Legendary songwriter, producer, rapper, and MC Mad Skillz (Shaqwan Lewis) has now added another professional credential to his resume: filmmaker. See the documentary, “Mad Skillz and the 90s Girl Brunch” (2024) that chronicles the artist’s experience building a community of music lovers via the Internet during Covid.
Skillz has long been recognized as a pioneer in the hip-hop world, from his early days as an emerging rapper signed to Timbaland’s label, to touring with icons like Missy Elliott and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Further, Skillz’s recognition of music as a tool to convene diverse communities has been a mainstay. In addition to his own music (he has seven studio albums), the songs he has penned or produced for others, including names like Diddy and Will Smith, his creation of the show Hip Hop Confessions, and his role as an instructor at the University of Richmond, he is always innovating while preserving the legacy of Black music and culture.
“My hope is that people come away from this film realizing that music can still bring us together and not only bring us together, but keep us together,” Skillz says. When asked to explain the unique phenomenon of the “90s Girl Brunch,” which had followers tuning in religiously for a dose of sonic salvation, Skillz notes, “Your imagination can take you places that travel can’t.”
Viewers of the film will see how a weekly online DJ set became much more–building friendships that were planted online but bloomed in real life.
The film will be followed by a Q&A moderated by Amy Carleton, professor (MIT), writer, and co-creator of the Black Notes Project. The screening is presented in conjunction with Black Notes Project.