To be noticed, to be heard, and to be understood are basic things we as human beings desire. This desire becomes even stronger for people who create art for the public. As an artist one’s job is to convey a message, or a feeling to a particular audience. If that piece of artwork is somehow misunderstood, then consequently the artist is as well. Skyzoo finds himself in the mist of what he calls “The Don Cheadle Effect”, a place inbetween complete interpretation and being lost in translation.
How did the two songs “For The Awake” and “For The Sleepers” come about? What was the motivation behind those two tracks?
It started on The Power of Words. I got a song on The Power of Words called “The Don Cheadle Effect”, and it’s on how I feel that Don Cheadle is one of the most versatile and gifted actors in Hollywood, and everyone agrees. All his work is always critically acclaimed, but people look at it like he doesn’t get the recognition or respect that he [deserves]. He gets notoriety, but he doesn’t get it the way he should. I felt like it was the Don Cheadle effect as far as my music. People loved the record so much when that mixtape came out that I decided to revisit the idea.
If you listen to “For The Awake” the first line I say, “It’s the revisited ‘Don Cheadle Effect’,” so I’m pretty much picking up where that left off. It’s saying for “The Awake” thank you. For those who get it thanks for getting it, and then the next track is for “The Sleepers”. This is for the people who still don’t get it. Through all the work, through everything I’ve down, through all the music I put out, this is for the people who still don’t get it.
People who are new to your fan base might not realize you have been doing this for a long time. I know I became a fan when you did that Cloud 9 project with 9th Wonder. How did you and 9th meet?
I met 9th in 2005 through my man Sean Don who was a part of the Justice League. He introduced me to 9th and the whole team down there. Me and 9th really just built a relationship. I built a relationship with all of them, but me and 9th just started clicking up heavy. Every time he would see me he would give me a beat CD. This was before emailing beats was the thing, people were still giving beat CDs. Every time he would see me he would be like, “Yo, Skyzoo what up man? Here you go,” and it would be a cd with 15-20 joints. That’s how our relationship started, and from that it grew into a friendship, it grew into business, and just different things.
Your new album is called A Dream Deferred right? Is he going to be on that?
Yeah, he’s definitely on it.
Who else are you looking to as far as your beats?
Right now 9th wonder, Illmind who is doing a big portion of the album, Black Milk, Jahlil Beats, Best Kept Secret …
You still work with Best Kept Secret?
Yeah, definitely! I know that’s down where you at. DJ Khalil, Focus, and a new dude who I just got put on to named Tall Black Guy. He is amazing, he got a couple joints on the album as well.
Let’s talk about your latest mixtape, The Great Debater. Who was behind that artwork for it, that classic Huxtable’s family photo?
I came up with the idea and the concept myself as far as the title, and the way I wanted the cover to look. My man, Naturel, he is actually an artist as well …
Yeah I’ve heard of Naturel.
Yeah, he’s a rapper, but he also does art. He does graphic design, and a lot of different things, so El came up with it. I pretty much sent him a bunch of pictures. I spent a Saturday afternoon just Google imaging everything. It took me hours man, and I found 200 different pictures of the Cosby Show. Cutting them down I ended up with a good ten I wanted to do things with, and those ended up becoming the single cover, the mixtape cover, the promo cover, and everything like that.
So how did you meet Naturel?
I met El through my mans Illmind years ago. I think this was maybe ’08. Me and him remained tight, and he always wanted to do some art for me. He was like, “Yo, whenever you have a project, you know I get busy, let me get the cover.” I was like, “Yeah no doubt. As soon as I have something that I think fits what you do, and your style as far as designing, we can make it happen.” This was pretty much the time.
You’re really big on storytelling, so are all the stories true? For example, on “Written in the Drums” you mention a phone call with 50 Cent. Is that just creative wordplay?
Naw, that happened. Anything I say man it really happened. If it’s something like that where it’s more literal, that really happened to me. If it’s something where I’m telling a story in more of a subjective manner or figuratively, then it may have happened to me, or someone in my family, or a friend of mine.
On “Rap Like Me” you mentioned the lovely Miss Nia Long. Have you ever had a chance to meet her since then?
Naw, but everybody knows how I feel about that.
I remember after Love Jones everybody was like, “Man, Nia Long!”
Yeah, absolutely. None like it, none better.
So what is your success? What is your desired landmark that once you meet that you feel like it’s mission complete?
For me success is definitely financial gain. I’m definitely about making as much money off this as I can, but also on top of that I want to be legendary. I want to be able to have people look back five, ten, fifthteen years from now and they’re still talking about certain albums I have created, or certain songs I have created.
We listen to Reasonable Doubt, and talk about it like it dropped yesterday. We talk about Illmatic, we talk about The Chronic, we talk about Doggystyle, we talk about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx as if they dropped yesterday. Those albums are 15, some of them even 20 years old. I think that’s what everyone strives for, or at least should strive for if you think you’re that talented. My debut album, people still talk about it to this day. I get tweets every single day, and not just one or two, tons and tons about that album in particular.
I saw a video with 9th in it, and 9th was talking about how the things you are doing now will be appreciated five years down the road. Like you said with Reasonable Doubt, that didn’t even sale right away …
Not at all.
He was on volume two or so, and people went back and got Reasonable Doubt. Do you feel that’s what’s going to happen to your career?
Absolutely, I definitely feel like that. As long as everything lines up the way I want it to, and the [label] takes place when it should.
What excites you in Hip Hop today? If anything does.
Just seeing new artist, and hearing new artist that actually get busy. There’s going to be a million new artists all the time. New artist that really put their best foot forward to the craft. I’m not all about it has to be underground because I’m not even on it like that myself. It’s about making the best music that you make regardless. Anything that turns me into a fan again. I’m all about remaining a fan because when you’re not a fan anymore that’s when you have an issue. No matter what you do, music, sports, fashion, anything in the arts or entertainment you have to remain a fan because if not you are going to lose the ground of where everything stands at. You are going to no longer be aware of what’s what.
I noticed you don’t have a lot of features. Like you said earlier, you work with a lot of producers, but you don’t exactly collaborate. Is that on purpose?
Honestly, it’s not on purpose. With the Salvation it kind of was because I wanted that to be extremely personal as far as my story, what I’m about, how I came up. I thought no one could tell anyone about me better than me. That one was on purpose, but everything after that it hasn’t been. It’s been the politics of the game to keep it real with you. You have artist that say they are excited and want to do a record, and it doesn’t happen.
Certain people have always come through like Wale, Wale is a great friend of mine. We have four of five records together. Maino always comes through, Lloyd Banks, Talib Kweli, these guys always come through on records and verses. Young Chris and people like that. There have been a lot of other artist that wanted to work, and it’s just the politics of the game. It’s just how the industry works, and the way people are. It is what it is; it comes with the territory.
So what’s next for you?
Well, the album is going to be August/September, it’s called A Dream Deferred. I’m halfway down; seven songs down, seven more to go. It is really incredible so far. The production, the musicality on it, and sonically where it’s all going is amazing! I think lyrically people already know what to expect, they know I’m going to get busy. I’m extremely excited about it! This is the best work that I can put forward at this moment. Looking back on my career this is the best work.
(Visuals courtesy of Joey Amandola)
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