FEATURE: Skyzoo, Safe
Skyzoo should have a cape on. Not that he’s playing the “hip-hop savior” shtick— that type of chest thumping and self-declaration just isn’t his style. Still his contributions are sure to leave the game better off. Throughout his budding career, Sky has come to embody Brooklyn, the famed borough that produced rap Gods like Big Daddy Kane, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.
No, there aren’t any Billboard chart toppers or platinum plaques—at least not yet. Instead there is a young MC who took the ills that plagued him and turned things in his favor. The streets called, but Sky—for the most part, maintained. Musically things started to take off in 2006 with the 9th Wonder-produced Cloud 9: The 3 Day High, a concept collaboration project with the NC beatsmith that they recorded in only three days. Then there was two critically acclaimed mixtapes The Corner Store Classic (2007) and the DJ Drama and Statik Selektah-helmed The Power of Words earlier this year.
While his past work has cemented Skyzoo as an up-and-coming lyricist to be reckoned with, for his official debut album, The Salvation (Jamla/Duckdown Records), the MC took a different approach. More than just fly rhymes and slick metaphors, Skyzoo explores the allure of the fast life versus music’s saving grace. He recently sat with XXLMAG.com to break it down, - Rob Markman
XXLMag.com: It only took you three days to record Cloud 9 with 9th Wonder, how long did it take you to do The Salvation?
Skyzoo: I started working on The Salvation like last summer. But at the same time I was working on other stuff during the process of it. I was dedicated to it, but it wasn’t like I was only doing that. I had people wanting features and collabos and then I was working on the DJ Drama and Statik Selektah tape, The Power of Words at the same time. Some days I would go in and work on the album, some days I would find beats that I thought fit the mixtape better. So I would have to switch gears with the way that I wrote and the frame of mind that I would be in.
XXL: We know you’re a student of the game, so how did other notable debuts like Ready to Die and Illmatic influence you when recording this project?
Skyzoo: I came up on all that stuff from the late '80s to the mid '90s. All of my favorite albums that I feel made an impression on me from Ready to Die to Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, Only Built For Cuban Linx…, Doggystyle was a big one for me and Harlem World by Ma$e was a big one for me. But I never wanted to make records that sound like anybody else. With that being said the only thing that I’ve ever wanted to take from them was the quality of music and the honesty and the integrity in the music… I didn’t say I wanna re-do Reasonable Doubt or I wanna re-do Illmatic. That’s when you set yourself up for failure. I just wanted to make the best music that I can make that represents me and my hood. I wanted to paint what my life was like and what I go through still ‘til this day.
XXL: “For What It’s Worth” tells a specific story about you trying to avoid the streets while working a humdrum 9 to 5. Can you elaborate on what your life was like during that time?
Skyzoo: “For What It’s Worth” is easily one of the most personal records on the album. I came up with that concept the day I got fired from my last job. I haven’t had a job in three years and I came up with that concept the day I got fired. I got a phone call [on some street shit] like, “Yo Sky you in?” I was like, “Nah I’m cool. I gotta go back to work, I’m on my lunch break.” Then I go back from my lunch break and they called me in the office like “We gotta let you go.” And I walked out of there like “Wow, I just gave up a ridiculous opportunity.” Now mind you it was a terrible thing. Obviously it was negative, but I walked out of there like, “Wow I don’t know where my next check is coming from” and I just hung up the phone and there was like 20 checks there. That’s when I was like this needs to be a record. The concept was right there.
XXL: Where were you working?
Skyzoo: At Morgan Stanley, it was a clerical job. But I had a ton of jobs; with me it’s about honesty. With me, I have no problem admitting that I went to college or I had four or five jobs in my life. I have no problem with anything else that I did.
XXL: There are a lot of layers to this album. Are you afraid that fans wont “get it” on the first listen?
Skyzoo: I did that on purpose. I really wanted it to be so full and so thick with as much as I can say. There is a line on “The Opener” where I said, “The hardest that I’ve ever had to do/Is determine what I could and I couldn’t tell to you.” I really had to sit and determine what I could and couldn’t put out there and how much of my life I would put out there. Fuck being a nice MC; I just put my life out there. I talked about things [on this album] that I didn’t tell nobody. There is stuff that my family doesn’t even know that’s on this album.
XXL: If you’re considered a lyricist does that mean that you just rhyme and that you can’t have a lasting effect on people’s lives with your music?
Skyzoo: I think they go hand and hand if it’s done right. What happened is a lot of people who got looked at as being lyrical, didn’t really show it on their album… There are some people who are lyricists and you can go to them for a dope 16 and that’s it, but I swear to God that’s not me. There is nothing on my album, just rapping to rap.
XXL: So what does the title, The Salvation actually mean?
Skyzoo: A lot of people when they heard the title thought I was either A) saving New York or B) saving hip-hop. It’s not about either or. If New York was still running the race and on the radio 90% of the time, if we still were the leading region, this album would sound exactly the same. This album is not about saving hip-hop or New York. This album is about me and when you listen to it, it’s about you asking yourself, “What’s my salvation?”
The whole album is about temptation and whether you give in or not. This album represents my salvation, which is music.