Before he drops his long-awaited new solo album, Million Dollar Backpack, on July 8th via Koch Records, arguably the greatest lyricist to ever emerge from Virginia spoke with HipHopDX and revealed some never before known details regarding the end of his working relationship with producer extraordinaire Timbaland and superstar songwriter and artist Missy Elliott.
[Writer’s note: the following replies were not requested nor given to DX specifically for a piece regarding this subject but in response to questions posed as part of a lengthier Q&A with Skillz that will be appearing on the site very soon]
On a much-expected Timbaland-produced Skillz solo album never making its way out to the people following his absorption into Tim’s “Da Bassment” crew in the late ‘90s, and subsequent appearances on Tim’s first solo album, Tim’s Bio, in 1998 and the remix to Aaliyah’s smash-single earlier that year, “Are You That Somebody?”:
“I think people were excited Tim was with a real lyricist. He was with a real spitter. But, I don’t think he was ready at that time to focus on anything else. He didn’t have his label situation together. He had just started a situation with Jimmy [Iovine]. I just don’t think Tim was ready [for me yet]. I think Tim was on a different level. I don’t think he had pretty much grown into a producer at that point. He was a real good beatmaker, but early, early I don’t think he had grown into a producer. Missy was doing a lot of the songwriting.”
On Timbaland’s decision to essentially dissolve the Bassment crew that had migrated with him following their exodus from the original oversight of famed Jodeci member and producer Devante Swing:
“I would say Tim had one of the meanest collectives before he knew he had it. You had Missy, who was already huge. You had yourself in a group with Magoo – Timbaland and Magoo, they squeezed out a couple of joints. You had Ginuwine, who had the ladies on smash. You had Aaliyah, who was moving into the Pop [realm]. She was a star in her own right. You had Playa, [which featured] Static [Major] – God rest his soul, rest in peace. [He] was an amazing songwriter. You had me. You had Danja Mowf and Lonnie B [from my Supafriendz crew]. Man, that was a mean squad, kid. Nicole Wray, [Tweet]…You had all the people right there. And I didn’t really understand how he could come from the situation that he came from, as far as dealing with Devante, and what that did to him, and then turnaround and do the same thing.”
On Timbaland’s choosing to forgo pursuing projects from the aforementioned artists and instead launch his Interscope Records-backed label, Beat Club, with then unheard of and unproven newcomers:
“Petey [Pablo] was gon’ do Petey anyway [apart from Timbaland]. Petey Pablo is a force to be reckoned with on his own. Bubba [Sparxxx], by that time [2000/2001] I was on my way out the door [from the camp] anyway. I didn’t understand how he could…I just didn’t understand his movements. Like, I didn’t understand how you could get with Jimmy Iovine, who’s one of the most important men in music, who already had Dr. Dre – Dr. Dre has Eminem… So Jimmy already has the biggest white rapper ever so far, and then you sign a white rapper. Jimmy had Eve, who was through Ruff Ryders, who’s a force to be reckoned with, doing her thing, homegirl from Philly holding it down. And then you sign Ms. Jade who’s from Philly as well, [and] kinda close [stylistically] to Eve. And no disrespect to any of these artists, I don’t think they had anything to do with it. I think Tim was so busy trying to kinda do what Dre was doing when Dre can’t even do what you do. Dre can’t make R&B. That’s not his forte. I mean, he can make it, but if it don’t pop then he’ll be like, ‘Ah, that’s not my shit anyway.’ Tim can make R&B songs, Pop songs, Hip Hop. So I don’t really understand why he was so busy trying to follow the same format [as Dr. Dre].”
And finally, Skillz spoke on what led to the final dissolution of his once apparently rock-solid relationship with Timbaland and Missy Elliott:
“I see Tim every now and then. It is what it is. Missy, I see Missy. It’s just that every time I see Missy, or everytime I hear like ‘Get Ur Freak On,’ I get a bad feeling because of something that happened [between us] in the past. If I can say anybody kinda did me dirty at one point it would be her. You know what it was? I’ll say this, fuck it. It was one particular time where she needed me to do a show. Missy might not even remember this. She needed me to do like Hot 97 Summer Jam and my daughter was sick. Like, I’m in Virginia and my daughter’s sick and Mona Scott, her manager, is calling me. They blowing my phone up: ‘Skillz we need you in New Jersey.’ And I’m like, ‘Yo, I can’t come. My daughter is sick.’ [She then replies back] ‘Skillz I really need you to make this happen. What is it gonna take to make this happen?’ And I’m like, ‘Yo, my child is sick.’ I [was] a new father [at the time] and I don’t know [what to do] and I’m like, ‘I can’t do that.’ So she was like, ‘Aww, just come. You can bring her. I’ll have a nurse here for her. I’ll make sure everything’s taken care of.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know about all that.’ So you know, me milling it over from being younger, I needed the money. And they had upped the money to about like three or four thousand I think it was, just for me to come to Summer Jam and do the show with Missy.
“…So, I went. I left my daughter with her grandmother. I went and did the show. And you know, they paid me. They took they time. Elektra [Records] always used to take they time cutting me the check. So I finally got my money. Anyway, to speed the story up, I signed to Rawkus. [And then] I’m like, ‘Missy, what’s up, I need you on [my] album.’ She’s like, ‘Alright cool, I got a hook for you.’ She said, ‘Send me the beat.’ So I sent her the Hi-Tek beat, which [became] ‘Crew Deep.’ Missy sung the hook. Hook was hot! I had The Clipse and Pharrell on the remix, song [was] ready to go. And then it’s time for me to shoot the video. I was like, ‘Miss, I just need you to come through, show a quick cameo, mouth the hook a little bit.’ And I already had to take Missy off of the hook and put Kandi from Xscape on the hook because [Elektra] wouldn’t clear Missy’s voice [to be used for the song]. So, I go to L.A. to shoot the video. And I remember calling [Missy] and calling her, and calling Mona, and she never came to the video. And from where we were shooting she was like maybe five or six blocks [away]. Her hotel was maybe five or six blocks [away]. And she never came to the video.
So like, it’ll be times when…Like, I remember one particular time I was watching TV, and they showed an old performance of us on the MTV Awards. It was me, Missy, Ludacris, Trina and Petey Pablo. I’m hyping Missy up, singing ‘Get Ur Freak On.’ And my daughter, she’s old enough, she’s like, ‘Dad, you on TV with Missy.’ And I just turned the [channel]. Every time I see that, or I see [the video to] that song, I think about being like a bad father. You live and you learn. And what that taught me is never put anything before your family – money, it doesn’t matter. Never put anything before your family.”
For more of what Skillz has to say on everything from his ghostwriting past to his new album future stayed tuned to DX for the full feature interview.
Also, be sure to check out the selections from Million Dollar Backpack that are currently available on the site, including the Kwame-produced “Sick” [click to listen], the Common featured first single “So Far, So Good” [click to listen], in addition to the J. Period and Don Cannon-helmed mixtape, Design of a Decade Vol. 1, featuring Skillz spittin’ over classic ‘90’s Hip Hop tracks [click to listen].