Fans of home-grown rapper Mad Skillz fans know what the end of the year means.
Another “Rap Up,” his annual song about the year in pop culture, which is known for its humor and candid reflection.
Even if mainstream radio ignored his music for the other 11 months, he could count on national airplay for that song, which was always met with great anticipation and intrigue.
But that stopped several years ago, along with new albums from Skillz, who now lives in Los Angeles and is making his name as a club DJ. If you were thinking his rap career was just about over you were probably right.
Until now. On New Year's Eve, Skillz turns back the clock, with a 2014 "Rap Up" and a full album called “Made in Virginia,” on iTunes. Don't call it comeback, however. It's just some unfinished business.
“I'm not rappin' no more. I'm not professionally putting out any more records - at all. I don't have the passion for it,” he says. “I just kept sittin' on these songs.”
All of those songs were done with a Virginia producer named Bink, for an album that was shelved before his last album, 2012's “Thoughts Become Things.” After sharing the music with friends over the years, he recently decided to finish the album. He knows that the audience for his music may not be the same people who bought Young Thug or Iggy Azeala's latest.
“I make grown man hip-hop. We're both grown men, 35 and up. That's the target audience,” he says. “It ain't no young boy … ratchet shit.”
A couple of songs have surfaced from the album, “Rakim Smile,” a soulful track that references the steely gaze of one of hip hop's pioneers. And “All My Favorite Rappers are Dead,” a eulogy for the lives of fallen lyricists and some living rappers who ain't what they used to be. The legendary battle rapper name-checks quite a few well-known artists on the track, but doesn't exclude himself.
“I'm not the same Mad Skillz I was in 1996. I miss that little fiery kid, walking around with a microphone in his back pocket, ready to battle,” he says. “I miss him. I don't just miss the people that are dead, I miss the people that are still here. All I can do is listen to their old stuff and remember the feeling it gives me.”
“Made in Virginia,” might be his farewell album, but don't look for him to hang up the microphone just yet. There's still a bit of '96 in him.
“I'm at the end of the rap career,” he says. “But I'm still the nicest motherfucker out.”