Skittz, longtime Mudkids emcee going solo 

On the street, the man known as Skittz is soft spoken and humble. It's only on stage that the Indianapolis-based emcee puts his large stature to use. Long known for his work as the backup rapper in the Mudkids, Skittz is now preparing to step into the spotlight, by pursuing his own music and putting the finishing touches on a solo album, Rhyme Strong Vol. I: The Book of Struggles.

Skittz's earlier work with the Mudkids was entirely improvised. That facility for freestyling may have worked against him, keeping him from developing the craft of songwriting.

"Everything that people have heard from me over the last ten years has been straight off the top of the head, and I take a lot of pride in saying that," Skittz explains. "I'm just really starting to come into my own as an actual songwriter. I didn't realize there was that much to it. Freestyling is such an easy, natural thing to me that I never really focused on writing concrete songs. I've felt so many nights where I've been that typical guy at the typewriter that is looking to the right at all those crumpled pieces of paper on the floor next to the trashcan."

It was only when Skittz left the Mudkids that he felt comfortable pursuing his own work. "I didn't ever feel like there was cohesiveness where I could have creative input," he says of his time with the hip-hop ensemble. "I was reluctant to do some of those things, too, just because I was probably inappropriately nervous about stepping on (Mudkid bandleader) Russell's feet and feel like I was trying to take over or overstep my bounds as part of the group."

Still, Skiitz isn't developing his voice without the help of others. He's working on new tracks with fellow emcee A.C.E. O.N.E., and he'll be joined at Oranje by DJ Helicon.

"Being around other people's energy helps me thrive as an artist," Skittz says. "No man is an island, but there's a lot more required of an individual artist. As a crew, you have much more eyes to look at things, but you also have to decide everything as a group. We're just trying to rep Indianapolis."

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