Album: A Dream Deferred
Sounds Like: Quality NY Hip-Hop that’s actually not ashamed to be NY Hip-Hop (4 out of 5, worth copping the full album or a decent amount mp3s here)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion
Brooklyn’s Gregory Skyler Taylor (known to the rap music masses as Skyzoo) has been blazing a sonic trail of solid, unashamedly New York to the Heart Hip-Hop since the early 2000s.
Skyzoo’s various mixtapes, guest appearances and collaborative projects (especially 2006’s “Cloud 9: The 3 Day High” with producer 9th Wonder) have shown an MC who has steadily grown with both his technical skills on the mic along with sharpening his ear for production that matches his lyrical style and wit.
His 2nd official solo album, “A Dream Deferred” is a tight 14 track collection of songs that should make any listener of rap music happy that’s tired of the cut-and-paste wave of MCs that are tending to sound the same from the mainstream to indie Hip-Hop Radio ends.
While definitely paying respect – via his delivery and various shoutouts – to Hip-Hop culture’s past, Skyzoo deftly avoids sounding like a dry sounding re-tread/reboot of past and current MC.
Using his smooth yet passionate flow to touch base on topics like life’s ups & downs on both serious & not so much ends – love of people and places, death, chasing after dreams, the hustle to make it, growing up mentally, the ladies, his travels in the music industry and more – he skillfully talks about grown folk things without sounding like a stereotypical grumpy old rapper.
Skyzoo also knows how to put together actual SONGS – not the sometimes indie rapper syndrome of long lyrical rambles that abruptly end – with nice bars and catchy hooks that make sense.
He also has a FANTASTIC ear for production that matches his style, getting some extremely top notch beats full of Soul, Jazz and Boom Bap vibes (with a little crunchy Electro) from the boards of Illmind, 9th Wonder, Jalil Beats, Tall Black Guy, Best Kept Secret, DJ Khalil, Focus & Eric G.
The guest appearances on “A Dream Defferred” are top notch as well, with good to great musicians in the mix like Jill Scott, Talib Kweli, , Raheem DeVaughn, Freeway and more.
If I have to make some complaints about this album (which are pretty small), it’s that a few of the songs go on just a tad too long and there are a few tracks where the production – while dope – kind of overwhelms Skyzoo’s verses by being too loud or too busy.
Doing his thing for years in the indie Hip-Hop scene seems to have made Skyzoo more hungry not just to get success, but to do it his own way. New York Hip-Hop should be proud to have him as a standard bearer MC who can rock that brand of rap not just proudly, but on a really high level and without shame.
“A Dream Deferred” should hopefully be Skyzoo’s boost to getting more recognition from diverse Hip-Hop audiences, from the blogs to the streets. He’s been slept on entirely too long and through the folks at Duckdown Records, hopefully more heads will wake up to a genuine talent in the game.
Personal Favorite Tracks: How To Make It Through Hysteria, Range Rover Rhythm, Spike Lee Was My Hero feat. Talib Kweli, The Cost of Sleep
Music Video: Skyzoo – Jansport Strings (One Time for Chi-Ali)
Music Video: Skyzoo – Range Rover Rhythm
Music Video: Skyzoo – How to Make It Through Hysteria
The R&B Divas (Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert (Brownstone), Monifah, Keke Wyatt and Syleena Johnson) a project put together by singer Faith Evans to pay tribute to R&B and support the Whitney Houston Charity. The project also gave us the TVOne reality show of the same name. I truly enjoyed this show because for once the ghettoness was kept to a very, very low minimum.
The TV show follows the lives of these 5 “divas” as they come together to support each other and to get this project off the ground.
It seemed each diva, outside of Faith, had “something” going on.
Nicci Gilbert (I really grew to dislike her) was trying to launch her full figure clothing line Curvato. She was a shade throwing, overbearing heffa throughout the series.
Monifah is starting life over after years of drug abuse. Monifah is all about love and life and she tried her best to stay positive.
