Given the current state of Hip-Hop music in 2009, a resurgence of “real” Hip-Hop music and return to the lyricism as heard on classic albums of the 90’s has been seen with recent releases like Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… PT II, KRS-One & Buckshot’s Survival Skills, and Marco Polo & Torae’s Double Barrel. Since his debut in 2006 with the 9th Wonder assisted Cloud 9: The 3 Day High and follow-up mixtapes including Corner Store Classic and The Power Of Words, Skyzoo has undoubtedly noticed the declining state of Hip-Hop music and has been on a mission to bring things back to the way they once were. This is evident with an album titled The Salvation, as the term “salvation” by definition is the saving of humanity from death or eternal damnation. With this album Skyzoo is set on saving listeners and the genre of Hip-Hop from death via untalented artists with limited skills and abilities on the microphone (I won’t go into names here… everybody has their own list). With producers along the lines of 9th Wonder, Just Blaze, Black Milk, Illmind, Nottz, and Needlz, and the credible history of Skyzoo as an intellectual, lyrical emcee, this album looks good on paper to be a success, but in the end does that translate to a quality product.
1. The Opener Produced by Cyrus The Great
In relation to the album title, the opening track starts off with a gospel interlude followed by some piano playing the leads into some piano driven production by Cyrus The Great. The production plays its role as Skyzoo immediately lets listeners know what they’re getting with this album in the form of lyricism and a return to real Hip-Hop music. This track is a good introduction to the rest of the album that follows.
2. Return Of The Real Produced by Just Blaze
Speaking of a real to Hip-Hop music, that’s exactly what this track is about as stated by the song title. Skyzoo enlists music producer extraordinaire Just Blaze for this track as he delivers with one of the most energetic beats on the album. After a trademark Just Blaze introduction, Skyzoo gets right into it over the head-nodding beat in speaking about how he’s one of the last few lyricists remaining in the game and is destined to bring the realness back to the genre. This is a track that definitely knocks on the system, as Skyzoo does a good job on his intentions with his convincing lyrics and flow.
3. The Beautiful Decay Produced by 9th Wonder
This track stood as the first official single for the album with an accompanying video released a few months back that provided excellent visuals to compliment Skyzoo’s lyrics describing the inner city life in a positive manner by name it “The Beautiful Decay”. 9th Wonder supplies Skyzoo with one of his signature soulful beats that fit his lyrics and flow like a glove and sound like something you might have heard from their sessions back on the Cloud 9: The 3 Day High project. This is an excellent track that shows Skyzoo in his zone in speaking about city life and its surroundings.
4. My Interpretation Produced by Best Kept Secret
On this track Best Kept Secret provides some airy flowing production as Skyzoo gives his interpretation of “getting lifted” with his head in the clouds on his journey to the top. The soulful production once again fits nicely with Skyzoo’s rhyming, as he doesn’t sound one bit out of place with his vivid descriptions and portrayal.
5. Popularity Produced by Nottz
Getting back to the energetic sound that was heard a few tracks ago on “Return Of The Real”, Skyzoo recruits Nottz behind the boards of this track as he supplies some bouncy production while Skyzoo proceeds to let listeners know why he’s one of the most popular emcees on the rise in the game and doesn’t show any signs of being stopped. Being the type of rapper that Sykzoo is, this is the closest you’re going to get to hearing a potential commercial song receiving radio play, and honestly a song of this kind is one I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing compared to the likes of “You’re A Jerk” or “Money To Blow”.
6. Like A Marathon Produced by 9th Wonder
9th Wonder returns to the scene with some more soulful production for Skyzoo to deliver some words of inspiration to those on the road to pursuing their dreams. “Like A Marathon” is clever wording which ultimately translates to never giving up and quitting as life and the roads to our goals can feel similar to running a marathon. It’s quite clear to see how Skyzoo and 9th were able to put together a quality project in three days as their chemistry is unlike many other emcee/producer pairings. This track is another gem to be found on the album that listeners are sure to enjoy and relate to with their own lives.
7. The Shooter’s Soundtrack Produced by Cyrus The Great
After six tracks this is the first track on the album that I’m not really feeling and probably won’t get many repeat listens from me. Cyrus The Great provides some nice production on the track but it sounds dull and gets repetitive after a while of listening. From Skyzoo’s lyrics (which aren’t his best delivered and sound a bit boring like the production) this track is meant to be the soundtrack for those in the streets living the crime life. Ultimately compared to the previous tracks heard, this track sounds more like it was meant and would fit better on a mixtape than an album. The skit/interlude of Skyzoo and his girl’s phone conversation does well in setting up the scene for the next track but sort of goes on too long.
8. Under Pressure Produced by 9th Wonder
9th Wonder comes through again, this time utilizing the same sample (“Walk On By” – The Undisputed Truth) used by J Dilla on his Donuts album cut “Walkinonit” to a good degree for the production on this track. Skyzoo takes note from the sample’s song title in dropping lyrics about being under pressure in a relationship while doing what’s necessary and providing for both, but realizing that it can no longer work in the end. This is another good song of relatable virtues and values that are realistic in the lives of many going through relationships and difficult times.
9. Penmanship Produced by Black Milk
In a recent Q&A session (“Ask Skyzoo”) with Skyzoo on 2dopeboyz, he replied to a question that there were two producers that he had to have on his debut album being Just Blaze and J Dilla. As heard on the previous track “Return Of The Real”, he was able to accomplish ½ of his goal with a Just Blaze produced track, but unfortunately due to the untimely passing of J Dilla he wouldn’t be able to have a track produced by the late great Detroit legend. Insert music producer Black Milk who in his own right is one of the best up-coming producers in the game and becoming a Detroit legend in his own right. Having some similar qualities of J Dilla to his name in terms of production and sound, Black Milk provides Skyzoo with the closest rendition to having a Dilla produced joint on his debut album. Black’s production consists of a pulsing organ riff backed by off-beat drum programming that might throw some listeners at first, but is head nodding none the less. On the track Skyzoo gets down in delivering lyrics pertaining to his lyricism and tight pen game. This song reassures listeners that Skyzoo is no here today gone tomorrow type emcee, and his lyrics are some of the nicest out of the rest of the next generation rappers.
