richmond. I already viewed it as a downgrade because…I mean…it’s Philly! Richmond ain’t got no sports teams, everything is slower. Even rap around that time took it’s precious time circulating to the south. I was spoiled in Philly.
Fast forward to my teenage years. I was finally getting the hang of hip hop and it’s many regions outside of New York and LA. All of these famous rappers, and I’m like “Where are the VA rappers?” All I knew were producers and singers. Timbaland and Missy was in the 757, but I was wondering where was the 804 representation? Then that question was answered when this dropped:
I was like “BROAD STREET?! RICHMOND?! Who is this cat?” Then he dropped “From Where?” and I was hooked. For the first time, I started to feel like Richmond had made it on the map. A lot of people from my school (Henrico High in the building!) already knew him. In fact, I remember seeing him perform somewhere, then a day later, he was working the parking lot around VCU. I was like “Dude is not only nice on the mic, but down to earth too.” (I didn’t say “hi” tho. SMH)
In 98, I heard that “Are You That Somebody (remix)” on Power 92, and became super proud to be from the 804. I was learning more about Danja Mowf and Lonnie B around that time too. Then in 2000, it all hit a peak for me when Supafriendz dropped the 804 Compliation and Skillz dropped “Ghostwriter.” Around that time, I just left VA to go to college in Oklahoma. They recruited Jo Doja and it all really hit close to home because Jo and I went to Henrico together. It really made me feel like I didn’t have to be in a major city like NY, Philly or LA to “make it”. I felt like it was possible to be dope from RVA.
By the time 2002 hit, Skillz dropped is first yearly Rap Up, and has dropped one every year since (except 2013). Here is his latest one:
Once the world knew that he was ghostwriting for your favorite emcee and dropping yearly Rap Ups, I felt proud to know about him before masses did, but I also got upset and was upset for a while because they just reduced him to some Rap Up guy. To me, he was more than that. He was my representation of home. He was my hometown hero. The guy who made me feel comfortable to rep VA. He removed the excuse that I have to be in a big city to do something in life. He actually inspired me to get into rap (but this article isn’t about me promoting my stuff).
Just when I thought he couldn’t inspire me more than he already did, he dropped probably one of my favorite songs, appropriately named “Celebrate Life”:
I’m not gonna lie. This very song was the seed that eventually birthed this very website/movement. He dropped this in 2011. 2011 was a hellacious year for me, but it was this song that helped me to realize that I gotta stop stressing about the future and being sad about the past and enjoy the now, no matter how ugly it was. We only get one life. We get so busy that we miss the beauty of today. This song helped shift my thinking. Even after he dropped this song, I would follow him on social media and he would be smiling in his pics. The old me would’ve been like “that ain’t hip hop” but forget all dat. He was celebrating life, and it didn’t look fake. He wasn’t stuntin for the gram. It was genuine. I wanted to smile like that (pause). Another inspirational moment bought to you by Skillz.
When he dropped “Made In Virginia” with Bink in 2014, mostly everybody was zero’d in on the Rap Up (because he didn’t do one the year prior), but I purchased the whole album with the swiftness, especially since he said that was his last album. The title alone once again made me proud to be from VA. Ironically I had JUST moved back home to Richmond from Oklahoma. Yes, I was “Born In Philly” (my left tatt), but I was “Made In Virginia” (my right tatt – pictured above). Skillz made me proud to be from VA. He made me proud to not only make it, but be ok playing the background. Being a role player was lucrative. He was touring with DJ Jazzy Jeff! I mean heck, he’s traveling the world DJing now! That ghostwriting money has been kind to him, lol.
At any rate, I don’t know if he’s gonna see this article. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t owe me anything. The fact that he responded today was more than I expected. Thank you Mad Skillz for help shaping the person that I am today. Salute! #CelebrateLife