Skyzoo: A Decade of Excellence
Five years ago Skyzoo gave me a birthday present. Okay, he didn’t wrap up a gift and send it to me via UPS. But, just a few days after my birthday in June, he released perhaps his greatest album, Music for My Friends. That marked his 7th year of making consistently dope projects. Starting with The Salvation in 2009, he then gave us Live from the Tape Deck with Illmind, as well as A Dream Deferred, one of the greatest tribute albums ever in An Ode to Reasonable Doubt, a collaborative album with Torae, plus a few incredible mixtapes. Since that time he hasn’t let up with an album produced entirely by Apollo Brown, one by Pete Rock, Peddler Themes, In Celebration of Us and most recently in 2020 he released two top tier EP’s The Bluest Note with Dumbo Station & an ode to fathers in Milestones. If my math is right, that’s at least 14 projects. ALL DOPE! He comes correct with the beats. He comes correct with the lyrics. He comes correct every single time. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY Skyzoo grew up influenced and inspired by another Brooklynite, Jay Z. This inspiration is evident in the excellently executed Ode to Reasonable Doubt where Skyzoo shows love to Jay’s classic album over reinterpreted beats from producer Antman Wonder. Wonder creates an “orchestral approach” and it is delicious. Like Jay-Z, Skyzoo’s delivery is smooth and his cadence is laid back and also fully present. However, the similarities with Hov dissipate with Skyzoo’s beat selection. Whereas many artists tend to pick beats based on mass appeal, Skyzoo picks them with something else in mind. His selections advance a certain aural aesthetic: boom bap soul with a little jazz sprinkled throughout. I love it.
His new projects in 2020 follow this jazzy lineage. One of them accelerates it. The Bluest Note captures Skyzoo over live instrumentation from Italian Jazz group Dumbo Station. It is a phenomenal Hip-hop album engulfed in Jazz. His other release this year Milestones trades in the group formula for a return to the boom bap basics with production from !llmind, Marc Nfinit & more. However, jazzy samples run throughout every song as Skyzoo pays homage to fathers everywhere. These new projects continue Skyzoo’s decade-plus run as a go-to emcee for top tier albums.
Perhaps on top of that list is Music for My Friends. It is hard to say which Skyzoo album is the best, but if I had to pick, it would be MFMF. It is down to earth. After all, it's simply Skzyoo making something dope for his friends. He is not out for critical acclaim, chasing shallow success that often tends to dilute artists over time. No dilution here. This is substance derived from an authentic place.
MFMF also features some of Skyzoo’s best production. Jay-Z’s The Blueprint is one of the best examples of a “crossover” album that entertains both the casual Hip-hop listener and the diehard boom bap backity backpack rappity rap head. This album, MFMF is in that same vein. Perhaps that’s why mainstream rapper Rick Ross picked the same Jahlil beat that Skyzoo did. The beat for “The Moments that Matter” from MFMF and “Crocodile Python” by Rick Ross from Black Market is the same exact beat. This is evidence that Skyzoo has a great ear for beats that remain true to us boom bap heads while also transcending our box.
If that Rick Ross example isn’t enough just turn on “Money Makes us Happy” featuring Black Thought. Not only does Skyzoo feel right at home with the G.O.A.T emcee, but the beat is another all inclusive banger. Anyone can appreciate that beat. It is beautiful music. The soul on “All Day, Always” and “See a Key (Ki)” with Jadakiss is also gorgeous. However, what might be even more impressive is the four song run from track 10 (“Women who Can Cook”) to track 13 (“Asking Bodie for a Package”) that nearly ends the album. These four cuts sound glorious together. The jazzy samples, the uplifting sounds, and the drums give Skyzoo the perfect musical beds to lay his vocals and sound right at home with his friends. He is in his element and it sounds great.
And that’s the thing with Skyzoo. Pick any album or any collection of Skyzoo songs and you are sure to get the same thing: excellence. He is one of Hip-hop’s greatest artists and from the look of things, he is only getting better. In 2015 just days after my birthday he gave us an exceptional album in MFMF. This year in 2020 he gave us Milestones just one day after my birthday. Needless to say, I can’t wait for my next birthday.