When you sit down and talk to Skyzoo it becomes easy to understand why the arrow charting the progress of his career is in the up position. Outstanding projects aside (and there has been quite a few), more importantly you realize the ultra talented Brooklyn based MC has a fully thought plan out before he even puts pen to paper.
So it should come as no surprise that from his debut mixtape Corner Store Classic, to the critically acclaimed The Great Debater (a mixtape so well put together, it played like an album) that his name is already popping up in the conversation about our lyrical greats. Recently I had an opportunity to sit down and chop it up with the former Freestyle Friday participant as we went over several topics including his desire to work with Lupe Fiasco and why he calls The Salvation his Illmatic.
BlockMuzikRadio: What’s behind the origin of the name Skyzoo?
Sky: It actually came from my birth name, my middle name is Skyler and that was what my family and everyone else used to call me from when I was a kid. When I was born in the 80’s there was a disco group out called Skyy and they had a record called “Skyyzoo” that was real popular. So my fam started calling me Skyzoo as a nickname behind that record from maybe when I was like 3 years old. As time went on and I started rhyming, I just went with what was already there.
BMR: I know you’re from Brooklyn and actually lived up the block from where Biggie Smalls lived. How wild was that to see that whole scene play out in front of you?
Sky: It was dope man, you know being so young you understand it, but then you don’t understand it either. It wasn’t like I was 7 or 8, but it wasn’t like I was 19 either, I was around 11 years old. You understand it because you see them on TV, then you see what’s going on and you still see these guys outside on the block. Eventually I saw them coming around a little less and I knew they were doing more things on bigger plateaus and they were busier. That proved to me that it could go down.
BMR: Did that play a part in you deciding to make a career out of this?
Sky: Honestly I knew since the moment I started which was when I was 9 years old. Soon as I started I knew it was what I wanted to do, period. I didn’t rhyme just to do it as a kid, but I was already visualizing exactly what I wanted to happen. I saw myself on TV, I saw myself in magazines, I even used to draw my album cover albums like a tape including what the sides and back covers would look like. I used to have this book and I would spend my entire afternoon plotting out my song titles, to what my videos would look like, all in this book. My rhymes would be on the pages after that. I was doing all of that at 9, 10 years old.
BMR: You had drawing skills as a kid?
Sky: Yeah I used to get it in with the artwork. When I was young I went to school for art as well as English. I slowed down now so I’m nowhere as nice as I used to be but when I was a kid I was really good.
BMR: Where do you draw your inspiration from when you’re creating songs?
Sky: As far as the subject matter I draw inspiration from what’s around me. My environment, my surroundings or whatever’s going on in my life or whatever I’m trying to get to happen in my life.
BMR: It’s acknowledged that your pen game is on a high level, describe your creative process when you write.
Sky: I write everything on the spot. It’s not like I sit and try to figure out the most intricate and hard to figure out verses. I do everything right there and the way it comes across is just the way my mind put it together. I’ve always been into raising the bar for myself, you know, never mind everybody else, but for myself. I mean when I was coming up you had Jay, Nas, Big, Raekwon and all these guys who were all about raising the bar for themselves and then later on for those around them, but it started with them raising the bar on themselves and being the best they could be. Artists like that told you stories and gave you who they were in their music but they did it in an intricate and clever way that you could draw something from and hold on to. That’s what I came up on so when I make music I tell stories the same way because that’s the way it was conveyed to me.
BMR: I told my boy once that listening to your music is akin to reading the NY Times.
Sky: That’s pretty ill, I appreciate that. And you know I’m not trying to be a scientist with it, but I’m not trying to okey dokey it either you know what I mean? All I’m trying to do is make dope music from a lyrical stand point but not where you can’t get it, all you have to do is listen. The song Rocket Science comes from a conversation from some people who are like, “do you think it’s too lyrical sometimes, do you think it’s too much for people to get sometimes?” I’m like really, it’s not rocket science, I’m not talking about things you wouldn’t get unless you were part of a religion or something like that. I don’t think it’s more complex than what some of the other lyrical dudes out there do. If you listen to a Drake or Jay Electronica I don’t think it’s more complex than that, it’s just different in my way of doing it as opposed to their way of doing it. That’s why on the hook I said, “I swear it’s not rocket science, I just tell them what my day is and they’re a-alike so they replay it.” Like literally I’m telling people what my day is and people replay it because they see themselves in it. Someone on twitter said they found themselves pulled into music they personally relate to and I relate to Skyzoo and his personality through his music. That’s all I’m trying to do.
