Artists of MODA — DJ Lethal Skillz
We’ve been working in the background for a few months on developing upcoming talent and giving them the tools to express their creativity. We’ve awarded standout creatives with a grant to fund a project they’d like to build and are investing time into their growth as they endeavor further into their careers.
Learn more about the artists venturing into the world of Music3, their journeys, stories, thoughts, and opinions. This is the Artist Grants Spotlight!
Today we meet DJ Lethal Skillz; Producer, DJ, Turntableist and Emanate Distribution Systems Manager.
Since the early 90’s, Skillz has played a major role in the inception and spreading of Hip-Hop culture in the Middle East.
He’s collaborated and performed with Hip Hop legends, from being an opener for the likes of Pharoahe Monch and M-1 of Dead Prez to playing alongside Grand Master Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, De La Soul, DJ Q-Bert, Rob Swift, DJ Akakabe, Co-ma, DJ Tony Touch, DJ Vinroc (5th Platoon/Triple Threat), DJ Shortkut and DJ Apollo (ISP/Triple Threat), Timbaland, 50 Cent and Sean Paul.
Along that journey he has seen vinyl become cassette, CD become mp3 and mp3 transformed into streaming services. With the shift in formats, royalties have dwindled to the point that artists are willing to sacrifice their true sound and art for plays and views. When Blockchain caught his attention in 2017, he could see what the future had in store for artists and wanted to be a part of it.
Can you tell us and our followers how you first got into music?
My musical journey began in the 80s when I was a little kid. Living in shelters with my mom and dad in Beirut during the civil war, my parents would play music to distract us from the bombing and the sound of the war going on outside.
The impact of these childhood experiences affected my relationship and approach to music. It became my escape. At the age of 8 I began breakdancing, messing around, and dancing with some kids on the streets, I was influenced by movies such as “Breakin’” and “Turbo and his Broom Dance”. Until one day, I caught Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” on TV and saw Grandmaster DST moving a record on the turntable back and forth and I thought to myself that the sound was FRESH! That moment was the spark for me wanting to become a DJ.
From the age of 11, I started as a school DJ using tapes, playing at house parties, and eventually becoming one of the youngest radio DJs in the city at the age of 13. Though I was too young to work in the nightlife scene at the time, I used to slip into clubs through back doors at the age of 15 to DJ. Inspired by the greats, I learned the art-form using turntables to manipulate the music and found that it was a way I could fully express myself.
My experience with production stems directly from my experience as a DJ and Turntablist. It taught me how to reproduce sounds live, using the records by juggling and scratching and such. In 1995, I got back to Lebanon after a trip to Africa and hooked up with some local talents and we started imitating Western Hip Hop music until we started representing our sounds, issues, and culture in our music. We were growing up in parallel and learning more and more about the power of Hip Hop and what it can do, beyond the kicks, snares, and heavy bass lines.
Throughout my musical journey I have been blessed to collaborate and perform with Hip Hop legends — Opening up for the likes of Pharoahe Monch and M-1 of Dead Prez at The Forum, Kentish Town, in London, England; as well as playing alongside Grand Master Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, De La Soul, Dj Q-Bert, Rob Swift, Dj Akakabe, Co-ma, DJ Tony Touch, DJ Vinroc (5th Platoon / Triple Threat), DJ Shortkut and DJ Apollo (ISP / Triple Threat) World DMC Champions among many others, including mainstream acts like Timbaland, 50 cents, Whokid, Big Ali, Missy Eliot, Sean Paul, MIMS, Coolio to mention a few!
How have you engaged with or explored blockchain tech and NFTs?
I first learned about the Blockchain through a good friend who invited me for Beat Battle on the blockchain-based blogging Steemit, which rewards its users with cryptocurrency for publishing and curating content.
I joined for the producer battles and when I won, I started making lots of new connections. I was hooked! Because of the community and the massive amount of new doors that it opened, I started learning about the power of decentralized platforms as content creators, and the opportunities they provided to monetize and spread my music to a wider audience.
I experienced NFTs with a litter of Cryptokitties back in October 2017, when I decided with my wife to mint one Cryptokitty for each of one of our cats that we lived with, then I started breeding rare Cryptokitties, selling them, and trading them. It was a fun experience and we made a nice little furrrrry profit! In early 2019 my partner Vandal was just launching his new record label concept DAO Records and had envisioned a new way of connecting music to NFTs. I was on board with the idea and we minted a Cover Art Collectible for Vandal’s song that I produced titled ‘Toss A Coin’.
Are there any artists whose sounds have influenced you heavily?
Heaps! Top of my head as a beatmaker I would say, J Dilla, Wu-Tang, DJ Premier, Madlib, Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Nujabes and Stoupe.
What is your first step with the MODA artist grant?
Having a team working with me on the project and the extensive pre-planning we did has helped me a lot and made it easier to kick off the project as soon we got the green light with the artist grant.
What are your plans for the rest of 2022?
Make more music and continue experimenting with the Web3 space through NFTs, NFT wearables, Metaverse events, and whatever new things will come along the way while supporting our communities and onboarding more people from Web2 to Web3