I first heard about Skyzoo in about 2006 through his work with 9th Wonder on the “Cloud 9″ EP. It was well received and he went on to release a debut album and a series of mixtapes all to critical acclaim. I will admit that I personally did not pay much attention, now fast forward 6 years later he releases his second official album and he officially has my ear. I had been convinced to check out the album through hearing “Jansport Strings” and “Range Rover Rhythm” and I can say that I was not disappointed with the rest of the album, in fact I was pleasantly surprised.
As to not dwell on them, I will start off with the negatives I have about this album and get them out the way. First of all I feel that as an emcee Skyzoo lacks a certain charisma and personality on the mic which takes away from his overall skill as an emcee. His monotone cadence sometimes lulls me into a tuned out state. The other negative for me was the inclusion of the “for the ladies” joint “Drew and Derwin”. It just feels out of place on the album and messes up the flow of the album for me. I think the album could have been sequenced a little differently to maintain the tempo. Its a bit of a personal preference thing for me where I like the tempo of an album to go up and down rather than slow down during the course of the album which is how I find this lp.
In spite of those points this is a strong album and there are things on the album that make up for its shortcomings. Skyzoo’s cadence is balanced by his choice to not just talk shit and by his choice of beats. My tempo issue is balanced by the fact that the last third of the album is beautifully produced and although slower in tempo still includes songs like “The Rage of Romello” and “Realization” both produced by Khalil. This whole album has been thought out and you can tell. I will admit that I haven’t figured it all out in terms of all the content he is trying to get across but I like that he doesn’t make it too obvious and that every song seems to be there for a reason, regardless of whether I think it should be. I get the sense from this album that this is someone who is very comfortable in his own skin, hasn’t had an easy road to where he is now but continues to strive on, knows his lane and doesn’t really stray too far from his comfort zone.
Other than Sky’s lyrical introspection and skill the other big plus of this album is the production. Skyzoo has gone out and got some of the best of the indie scene. Illmind provides 4 tracks, Jahlil Beats (Meek Mills dude) provides a joint, Khalil provides a couple, and both 9th Wonder and Black Milk contribute a track each as well. A new name to me is Tall Black Guy who provides the last 2 joints along the lines of something you would hear from Justice league, smoothed out but with depth. To me the production is the strongest part of the album, not taking anything away from Skyzoo as an emcee, but for me its what really makes it so strong. Like I said earlier I find the sequencing off, but that is only because the album starts off so strong, the first 3 tracks are probably my favorites and the overall quality of the first 6 joints really set a fantastic tone for the album. That has a lot to do with the fact that 4 of those joints are from Illmind mind, with 9th Wonder and Jahlil having the other 2. That is one helluva of a production crew to start your album off with and Sky does not waste the beats as he flows effortlessly like butter over them. Starting off with the hypnotic yet head nod inducing “Dreams in a basement” prod by Illmind. Followed by my favorite beat from 9th Wonder in a long time on “Jansport Strings” and then going into my current favorite track, the banging “Pockets Full”. Freeway makes the track for me with his gruff yet tight flow he spits…
“Out the city where them people will bang
Flamers and double back, clap and shoot your dame in the same
Evening, your city ain’t wild as ours, Philly raise heathens
Y’all city raise divas like Billy Ray Cyrus”
Through to “The Knowing” the album really does a good job of maintaining my attention, and then comes the skit and follow up song I already mentioned “Drew and Derwin”. However ignoring that one blip the album, although the album gets a little less aggressive from that point, I think gets a little bit better in terms of lyrics. The highlight of that is “Make It Through Hysteria”, where he spits an inspiring spoke word poem at the end of the track but within the main part also gets very introspective even adding a reference from “The Wire”, very effective when you actually remember the scene as well..
“Powder spread ’round like they was dumping out their lottery
Freshened up the linen like embellishing an image
See it’s sorta like the scene where Dukie get out the car
And Prezbo is watching a dream die from afar
And testers are getting thrown over on Popular Grove”
The one other thing I realized I liked about this album, is that although it has that New York street feel, it was not overly abrasive. You don’t notice a lot of swearing and there’s no macho posturing, even though he has his moments of confident bragging. This all leads to it being a very genuine sounding album.
Overall Skyzoo has put out a piece of work I think he can be very proud of. I would not personally call it the best project this year for me, but I think it stands up to the best of what has been released so far this year and wouldn’t argue with people who put it on top.of their list. Since Skyzoo is a big Jay-Z fan I’ll end this by by saying that Skyzoo did a great job and we should all “Clap for ‘em”.
Rating - Buy 1 for sure and support indie hip hop, shout out to Duck Down still putting out quality.