BMR: You make a lot of sport references in your lines, some are obscure where the casual fan may not catch at first.
Sky: Absolutely, honestly man I get that from Jay Z. You noticed Jay would name drop certain things and if you wasn’t up on it, you wasn’t cool enough to be on it. If you got it later or if someone told you, now you’re cool. Subliminally I got that from him and I have no problem saying that, I’m a huge Jay fan and he’s easily had the biggest influence on my music. I never tried to be him at all, I feel like I do certain things differently from him, but I have no problem saying I’m a fan. But that part of it when I’m dropping sports references that if you weren’t, say for example a Knick fan, you may not get. I think that comes from him.
BMR: Out the gate you set the bar really high with your Corner Store Classic mixtape, do you feel any pressure to outdo each project you put out?
Sky: Definitely. I have to go back to something Eminem said in an interview years ago that really hit home. Em said, “I want everything I do to be better than what I already did, and if it’s not I should’ve stopped when I did that last joint.” That was crazy to me and I’ve adopted that same thinking, if I do something today it should be better than what I did yesterday, and if it’s not I should’ve stopped yesterday. Every tape I’m trying to body the last one, every album I’m trying to body the last one, hands down.
BMR: Where do you rank your first album The Salvation and do you feel you can top that?
Sky: Personally that was my Illmatic, my Reasonable Doubt, so I don’t really sit and think about topping that one. I haven’t made an album yet where I can say okay you can compare this to Salvation. Even with Live From the Tape Deck that was really an EP, me and !llmind did in a month and I didn’t approach that like an album but rather as a side project. The second album coming out next year, A Dream Deferred will be the official follow up to Salvation. Lyrically will it be better? I would like to think so because I grow as an artist every day. But yeah man Salvation was my opening moment, it was honest and sincere and people got a great view of who I am as a person.
BMR: You’ve done quite a bit of work with 9th Wonder, how did that connection originally come about?
Sky: I met 9th in 2005 through my man Chaundon from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, he introduced us. We started building on some music and it developed into more of a family thing.
BMR: In a relatively short career, you’ve already built quite a resume of A-list producers who have worked with you. How have you been able to accomplished that?
Sky: It’s really just been me grinding and working. All the producers I know, about ninety percent of them I met on my own whether it was back in 06, 07 when I was handing out copies of Corner Store Classic at events or I was handing out CDs and flyers at different places. Packaging was important because the cover catches the eye and made people want to keep my CD as opposed to maybe the 30 other ones they would get. Once they got the CD home and listened to it, it was like, this kid is dope, I see him grinding and I’m down to work with him. Then it becomes word of mouth, people talking on the internet that helped my name spread, so it was a culmination of things happening. But yeah, I’ve built the majority of my relationship with producers by my own effort.
BMR: True, anyone ever randomly hit you up about working together that maybe you weren’t expecting?
Sky: Yeah, perfect example of that is I hit up Jahlil Beats on twitter over the summer to show him some love for that “I’m A Boss” beat he did for Meek Mill. This was totally random as I never met him, didn’t even know what he looked like, and I was like yo that track is crazy man, it’s killing the streets, good work. He hit me right back in two minutes to say he’s been messing with my music and he was a supporter and if I ever wanted to work, let’s get it. We started to kick it on the DM and he sent me a beat two hours later. That wound up being Never Faded (from Great Debater) that was on the iTunes re-release. He also sent me another beat that I’m going to record to for A Dream Deferred.
BMR: That’s crazy. !llmind’s beats complement your messages perfectly. How did you two develop that kind of chemistry?
Sky: I think it’s just the fact that we get along so well because of what we’re trying to do in our lives and musically. I’m all about versatility and be able to do so many different things and not be in a box and he’s the same way. He can make a Dilla type, chopped up soul joint and then he can also flip a Black Eyed Peas type joint because he’s done both. He can make beats for quote on quote underground and then he’s getting placements on Detox or Ludacris albums or whatever it may be, he’s getting all these different things man and it just shows how he’s not trying to be in a box. Through all this he’s still keeping who he is at the core and that’s where I’m at you know what I mean?
BMR: The Great Debater played more like an album than a mixtape, how did you come up with the concept for the title?
Sky: Obviously the movie title was a big part about it, but I really wanted to take it in a different context. It wasn’t about being political because I’m not a political rapper or quote on quote a “conscious rapper’ I talk about what I know and I leave it at that. With the Debater project itself I wanted it to be something people talk about and debated about over as far as where my spot in hip hop is. I felt like I got a fan base of people who say, he’s amazing and then you have people who may feel I’m dope but he isn’t this guy or that guy. So here’s a project that can put you on a certain side of the fence and will be the start or the end of those discussions.
