Brooklyn Rapper Skyzoo (Gregory Taylor, no relation) is in some ways the hip-hop equivalent of a guitar shredder like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. He is someone who is technically proficient in his craft to an extent that hasn’t been fashionable since before the internet. He is talented and skillful in an era where bravado and attitude have become the currency of the day. He came on the scene ten years ago and has been steadily building his craft since then, releasing a series of excellent solo albums, mixtapes, and collaborations. “The Easy Truth,” his latest album with Detroit producer Apollo Brown, continues on the themes that Skyzoo has been exploring throughout his career: how to avoid the temptations life offers you, and how to stay true to yourself.
Skyzoo’s rhymes are pure Brooklyn. He has Jay Z’s swagger, some of Biggie’s edge, and Talib Kweli’s sense of right and wrong. The Jay Z comparison is almost inescapable. He sounds like Sean Carter’s younger brother on “Jordans and a Gold Chain,” rapping “I thought Jordan’s & a gold chain/was living it up/Like yo it is, ain’t it?” Like Jay’s, Skyzoo’s flow is effortless and unhurried, with just a touch of world weariness.
There’s definitely a formula to “The Easy Truth.” Apollo Brown lays down one of his signature sampled beats, something that hits hard but is sad at the same time. Then Skyzoo proceeds to drop bars over it, shredding his verses as deliberately and expertly as Eric Clapton laying down a guitar solo. There are only minor changes in drum sound, tempo, or lyrical themes.
Skyzoo tells stories, using his words to perfectly capture a scene, like envying the drug dealers’ fancy cars in “They Parked a Bentley on the Corner”:
“They parked a Bentley on the corner
Pulled in the baddest bitch you could’ve thought of
Hit the roof and all we smelled was sour and vanillaroma
Hit the drop down on the window, pushed a 100 out to touch us
Hand sticking out the dark it was like a Nas cover
I was like ‘if God love us, that’ll be us like tomorrow'”
There are guest rappers on four tracks, but the rest are Skyzoo all the way. He’s a strong rapper, but the combination of his similar-sounding rhymes and Apollo Brown’s similar-sounding beats makes “The Easy Truth” drag at points. Ultimately, your results with “The Easy Truth” will depend on how much you like old school lyricism. I suspect that, much like Dream Theater or Rush, Skyzoo has an audience of passionate fans even if his releases don’t crack the Hot 100. Apollo Brown and Skyzoo’s respect for the craft of hip-hop make “The Easy Truth” worth seeking out.