Skyzoo: Going Nowhere But Up
His latest project, Cloud 9: the 3 Day High, is a collaboration with 9th Wonder. Its 12 tracks of straight Hip-Hop ─ no gimmicks, no cheesy hooks ─ craftily put together in three days. While Skyzoo has been doing exceptionally well as an independent artist, hes looking for a major deal on his own terms. Receiving accolades from Jay-Z to Sean Price to Nas, is a sign that the kid aint no joke and the deal hes looking for, may be a heartbeat away. HipHopDX.com caught up with the emcee to get his take on his music, the state of Hip-Hop and why he will not lose.
HHDX: Youve done five independent mixtapes was this all-local stuff as in, sold in the hood?
Skyzoo: Yeah, local as far as being only in New York but I always had some kind of buzz in other states and other cities, even overseas. So, I always got out to a different audience, one way or another.
HHDX: Do you have bigger buzz overseas?
Skyzoo: I dont know because Ive never been over there but I know my buzz is big because I have a lot of fans over there. I would think that its bigger over here, though.
HHDX: Youve been making music since you were nine, in what capacity? Were you writing rhymes? Were they good rhymes because you know how kids get down? Everybody says what theyre doing is cute regardless.
Skyzoo: To me at the time, it was [laughing]. The way I wrote my first song was looking out the window and writing about what I saw in front of my building. It wasnt A-B-C-D. I looked out the window, saw something going on and wrote about it, thats how I started.
HHDX: Youve received accolades from Jay-Z, Nas, Buckshot, Sean Price and EPMD for your street-heavy, sharp narrating. Whats it like to have an icon tell you that youre dope, especially Jay-Z or Nas, who are known for their storytelling skills?
Skyzoo: It gets no better than that. To me, those type of accolades are even bigger than having number one on TRL or number one on 106 and Park because those are serious people who decide that; who say, Yo, you got it, youre dope, youre the future. Its crazy. From Buckshot to Sean P, EPMD to Primo, all the people who have been showing me so much love and been like, Youre the future, I love your s- -t, it blows me away. Im a humble person. Im never like, I already know that or anything so anytime anyone tells me something like that whether its someone established or a 10-year-old kid around the corner, it makes me feel great.
HHDX: Other people say youre known for your story telling ability but whats your lyrical specialty, in your own words?
Skyzoo: I would say versatility. I love telling stories, thats one of my favorite things to do as far as music is telling a story. Thats where music originated from anyway, no matter what the story was about whether it was Ray Charles saying, I got a woman, or anything it was always a story. Over time passing it changed a little bit which is fine because were dealing with evolution, elevation and things like that, but it always started with a story and I love telling a story but I think just versatility as a whole.
HHDX: Lets talk about your album, Cloud 9: the 3 day High. Its 12 songs done in three days. First of all, how did you link up with 9th Wonder and what was it like working with him, putting a quality album together in 3 days?
Skyzoo: Ive known 9th for a little while now. A friend of mine, Chaundon, from The Justus League with 9th Wonder, Little Brother, The Away Team, is a part of that crew. That whole crew is from North Carolina and hes the only one thats not. Hes from the Bronx. He lives down there now, but he comes back and forth to New York so one of my peoples introduced me to him about two years ago and I gave him one of my old mixtapes and he called me the same night like, Yo, this CD is tight we gotta get up, Im in New York for a couple of days, so I was like, "Aight bet, we can go to my studio and we did five songs the first day." We didnt know each other from a hole in the wall and we did five songs off top, and he took me back to North Carolina and was playing them for 9th, Little Brother and all of them. He was pushing me a little bit and they invited me to come down there. They have a real high standard as far as who they work with. They dont care who you are, how much money you have, or how big your buzz is, if they dont like your music then they wont work with you, so when they like you they invite you to come down there and work. So, they invited me to come down and I first started recording with Khrysis and then I met 9th. It just became a family type thing. Those are like my distant cousins. Anything I need, they got me and vice versa. Thats how I initially met 9th.
HHDX: Is this your first official LP?
