BMR Skyzoo Interview (9-27-12)

Photo credit: Joey Amandola

As the wind reminds my shirtless arms that fall is undeniable upon us, Skyzoo, casually but immaculately color coordinated, emerges from the front door of his Brooklyn crib. Rocking a crisp Carmelo Anthony USA Basketball tee shirt and red, white and navy blue Nike Zooms to match, Skyzoo enthusiastically greets me. The organization in his attire should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the Brooklyn MC’s career as they know order and purpose is the theme. Whether it was the way he flawlessly executed last year’s The Great Debater or his Theo vs J.J. (Dreams vs Reality) project, Skyzoo always seems to have a plan. With the Langston Hughes title-inspired A Dream Deferred slated to drop next Tuesday, October 2nd, Skyzoo took some time out from his schedule to chop it up with me. Among the topics we touched on, Sky expressed his excitement about his new album, meeting and working with Jill Scott and his reaction to fellow rapper Torae’s proclamation that, “Skyzoo’s one of the best rapper’s to ryhme of any era.” 

BlockMuzikRadio: So here we are a year and some change later and your 2011 mixtape The Great Debater is still making an impact. When you put it together did you envision the project still being this revelant?

Skyzoo: I was definitely hoping it did. When you put that much effort into a project seeing it all the way through and you see what comes back in response from it, it’s a good feeling. I’m happy it was able to do what it did and continue to flourish with new projects on the horizon.

BMR: The fact that Debater had a lot of layers to digest helped it’s longevity.

Skyzoo: Absolutely. That’s the goal, that’s done on purpose, you know what I mean? That’s something strategically done besides the fact that’s just the way I make music it’s done to give people more. I mean there’s so much music available for free download these days, there’s gotta be something more that holds you and sinks in with the listener.

BMR: You drop projects more deliberately than most of your peers. How have you successfully been able to keep people’s attention spans in a climate where fans are accustomed to getting music fast?

Skyzoo: when I put projects out, I put them out on a consistent basis but it’s not overkill. I don’t believe in flooding the market with a bunch of mixtapes or albums. I mean I’m not saying that’s wrong for the next man but for me, I don’t believe in the overkill, I believe in a few exceptional, immaculate projects a year. This year it was JJ vs Theo and A Dream Deferred, and I’m trying to get the The Penny Series out before the year is over, but they will only be a few freestyles.

BMR: True. You already have all the beats in mind that you’re going to spit over for the Penny joints?

Skyzoo: Not yet, only one I know I’m doing for sure is “Stay,” the Nas joint. I tweeted once that “Stay” was my favorite joint off his album and I was going to start working on the Penny series soon. A couple kids saw that and sent me the instrumental.

BMR: Theo vs J.J. (Dreams vs Reality) was kind of an unexpected release as it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Skyzoo: Yeah it did somewhat. I wanted to put that project out a lot earlier than I was able to but the calendar got away from me. When you’re working on an album, you’re working on a mixtape, you’re touring, doing photo shoots, traveling a lot, before you know it there’s not that much time to roll it out the way you want to. I had already completed the project though and I promised the people it was coming out. It sets up Deferred so it had to come out before it and the things I’m speaking about on the mixtape, I go even more in depth on the album. So the mixtape wouldn’t have done anything or made sense if I had reversed it and put it out after the album.

BMR: Those were interesting character choices, especially considering the contrast in JJ’s and Theo’s lives. What made you choose them for the theme for the mixtape, did you see some parallels in regards to your own upbringing?

Skyzoo: Absolutely and that’s why I named it what I did. I was just telling someone the other day, growing up, we wanted to be Theo, at least I did, but it seemed the way we lived was more JJ to us.

BMR: At least realistically.

Skyzoo: Exactly. The Theo side seemed a little different for us but I was afforded the opportunity to get in touch with the Theo side because of my pops. I was the only kid on my block who had both of his parents. My pops was everyone’s pops, you know what I mean?

BMR: That was the Huxtables part of it.

Skyzoo: Right. I mean we didn’t have that Huxtable money, my pops wasn’t a doctor and my moms wasn’t a lawyer but I had both of my parents in the crib. We lived up the block from B.I.G. on St. James Place in the height of the Ready To Die era, but we had Black art up in the crib. I was afforded and blessed with the opportunity to get exposed to both sides and it still sticks with me to this day.

BMR: The homage song “Jansports Strings” (One Time For Chi Ali) that you dropped near the end of the summer, the timing for that was ironic being that Chi was released from prison around the same time. Has that initiated any dialogue between you two? I know you have said Chi was a big influence behind you picking up the mic as a shorty.

Skyzoo: We were actually kicking it while he was still locked up. My manager surprised me one day by telling me she had reached out to him by writing him a letter and he wrote her back. She didn’t want to tell me until she heard back from him. So he wrote back this long letter saying he was honored to have been the person that started it off for me and influenced somebody of my stature. His family sees the way I’ve been repping and they’re all behind it so we’ve talked about working on some things. He told me soon as he got home we’re gonna work. I want to give him some time to get readjusted and acclimated first though, I mean he’s been away for 14 years, he’s got a wife, kids so I want to give son some time to get readjusted. But soon as he’s back in the swing of things we’re definitely going to work.

BMR: I saw you planned on writing a book, is that going to be your Decoded?

