(Photo Credit: Tommy Ellis)

Three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), a new artist is featured on XXLMag.com’s The Break. An ideal destination for fans, artists, and industry members, The Break showcases up and coming talent, giving a brief introduction on the artist or group, and highlighting some of their standout music. Each month, industry insiders will team with XXL to rate and comment on the submissions.

For the month of November, DJ B-Rock, Buyer and Product Analyst at Best Buy/Anderson Merchandisers, checked out the section to see what this week’s talent (Skewby) had to offer. Check out his comments below and be sure to pick up XXL x Best Buy’s Mini-Magazine, exclusively at Best Buy.

Overall: XL

Fans of early Lupe will not have their time wasted by checking out Skewby’s work. While he doesn’t twist words or flip ornate couplets like a Skyzoo, he doesn’t waste a bar off topic either. His voice doesn’t command respect like a Rakim, but neither does Lupe’s and the listener pays attention because there’s substance to be gleaned. To call Skewby simply “conscious” or “backpack” would be oversimplifying things and putting him in a box that he only has one foot in. He’s far from “street”, but unlike many backpackers, he not only has something to say, but he can craft a song from verse one to three and even the hooks in between.

If I had one track available to introduce a listener to Skewby it would be his “Chillin’”. He keeps a firm focus on the theme of staying true to himself in the industry knowing that “yeah, it might take longer” to reach success, but at least he’s chillin’, comfortable with who he is. He’s not in a rush. In an interestingly self-deprecating boast he claims that he’s only “one naked pic on the web from going viral/one overdose from being a kid’s idol”. From one view, he’s claiming that he’s so far from the top that it would take killing himself to get the recognition he feels he deserves. From another, he’s showing how absurd quick success in the business is. It may take him a while, but at least he acknowledges it without a hint of resentment for the process, business or those that choose the other route.

Skewby takes on the same routine, some may claim, boring topics, but he does so as a writer who doesn’t try to outsmart the audience or himself. Never does a story go off-topic or a subject get lost. And all the while there are sprinklings of puns, analogies and even homage to those that came before (props for quoting one of my favorite Outkast lines “cool as a polar bears’ toenails/can’t tell nothin’ to an outcast” in “Sweet Dreams”). It’s easy to claim being “true to one’s self”, especially when you haven’t quite made it. But it’s hard to make the listener believe you by how natural your writing voice and flow are. And that’s what I hear in Skewby.

There’s always room in hip-hop for a conscious, positive writer who can flow. The question is whether he’ll excite the fans and A&R’s enough to pay for his music. Like those before him, he can go one of three routes: 1) Keep doing what he’s doing and quit after ten years of being pressed against the hip-hop glass ceiling, 2) Sell out and change his persona and subject matter like Wale and get signed by Rick Ross or 3) Stay true to himself, build a fan-base that no label can ignore and gainfully add work to the hip-hop lexicon after years of growth and patience. Let’s hope he chooses the latter.