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DJBooth Album Review
Those turned out to be very wise words, and strangely they also perfectly describe Skyzoo’s approach to the game. In an ideal world the Brooklyn emcee would have achieved worldwide recognition for his excellent debut The Salvation, but in an ideal world hip-hop writers would make Bernie Madoff money. Instead, despite almost unanimously positive reviews, Sky has largely remained an underground phenomenon. His solution? Continue to put out projects so good people would have no choice but to take notice and feel like idiots for missing out. Well, first with Live From the Tape Deck and now The Great Debater, he’s making people believe.
In today’s over-saturated market it’s become clear that in order to stand out you can’t just be good at some stuff, you have to do one thing better than everyone else. Rick Ross does fantasy rap better than anyone, Big K.R.I.T. is doing better southern soul production than anyone and Skyzoo – well, Skyzoo just raps better. As the man acknowledges, his pen is sicker than that dude who got bit by a monkey in Outbreak. (Shout out to the ten other people who saw that movie.) Just take The Definitive Prayer, a linguistic performance so intricate the video came complete with lyrics: “Serenades warrant hearing aids, ringing murder ones / blue and whites move alike if they should think they heard a drum.” I’ll let you think that over for a minute, but don’t take too long, there’s still Written in the Drums, For the Awake, Rap Like Me and more to pour over. Hell, I’ve been listening to this for more than 24 hours straight and I’m just now discovering all the implications of Could’ve Won the Lotto, and I’ve still got a long way to go. There’s a certain type of rap head, and I count myself in this camp (not exclusively) who garner a strange sort of enjoyment from pouring through complex lyrics and for us, Great Debater is a goldmine.
For the readers who took off running at the prospect of having to crack open a dictionary relax, Skyzoo’s not here to impress, he’s here to make good music. Atypical finds him reuniting with his Tape Deck compatriot !llmind for a hypnotically paced ode to fine females, though delivered Sky’s typically atypical style, and Expensive Habits is easily the project’s most accessible record. Built on top of a 14KT beat that could have come off Black on Both Sides, Habits is Sky at his smoothest, though he can’t help but work in some wordplay: “I could floodgate it and awaken what’s around that / I could runway it what you playin (plane) wit the crowds at.” Records like these, and I’d have to throw the head nodding Parade Me and the horn laden We Here into this bunch, prove that more than a pen moving on paper Sky can truly flow. Thankfully the delivery mechanism is just as good as the product it’s delivering.
In the end though, there just isn’t a party record on Great Debater; there's also not a for-the-ladies radio jam, not one song that you could turn your mind off to and enjoy. Those records have their time and place, and lord knows you’ve got no shortage of options, but there just aren’t many rapping rappers left, emcees who wake up in the morning and dedicate every waking moment to saying the dopest sh*t in the dopest way possible. Skyzoo is one of those rappers, and on Great Debater he’s in the finest form we’ve heard him yet. If you’re not loving this, maybe it’s time to question whether you really love hip-hop.
DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Jun 08, 2011
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