What’s your salvation? The thing you turn to in times of need, the thing that always gets you...
DJBooth Album Review
Skyzoo was born Gregory Skyler Taylor (Skyler…Skyzoo…get it?) and grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a locale that almost guarantees that a young man with a love for words will become a rapper. Sure enough Skyzoo has grown into - and I understand the weight of what I’m saying here – one of the best young rappers in the game, building his reputation on a series of mixtapes (and one very dope DJBooth freestyle). But in hip-hop the true measure of a man is still an album, and on his debut effort The Salvation he proves he’s a young MC with skill, vision and heart. The Salvation won’t blow you away after one listen, but keep it on for a day or two and the album will begin to feel like an old friend, always there to offer you advice or pick you up.
If you’re going to name a track The Beautiful Decay you better come with it, and sure enough Skyzoo delivers. Produced by 9th Wonder (hence the impeccable soul samples) Beautiful Decay is the portrait of a world that retains a sense of beauty despite overwhelming poverty and violence. As far as Skyzoo’s lyrical work, it’s probably best to let him speak for himself: “everything you listen to is everything they didn’t do/ everything they didn’t do is everything they want to say / everything they want to say is everything you want to play.” If there’s three lines that sum up the current rap game better I haven’t hear it. And that’s really Skyzoo’s strength, the ability to write lines that aren’t overly heavy but still packed with meaning and realness. In fact, this concept of what’s real runs throughout the album, most explicitly on the aptly titled Return of the Real. Return is one of the album’s most engaging tracks, thanks in no small part to some monstrous production from Just Blaze, a cut that Sky embeds with lines that doge and weave in and out of the track. Supreme Court Justice Stewart once said of pornography that he couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it. Well I can’t define realness, but I know it when I hear it, and Skyzoo is real.
Let’s take a deep breath. Yes, I am absolute serious when I say that The Salvation is one of the better debut albums I’ve heard in a minute, but Skyzoo is also not the second coming of Christ, or Nas, or Tupac, or insert you favorite icon here. If one criticism were to be justly aimed his way it would be that his delivery doesn’t always match the strength of his writing, a criticism that speaks more to the strength of his pen and pad skills than his delivery. Just take Popularity, a skittering, off-paced cut that was begging for a fast, dynamic flow, but Skyzoo keeps it in first gear the entire way with a cadence that borders on monotony. It’s a similar story on The Salvation’s most radio ready track Easy to Fly, a jam that not only features the album’s sole guest feature (from Carlitta Durand) but its most predictable, both in theme and Skyzoo’s constantly measured cadence. The man’s pen game is sick, but he’s still got some work to do before he can make those words truly come to life.
Still, I don’t want these criticisms, as true as they may be, to detract from the truly impressive work that is The Salvation. There are tracks on this album, most prominently the gothicly dope The Necessary Evils, the unrelentingly honest For What It’s Worth and the gripping The Shooter’s Soundtrack, that sound like the work of a top shelf hip-hop veteran. I hate to use the “p” word (no, not that P word), but Skyzoo’s got more potential than any rapper that’s come across the speaker wires in a minute, and if The Salvation is any indication, the promise of his potential may just be fulfilled someday. Not today, but someday.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Oct 07, 2009
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