Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo may not be synonymous with the word “quantity” (in the context of commercial units, anyway), but since I first heard him on his 2006 “Cloud 9” album with 9th Wonder, I can say that the man is a metonym for the word “quality”. Whether it’s a solo album, a collaborative album, a stray single, or a guest feature, Skyzoo has a flow and delivery that never bores me. Part of his appeal is that he’s not an over-the-top punchline rapper or a street cat with cinematic tales consisting of drugs and crime. He raps about what he knows, namely his life and the experiences that come with it. His fourth solo album, “In Celebration of Us”, is about those themes. The album’s concept appears to be a loose autobiography of Sky interspersed with commentary on the Black community. The opening track, “Everybody’s Fine”, runs for over eight minutes and begins with a dialogue of two male friends discussing the prospect of fatherhood (one of the men portrayed is Sky’s father).
The producer line up is varied, but has a jazz-tinged sound that’s reminiscent of the scores used in films by fellow Brooklyn native, Spike Lee. For five tracks, Sky reunites with !llmind to provide support behind the boards. The five songs they laced together for this album succeed for the most part. The only one that was a miss was “Parks & Recreation”, and I say that because of the production. I’ve heard the sample in this song utilized by several producers before and I can count only one guy who flipped it the best. Though Sky’s lyrics are on-point, the beat has no real drums, change-ups and no layers. !llmind’s best beat on the album is “Black Sambo”, and also contains Sky’s best flow:
Sky’s at his best lyrically when he works with producers with whom he’s done prior full-length collaborative albums. Over “Baker’s Dozen” (featuring Raheem Devaughn), he’s laced with a drum and bass beat by Detroit producer, Apollo Brown. It’s dope, especially when Sky boasts “I’m Luke Cage, but more related to Cottonmouth”. DMV-based producer MarcNfinit laces a similarly styled boom-bap beat which Sky rides wonderfully on “Forever In a Day”. He also produced “Collateral” which ends with a laundry list of African American stereotypes capped off with a quote from the 2000 film “Bamboozled” (directed by Spike Lee and thus strengthening the connection mentioned earlier). The Tuamie-produced “Heirlooms & Accessories” is the best track on the album. Portraying a lyrical picture of the hood, Sky switches to a double time flow when the beat changes:
The one track that sounds the most polished is “The Purpose”. Produced by !llmind, it has Kay Cola on the saccharine-dripping hook for what’s clearly a love song. Following that is “Love is Love” produced by Cardiak with an organ sample over boom bap drums. The album closes with “Honor Among Thieves”. Like the album intro, this track is a lengthy bookend that stretches to nearly 10 minutes. To coincide with the autobiographical theme, Sky speaks on his life with references to the 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood” and about his celebratory moments.
Sky’s not a commercial emcee nor do his beats have the gloss and shine that scream pop. But he has ability on the mic and thoughtfulness that he brings to his craft. “In Celebration of Us” has flaws in the beat choices, but that doesn’t take away from Sky’s validity as an emcee or the contributions he makes to rap.