Michael Geoffrey Skinner (born 27 November 1978) is an English rapper, songwriter, musician, and record producer best known for the music project The Streets. Skinner was born in Croydon, but moved to Birmingham aged 3. He grew up in West Heath, Birmingham and started playing with keyboards at the age of five. When he was seven years old he began experiencing symptoms of epilepsy, which worsened in his early teens. He began writing hip-hop and garage music in his home in West Heath and later built a sound booth in his bedroom, using a cupboard and a mattress. In the mid-1990s, following secondary education at Bournville School, Skinner became a student at Sutton Coldfield College, in Sutton Coldfield, and was working in fast-food jobs while trying to start his own independent record label and sending off demos.

He describes his background as "Barratt class: suburban estates, not poor but not much money about, really boring," referring to the property developer Barratt Developments. Skinner has always identified himself with Birmingham and he is a keen supporter of Birmingham City. He has worn the club's replica shirt on stage. He also wore it in the music video for his remix of Bloc Party's single Banquet.

In 2008 Skinner took time off from The Streets to battle symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and later wrote the song Trying to Kill M.E. to document his fight against the disorder. In addition, he has tried to raise awareness that "it's not just depression. That's what people tend to think". Another statement he has released on the topic: "I was incapacitated. It seems to have faded now. But at the time I think I was working too hard. It was important to just mention it really. It was such a big thing for me. It lasted about a year at its worst. I had to stop working."

In 2010 Skinner married Claire Le Marquand in Antibes after the birth of their daughter Amelia in 2009. Skinner attributes the turnaround of his lifestyle, in regards to his dabbling with drugs, to the birth of his daughter and the responsibility of being a father.

Music career

The Streets (1994–2011, 2017–present) In the albums Skinner made with The Streets he focused on vocals, arranging, composing, mixing, keyboards, and synthesizers.

The Beats Recordings In 2005, Skinner and Ted Mayhem launched the independent record label The Beats Recordings. A subsidiary of 679 Recordings, The Beats was home to British hip-hop acts such as The Mitchell Brothers, Example and Professor Green. The label closed in 2007, but reopened in 2012.

The D.O.T. and Tonga Balloon Gang (2011–present) After shelving The Streets, Skinner launched a new project, called The D.O.T, along with Rob Harvey of The Music. Harvey performs on vocals, allowing Skinner to "further develop his production approach". Their first album, And That, was released on 22 October 2012. Their second album titled Diary was released on 5 May 2013.In 2013, Skinner remixed Norwich rapper Context's song Small Town Lad Sentiments. The remix features on Context's second EP, Hindsight is the Purest Form of Romance (2014). In 2015, he remixed Slaves' breakthrough single "Cheer Up London" alongside Jammer. The remix featured on an extended play exclusive to HMV, released alongside the group's debut album Are You Satisfied?.

Skinner teamed up with UK rap group Murkage to form a supergroup entitled Tonga Balloon Gang, and they released an eponymous three-track EP on 14 November 2015. The release features additional vocals from Jammer and Big Narstie. In 2016 Skinner released a number of tracks on Soundcloud under the name The Darker the Shadow, The Brighter the Light. In April 2017 he released the song "Bad Decisions In The Night" on digital platforms.

Skinner is influenced by musical genres including hip hop, UK garage, reggae, and country and western music. Some of the many hip hop artists that influenced him in the making of some of The Streets' albums are Premo and Erick Sermon. Skinner is best known for his lyricism matched with his blurring of musical styles of UK garage, hip hop, indie rock, reggae and ska. The Guardian reviewer Dave Simpson particularly praised Skinner's "dazzling wordplay."[14]

Acting and movie work

The Inbetweeners The soundtrack album for the British film The Inbetweeners Movie was released in 2011, featuring nine new compositions by Skinner.

Beat Stevie An online channel currently presented by Mike and business partner Ted Mayhem, Beat Stevie, is an "anything goes" blog/music show also shown on Channel 4 in their 4Music late night strand. The episodes often include backstage footage and onstage hijinks. Events documented in the show have also been mentioned in the early songs of Example and Professor Green. The 'funeral' of Skinner's record label "The Beats" was shown on the channel, with the mixtapes of The Mitchell Brothers, Example and Professor Green being burnt in a fire of absinthe.


Skinner had a cameo role in the fifth series of Doctor Who as a security guard, featuring in the episode "The Time of Angels".