Skyzoo: It's All Real
In an engaging discussion with HipHopDX, Skyzoo explains the magic of yesterday's Hip Hop that he keeps in his tool-kit to help make for a better tomorrow.
HipHopDX: Youve released eight mixtapes and two LPs and are now prepping your debutWhat is your favorite project so far?
Skyzoo: The Salvation. Besides it being the newest release, its also the one I wanted my entire life. Theres a saying: You take your whole life to make your first album. Since I was a kid and began rhyming, all you think about are your first album, what your covers going to look like, standing on stage and winning an award; this is that album. And as I got older, I thought more about what I wanted the album to consist of, what I wanted to talk about and what message I wanted to get across. All of that is this album.
DX: How was the creative process different for The Salvation versus the mixtapes youve done in the past?
Skyzoo: Well with the debut album, this is what it all boils down to so it was definitely more thought-out. Mixtapes are more about showing and proving, getting busy, nothing more nothing less but with the album its supposed to last a lifetime. Youre supposed to be able to listen to an album 10 years from now and say, That was real, no matter what genre of music youre doing. My process was to get out all of the stories and emotions I ever wanted to let out.
DX: You have producers Just Blaze and Nottz on the albumWho else did you work with, and howd you decide who made the final cut?
Skyzoo: It was me 100%, deciding what tracks made the final cut. Nobody came in and picked beats, everything from the orchestration to the sequencing of the tracklist, it was all me alone. 9th Wonder [click to read], Black Milk [click to read], Illmind [click to read] all contributed to the album. I got a few up-an-comers on there as well, like Eric G, Cyrus the Great and Best Kept Secret.
DX: Every beat sounds tailor-made for your flow and each song topic that its no shock you oversaw what tracks made the final cut. With so many dope producers, what was the process of elimination like?
Skyzoo: For the album I had a ton of concepts so of course, I wanted to find beats that matched what talked about. For instance, the song Shooters Soundtrack, I knew I wanted to make a record that was not preachy but that talked about how easy it is for youth to get a gun in the hood. So I wanted a melancholy, aggressive beat that was still musical. That was the main process for choosing every track that made the final cut, making sure it fully complimented what I was trying to get across.
DX: How much of the album has that '90s boom-bap influence thats heard on your first single, Beautiful Decay?
Skyzoo: Beat-wise and musically, Beautiful Decay is the only record on the album that sounds the way it sounds. The album, whether it surprises people or not, isnt a boom-bap album. Its not a super-underground album at all. Its an extension of that except its whats now and whats next. Musically, the album is what boom-bap would sound like if it continued to grow and dominate the industry. Like if you look at the mid-'90s, Nas, Jay-Z [click to read] and Bigs stuff. If that sound continued to reign dominate and grow up, this album is what it would sound like. The album is dope musically, and theres nothing like it out right now.
DX: You just described your music as what boom-bap would sound like if it continued to grow and merged with todays Hip HopDo you foresee this particular sound becoming a musical movement in Hip Hop?
Skyzoo: I hope so. The only way thats gonna happen is with success; the album has to be a success. The reason why Auto-Tune and things like that are winning is because theyre successful. When something works everyone is gonna run to it, no matter what type of business youre in. If the album is a success and people are really supporting it, then other people will latch on to it. Hopefully that will happen because I feel like its incredible music. I believe its one of the most incredible albums thats coming out this year because of how personal and thorough it is.
DX: Your style is heavily influenced by the Golden Era of Hip Hop yet you dont bash mainstream/commercial rappersHow did you get to be so diplomatic when a lot of people complain about todays Hip Hop?
Skyzoo: Ive always felt like complaining about the next man has never helped me. I dont badmouth people unless its warranted. As far as seeing someone else on TV and saying he or she sucks, that doesnt do anything for me so why waste my time on it? Beyond that, as far as doing records with other people, Im a fan of all music. If I do a record with Maino [click to read], its because Im a fan. Plus, hes a friend of mine. I think thats the ill thing about what I doI can do a record with Talib Kweli [click to read] and on the same mixtape, youll hear a song with me and Maino or me and Wale [click to read] or me and Young Chris [click to read]. And thats because were all mutual fans of each others work. It makes sense and it shows my versatility. I think as fans, a lot of them feel you have to be on one side or the other. A lot of people forget, back in the day, [A Tribe Called Quest] [click to read] used to tour with N.W.A. [click to read]. As much as fans may love the essence of Hip Hop, I think taking sides divides Hip Hop.
DX: Most fans associate you and rapper Torae from the two Premier joints you did togetherWhat were some of the highlights of you working with DJ Premier?
Skyzoo: The first time is when youre nervous but excited at the same time. Doing a joint with Premier is like something thats on your to-do list, as far as being an emcee and getting on in the game. When youre at the point when youre actually doing it, youre excited. We had a blast both times but once we did the second record, it was more relaxed since the nerves were out of the way. Its something Ill always remember and Im blessed to say I did it. Its rappers with plaques on their walls that cant say theyve done a Premier joint. And to be able to do it twice, like so many of the greats? Its definitely an honor.
DX: You once said in an interview, I make music with a full sense of reality in it. Is that whats missing from todays Hip Hop since most artists are making music thats out of touch with the times we are living in?
Skyzoo: I think a lot of the music thats being pushed to the forefront, isnt a complete reality to what an artist is living. It doesnt have to always do with times, for example, people might say, "You cant make music about ballin cause were in a recession." But if youre ballin despite a recession, you can make music about that since thats your lifestyle. Youre supposed to make the music that reflects you. When I say reality, I think people are just rapping to rap, with no goal or motive in mind when they make an album.
DX: You showcase your storytelling skills on songs like Maintain. Do you think storytelling is a lost art in Hip Hop or that more emcees today simply choose not to do it for other reasons, whether lack of skill or lack of interest...
Skyzoo: I think its lost but I also think theres a lack of storytellers. Theres not that many people who can do it. But its also something that, if youre gonna call yourself whatever youre gonna call yourself, artist, emcee, etc., you need to be able to do it all. You cant call yourself a great ballplayer if you cant pass or play defense. If you cant do everything or even push yourself, you shouldnt be able to call yourself whatever you want to call yourself.
DX: What makes this album worth listening to and adding to ones Hip Hop music collection?
Skyzoo: I think a lot of people just buy albums or download music and they dont look forward to it being part of their collection. People dont look forward to collecting as a whole anymore because 90% of what makes it to the store, not free mixtapes or downloads, is just not worth it. A lot of albums that make it to the stores to be sold are trash, just a lot producers, features and posse cuts. [The Salvation] is an album. This is music, this is art. This is storytelling, this is live instrumentation and its cohesive. Its like nothing Ive ever done and I dont think anyones done anything close to it in a long time.