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Shaquan Ian Lewis, (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 the stereotypical New York City or Los Angeles rapper, and hes also known for his yearly "Rap Ups," which he has done annually since 2002 (except in 2013). Skillz 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 fell in love with the culture and immediately began to practice all four elements religiously. He is credited for putting Virginia on the hip hop map as he was the first artist to break out nationally from the state. 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 albums 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 Timbalands albums Tims 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 Aaliyahs hit single "Are You That Somebody" in 1998. More recently (2000) Skillz is known for his tell all single "Ghostwriter". Within this single, he names (but his label edited out) artists for which he has written hit singles. It has alluding lines such as 'I'm a ghostwriter, I'm the cat that you don't see/I write hits for rappers you like and charge 'em a fee'. Unedited versions of the track have not surfaced, but Skillz is known to do a live performance in which he includes the names. In one live performance he mentions P. Diddy, Foxy Brown, Mase, Will Smith and Jermaine Dupri. One artist who openly admits Skillz has written hits for him is P. Diddy.