I've had the chance to interview a lot of rappers, more than I could possibly count, and I'm pretty good at counting. One of the great things about talking to that many people is that you learn just how much there is to talk about, even with someone it seems like you wouldn't have much in common with. First crushes, favorite movies, tattoos, there's always something to connect on, and I've spoken with Skyzoo enough over the years to know that we can always talk about hip-hop, it's a shared language. He's an artist who's exceedingly passionate about his craft, and you can hear that passion in every song he does.
I had the chance to talk to Skyzoo at SXSW a few months ago, but I wanted to wait to drop this this interview until we got closer to the release of his new album, Music For My Friends. Well, closer is right now, so my hope is that both for longtime fans with Skyzoo on their minds as they plug their headphones into the new project and for new listeners thinking about checking his music for the first time, these clips can serve as a good introduction to who he is as an artist, practitioner and lover of hip-hop.
Speaking of a love for hip-hop, if you don't have at least one album memorized entirely I don't know if I can truly trust you, and finding out what albums someone has memorized is a great way to learn about the music that really matters to them. So I asked.
At the risk of getting all circle of life on you, it's striking how a passion for music can transcend the years like that. Chi-Ali inspired Skyzoo to rap, Sky has undoubtedly inspired others to rap, and those people will in turn inspire the next generation. In that way all these eras of artists are inter-connected, and it's a love for the music that bridges any gap.
Any talk about the "state of hip-hop" runs the risk of generalization, but it really does feel like the the current hip-hop atmosphere is really valuing complex music again. Kendrick, J. Cole, Skyzoo and so many more are making waves in the culture right now, proving that although hip-hop's detractors want to dismiss it as "thug," there's a real intelligence in the music, and that intelligence is cool right now like it hasn't been in a little while.
Perhaps ironically considering that last clip, I really don't have an intelligent and smooth way to bring up that time Skyzoo rapped along to "Jigga What" with Jay Z except to say hey, Skyzoo rapped along to "Jigga What" with Jay Z, that's pretty awesome. Although on second thought, it again shows just how timeless certain traditions are. As much as the music industry has changed over the last few years, the music fan really hasn't. Just like a young Skyzoo could rap along to every word of his favorite songs at a Hova concert, there are people at Skyzoo shows going bar-for-bar with him too.
What, you thought that was all? No sir, I'll be back tomorrow with a couple more clips, and this time I'm really going to get into the specifics of Skyzoo's music and his writing process. It's gonna be awesome, you should check it out. In the meantime, you can pass the time listening to the newly-released Music For My Friends. Enjoy.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast/radio form. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]