“SkyBlew the Cowardly Boy” wants you to say it all together like A Tribe Called Quest (or perhaps A Pimp Named Slickback) but respectfully I’ve been calling him SkyBlew for a couple of albums now so I’m just going to stick to that. The funny thing is that “Cowardly” is not a word that I associate with SkyBlew now nor could I ever even begin to. He’s purposefully made the decision to be the antithesis of what is successful in what passes for commercial hip-hop these days, which strikes me as just about the bravest thing you could do. You’d sell more records sounding like Travis Scott than like De La Soul, but the high voiced SkyBlew refuses to compromise his style. Vocally he’s Suga Free and lyrically he’s Lupe Fiasco, and on tracks like the Ologist produced “The Great Fusilly” I couldn’t imagine anything greater.
“Dang! Seen friends that I’ve always known
wind up dead or in jail and the sentence runnin on
Should’ve known we was never that good in grammar
Just kids in the hood out of Alabama
Trying to make a way — nothing was given to us
And any DAY we can die, got that feeling in us
By the hands that guide us they tell us there ain’t no God
Even some police against us, ain’t no odds
in our favor — we labor for most of our lives
for the American dream, though it seems like a lie
while time flies, y’all got the right to believe in free
Cause love’s there when you need it to be
Am I too positive? Well I positively don’t CARE
about yo’ opinion, break away from their dominion!”
Positivity is hard to come by at any time in your life. If you’re young the obstacles to success can seem insurmountable, and if you’re old you may feel like the opportunities to succeed have already passed you by and been given to the young. What refreshes me time and again about listening to SkyBlew is that he seems optimistic without naivete, and knowledgeable about the world without the cynicism that the years of acquiring that knowledge can bring. It’s hardly surprising that Random has made him the featured act of his imprint other than himself, a man with equal amounts of positivity and street smarts combined, and another equally fearless rapper who is unafraid to proclaim his passions for video games, geek culture, or the grappling arts. Open your mind and join Sky for “Blew’s Vacation in the Big Stinkin’ City.”
Ironically SkyBlew addresses his inability to relax on the track. “Gotta maintain focus, and provide hope for the hopeless/Wait, why I wrote this? I’m supposed to be chillin/Find a nice spot for concealin/Gotta clear my mind unwind and find healing/Ehh, but I doubt it.” Aww man Sky, it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s your third album now and you already delivered on the first two, so you deserve a break too. Sky is a deep thinker though and when your mind can play chess four or five moves ahead it’s hard to just turn that off no matter how good your intentions are. Even his song titles reflect the conundrum for Mr. Blew. He can’t even just be a “sick” emcee as he’s got a case of “The UNCommon Cold,” and scarily enough on “The Shadow of Mario” he describes himself as a kid who “used to cut himself on the daily thinking ‘Why my parents hate me?'” Aw man. Even as a cynical bastard listening to this song makes me want to reach out and give him a hug. Props to Scottie Royal for producing this one just the right way to not overshadow his feelings being brought to the forefront.
I often get the impression that recording music is therapeutic for SkyBlew, and coincidentally it will have that same effect on the listener too. So many artists (not just hip-hop) are far too eager to brag about what they have or can get, talking about conspicuous consumption and/or creating the next generation of those who will eagerly and greedily consume. Sky on the other hand would rather talk about everything we can all relate to whether rich or poor, have or have-not, big ballin’ or po pimpin’ — emotions. “They say I need some therapy” raps Sky over the mellow Praktikos produced “The Tower of Dr. ZaLOST.” Maybe we all do.
Even though the swinging friendly bounce of tracks like the Engelwood laced “SkyBlew Meets Bigfoot” or “The Nowhere News” (featuring Median) should find a home in any CD or MP3 player, there are still going to be those who doubt SkyBlew because he’s “Cowardly” and not “Courageous.” I’m not seeking a Cartoon Network double meaning there but you can find one if you like. What I’m trying to say is that we live in a society that extols false sincerity, a brave faced lie over the inconvenient truth, and acting like nothing’s wrong when everything is. That’s why SkyBlew is not and could never be “Cowardly” to me. He’s not just brave for embracing the unique sounding emcee he is and not bowing to mainstream trends. He’s brave because he’ll confront his fears in that most public forum of all — the naked truth of a performing artist. He’s flying high without a net and it turns out he doesn’t need it because this “Coward” is far braver than most of us.