Skyzoo: Yeah man, and the reason why is the people asked me to do that, I wasn’t even thinking about doing it, but the fans were like, “you should do one of those so people have a guide to decipher your songs.” I dug that so it is something I’m working on. The way I want to do it is, break the book down into albums where I take certain projects like Salvation or Live From The Tape Deck and really just break down certain songs.

BMR: The release of A Dream Deferred is right around the corner, what’s your mind state right now, any anxiety on your part about how the album will be received?

Skyzoo: I’m just excited for people to hear it. I read some comments somewhere on an older interview I did and usually I’m not the comments guy because I learned early on not to get into that side of it, but for some reason I wind up browsing them and one or two kids said they were definitely going to cop but they didn’t think the album was going to live up to Salvation. So I’m thinking to myself, fair enough because no one’s heard the album yet, but what have I put out or done to give you that perception. I could see if Jansport Strings sounded like a Jersey Shore Z-100 record, then I could see you saying that. Jansports Strings is The Beautiful Decay part 2. If that’s all you’ve heard from the album, what makes you think it’s not going to be that.

Photo credit: Joey Amandola

BMR: I think that apprehension comes from fans used to being let down on an artists follow up album.

Skyzoo: Exactly and you know that was my reasoning with it. People are so used to second albums from artists not being the quality of the first. I started thinking of all my favorite artists to the ones I even casually listen to from way back up to now and I started thinking about their second albums and whether they eclipsed their first ones or not. So I can understand why some fans may think that way but when they do finally hear it on October 2nd, they will see it eclipses The Salvation. That’s not to discredit it because Salvation was my baby and a lot of people consider it a classic, I love that album and I put everything into it, but Deferred definitely tops it because of the growth lyrically, the growth sonically and where the story goes now and where I’m at in life now. That doesn’t discredit anything you’ve done previously but every time you do something it’s supposed to progress.

BMR: You have a song on your album called “Dreams In A Basement” featuring Jill Scott, how did that collaboration come to fruition?

Skyzoo: I was in LA with my manager back in January to work with DJ Khalil and a couple other people on the album and one night we went to a 9th Wonder, Phonte show and I see Jill Scott in VIP, hanging out having a good time, just being a fan. I wind up getting the chance to meet her through some homies that we had mutually. They were like, “go around and meet Jill.” So I go around the rope to introduce myself to Jill and she goes, “I know exactly who you are, I have all of your music on my computer, I think you’re an amazing writer and one of the best writers of what we have going on right now.” I was like, “wow, thank you that’s real, I’m a fan, my mother’s a fan,” you know what I mean? She was like, “if you ever need anything let me know, and I said, “actually, I have this record right now you can jump on,” and she was down. I already had the reference hook laid down and when I met Jill, it was the perfect match. The dope thing is, she was involved in the entire process, and it came out better than anything I could’ve imagined as far as where she took it and what she made it sound like. She was even involved with the mix, I mean we were texting each other back and forth, she was like, “when you mix it, I want to sound like an angel that’s hovering over the listener in the room.” I mean she got it, she heard everything I was talking about in the song and she got it. She even does this opera thing at the end of the song, it’s just amazing man, really special.

BMR: What was your particular approach for crafting the direction the sound has on this album?

Skyzoo: I wanted the sound to really grow on this project without alienating or doing too much. A lot of times people try to grow and they do too much by either going too far left or too far right, I wanted to grow but do it at the right pace and this was the way to do it as far as the particular producers I selected to work with and how this project sounds.

BMR: I caught part of an interview Torae did, and he said you were one of the best rappers to ever rhyme, of any era. How does that resonate with you when one of your peers of his caliber says that?

Skyzoo: Tor said that? Wow, I’m blown I didn’t know he said that, you catching me on the spot with that one. That’s amazing that he said that because rappers don’t say that about other rappers. And definitely not about rappers they’re in the same room with, meaning, we’re in the same generation I mean it’s nothing to say something like that about a Jay or a Nas, but to say that about someone you still on a day to day with, wow, I really appreciate that.

BMR: What songs off the album you’re most excited about people hearing.

Skyzoo: All of them (laughs). Nah if I had to choose it probably be, “Range Rover Rhythm,” “How to Make it Through Hysteria,” “Steel’s Apartment” and “Spike Lee Was My Hero” with Talib (Kweli). But honestly man I’m excited for the fans to hear the entire album.

BMR: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever written?

Skyzoo: It was “Langston’s Pen” before I started making this album but it’s probably sharing the shelf now with “Steel’s Apartment.” But “Langston’s Pen” is still up there because if anyone wanted to know what Skyzoo is all about, you could just play that record. It’s like a trailer for a movie, that song is the equivalent to a trailer for Skyzoo as an artist and a man.

BMR: Favorite city you’ve been to anywhere in the world.

Syzoo: London, hands down. London’s amazing I contemplated just going over there for a couple months, just staying.

BMR: The Nets have invaded our Brooklyn home turf, are you going to be able to resist the lure of the Barclays Center?

Skyzoo: It’s blue and orange everything. Period. I’m sticking with it, Spike’s (Lee) sticking with it, Torae’s sticking with it, everybody up the block is sticking with it. The Knicks are going 4-0 against the Nets we definitely cannot lose that opening game in their crib.

BMR: Fact or fiction A Dream Deferred will be the best hip hop album of 2012.

Skyzoo: Fact. I’ve jumped on stage saying that for months now. Completely from A to Z, what it does, the things it represents, the layers and depth, the lines that it crosses, hands down.

Photo credit: DJ Rhude