Once upon a time having a rep as good battle rapper or off the dome virtuoso used to be a near prerequisite for being perceived as an accomplished emcee. Those days are long past however and the truth is that the skillset required for being an ace in the cipher or in head to head competition rarely translates to making actual records. Brooklyn-bred emcee Skyzoo is a throwback to a bygone age, however. He first got some shine on the 106 & Park Freestyle Friday series six years ago (ultimately losing to Jin) but he’s shown since that he’s more than a here today/gone tomorrow, one-dimensional rhyme gladiator. While he’s got a slew of mixtapes, Skyzoo is just now releasing only his second official LP A Dream Deferred but the dopeness of the project adds legitimacy to the old adage ‘quality not quantity’.
A Dream Deferred has got production from a gang of indieground royalty. The likes of Tall Black Guy, Illmind, 9th Wonder and Black Milk (among others) have ably supplied Skyzoo with soundscapes to herald his arrival as a bona fide, upper-echelon rhyme writer and complete artist. “Jansport Strings(One Time For Chi-Ali)” is the lead single for good reason. 9th Wonder laces Skyzoo with a beat that is nothing short of uncut testosterone, barbaric enough to make Conan dumb out. Over adrenaline-inducing horns, bongos, and 9th’s signature compressed drums Skyzoo goes for the jugular with brash and arrogant alpha numerics elabortating about how nice he is, successfully tying together underground and street with his figurative Jansport Strings. “Range Rover Rhythm” is a Jahlil Beats banger, with a purposeful melody comprising multiple layers of ghostly synths and accompanied by an alto sax sample. Skyzoo weaves in and out of this smooth composition with an immaculate flow that shows just how far he’s come since his 106 & Park days.
The best example of Skyzoo’s improvement is “Dreams In A Basement” featuring neo-soul goddess Jill Scott. A set of pipes like that can easily overshadow the cat doing the spitting but Skyzoo meshes perfectly with his guest star and he spits enough heat that she does indeed end up complementing him, instead of the other way around. Illmind, to his credit, doesn’t try to do too much with the beat. It’s a sad, mellow, minimalist number–allowing the vocalists to be the center of attention–and Skyzoo exhibits his prowess with the prose in a major way. He doesn’t have (or emphasize) a lot of punchlines, the verbal pyrotechnic wow factor doesn’t seem to be part of his agenda. He’s similar to Nas in that his jewels are solidly buried in the context of the narrative, so it’s hard to point out to a particular stanza and deem it rewind worthy because his songs are meant to be consumed holistically, not sifted through for slick one-liners.
“Spike Lee Was My Hero” is another song from A Dream Deferred thats gone web-platinum, so to speak. The always meticulous, cerebral, mad beat scientist Tall Black Guy takes a break from his downtempo and jazzy excursions to bless Skyzoo and fellow Brooklynite Talib Kweli with a joint that would be right at home in Jesus Shuttlesworth’s headphones, pre-game. It’s a contemplative, horn-laden, bass-heavy, joint with all the nuanced idiosyncracies that are Tall Black Guy’s calling card. Skyzoo spits a verse of coming-of-age introspection that also serves as social commentary, similar to Clockers and Crooklyn while Kweli resurrects his once-unparalleled amalgam of consciousness and ridiculous wordplay, dropping some of his strongest bars since Ear Drum.
If A Dream Deferred isn’t the best produced album this year, it’s gotta be in the top three. Skyzoo has made great strides as a writer and that combined with his ear for stellar production has resulted in a project that has made his cipher complete. Skyzoo is here to stay and it should be plain to anybody with two ears and a brain between them that he’s someone to check for…now and for the foreseeable future.