Album: A Dream Deferred
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Record Label: The Faculty/Duck Down Records
Skyzoo has always been a hidden gem in my eyes. After my formal introduction to him in 2009 with a series of features on Wale tracks, I dug deeper into his discography and was amazed on how good of a lyricist and storyteller he is. Later on that year, he released his excellent solo debut album The Salvation that told his story as a boy for Bed-Sty facing a crossroads on his path. He kept the momentum going with the solid collaborative LP Live From The Tape Deck with producer !llmind, and 2011’s The Great Debater, which was a heavy mixtape of the year contender. With his second major solo outing, A Dream Deferred, it serves as a hell of a follow-up to his growing consistency.
One thing that makes this album worthwhile is the way it is structured in production. A grand array of horns, airy keys, and synths are prevalent throughout the 65 minutes here, giving it a feel of drifting in a sonic dream. It’s futuristic, yet retains that gritty boom-bap sound that Skyzoo is known and loved for. With !llmind, 9th Wonder, Best Kept Secret, Jahlil Beats, and a handful of other notable producers at the helm, it is musically one of Skyzoo’s most cohesive projects to date.
Starting with the magnificent opener “Dreams in a Basement”, the song plays a scene from the 1994 cult classic film Fresh, where the young drug dealer hinting of getting out of the streets, hoping that he can but is afraid to let it be known. It plays well into the song, as Sky raps on the victory of success over a beat that could have been crafted by Just Blaze himself. Philadelphia songstress Jill Scott makes an appearance as well, using her voice as an instrumental weapon and sounding inspired as song evolves into a crescendo of triumph.
What Skyzoo often lacks in crafting strong hooks, he makes up for stellar narratives. The one-two punch love drunk acts in “The Knowing” and “Drew & Derwin” paints the duality of being the Chivalrous game-changer and one challenging monogamy (I’m here to be what they wasn’t/Here to be why you love it/Hearing me got you buzzing/but scared to give me your play). It’s a common mindset for men nowadays and he does a great job of displaying both sides with the skit in between both songs tying it together. The features are few and far in between, with Jill Scott, Raheem DeVaughn, Jessy Wilson, & Jared Evan providing hook duties. Freeway, DJ Prince, and Talib Kweli show up to deliver 16s on “Pockets Full”, “Give It Up”, and “Spike Lee Was My Hero” respectively, but it’s mainly Skyzoo holding his own from a rapping standpoint. And damn, this man can really, really rap.
He strikes me being in the same lane of rappers like Blu, Phonte, and Evidence who drop subtle gems in his rhymes that may need to played back a few times. In the radio-ready “Range Rover Rhythm”, he glides effortlessly over an enchanting Jahlil Beats head-nodder. (Good enough, though want it on a bigger plate/Climbing through a kitchen just to get a plate/Either find a way or go and drill a way).He has a voice that is noticeable though not entirely marketable in its monotonous approach, but it would be crazy to deny his songwriting ability. It’s tracks like that and the spoken-word laden “How To Make It Through Hysteria” that shows his switching in double-timed flow and dexterity.
It is fair to say that Hip-Hop is in good hands. With a number of talented acts with various sounds and looking to evolve the genre, Skyzoo stands as a student of the game. Dream stands as the end result of a man’s journey to success, yet eager to grow more. An emcee’s emcee, he continues to pave his own way with no gimmicks, all lyrics, and he’s doing a pretty good job at it.
- “Dreams In A Basement”
- “Give It Up”
- “Range Rover Rhythm”
- “Drew & Derwin”
- “How To Make It Through Hysteria”