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Also known asMad Skillz
Born (1974-06-02) June 2, 1974 (age 46)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
OriginRichmond, Virginia, U.S.
GenresHip hop
  • Rapper
  • songwriter
  • DJ
  • producer
  • filmmaker
Years active1992–present
Associated actsTimbaland

Donnie Shaquan Lewis,[1] (born June 2, 1974) also known as Skillz, or Mad Skillz is an American rapper known for his acclaimed 1996 album From Where???, a reference to his origins in Virginia, not a New York City or Los Angeles rapper.[2] He is also known for his yearly "Rap Ups," which he has done annually since 2002 (except in 2013).

Skillz is also the creator of the web series "Hip Hop Confessions", a series of shows that gathers hip hop purists and hip hop lovers alike where they reveal something hip hop related that they have never told anyone. The show has featured Q-Tip, Peanut Butter Wolf, Kwamé and DJ Jazzy Jeff.[3]

Early life[edit]

Lewis was born June 2, 1974, in Detroit, Michigan and after spending his early childhood in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he then moved to Richmond, Virginia, at a young age. He credits Run DMC for getting him involved in hip hop as a child.


He first made a name for himself by finishing in second place (Losing to MC Supernatural) in a national freestyle competition, which eventually resulted in a recording contract with Atlantic Records. At this time he went by the stage name Mad Skillz rather than just Skillz. Mad Skillz' Atlantic debut album, From Where???, and its single, "The Nod Factor", were released in 1996, but neither received much commercial or critical attention. The album's title was a reference to the regionalism in hip-hop, and at the time the state of Virginia did not have a large hip-hop scene. In the late-1990s more of a Virginia scene emerged, and he allied himself with fellow Virginia natives Missy Elliott, Timbaland and the Neptunes. He made appearances on Timbaland's albums Tim's Bio in 1998, and Indecent Proposal in 2001; Timbaland made plans to sign Skillz to the Blackhand label he was developing; however, this label failed to materialize. He along with Danja Mowf, Lonnie B and Kalonji The Immortal, members of Skillz' Supafriendz collective, also appeared on a remix of Aaliyah's hit single "Are You That Somebody" in 1998.

In 2000 Skillz was known for his single "Ghostwriter". The lyrics say he has written hit singles for others.

Skillz eventually got a deal with Rawkus, where he recorded his 2002 LP I Ain't Mad No More, the title of which commemorated the official change of his MC moniker from "Mad Skillz" to just "Skillz." The aforementioned LP was never officially released in the U.S., however, during the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour in 2003 he sold some bootleg versions of this CD. The CD was re-packaged without several tracks as "Confessions Of A Ghostwriter" in 2005. A Supafriends LP, Supavision and another solo LP.

The Scritti Politti CD single for "Boom Boom Bap" features a track written as a collaboration between Skillz and Scritti frontman Green Gartside titled "Hands Up" and credited to Skillz'n'Green. The single was released in the UK in 2006.

Skillz released an album on December 30, 2014: Made In Virginia, produced by Bink Dog. Skillz is the founder of the supergroup, Supafriendz V.A. Playaz, with Timbaland, Magoo, N.E.R.D., Fam-Lay and Clipse. He has recently gone back to his original moniker Mad Skillz and has returned to producing and deejaying.

In November 2017 it was announced that Skillz would be an artist-in-residence at the University of Richmond starting in January 2018, teaching a course on hip hop with Professor Erik Nielson.[4]




  • 2002: The Neptunes Collection Vol. 1
  • 2004: The James Brown Collection
  • 2006: Got Skillz? - The Timbaland Collection
  • 2009: Design of A Decade ( J. Period & Don Cannon)
  • 2011: Infamous Quotes Mixtape


As lead artist[edit]

List of singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"The Nod Factor" 1995 76 26 From Where???
"Move Ya Body" 1996 85 27
"Y'all Don't Wanna" 2001 92 6 Confessions of a Ghost Writer
"Crew Deep"
(featuring Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Kandi)
2002 83 I Ain't Mad No More
"Off the Wall" 2003
"Suzie Q"
(featuring Cee-Lo Green and Jazze Pha)
2004 Confessions of a Ghost Writer
"2010 Rap Up" 2011 92 N/A

As featured artist[edit]

List of singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"One for the Money"
(Royce da 5'9" featuring Skillz and Diamond D)
2012 TBA


  1. ^ "Mad Skillz". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. ^ Allmusic From Where??? review
  3. ^ "Episodes - Hip-Hop Confessions". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  4. ^ Times-Dispatch, COLLEEN CURRAN Richmond. "Rapper Mad Skillz to be artist in residence at University of Richmond". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  5. ^ "iTunes - Music - Made in Virginia by Mad Skillz & Bink". iTunes. Retrieved 9 March 2015.

External links[edit]