RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2016
UK RELEASE (Physical Copy): October 14, 2016
MELLO MUSIC GROUP
Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U
“I’m far from being God, but I work goddamn hard…” Jay-Z, Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise), 2001
That line right there is how I can describe Apollo Brown. Back in Jay’s peak of his career, he was delivering quality albums year in year out at roughly the same time. Over the past few years, Apollo Brown has delivered quality with Ugly Heroes, his own project ‘Grandeur’, Ras Kass, Guilty Simpson, Ghostface Killah, O.C. and more and has done it consistently every year. Who is the next contestant to be blessed with Apollo Brown’s soulful sonics? They call him S-K-Y-Z-O-O!
Take away all of Jay-Z’s riches, and the super stardom and replace it with flawless credibility and respect within the hip hop community, you get Skyzoo, who incidentally, looks up to Mr Carter as demonstrated by recreating the classic Reasonable Doubt. The news of the combined force of Sky and Apollo has blown fans away… but is it a guaranteed classic waiting to happen? We thought that with Common and No.I.D. with Nobody’s Smiling, and look what happened there.
It’s been 10 years since Sky exploded on the scene with the 3-Day High with 9th Wonder, and 10 years later he hopes to recreate that magic this time with the Detroit Producer on The Easy Truth. 15 tracks amounting up to 52 minutes, it’s time once again to put the needle on the vinyl.
The intro, entitled Soapbox, comes with a simple philosophy of choosing whether to live life easy or hard, and while we would all love to live life easy (I see you with your memes of ‘live in a posh celebrity like home rent free but give up social media in the process) we appreciate the value of living hard to reap the rewards. ‘One Of The Same’ starts the album with piano chords and Sky’s trademark complex wordplay which gives his fans an ongoing challenge to dissect. Give Sky some Jordans & a Gold Chain and he’s good. You won’t see him wearing anything outrageous, living lavish even though he could if he wanted. He wants to remain relatable to his fans.
The album’s lead single, or video – ‘A Couple Dollars’, tells of Skyzoo and Joell Ortiz’ early life struggles. If Apollo’s heartfelt violins and the stories told in this track doesn’t touch your soul…I don’t think Hip Hop is for you.
‘Basqiuat On The Draw’ brings the viciousness out of Sky and his guests – Westside Gunn & Conway. Sky even acknowledges the Rap Genius website, while Westside Gunn kicks off his verse with Jay-Z line originally used in Encore from the Black Album. Again, if you haven’t caught the ‘Vibes’ from this album by this point, I don’t think Hip Hop is for you. Sky compares himself to Kool G Rap in one aspect and considers Apollo as Symphony music and cleverly puts it in one line.
Sky’s appearance on the Stretch & Bob show was so ill, he had to include it here. Sky becomes unreasonable and goes in over a classic boom bap beat which shall make the old school fans’ eyes fill up with joy. Sample heavy trainspotters will be hitting the YouTube after hearing ‘Spoils To The Victor’ and may have a new-found respect for The Carpenters ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’.
‘Visionary Riches’ is Sky & Apollo’s zoning out moment over a jazzy backdrop. Sky’s wordplay used here is reminiscent of what he did in ‘Dear Whoever’ from The Salvation album, and this blends real nice into ‘They pulled a Bentley In the Cover’.
Consider the next track a highlight on the album. J Dilla used the sample for Elzhi’s ‘Love It Here’, the Wu-Block used the sample to tell their Crack Spot Stories, A$AP Rocky and Kanye used the sample for their Jukebox Joints, but has Apollo & Sky flipped it the best in ‘The Flyest Essence’? Here Sky exclaims: “They bumping Dilla on they way to get a bird flew
Never would’ve tied them together, but that’s what words do
Apollo caught the loop like we waiting to get a turn thru
I told him leave the drums in the box, keep the nerds cool…”
The funny thing about it is another version has recently surfaced on online streams… could this suggest sample clearance problems? We don’t know but the plot thickens…
Apollo decides to turn the beat up a notch with ‘Innocent Ambition’. The first verse has Skyzoo explaining how he could have it all, then the second verse goes a complete 180 as Skyzoo explains how he can’t have a thing… sounds like he’s talking of experiences with his father when he was a child…around the same time Nas dropped ‘One Love’ from his Illmatic album, Sky talks of creating his own rendition in ‘Care Packages’.
As the album nears its close, if you streamed the album like I did, by now you would be seriously considering ‘The Payout’, and by its last track, if you haven’t been ‘Nodding Your Head Off’ to this, then I don’t think Hip Hop is for you. Sky shouldn’t have to tell you to Nod to it… it should be a natural reaction.
Dare I say this is more accessible than ‘Music For My Friends’ which is a great album in its own right, but The Easy Truth’s real comparison is Sky’s debut, where the production was handled by just one man. 10 years in, and Skyzoo has proved that he has longevity, his rhymes won’t be going in fumes any time soon, and he has proved that you don’t have to compromise your lyrical content to make it. As for Apollo… he can do no wrong. Can he be spoke in the same sentence with the likes of Pete Rock & DJ Premier? He has a very good chance. The question remains, who will be the lucky contestant to grace his beats next year for our ears to behold? Until that time, take the needle off the record.