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Donnie 'Mad Skillz' Lewis
Artist-in-Residence, School of Professional & Continuing Studies

Donnie Lewis, Grammy-nominated songwriter known by his artist moniker Mad Skillz, grew up in Richmond and got his start rapping on air at WDCE, the University of Richmond’s radio station. He first made a name for himself by finishing in second place in a national freestyle competition, which eventually resulted in a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

Mad Skillz’ Atlantic debut album, From Where???, and its single, “The Nod Factor,” were released in 1996. The album’s 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’s credited for putting Virginia on the hip hop map as he was the first artist to break out nationally from the state, while having performed and collaborated with The Roots, Nas, Missy Elliott, Cee Lo Green, Diddy, Raheem Devaughn, Musiq Soulchild, Pharrell Williams, Bilal, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Q-Tip, Large Professor, Chris Brown, Freeway, Travis Barker, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Jazze Pha, Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and DJ AM, among others.

He’s is also the creator of the web series Hip Hop Confessions, a series of shows that gathers hip hop purists and hip hop lovers alike where they reveal something hip hop related that they have never told anyone. The show has featured Q-Tip, Peanut Butter Wolf, Kwamé and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Mad Skillz has released seven solo albums to date. 

  • 1996: From Where???
  • 2002: I Ain't Mad No More
  • 2005: Confessions of a Ghostwriter
  • 2008: The Million Dollar Backpack
  • 2010: The World Needs More Skillz
  • 2012: Thoughts Become Things
  • 2014: Made in Virginia (with Bink!)

He was nominated for a Grammy for his songwriting contributions to Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint album. He stepped away from the mic in 2014 and is still actively writing and producing music.

Contact Information
Special Programs Building
(804) 289-8133