Skyzoo: The way I look at it is, its like a buzz starter. I dont look at it as my debut album only because it was something I really did because I was bored. They say you take your whole life to make your album and I agree with that. Every day is another day that goes into what my initial first album is gonna be. This is not an EP because its longer than what an EP would be but its a buzz starter. I literally did it in three days. I dont think anyone can make an album in three days and call it their first official debut. It was just something I did because I was bored and Im real tight with 9th and I had all these beats from him. We didnt even know we was gonna put it out at first. We just did it for fun. It was really which ever which way the wind blew, thats how it was gonna turn. My official debut is called The Salvation and thats coming out whenever I get my major label deal. That will be my Ready To Die, my Illmatic, my Reasonable Doubt. Thats gonna be my official debut album.
HHDX: Talking about getting a major label deal, do you have stuff in the works right now?
Skyzoo: Im constantly talking to labels, kicking it with people, you know, meetings; the buzz is getting crazier every day. The buzz as far as New York alone as well as the rest of the country is getting crazier every day on the strength of The Cloud 9 album and myspace and all different types of things. Theres definitely stuff that Im kicking it with people about. Theres nothing solidified just yet, but theres definitely things Im kicking it with people about.
HHDX: Youve been exceptionally well as an independent so, In the event that the major label deal doesnt work out, are you going to keep grinding on the indie level?
Skyzoo: Definitely, Im gonna keep on putting out mixtapes and putting out projects until somebody realizes that this is what they need. Not just what they want, but what they need. I always tell people, you can either go with somebody with one album with one hot song on it or, you can go with somebody with an L.L. career or the intentions of having an L.L. career. A lot of people that rap nowadays, especially up and comings just want to make one album, two albums, get the money and be out, but thats not me. I want that longevity. Im in it for the eight albums, nine albums. Im in it for the long haul. Im in it for putting out top classics, and making a profit at the same time, but Im in it for the love of the music, and having a long, healthy career as opposed to one album with one hit song and falling off the face of the Earth. They get a couple of mil and are good but Id rather put that work in, I want to sit back with a hundred mil and a long career.
HHDX: What labels do you see yourself signing to?
Skyzoo: Im not even sure. I think whoever has the best potential for Skyzoo. I dont think that with any label youre gonna be 100% happy, theres no one in the music business thats 100% happy with their label unless it was their label, and then they were still upset with the distributor whether it was Puff or Jay, so I dont think you can ever be 100% happy but Ill try to get as close to that 99.9 as possible. So, whoever has my best interests at heartwhoever sees the vision because Ill sacrifice a little bit of money for more creative control. I dont want an A & R. All I would want an A&R for is so they have Just Blazes number in their phone, or the Neptunes number in it and they holla at them. Thats it. I dont need your opinion; I dont need nothing; just holla at me when its time to turn in the album. So, whatever label sees the vision of what Im trying to do, where Im tying to take my career. Not just a single, or an album but my whole career.
HHDX: Cloud 9 definitely has a soulful, real and uncontrived flavor to it. Describe the album in your own words.
Skyzoo: I think you got it. Its something that I did in three days and it describes me as an artist to an extent. I tell people if they like Cloud Nine, then my debut, The Salvation, is gonna be like Cloud 9 on steroids. Its gonna be that times ten. I have a lot of club songs and things like that, I got all types of material but I didnt want to go that route on this record because it wouldnt fit. Im all about stuff being cohesive. It sucks when you buy an album with 15 records and you got three club joints, three girl joints, one introspective, religious joint at the end, and the rest is some street s- -t or whatever. Im into all of those types of songs; I would want people to get it twisted, I grew up on NWA, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, all the way down to Sade, Nirvana, and John Coltrane so Im into all different types of things, but its about being cohesive. It would seem out of place with one club joint on there or one bubble gum record on there. Everything should feel as if theres one fit. With the album it just describes me, not too much because I dont want to give people too much of me right away. Thats what the official first album is foryou to understand 24 years in the making of who I am and what Im about. I just wanted to give people a sample of that. Its basically a teaser for the real album thats coming later.
