[Contemporary] hip-hop royalty. That’s what Skyzoo & Apollo Brown are if you’re just getting familiar. Perhaps the lead audience is already in tune with the two, so an extensive introduction will not be. Everyone has those artists that’ve gained their trust. You know, that blind trust thing where, at some point along the line, you’re one hundred percent invested in their careers and will purchase anything they release. You trust their craft. You value their material and their truth. That’s The Easy Truth, Sky and Apollo’s forthcoming collaborative full length record due out in four days (09/30) via Mello Music Group. Majority of true-school listeners will agree that the two of them have earned their trust. I mean, that’s our truth at least. Survey says we are not alone in this. While we’re on the subject, do Mello releases ever let you down? It’s a no-brainer.
Just to be clear, this is not another underwhelming album review to put you to sleep. It’s a quick look at the key components that make up the new album, in hopes that you get as excited as we are at RESPECT. for it.
2015’s Music For My Friends, which featured one of my favorite cuts of the year “Money Makes Us Happy,” is a notable bookmark. How about 2014’s Barrel Brothers with Torae? Wait, what about 2012’s A Dream Deferred? Are you noticing a pattern yet? Well not a pattern, more so a consistent flow of quality music, ranging in production and welcomed collaborators. Sky embodies what a true school, east coast emcee should sound like – specifically Brooklyn. Well I’m not here to say what you should and shouldn’t sound like, but if you value pertinent content, comprehensive lyrics and humility, taking notes could be helpful.
The Easy Truth isn’t the first time we’re hearing collaborative music from the two. But it is the first full length body of work offered. Organic at that. I don’t want to get too into the recording process because Skyzoo cleared all of that up below in our interview. The collaboration just makes sense in 2016 – the year of amplified “mumble rappers,” percocet glorification and artists with a lack of respect for our culture’s timeline. If that’s what you prefer, that’s fine of course. This album here, however, is none of those. As far as honesty, this could be the richest Sky’s content has ever felt, or sounded. Invited guests include Conway, WESTSIDEGUNN, Patty Crash, Stalley and Joell Ortiz. A tasteful selection to say the least, leaving room for him and Apollo Brown to breathe and toss welcomed haymakers. The introduction, a few powerful words from Les Brown over Apollo’s signature and pleasantly dusty backdrop, sets the tone for the record – simply translated as, embrace life’s lessons and learn from them.
As for the production itself, The Easy Truth is another uncut dose for the Apollo Brown beat junkies. You have your reoccurring thick drums and bass. You have your soulful sampling (see “Jordans & A Gold Chain” and “The Flyest Essence”). He stays true to his sound, as expected. Last year in an interview it was mentioned that he is okay with being the artist that he is – not here to reinvent sound and recreate the wheel. He’s an artist rooted in boom-bap appreciation. So, he will most likely continue to create around what inspired him the most and what people love deeply about his production. Skyzoo sounds unstoppable over his canvas. Once again, it just makes sense. The three released singles leading up to 09/30 should give you a solid idea of what the whole record offers (if you missed them, we’ve attached a couple throughout this article for you).
It’s now press week for Sky and Apollo. They have a few busy days ahead, talking about and promoting The Easy Truth. I had the pleasure of stealing a few minutes of Skyzoo’s time to have a healthy conversation about the work ahead and other important topics for your reading pleasure. If you’re interested in the record all of your links will be below. Thank you, peace and love:
RESPECT.: We want to thank you for your time. For the new fan that’s just discovering Skyzoo, what would you want them to know about you?
Syzoo: Well first off I appreciate you guys taking the time out to build with me. It’s definitely much appreciated seeing as you guys are such an accredited and esteemed publication. As far as for the new fans, I’m a writer above all else. I pride myself on what I write and being a lyricist. Being able to use words to tell stories with layers and meanings and connect on a variety of levels, that’s all part of the concoction for me. I’m from that cloth of caring for the writing, circa ’95 in a sense, without being or sounding dated. Lyricism and being relatable. Everything else supports that and helps keep it afloat.
R: The new record is an incredible body of work. You quite honestly make emceeing seem effortless. Does working with a quality producer like Apollo Brown help make that more possible?
S: Thank you man, I appreciate that. I’m glad you dig it. Working with Apollo was dope because with him you’re dealing with someone who’s likeminded as far as how they see music and see their legacy playing out. Someone who cares about the same things when it comes to the art; longevity, integrity, authenticity, and the culture. Anytime I’ve worked with one sole producer it’s always been someone who’s craft I thoroughly respect and support, so connecting musically is easy when those things all line up. I pride myself on making it sound effortless regardless of the amount of work I put into my craft. Melo or Steph Curry may shoot 1,000 jumpers a day and put their entire beings on the line, but when the game is on, they make it seem like a breeze. That’s the key to potentially being great, so that’s what I strive for.
