In an industry currently oversaturated with radio edits and one-word punch lines, it’s refreshing to hear emcees who value the art of complex rhyming. Beyond the Sky–from Dover, DE-based rapper Chris Skillz–provides the lyrical wordplay to the soul/alternative rock/R&B/electronic soundtrack of our lives. The album is a lyrical mediation on big dreams juxtaposed with regular problems. Beyond the Sky heavily lends its focus to Skillz’ pursuit of his career, the state (and possible degeneration) of hip-hop, relationship issues, and overcoming obstacles.
When considering tracks like “How I Feel,” “Grow,” and “Art of Storytelling,” it’s clear Skillz is dedicated to creating imagery with his lyrics. His rhythmic flow can equally penetrate and soothe, though at times his narratives can seem abbreviated to an extent that it nearly compromises their power. His storytelling is best demonstrated on “Take it Away,” chronicling his experience losing a child. Here, he showcases his ability to develop an image gradually and with an element of suspense. The interludes add introspective moments that help frame the angle of the project. The strongest track is probably “In My Head,” Skillz’ rumination on the deaths of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.–and consequently, the death of a major portion of “real” hip-hop. The track samples Coldplay’s “42” and the loop adds a wonderful electro-melodic tone to the dark feature, as old news sound-bites play in the background. Skillz’ lyricism shines here. Throughout, production spans smooth soul and R&B, hard drum beats, jazz, and classical strings, and even features a pop/eletronica sample from Imogen Heap’s “Ellipse” on the heavy “Stay with Me.”
It appears Skillz is still finding his footing in the industry as much as his sound, but this discovery is a pleasurable process to hear. He balances discussing his two near-death incidents to spitting on switching lighters for his Dutch as he writes. He eloquently speaks on what he knows, though at times he avoids a deeper analysis of his content that would serve to make his lyrics feel more original to the listener. Even still, Skillz’ rhyming is seamless over the enjoyably unexpected sampling and master production. If you seek no-frills hip-hop, candid lyricism, and a quality listening experience, Beyond the Sky delivers.