Let’s go back a bit, around the mid 2000’s. After countless rap battles, Ruff Ryders sign Chinese MC Jin. This guy has bodied many MCs in his time. In his tenure, one of the opponents he faced was an unsigned MC named Skyzoo who matched him for lyrics, line for line. Little did we know two things, one, that Jin’s career never really took off, and The Rest was History, and two, that his formidable opponent would be going for Album Of The Year 2012. So Jin went to Ruff Ryders, while 9th Wonder pulled Skyzoo up to one corner, and created a project with him called Cloud 9: The Three Day High, an outstanding conceptual mix tape that was released back in 2006. From hearing this I knew this is an artist to watch. Fast forward to 2012, and everything I have heard from Skyzoo thus far has been consistently good, from ‘The Bodega’, to ‘Under Pressure’, to the ‘Kitchen Table’, to ‘Written In The Drums’, and his latest mix tape “Theo Vs JJ: Dreams Vs Reality” was a conceptual prelude to this highly anticipated album. Boasting tracks like ‘Be Well’, ‘By Any Means’ and ‘Look What We Have Here’ set the tone and the hype nicely to what Sky calls his best work to date.
A Dream Deferred starts with a quote sample from the film Fresh. There has been one other time when an album started like that and it turned out to be a solid hip hop classic. Yes I am referring to Big Pun’s Capital Punishment. I sense an omen from the get-go, then the ‘Dreams In a Basement’ can begin. Featuring the beautiful Jill Scott, the track has you zoned and mentally dreaming away…Sky takes a play on the classic Nas Line on Illmatic: Right in a basement loaded with ambition/Smothered by it they wanna eye it but can’t listen/Sleeping with the cousin of sleep and her hands vivid/Turn for the win but most of em can’t pivot…
Sky and 9th Wonder set up the Jansport Strings, ‘One Time for Chi-Ali’. To secure his run at the title this year, Sky enlists Chi-Ali himself to appear on the remix the day before the album’s release. If that is not calculated hype, I don’t know what is.
The next track, ‘Pockets Full’ features a rejuvenated Freeway on a seemingly Nas inspired beat. Yes – I said Freeway. Roc-A-Fella was a loooooooooooooong time ago!!!
Some artists like to try a little twist in their music….and Skyzoo is no different. Sky and !llmind attempts to blend Dub Step Grime with hip hop. The result? A stroke of genius. Don’t believe me? Listen to the track. Not convinced? Listen to it again. I think you’re hearing me now don’t ya? For someone like myself who is not a fan of the genre, ‘Give It Up’ featuring DJ Prince is a winner and will have you jumping up and down on the dance floor like a jungle rave way back in the 90s.
The pace continues with ‘Glass Ceilings’. You gotta love Sky’s play on words here: Damier’s all around it, guess a dream might run you/And the run’s a 100 yarder, the dash mite barter/And you tryna shake a Dash like a Carter/I’m tryna play the back as a starter, the irony in that… making reference to the Roc-A Fella split with Jay-Z and Damon Dash.
Everything Skyzoo puts out, has been quality. The man works hard and does this for us. Check Range Rover Rhythm, Sky will gladly explain it to you in his own words…try and keep up, he isn’t the easiest of MC’s to initially understand.
You are about to enter a three-part tale of Sky meeting and having a conversation with an attractive woman in a club, decides to take her home for some one night love, and then may realize that he may have blown his real chance due to his own blindness. All three tracks flow together and make a wonderful trilogy not seen since Pharoahe Monch‘s offering from the Desire album. In ‘The Knowing’, Jessy Wilson plays the thoughts of the girl who feels like even though he’s a stranger, she feels like she knows Sky. The amusing skit that follows shows Sky tryna keep his game tight by taking the girl home, and styling out the claim that he was deliberately playing the Jessy Boykins III Pantyhose track in the car giving cryptic messages. R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn scores another winner on the standout track of the trilogy ‘Drew & Derwin’. Produced by Focus, the track almost sounds as if it was Part 2 to Phonte’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night from the Charity Starts At Home album. Hoping he doesn’t fall in love, the ‘Realization’ hits the fan.
‘The Rage Of Roemello’ sees Skyzoo bring out more of the Jay-Z influence that’s scattered throughout this album. Haters can say what they want about Shawn Carter and his alleged associations, but there is no denying that he has influenced this years biggest hip hop albums, (Check the RePPiN 4U review of Rapsody: The Idea Of Beautiful). Skyzoo hails from Brooklyn. Is there any wonder? Afterwards he delivers a stunning speech towards the end of ‘How To Make It Through Hysteria’. Calling out various Hip Hop icons by their first real name and hoping that one day he too will make it among them… this is a near 30-year-old showing these newer artists how it’s done, restoring the C.L.A.M.P. in Hip Hop.
Detroit’s favourite producer alive Black Milk drops by to lace a beat for Sky entitled Steel’s Apartment. Sky sums up his interview he had on ‘The Come Up Show’ in just a few lines. Black Milk has been quiet this year, expect to hear a lot from him in 2013.
Spike Lee gets his own entrance music and pyro as if he’s a WWE superstar!!! This is a track that along with Talib Kweli, Spike Lee would be proud of. Never before has a Spike Lee tribute sounded so right and fitting. Skyzoo and Kweli name drop, and compare their lives to Spike Lee’s vivid catalogue of films.
‘The Cost Of Sleep’ is produced by ‘Tall Black Guy’…this is another producer to watch…the album started mellow, it is only right it ends mellow. Here you hear him look up to his other Brooklyn influence: If he looks up to Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. won’t be far behind… “Cause me I’m never faded, I made it where he made it/Hope it don’t end the same but we get the same payment/Hope that I get my name scripted in the same cadence/Know I be in my ways but I feel like I’m the greatest..” He wishes for the same success Biggie had but none of his downfalls.
Those who have the iTunes edition of the album will have the bonus track ‘Live For The Moment’. This is also another experimental track this time going towards a ‘poppy’ angle, yet maintaining integrity and showing no cornyness at the same time. It sounds slightly odd at first how the guitars come in for the chorus by Colin Munroe, but just like ‘Give It Up’, it is not too bad.
For months, I have raved on that Skyzoo’s A Dream Deferred will clinch the title, so here comes the question: Has Skyzoo done it??? Maybe the title is so-called because he dreams of having that title, only that because he’s not in the mainstream eye that’s why it will be deferred and not realised. You will need several listens of this to absorb all the lyrical content, and that’s a good thing because Sky is showing longevity. This year we are looking at a photo finish for the title, and if you think that Nas has clinched the title by landslide, I suggest you ‘Stop Fooling Yourself’.
Gregory Skyler Taylor: You have come a long way.