Syleena Johnson A throat illness almost cost her, her career. She is your typical sistafriend. She called herself a tough love bitch. She gives it to you straight with no chaser! Has a tendency to be a bit too much Diva though.
Keke Wyatt bless this child’s heart! She has some deep issues, a battered woman, a woman with low to no self-esteem. But throughout the series you did see some improvements and I think a lot of that came from the support of the other divas. I found myself “pulling” for her to get it together.
Faith Evans the “leader” of the Divas, she was really graceful. When there were disagreements she didn’t play the puppet master and try to keep the ish going like I said graceful.
There is talk of a second season which I would love to see! I do believe you can see all the episodes on TVOne’s website.
Enough of that lets get into this CD.
What can I say every one of these Divas can sang their faces off! My biggest fear was that the songs would be full of over singing, trying to outdo each other. Surprisingly, that does not happen on this CD.
From the first song, “Lovin’ Me (theme from R&B Divas) to the soul stirring Jesus Loves these Divas give you some dang good sangin’!
The CD has its share of uplifting, you got this girl, I got this, we got your back type of “anthems” but I don’t find it to be “doing too much” for the most part the songs are all done well.
Outside of the 5 R&B Divas the CD also has guest appearances from Fantasia, Kelly Price and Helene Gilbert, mother of Nicci Gilbert. These guest artists fit in nicely with no over singing even with Fantasia and Kelly Price who have both been known to take singing a little too far. I can’t imagine it was easy working with such powerful voices and personalities but it comes together nicely.
There are a few songs that are a little “weak” but overall I like the CD. It is a true R&B CD, nice mix of midtempo and slow tempo songs.
My only real “complaint” is that Faith Evans is the only one featured on the CD cover. I understand she put this project together but this is not a Faith Evans CD. Each Diva is singing solo on their songs. I felt that was a little shady but I guess they agreed to it so who am I to say anything.
Sometimes (Nicci Gilbert & Helene Gilbert)
Play this video as you read the review…..4 Bit Blues:
I can’t say I know what truly happened, but I’ve got a helluva headache. Just typing this out is making me side-eye myself (and that’s some feat, let me tell ya).
“Come on”, my friend said, “it’s been ages since we did a club”. British phrasing, eh? Gotta love it. He was right, though, I hadn’t ‘cut a rug’, or done my version of the James Brown shimmy across a dancefloor for a wee while, so I was probably about due for some bass-bin action. The destination was this dingy little spot we both used to love. Just a door at street-level with a hokey little neon sign above it. Then straight down the narrow stairway and into the poorly-lit basement. The bar’s right in front of you as you land on the concrete floor of the club: handy, that. So, ‘when in Rome’ and all that, although it’s pretty lethal for bars to have such a good selection these days. Whatever happened to the times when you’d look at the wall of spirits and wish you could simply torch the place? Anyway, I kept peering towards the dancefloor. I say ‘towards’, but really I mean into, for it’s a dark place. What light there is is quickly snuffed out as soon as you hit that small patch of ground. It’s almost as if the soundsystem sucks all the light into it, leaving you only with the pounding kick drum, the snap of the snare, the grumble and growl of the geetar (yes, this is definitely a geetar), the thrum of the index and middle fingers over double bass strings, and the insistent jolly pounding of the rolling piano….