10. Dear Whoever Produced by Illmind
From the previous up-tempo track, Skyzoo decides to slow things down a bit with “Dear Whoever” in which he rhymes lyrics in the form of a letter addressed to past girlfriends (no one in specific) that he went through the same circumstances with. Speaking about being in a relationship where he lowered his guard and put all of his feelings out in the open for his significant other, only to realize that them being apart was better for them than being together. Illmind’s soulful production on this track fit comfortably well in complementing Skyzoo’s lyrics and the track’s subject matter. This song seeming so personal from Skyzoo’s lyrics is a gem to be found on the album.
11. For What It’s Worth Produced by Eric G.
After a brief interlude of wise words from the late great Tupac Shakur, we’re hit with one of the most heartfelt tracks on the album. Eric G. beautifully samples Dee Dee Bridgewater’s “My Lonely Room” as the perfect backdrop for Skyzoo to deliver lyrics about living life for what it’s worth in the time given while battling between making a living on the block within the drug game or facing the struggles of the legal life to reach dreams. When Skyzoo is in his element of tracks describing life’s trials and tribulations he is one of the realest emcees behind the microphone. In the case of where that’s seen with “For What It’s Worth”, it stands as one of the best tracks on the album.
12. The Necessary Evils Produced by Needlz
Those who have been following Skyzoo’s career since his start in 2006 through the various mixtapes he has released will recognize this track from his 2007 mixtape Corner Store Classic. Needlz produces a dark, sinister sounding beat for Skyzoo to deliver lyrics about the necessary evils of the street life that seen as everyday living for those involved. Much like the previously heard “The Shooter’s Soundtrack”, this track doesn’t standout in comparison to some of the other strong production found on this album and feels out of place on this album since it was previously featured on a mixtape from two years ago. This is another track that won’t receive much play from me and is one that could have been left of the final track listing.
13. Easy To Fly Featuring Carlitta Durand; Produced by 9th Wonder
This song features the only guest appearance to be found on the album with Carlitta Durand supplying the hook in gracious vocal styling. 9th Wonder supplies soulful, floating production that fits well with the song’s topic as Skyzoo drops lyrics about a girl that he’s trying to take away from her current bad situation into a better relationship with him. Topic wise this track hold’s the same weight as most of the female tracks we’re used to hearing on rappers’ albums, but the track’s production and guest feature give it an edge from falling totally into the cliché standing.
14. Bottom Line Produced by Eric G.
Off his fantastic production heard on “For What It’s Worth”, Eric G. returns with some more soulful sounding production on “Bottom Line”. On this track Skyzoo spits lyrics about being on your grind in whatever you do and how it comes so easy if the grind is something you’re consistent with. This is a good track to be heard and stays in tune with most of the soulful tracks heard throughout the album.
15. Metal Hearts Produced by 9th Wonder
Mr. Douthit returns for the last and final time on the album with some lively, soul production in sampling Barry White’s “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” to good results. Skyzoo uses the nice composed beat to speak about his dedication and devotion to the grind in doing whatever is necessary to see success at the end of the day.
16. Maintain Produced by Nottz
Skyzoo brings things full circle and ends off on a similar note and mood that was heard on “The Opener”. With the sound writing on the paper in the background, he speaks maintaining in life and in the music industry. Talking about making it to a point that not many people taught they would be him at in delivering an album and having a record deal after three years of diligence and never quitting in the process. This track does a good job in closing our the album on a peaceful vibe that gives listeners the idea that Skyzoo has finally made it to the point in his career that he has been striving for.
Many people outside of the underground Hip-Hop scene might not be well familiar with Skyzoo as an artist and his works, but one thing is sure after listening to this album and that is that Skyzoo will be a name that people all over will be familiar with in due time. With an album dubbed The Salvation, Skyzoo’s intentions of bringing the rap game back to its respectable nature of quality music and strong lyricists are evident, and he succeeds in doing that with this album. Skyzoo is an emcee that isn’t afraid to go against the grain of popular dances and trendy gimmicks in providing listeners with the quality, “real” Hip-Hop that has been a missing element for so long now. While he isn’t the only one on this quest and making the necessary steps with an album of this kind (see: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… PT II, Double Barrel, Slaughterhouse, The Ecstatic, etc.), Skyzoo definitely makes the movement strong with the addition of his debut album. During a time where artists’ albums sound more like compilations with guest features just for the popularity of a name (ex: Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z, etc.), Skyzoo realizes that his is his show and uses the platform to showcase himself to listeners with only one guest appearance on the whole album. Aside from a couple of choice songs that threw off the flow and cohesiveness, The Salvation is a prime example of good Hip-Hop that so necessary nowadays. Much like Hip-Hop albums in the 90’s featuring one of two main producers, this album has that feel cohesiveness, as most of the tracks are able to flow easily into each other. With some further work, Skyzoo is on the verge of releasing a classic album in given time. Those searching for quality Hip-Hop outside of the blitz of commercial radio albums and singles should look no further than Skyzoo and The Salvation. When it seems like too many rappers “forgot how to be real and remembered how to be wack”, it’s good that Skyzoo is vice versa.
nappyPicks: “The Beautiful Decay”, “Like A Marathon”, “Under Pressure”, “Dear Whoever”, “For What It’s Worth”