Retropolitan is as New York as ordering a chopped cheese sandwich and a Backwoods while being watched by a bodega cat. It’s a crowded and delayed 4 train clattering into the Crown Heights-Utica Avenue station, a dollar slice, a yellow cab, a killer crossover at The Rucker, a busted fire hydrant in the summer with kids leaping into the water. It is a dozen tracks of elegiac, restore-the-feeling, five boroughs hip-hop from two of the finest to ever incinerate a mic or set an SP-1200 aflame: Skyzoo and Pete Rock. Welcome to the rebirth of the city.
Let Skyzoo tell it: this is a love letter and a wakeup call to New York, all at the same time. The tone on the Mello Music Group album is clarion from the introductory clips of “Men Like Us.” The Brooklyn MC and the Mount Vernon immortal have been tested in the wars; they’re experts trained under fire, fated to make waves and create change. In an industry overrun by clout-chasing amateurs, Retropolitan is a testament to mastery of craft, the meticulous story-telling, sample chopping, syllabic intricacy, and drum pattern genius that can only come from a virtuosic pair for whom hip-hop perfection has been a lifelong pursuit.
You already know Pete Rock. If you don’t, just check the records shattered in the hip-hop Hall of Fame. The Chocolate Boy Wonder is on everyone’s production Mount Rushmore. He is arguably the greatest remixer of all-time, behind both classic solo albums (Soul Survivor I and II, PeteStrumentals) and in the group formation with his original partner CL Smooth. In “T.R.O.Y,” he’s responsible for the anthem that defines the golden age of the most important form of musical expression of the last half-century. He made “The World is Yours.” And he crucially became a principal influence on subsequent production visionaries like J Dilla and 9th Wonder.
Skyzoo is yet another generational talent who can trace his love of hip-hop back to the Pete Rock wellspring. Over the last decade, the Crown Heights lyricist has tirelessly and timelessly kept the torch of New York hip-hop alive. There is no facet of the art form that he hasn’t reached the platonic ideal: breath control, vibrant wordplay, technically advanced cadences, poignant narration and impeccable beat selection. He’s your favorite producer’s favorite rapper, breathing life to instrumentals from DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Black Milk, Just Blaze, Statik Selektah, and Apollo Brown. But this partnership with Pete Rock might have yielded his most indelible project yet.
Retropolitan is an album that you feel in your bone marrow. It induces nostalgia for a fleeting era of supreme imagination, a salvo designed to remind listeners that there is an eternal New York that won’t die no matter how much private equity buys up the block. Skyzoo is an avatar of the city’s ingenuity and relentless fight.
On the eve of their release, Sky & Pete liberate one final single, “Truck Jewels,” where Pete picks up the mic for a blistering verse and Skyzoo celebrates the memory of Eric Garner. “Truck Jewels” was exclusively premiered by Ambrosiaforheads.
“When I heard the beat that became ‘Truck Jewels’, it reminded me of a 70’s blaxploitation film. A scene out of one of the classics from that era of black culture” Skyzoo commented to Ambrosiforheads. “We all know Pete is an avid fan of blaxploitation flicks and art and things of that nature, so when it came to picking which song I wanted him to rhyme on, it was a no brainer. That had to be the one. Conceptually, it’s a song where the beat tells you to just go off, but as always I snuck in some jewels all throughout the verses. Hence the title. Definitely one of my favorites on the album.”
Retropolitan’s genius is two-fold: Pete Rock and Skyzoo have built an end-to-end burner with no skips, distilling the spirit of hip-hop’s zenith and the great duos who flourished at the time. It will remind you of Guru and Premier, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Marley Marl. Yet it feels intensely relevant to the modern moment, as though an old vinyl record was dusted off, put out the turntables and somehow sounds brand new. It’s New York rap for the world, same as it ever was, maybe even better.
Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan will be released tonight at midnight via Mello Music Group.
Stream Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s “Truck Jewels”: https://mmg-skyzoo.bandcamp.com/track/truck-jewels-feat-pete-rock
Checkout the Ambrosiaforheads.com premiere: https://ambrosiaforheads.com/2019/09/skyzoo-pete-rock-truck-jewels-audio-premiere/
You can now pre-order, add and favorite Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan at your preferred DSP: https://smarturl.it/Retropolitan
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