23 February 2018

REVIEW: Skyzoo - In Celebration of Us

3 weeks ago today I woke up to my pre-order of Skyzoo's fourth (unless The Easy Truth counts, then it's his fifth) studio album, In Celebration of Us. My pre-order criteria is..let's say extensive. But Skyzoo DEF makes that cut. I put Sky in an elite group of "new" emcees (he's been around since the early oughts) that I feel hit a sweet spot (pause?). His beat selection: DOPE. Lyrics: top shelf. But those are both Hip Hop abilities that are a bit "easier" to have in your skill set. What Skyzoo adds to his repertoire is his superb subject matter and the ability to successfully create thematic projects. If your bars are insane, but you ain't saying shit, then you won't be around for long. At least I hope that's still the rule. Skyzoo remains relevant because he consistently pays attention to his subject matter. And to take it a step further, Sky is able to parlay those concepts into entire albums. To come up with an idea in your head and have it translate well to the masses is extremely difficult. When an album flows in a linear structure (with a beginning, middle, and end), it just gives the listener a totally different experience. I won't say better or worst, but it is something I can appreciate. In Celebration of Us is thematic, but I don't want you to think it plays as: chapter 1, chapter 2, etc. There is a theme that plays throughout, and you really notice this when you play the first and last track. 

The first track, "Everybody's Fine", starts off with a skit. ONLY negative critique: Sky should have let the skit be it's own track. It's a dope skit. Actually, it's very important to the album as a whole. But when you are reviewing the album (I also listen to albums on repeat even if I ain't reviewing them) and have to hear it 50+ times, you wish you could get right to the song. Like Netflix, I want to skip the intro credits. That's it. Back to the review. The skit is a conversation between two men in early 1982. You find out that one man is Greg, Skyzoo's father. Skyzoo's real name is Greg Skyler Taylor. Papa Greg is telling his friend (Tray Duce?) that he wants to leave the street game. Greg gets nothing but love and support from his friend. The friend tells Greg that he'll will be there for whatever he needs. After the skit we get into the actual track. Skyzoo hits us with one of his most beautifully complex verses I've ever heard. His signature cool flow rides the predominantly drum heavy instrumental. Where Skyzoo elevates his lyrical style is with the repetition of his rhyming patterns. Sky paints juxtaposing images that compliment each other like: 

Or you in a hall, up on the wall/ 
With department of corrections letters hovered up over where your name is/ 
Or you by the door, cap and gown to the floor/ 
8 years of proof hovered up over where your name sits 

Of course we still get all those internal rhymes and double entendres that are common from a Skyzoo project. But the effortless way he connects contrasting imagery is amazing. In two bars with similar poetic structures, we see two different people: one is a person getting their mugshot before they are incarcerated, and the other is a graduate (I assume with a masters since its 8 years) looking at their diploma in their home. The single verse actually plays twice. After a few DJ scratches, the beat looses the drums and Skyzoo speaks and comments that we are always told that "everybody's fine". The same verse plays again on the stripped down drum-less instrumental. I'm dissecting this part, but it might take me a while to truly appreciate the single track in its entirety. If you're a Hip Hop nerd like me, you'll loose track of time breaking this joint down. 

The final track, "Honor Amongst Thieves", follows a more typical Hip Hop song structure. Instead of single verse/no hook/repeat same verse (like "Everybody's Fine), we get the verse/hook/verse layout. The song ends with a skit (more like a recording of Skyzoo telling a story about his family at a listening party, I assume). By the way, this is another completely acceptable option. Instead of having a skit on its own track, it can start at the end of the song. The first part of the song repeats the question "do you believe" and provides different scenarios. The second verse is an autobiography that focuses on Skyzoo and his father. The speech that Sky gives after the song basically mirrors the story he tells. His youth was a Boyz n the Hood parallel, where he lived with his mother until he reached adolescence. After that he moved in with his father to learn "how to be a man". This song brings the album full circle. The first thing you hear at the start of the album is a skit reenacting the moment Skyzoo's father decided to leave the street once he found out he was having a son. The album ends with Sky speaking in present day, telling a story about being raised by his mother and father. Even though they were different households, his parents made sure to give young Sky the upbringing that was rare in his environment. 

#Blackexcellence. This hashtag has been at its peak this month. It is not by accident that Skyzoo decided to drop In Celebration of Us during Black History month. About the album, Skyzoo comments, "Conceptually, this is Ta-nehisi Coates meets Chappelle’s Show, The Autobiography of Malcolm X meets Black-ish, the case of Sandra Bland meets the birth of Air Jordans". As I mentioned above, Skyzoo keeps his subject matter relevant. He talks about police brutality, the street game, appropriation, love, family, relationships, gentrification, politics, black on black violence, death and religion. This featureless project (from an emcee standpoint) is probably one of his most complex works in his ever expanding catalog. Skyzoo once again comes correct. His lyrical ability is one that garners a certain amount of expectation. We EXPECT top notch production and bars. The Brooklyn emcee is product of NY Hip Hop but evolved into the next iteration of what you think of when you think "NY emcee". Lyrics are at the forefront. And the instrumentals harken back to the Golden Era NY sound. At this point it is hard to image Skyzoo missing any of his shots. In my humble opinion, In Celebration of Us needs to be in the mix when talking about #blackexcellence. 

Peep the whole album below. 

| Like us on Facebook || Follow us on Twitter and Instagram |

No comments:

Post a Comment