HHDX: This is becoming very clich but theres a lot of talk about Hip-Hop being dead. Do you think its dead or are people not opening themselves up to other sources for it?
Skyzoo: I agree with the latter. Its definitely not dead. If it were dead it wouldnt be the billion-dollar industry that it is. Its definitely not dead but people are secluded. Its a catch 22 because people say, The fans want it, the fans want it, the fans decide whats hot, but at the same time, the fans can only get what you give them. If you dont give them dope music to choose from, then theyre only gonna buy whats there. If you put one meal in front of them every day, of course thats what theyre gonna eat because thats all there is. You cant say they only want to eat spaghetti if thats all there is. If you put something else there, maybe theyll switch it up. So, I dont think its dead at all. The people that run it are lost. The people that are in control are lost. Back in the days, our forefathers of Hip-Hop, Run DMC, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, all those people all the way down to the Kool G Raps and Big Daddy Kanes, the Eric Bs and the Rakims, they all fought for Hip-Hop to be where it is right now. They all fought for Hip-Hop to be the biggest thing in the world, the biggest culture, and it is. We cant watch TV for more than a half an hour without seeing a Hip-hop influenced commercial whether it be Mc Donalds, HP, whatever it is, we run it. But on the flipside, we took an L because its like to give, you gotta give and to get you gotta give. So, we took an L as far as its real corporate now and money is involved. Now these dudes run it. These dudes who know nothing about Hip-Hop, who couldnt tell you whos the first rapper Puffy signed, they couldnt tell you what was the first Bad Boy release, now they run it. They run this now and if we want to get that money, we have to so-called listen to what they say or what they tell us. But its just about balancing it out. Theres no such thing of bad and good Hip-Hop. If its real and it comes from the soul, you cant beat it, no matter what theyre talking about.
HHDX: Whats the future of American Hip-Hop and how can lyricism overcome what has seemingly been reduced to asinine dances and nursery rhyme hooks?
Skyzoo: I think the future of Hip-Hop is growth. Theres more artists coming out every day doing different things and making music that sort of balances that. You got the Lupe Fiascos, you got the Saigons, you got the Skyzoosyou got a lot of different people that are trying to make that balance, trying to bring lyricism back. But you cant be all lyrical all day you cant because the reality of it is the average Hip-Hop fan, the average Hip-Hop buyer, is 13 or 14-years-old and theyre a lot lighter than me, or you, so you have to be aware of that. Im not saying dumb your stuff down or dont be lyrical but you have to be aware that the world is bigger than the block you grew up on. You can be the nicest on your block and be super lyrical all day, which is how I came up, knowing that the lyrics are the meat, but its not the only important thing. My 5-year-old little brother loves those songs because of the hook and you gotta be aware of that its not just about one thing. Its like Thanksgiving, you cant just serve one thing, you gotta put all those things in one and make it fit; theres 10 different things on that plate but it all fits, nothing seems weird. Thats how you have to go about it with music. You can be lyrical; you can have the sick beat; you can have the pretty hook, radio stuff or street stuff. Whatever it is that you want to do, it has to fit. It has to be cohesive and I think thats the biggest thing with Cloud 9. Even though it was only done in three days, its cohesive. Not one track seems out of place. I think the future of Hip-Hop is headed in a good place. You got Little Brother; you got The Clipse; you got so many people coming out with material thats amazing but on different spectrums. One may not sound like the other but theyre all great. The thing about Hip-Hop and what it used to be was that you had fans that liked everything, you had fans that bought A Tribe Called Quest and Ice-T and Eric B and Rakim in the same day. They all sound totally different from each other and that was the best thing about Hip-Hop like 10, 15 years ago, and now thats kind of lost. We kind of segregated ourselves but I think the corporations and the money and all that have segregated us, for us. But we do it too by downing other people by saying Chingy is wack, Yung Joc is wack, Rick Ross isnt real Hip-Hop. But they turn around and do it too and say, Who the hell is Madlib? and Whos MF Doom? and Whos J-Dilla? Weve all done it so everyone is to blame so now its just about business.