RELEASED: FEBRUARY 2, 2018 – First Generation Rich/EMPIRE
REVIEW BY MICHAEL GRANT@ C.E.O. of RePPiN4U & International Rep for Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition
“Similar habits, get it on the strength, and I got her eating donuts every February 10th – I’m #AllAboutThat..” – (Skyzoo, #AllAboutThat, 2011)
Let’s be real – February is a month of CELEBRATION. Some of us wanna act all ‘pro black’ on social media and rattle on about how Valentines, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc are pagan holidays but there we are hoping to be showered with gifts, getting our teeth into that succulent turkey, or how we talk about February being ‘Black History Month’ but we should celebrate all year round’ but there we are again dressing up in African garments and the like just to watch a superhero film… down to J Dilla (and Baatin) February has more Dilla social media posts than any other time in the year…Skyzoo is aware of this, and so he’s decided to take full advantage. He was born Gregory Skylar Taylor December 24, 1982, he has paid homage to Dilla in previous joints, Spike Lee is his hero, and so he just wants to celebrate black love and community, not just that but more specifically – himself and his parents in this latest album – IN CELEBRATION OF US – which dropped in FEBRUARY.
When the album starts you quickly realise that the year is 1982 two guys in the conversation are Skyzoo’s (soon to be) father and his friend and how Pops plans to raise his unborn son away from the world he’s been exposed to which is great looking out.
Skyzoo’s lyrical prowess wastes no time in ‘Everybody’s Fine’ over a jazzy backdrop which is a theme which re-occurs throughout the project, and basically that’s what the album ‘Sounds Like’. But here – your head is viciously nodding uncontrollably. This is going to be an instant favourite among boom bap fans and more importantly – concert ready.
This flows relentlessly into the album’s lead single ‘Baker’s Dozen’ featuring The Love King himself – Raheem DeVaughn, which is basically D’Angelo’s Devil’s Pie brought into 2108 and updated. This shuts down critics about Apollo Brown’s production as this is a complete departure from the grainy vinyl soul sound we know and expect from him. In a period where we have gone crazy over the visual presentation of black superheroes, it’s great to see Sky use a clever line – “Black lives in black 5s, the frame boxing out,
I’m Luke Caging but more related to Cottonmouth…” Personally – I will always prefer Sky & Raheem’s Dream Deferred outing ‘Drew & Derwin’ which should have blown up on many levels. On the off-chance Sky & Raheem see this, I sincerely hope they still give that track the visual treatment.
An instant album highlight, ‘Crown Holder’, as soon as you hear the sample. !llmind slows down the 1989 Soho Jazz hit while Sky’s head gets a little respectfully big “You can call this my new sh!t, but it ain’t new tho, I done helped raise a couple stars that you know, Know the fans I be attracting is ’bout a loophole, he isn’t lying, through him I discovered the likes of Torae & Rapsody… and oh yeah – that sultry Heather Victoria chick…
Sky continues to play the lyrical show off in ‘Heirlooms & Accessories,’ when halfway through the track, the beat switches and so does his flow and he does it without flinching. Not just that, when the beat was done, Sky wasn’t done! He can go ‘Forever in a Day’ if he wanted to.
The spoken word interlude has Sky turning his attention to the women… or rather, the woman has turned her attention to him. ‘The Purpose’ of it, is to bring out more of the Lucid Dream Queen herself – Kay Cola, another gifted soul artist who features on the track.
In every 4 bars Skyzoo breaks down the definition of the word ‘Love’ and it’s metaphors in this no-hook wordplay assault, and the album’s February celebration theme re-occurs… “Or love me like a purchase on 47th and 6th, And the Russian jeweler knock off $100 off what you pick,
In the middle of February your sleeves up off your wrist, And you add another $100 when discussing what you spent…”
The last few bars in ‘Black Sambo’ is the unfortunate reality of our young black youth who could become victims of the racist police brutality and even through live social media seen by millions (because that sort of thing goes viral quick) there’s still no justice.
Allow for ‘Parks & Recreation’ to zone you out with Saba Abraha providing the chorus, once again Skyzoo referring to his earlier track where he continues to raise new stars. It becomes evident at this point that when it comes to guest appearances for this project, he’s calling on NO MC. He’s going in alone, thus defeating the myth of ‘new album! What’s the line up like?’ The zone out continues in ‘Collateral’ featuring Jake&Papa, and right off the bat makes a snappy Wu-Tang reference “Can It Be All So Simple, Corey & Dennis?” Later you hear what appears to be a Caucasian voice use the ‘List of Jericho’ to state everything black people like… zone out session isn’t over in ‘The Stick Up Tape From Menace’… no prizes for guessing which classic film that is a reference from. Zone out session ends with ‘Hoodie SZN’…the lyrical content in this album will have hip hop fiends deciphering those lyrics for a good while yet.
The album closes out with one of the most epic tracks ever heard since arguably Jay-Z’s American Gangster in ‘Honor Amongst Thieves’, and here Sky has his most ‘4:44’ moment, by that I mean when he talks about his upbringing and personal life in such a vivid picture to the shocking conclusion of what happened at the neighborhood school and why his parents never wanted him there. Sky told us from the jump that this would be his most complex and focused work to date.
Skyzoo has come a long way from being a 9th Wonder protegé to becoming that hip hop superstar he is today and retaining all the credibility he had which a lot of artists would have sacrificed in less than half of that tenure, and the reason this is his most personal work because now Skylar himself is about to be a father and now the cycle starts again.
This IS a celebration. Raise your glasses, Skyzoo has done it again. Best album perhaps since arguably The Salvation…