Skillz –The Million Dollar Backpack
Where has Skillz been these last few years? Despite a drought of commercially-released music, the Richmond, VA native has been busy touring with Jazzy Jeff and the Roots, ghostwriting, doing year-end “Rap Up’s” and recording what he considers to be his second album The Million Dollar Backpack. If you have any more questions as to where Skillz has been, turn to the first song on his new album, “Where I Been”, where Skillz lets you know that he hasn’t been slacking off despite not having an album come out lately.
On “Don’t Act Like You Don’t Know,” you’re really going to want to act like you know as Skillz and Freeway trade aggressive lines over a hard-hitting, soulful Dox beat. This was one of the first leaks off The Million Dollar Backpack and it ended up being one of the highlights of the album.
Another strongpoint on The Million Dollar Backpack is “Sick”, where Skillz takes us back in time to let us know that he’s always been sick, even before “Jeezy knew what an adlib is (Yeahhhh).” Tracks like this show Skillz’ lyrical ability and why he has fans willing to wait patiently for his long-awaited album. However, while the album may be well-rounded, there is a surprising absence of tracks like “Sick” that have Skillz running through punchlines like fellow VA native Mike Vick ran through dogs.
“My Phone” has Skillz going R&B but not sounding corny, which is a relief. The MC runs through the famous girls he tried to get with (emphasis on “try”). The track, like “Sick”, has Skillz’ trademark humor and wittiness and has a depressing ending. Sorry, no spoilers here.
Skillz could have held it down on his own on “Hold Tight”, which features bouncy horns and hard drums courtesy of Questlove that sounds somewhat similar to Jay-Z’s “Fallin’.” Skillz and Black Thought address the police while Richmond radio personality and MC Lonnie B makes a rare appearance on the hook.
“So Far So Good” has Skillz looking back on his career while promising to stay on top of his game while staying true to himself. Common makes a cameo on the track and spits what you would expect from him. If you’re a Common fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not, well, that’s why there are 13 other tracks you can listen to.
Skillz goes hip-hop advocate on “Hip-Hop Died” as he laments the poor state of the rap industry as well as industry leeches only in the game to make a buck over a somber Khari track. Skillz won’t admit hip-hop died like one of his counterparts tried to two years ago but he does offer some advice up-and-coming rappers should listen to.
After a 12 year layover from his debut album From Where, less guest appearances and filler tracks like “(For Real) He Don’t Own Me” would have made the album a stronger listen. However, Skillz showed throughout The Million Dollar Backpack that he’s still doing well and hasn’t lost his trademark humor that first endeared him to fans on tracks like “The Nod Factor.” Skillz’ fans, both old and new, should appreciate his latest effort and hopefully will not have to wait another 12 years for a new Skillz album.
by Jimmy Main