R: Less dreaming and more living, that’s the easy truth put simply. “Innocent Ambition” is notable, as ambitious content isn’t necessarily cool right now on a mainstream level. How important is uplifting content to you? You’re always full of good vibes and carry a positive aura, even when you’re painting something a bit more rugged.
S: The music is always supposed to do one of two things; you either escape through it or relate to it. My music is the type you relate to. We all have dreams and goals visions, and based on where you’re from and what you do, those can either become a reality or a “should’ve could’ve would’ve” story. I tell stories of heinous situations and highs and lows and sometimes lowers, and how those things can culminate into something you may have never imagined, be it better or worse.
R: Brooklyn specifically has been experiencing tremendous waves of gentrification. As a BK native and an artist we thought it’d be refreshing to have you weigh in on this reality there and how it may or may not affect you.
S: Well gentrification is something I touched on throughout the new project because it’s so prevalent in my neighborhood. I grew up in Brooklyn in an area where people didn’t really wanna come and visit or hang out or move to, yet we had this family vibe there, this unity and a culture of being in sync that made it all make sense. Now we have cafes and bars and yoga studios popping up around the corner from where my friends serve at, and more perspective tenants than ever, yet that unity and culture is fading fast. It’s as if those like myself who had to live in it when it was down are afforded the opportunity to enjoy it now that it’s up. The Barclay center, as great as it is and as much as myself and plenty of others enjoy it, was the start of the ending as far as old vs new Brooklyn and where we are as residents and what makes us matter. Now it’s as if we don’t matter. But my pops predicted years ago that the Barclays center would be the start of the ending. There’s tons to love about gentrification but there’s twice as much to worry about with it. There’s nothing wrong with the neighborhood becoming better and new neighbors moving in who look nothing like us day-one’rs, but when you tell us we can’t enjoy what the new folks are because we aren’t the new folks, when this was ours first, that’s when we have a problem. I recently saw some tweet: “don’t move to Brooklyn for the culture and then call 911 on the culture”. I thought that was incredible. Tweet of the year in my book.
R: Can we talk about the featured artists for a moment? It’s a pretty limited, tasteful selection. We are very excited to see WESTSIDEGUNN and Conway a part of as well. “Basquiat on the Draw” is ridiculous.
S: Feature wise I try to never over do it, I like to just add people who make sense. Everyone Apollo and I added make sense sonically, lyrically, and conceptually to their respective tracks. As far as Westside and Con, those guys are family to me, so anytime I have a lane to show some love I’m definitely gonna do so. And then with Joell and Stalley and Patty Crash, it just all came together how we saw it beforehand. The Patty feature meant a lot to me because I’m such a fan of her work with the roots, and I knew having that type of presence would be different for Apollo’s fanbase, which is dope.
R: I couldn’t wait to talk to you about the Stretch & Bob cut. Well done, and more importantly a beautiful amount of respect payed to a pinnacle part of our culture’s timeline.
S: Thank you, I appreciate that. The idea came to me after seeing their doc, which was stellar. I was both excited and envious. Excited at what hip hop and done and what it’s capable of based on what Stretch and Bob proved, and then envious at not being born earlier so that I could’ve been on their show lol. Then I realized we live in an age where everything is on YouTube, so I figured why not cut up some old clips and make it sound as if I were on their show, and then get busy for 80+ bars? I had alotta fun with that one.
R: There’s obvious chemistry between you and Apollo, wether it was recorded together or not. But for the sake of conversation, was the record created together?
S: We did the LP together in Detroit. Apollo was very adamant on us recording it together, so I took a trip to Detroit for about a week and rocked out. He sent me about 40 beats to pick from, I turned those into about 15, and then he asked if 2/3 days would be good for us to record all the music, since he assumed I’d been writing to the beats over the prior months. I said “nah, book a week, I gotta write em once I land”. He got nervous because everyone he’s ever worked with writes way ahead of time and then binge records in a day or two. I write everything on the spot, no matter what the project is, a quick verse or a full LP, I pen on the spot. So Apollo was a little nervous of me thinking I only needed a week and assumed I’d need three, but once I got the Detroit I did all 14 songs in six days. He couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off. He was like “I’ve never worked with anyone who writes as fast and is still efficient as you”. I’ve been writing everything on the spot since about 2009/2010.
Mello Music Group
‘The Easy Truth’
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