….and before I knew why or how, there I was, in its grip; the dancefloor. Drink sloshing in the plastic beaker that served as a glass, as I rose and fell with the tightly-packed posse. In the dark, mostly bodies. In the gloom, mostly sweat. Faces coming into view only when the individual’s sway or dip enabled the seemingly distant light from the bar (although in reality only about 20 feet away) to illuminate their features. And, oh boy! It has been a while. Either that, or this is something else entirely – for the women! Well, damn…..Curvatures and swells the likes of which make my eyes feel like they’re not only on stalks, but perched on stilts upon those stalks. If I drool anymore, there’ll soon be a decent length slip’n’slide in this tightly-spaced cubby-hole, this den where personal space is left at the door. I am seeing booties and thighs straining at cloth and denim in a way that says D.I.V.O.R.C.E. Yea, I’m being tempted. Breasts should not be that alluring. The cleavage, the sheer spheroid sumptuousness on show from these fabulously-fronted-but-as-I-peer-don’t-get-affronted females is just….oh boy….. Shyt. This drink’s good too. Tooooo good. You know when that combination of drink, women, divorce, and homelessness quickly comes into view? No? Just me, then, eh….. Tastes too good, have to have more, then the circle simply continues a-whirling and a-turning and a-spinning and a-oh….did she just bump against me? No…surely not…be careful fella. But, y’know? Fugg it….Here goes…..Mmmmhmmm…..She can’t surely be that offended, it’s only a hand, and that arc is simply begging for some tactile digit-friendly communication…..
As I said up there, I can’t say I know what truly happened, but I’ve a helluva headache. My apartment looks like it’s been emptied, and trashed on the way to being emptied, too. Someone’s wedding ring’s sitting next to me at the table. Looks familiar. I haven’t seen the wife for a while, either….hmmm….
8 Bit Blues:
Hip-hop, eh? Assailed from all sides by those who hate it, those who’ve never really “got” it, and – most painfully of all – by those who do both love and “get” it. For the latter group, which I know also includes many OHN readers, the reasons given are repeated often and along paths well-trodden, and – crucially – compelling. Even I, a staunch defender of the genre over the years – often here too, have recently been moved to begin changing my stance to one that is no longer so forthright, as I’ve come to the realisation that if I find myself defending it so vehemently against others who used to love the music, then something may, after all, be amiss (it’s also probably because I can be an opinionated arse sometimes.)
And yet here I am, presenting to two hip-hop albums for you this week: what gives? The simple answer is that, as much as hip-hop – particularly the more commercial end, of course – often seems to present only its bullet-riddled foot for all the world to see, it is nonetheless still more than capable of pulling the occasional surprise out of the bag: little gems from the margins, jewels that glisten with all the joyful creativity and eccentricity that drew everyone towards it in the first place.
So it is with this particular sparkling stone. In this instance, I feel comfortable extending the metaphor in describing this as one of those roughly hewn crystals – such as amethyst or euclase – which one might find in a New Age shop, seeing as this album is rendered in the colours one might associate with late sixties rock, psychedelia and exotica. It’s a collection of sounds that some may choose to listen to in a haze of smoke from those funny cigarettes much beloved of the Cypress Hill chaps….
The Gaslamp Killer has recruited many collaborators to complete this record (Dimlite, Computer Jay, and Daedalus being just a few of the names on board), but his voice remains the singular one throughout, almost like there’s a goal he will not be diverted from and he’s converted his cohorts to the cause. It’s an intense but – I found – highly enjoyable listen. It reminded me of the kind of mixtapes and tracks I used to hear back in the day from the likes of DJ Shadow, Dan The Automator, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, or The Scratch Perverts. Tracks laden with rhythmic foreboding string samples, moody brass (there’s a trombone sample towards the end I’m particularly fond of), scuzzy garage or strummed pastoral guitar sounds, squeaks & squawks and sci-fi film noises, or lithe sitar playing (Nissim, for instance, will be staying on rotation for a loooong time). All of this, which could so very easily be an incoherent mess, is instead brought together in a thoroughly convincing fashion by the kind of thundering and often funky beats that will make you think he’d enlisted both Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and Bernard Purdie (just about everyone who ever had a soulful pulse) to play live into your headphones. Because that’s essentially what this is – a headphone hip-hop album, and all the better for it, too. It’s a great album for riding the train to, imagining little scenarios playing out to the soundtrack pumping into your ears. The vibe on this album is different to Kid Koala’s, but it is no less playful and joyful. It is an album I can highly recommend, for those of you who enjoy your hip-hop sounds with a little bit of spicy sauce……