"Rap Up" MC Skillz Talks Retiring, Ghostwriting and "Popcorn Music"
RO: Do you think the focus on songs and personality instead of talent is bad for rap?
S: I think it has helped rap take a decline as far as popularity in mainstream America. I don't think rap is as big as it was when we had a lot more going on. We seem to gravitate toward one thing and then we stay on that 'til we dry that up then we go to the next thing.
I think it's a lot of microwave music, a lot of popcorn music, and no one is focused on having a career. You're gonna get a lot of one-hit wonders and lot of people that have a hot summer and then they don't have a career. That's just the industry that we're in now.
RO: The last track on the new album is the "2012 Rap Up." Did you think back in 2002 it would be something you'd still be doing every year?
S: Nah. It was just a freestyle that I choose to put on a mixtape. I never thought it would become as big as it did. I never thought I would be doing it again and it would be something that people expect and wait for.
As corny as it feels sometimes to be labeled as "The Rap Up Guy," I'm proud to have something that I own; it's my idea and people only wanna hear it from me. They don't wanna hear it from anybody else. Even if it is one song a year, that's special.
Every year I get new fans and some of them check me out and I'm "The Rap Up Guy" and some of them check me out and they go back in to my catalogue and discover other things that I did that they enjoy. I'm appreciative of that.
RO: How do you want people to look back at your career as Skillz?
S: I just want people to look at me and say, "Hey, he did it. He represented where he was from." When I first came out it wasn't cool to say you were from Virginia. We didn't have hip hop on a national scale, it was either New York, L.A., maybe the South and that was it. I'm proud to say I'm from Virginia.
"He stayed true to himself the whole time." I don't think that I ever tried to do what everyone else was doing. It just wasn't comfortable for me. I love making music. For lack of better terms, I make hip-hop music for people who enjoy good hip-hop music. I don't think it could be any plainer.
Skillz hosts the Redbull Thre3style Massive DJ competition featuring A-Trak, Toy Selectah, RL Grime, Four Color Zack, Nedu Lopes and DJ Drummer 8 p.m. Friday at Stereo Live, 6400 Richmond, www.stereolivehouston.com. All money at the door goes to our friends at Girls Rock Camp Houston.