A Dream Deferred
As the story goes, Brooklyn MC Skyzoo, who just released his second LP, A Dream Deferred, October 2, was inspired to be a rapper by subsequently incarcerated and recently freed Chi Ali’s 1992 video, “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a #” It’s good artist Skyzoo has not deferred this dream.
Debuting in 2005, Knicks devotee Skyzoo put up an impressive record over the last seven years, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 mixtapes and collaborations and two full-length albums catching the eye of critics and fans alike.
Typically cited for the density of his lyricism, A Dream Deferred benefits from Skyzoo’s progression as an artist in tandem with the diverse contributions of a mad list of producers – !llmind., 9th Wonder, Jahlil Beats, DJ Khalil – the list goes on and on. This is evident from A Dream Deferred’s intro track, “Dreams in a Basement” featuring Jill Scott (produced by !llmind). The song kicks it off with deep bass, ends with supple strings, and wows with Jill Scott vocals through out. “Dreams in a Basement” is surprisingly long song, and a very worthwhile one, passing the time eloquently before you know it.
“Jansport Strings (One Time for Chi Ali)” (produced by 9th Wonder) will be cited often both for it’s Chi Ali reference, and for its nod to the popularity of the backpacks by the same name, as well as for the remix which features Chi Ali himself. “Jansport Strings” is a great song and an equally great reunion between acclaimed collaborative EP Cloud 9: The 3 Day High crony 9th Wonder and Skyzoo; don’t stop there, or you’ll miss what’s to come further along A Dream Deferred.
The album continues with many other wins, including the electronic laced “Give It Up” featuring DJ Prince (produced by !llmind). “Glass Celings” goes on to be dramatic, led by the boom of kick drums, yet still somehow traditional. Many of Skyzoo’s early influences remain apparent, even as he incorporates the bent towards musicality of his peers and companions on this album. It’s a nice blend, and one that will continue to be noted as a unifying force in hip hop today.
“The Knowing” featuring Jessy Wilson (produced by Eric G) shines as the superstar of A Dream Deferred to me. “The Knowing” boasts a phenomenal drum track, a wildly catchy refrain and alluring lyrics that hook you (“I’m attracted to getting rid of your past…I’m here to be what they wasn’t.”). The real gem here, though, is Jessy Wilson’s vocals.
Bringing a slice of soul and R&B to the pie, “Drew & Derwin” featuring Raheem Devaughn (produced by Focus). Coupled with identifiable lyrics (“I don’t want to fall in love…I hope we don’t fall in love.), the introduction of some synth makes this yet another layered tune of undeniable depth.
“Realization” featuring Jared Evan (produced by Jahlil Beats) is a solid number, and the musicality continues with the horns on “The Rage of Roemello” (produced by DJ Khalil). Despite these varied joys, “How to Make it Through Hysteria” (produced by Best Kept Secret) reminds us of the lyricism upon which Skyzoo has built a career. Effective repetition and strong lyrics like, “No handouts used because none was ever given,” are a potent reminder of the hard work and struggle it takes to achieve success, which in turn is a place of hard work and struggle.
Everyone will like and be fascinated by “Steel’s Apartment” (produced by Black Milk), which I shall leave you to discover. Similarly, the stellar “Spike Lee Was My Hero” featuring Talib Kweli (produced by Tall Black Guy) steps us into a time capsule of Brooklyn at the time Skyzoo grew up. These songs that transport us, showing us the world from a kid’s eye view, are powerful.
A Dream Deferred closes with “The Cost of Sleep” (produced by Tall Black Guy), a final lyrical punch to end its journey. What happens to A Dream Deferred? It explodes.