BMR: What made you go with the Huxtables for the cover of Debater?
Sky: Throughout it, it’s all about the struggle of winning and trying to be successful and whatever that means to the listener. To me it means one thing, to you it may mean another. Instead of doing something with where it was maybe me with a bag of money on the cover or whatever people attribute to being successful, I thought about what success meant to me and to me growing up as a kid success was the Huxtables. You know doctor money, the bad wife with lawyer money, cool kids, dope sweaters, brownstone and still living in Brooklyn with no worries (laughs). To me that was success and I wanted to be that, I still want my life to be that, I mean I want to own a couple brownstones, one of them I’m going to live in and just blow out and the rest of them I want to rent out or do whatever and hopefully live off this rap money and whatever else it might be. So to me, the Huxtables were winners, that’s why I ran with them for the whole theme of the tape.
BMR: What sparked the Penny Freestyle series you dropped over the summer?
Sky: That series was just me going in and reminding people yeah I may give you who I am, or do the stories like on “Could’ve Struck The Lotto,” but don’t get it twisted we can still go to work. Everything I was doing on those freestyles was stuff you used to hear on those old DJ Clue or Kay Slay tapes when that was still the aesthetic. It really happened spur of the moment, I literally heard the “Otis” record and said this beat is dumb man I should get on this. !llmind put the batteries in my back so I decided to go in on it. All those freestyles were written on the spot in like 45 minutes. When I was about to send to the blogs I didn’t want to just put a random freestyle out there openly, I wanted to attach it to something and give people a reason to post it. Me being a Penny fan I’m literally looking at my foam ‘posites on the floor and I’m like, yeah the Penny Series, it came up that quick. When it picked up steam, I was like yo this could be something so I decided to drop a freestyle every Thursday. That’s how it happened, it wasn’t premediated or anything.
BMR: How do you want people to define Skyzoo as an artist?
Sky: Someone who’s always down to expand and explore his options sonically but you’re still going to get those dope bars. When me and !llmind started doing Live At The Tape Deck I told him that I didn’t want to do any samples, maybe one or two at the most and he agreed with me because he was on the same wave. We only had two records that had samples, “Barrel Brothers” and “All About That,” everything else he literally made from scratch. So you see the direction of where I’m going sonically, musically the bars are going to be correct, the song writing is always going to grow but it’s always going to be lyrical, it’s always going to be, yo he spits. When you listen to a Lupe you know what you’re going to get, or when you listen to an artist like Pusha, you know what you’re going to get, you’re going to get them bars. That’s where I’m at with it.
BMR: You mentioned Lupe, that would be an ill future collaboration.
Sky: Oh yeah, that’s definitely something I want to do at some point. Lupe’s a good friend, he’s been somebody who’s been a supporter for some time now, a lot of people don’t know that. He’s brought me out on stage and had me freestyling with his band and all different types of things. Lupe is good peoples and that’s definitely something I want to do, hands down.
BMR: Who else is on the Skyzoo radar as far as who you’d like to work with?
Sky: Pusha T for sure. He’s another guy who a supporter and shows love anytime I see him. I’ve always been a Young Jeezy fan and that surprises a lot of people. I think Jeezy is amazing, Thug Motivation 101 is spectacular to me because of what it represents and what he was able to get across with it. Kanye, obviously Jay Z and Nas, Andre 3000 is another artist I would like to get on something with.
BMR: So what are some of the goals you are trying to reach in this music business and what are some of the projects can we expect to see from you in the future?
Sky: Definitely trying to achieve more success and contining to grow as an artist. I know success holds different meanings for different individuals, obviously financially but for me it means a lot of things. Continuous recognition and being able to touch different people with my music is one of my goals. Also to get more people involved via that mainstream and major look. That’s not to say to change as an artist, but to do that to reach more people so they can feel the same way the fans that are already in pocket do. If we can turn the number of people who’ve already been touched by the music into five million without me compromising what I do as an artist, we won. As far as new projects, A Dream Deferred is definitely slated for next year, still really early into it, I have about two or three records done but I already have all the ideas and concepts written down. I have a few remix things also in the works where I’ll be remixing different projects and putting my own spin on it. Generally I’m going to keep working to keep things buzzing.
DJ Rhude – Block Muzik Radio