In the music business, second acts are rare. Many recording artists are here today and gone later today.
But months after his alleged retirement following his twenty-plus-year career, Richmond-based rapper Mad Skillz isn’t done yet. He’s reinvented himself as a celebrity DJ, spinning music from hip-hop’s golden era across the country.
And on Monday, an album that features a song he co-wrote, Nicki Minaj’s “The Pinkprint,” was nominated for the Grammy for Best Rap Album.
“I was like ‘Wow, ‘I’m now a Grammy-nominated songwriter,” he says, noting that he shares credit with Minaj and others on the track, “The Night is Still Young.” He also toured with Minaj for a month in Europe as a DJ.
Skillz has earned a reputation for ghostwriting -anonymously assisting lyrically-challenged rappers - and keeping relatively quiet about it. He makes it clear that this isn’t one of those times, as he shares credit with Minaj and four others for the track.
“Nicki writes her own raps, she’s a very dope M.C. She don’t need no help in that department,” he says, adding that his contributions were limited to the melody and hook of the song. The track peaked at 31 on the Billboard charts.
Skillz says he’s written hundreds of songs and hooks for other artists, but isn't telling who they are.
“You know my motto man, a ghostwriter never reveals his clients. But when a song is on a Grammy-nominated album, you gotta say something about that. It’s the Grammies man,” he says.
There was something else he was willing to talk about. Yes, Virginia, Skillz will be doing his annual “Rap Up,” a humorous look back at the year in pop culture. The song hasn’t been recorded yet, but we may want to prepare for a more serious reflection.
“I already know there’s a couple of things that’ll be in there, just off memory, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, ISIS,” he says. "It’s gonna be a doozy."