Modesty is a trait not easily heralded in the Hip-Hop world. With the yearly increase of competition and rappers present in general, the common practice is to take to your soapbox and get more obnoxious than Ed Lover. For Skillz, the vet of all trades out of Virginia, his moniker has always been his loudest attribute. Through the course of nearly two decades, he has remained an semi-eminent figure without a groundbreaking single to his name–or album, for that matter.Even so, at the height of his popularity due to the chicanery like the Internet, roundtable discussions and his famed year-end “Rap-Up” freestyles, he’s out for global recognition with The World Needs More Skillz, a mildly disappointing endeavor that diminishes his reputation as a be-all and end-all type lyricist.
As Skillz states on storied producer Kwame’s firestarter “Regular Guy“: “Y’all know how the boy do it…real simple…ain’t a lot to it.” There lies the problem with Skillz’ declaration of inclusion. Gone are the nimble verses laced with fourth wall dialogue Skillz has become recognized for during the course of his lengthy career, including his previous effort, 2008’s The Million Dollar Backpack. Most of The World Needs More Skillz’ content can be accredited to some sort of musical quality decadence that passes for the norm these days. Going into overkill with playful and lighthearted records, the typical tale of evil women is rehashed on the bubbly “Superbad” complete with a silly chorus and a slapstick beat that would work wonders for a court jester, but, not so much for a professional rapper. Even the civilized courtship heard on leadoff single “Call Me Crazy” fails to let the sparks fly.
Simplicity aside, Skillz still keeps a few Jacks up his sleeve to teeter the album’s face value. Honorably taking some time out of his schedule to eulogize the late DJ AM, the somber-toned “Adam” shares vivid memories of the popular musician and tallies up a victory for tangible subject matter. In similar correspondence, Skillz opens up about his own health issues and deceased parents on “Still Standing” over climaxing production suitable for an album’s closer. The random spots of benevolence fare much better than the hollow braggadocio heard on joints like “R.N.I.T.R” which is basically a catcall of materialism over a snooze-worthy symphony of piano keys and dragging organ riffs.
Modesty can breed mediocrity and Skillz keeps it casual a little too often with no real elevation towards the album’s ultimate value. Planet earth could definitely benefit from more rappers with the integral mentality of Skillz. Only when he’s at his sharpest, though.