Skyzoo Playlists

In one of our most enjoyable chats to date we delved into Skyzoo’s latest effort ‘All the Brilliant Things’ on Episode 13.

Within the chat David requested a Skyzoo playlist looking into his previous work or perhaps a quick trip into the Brooklyn artists that inspired Skyzoo…. I chose to do both!

First and foremost lets delve into some of the most formative hip hop tracks from Brooklyn. Where do you start and more so end?

And then Skyzoo. Like the Brooklyn playlist it could be much longer and was tough to keep it down to 10 tracks (plus a bonus).

What tracks do you love that I missed?

AOTM June: Skyzoo – All the Brilliant Things

At best we will choose a hip hop album for our album of the month yearly, and it’s for good reason. Hip Hop is at times hard to approach, and hard to find time to listen to away from your kids as 4 middle aged fathers.

For me there’s more of an issue. I remember when I first heard the likes of Nas, Common (Sence) and Rakim. Each song was a lyric twisting journey into their world. As time passes I find it harder to find MC’s that blow me away with their word play. I often wonder is why latter generations of MC’s are less focussed on this? Does it matter anymore? The genre of Hip Hop is a bit confusing these days. I find it hard to understand how much of the hip hop that ‘the kids’ like these days is listenable. Misogyny, violence and criminality seem to be more prevalent than ever.

I came across Skyzoo in 2014 through his collaboration with his New York collaborator weight Torae. Instantly I was a fan. His word play and commentary put him amongst the hip hop heavy weights that I love. The more you listen to his lyrics the more layers to his lyrics you discover. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 90’s made him a student of some of the greats such as Biggie to Jay-Z and it shows. He has an uncanny ability to bring you into his world and keep you there. I was hooked and instantly delved into previous releases which included a heralded mixtape produced by 9th Wonder, followed by his debut album on 9th’s Jamal records (home of Rapsody amongst others) and later releases on two of my favourite labels; Duck Down Records and Mello Music.

You can find music from Skyzoo over the last 20 years, but the last 10 have seen him at his best. Releasing at least an album a year, it’s hard to find any weak piece of work among them. It’s understandable why he’s become one of the most respected underground MC’s around the globe. From working with boom bap super producer Apollo Brown to hip hop general Pete Rock, Skyzoo’s output is diverse and more-ish.

So this brings us to his latest effort, ‘All the Brilliant Things’. Like last month’s St Vincent album, it comes with a theme. This is an album about the gentrification of Brooklyn. Not only highlighting the change but also the world Skyzoo has grown up in, why he loves it, the memories, the stories and the dreams.

My notes for this album have been extensive. I was lost for words, how do you encapsulate the plethora of Skyzoo and what he does to this album? Lucky I read an interview with him where he described it perfectly. He said ‘My music has always been a combination of a few things: storytelling, motive, and intention’. That narrative rings true with another Brooklyn native that I love, Spike Lee. In fact there are cross overs throughout between the two. Perhaps I’ve seen too many Spike Lee movies.

I love hip hop albums that set the scene for the album on the first track and ‘Free Jewellery’ does it to a tee. Skyzoo dives in from the start. Weaving, layering, and provoking thoughts with each line. Amongst the journey he dips his toes into the irony of the critic’s interpretations his world whilst at the same time gentrifying it themselves.

‘So don’t mistake me, yo, I don’t do this for Complex

Nor a Pitchfork or any other facade

Where the culture is determined while chugging a PBR

And telling you how to represent all of the shit that you made

While they move in your building with their roommates’

‘Culture-ish’ is another remarkable track. Full of recollections…

‘I was buying art, my friends was buying dope.

I went and made friends with rappers that was buying both’

….was the line that caught my ears, but every line in the song is spotless. I’ve spent so much time getting my head around the layers of lyrics. He reminds me of Jay-Z on Reasonable Doubt. From Brooklyn or not, you’re pulled into his world (then and now) as you sit ring side in Skyzoo’s world in Brooklyn.

There are lyrics throughout outlining changing worlds. In line with the theme, but not blatantly. ‘The Scrimmage’ looks into money and how it’s made, old and new and it’s ruthlessness. I love the track lyrically, but when the track finishes with a clip of two people talking about being removed from their neighbourhood, it makes you listen again…. Because he was talking about it the whole time.

Hip Hop was born in the Bronx, but since its inception the New York boroughs all battled to own the top spot. Brooklyn arguably has a strong claim for the top spot. Jay-Z, Biggie, Sean Price, Yasin Bey (Mos Def), the list goes on. That mixed with exceptional graffiti artists and their influence on me is the reason Brooklyn has always facinated me. That fascination of Brooklyn for me and so many others may just kill where that fascination comes from; it’s soul. This album concept is well overdue.  ‘Bed-Stuy Is Burning’ is not only the stand out track on the album but one of the best hip hop songs that has been released in recent memory as Skyzoo delves into the world he loves and how it’s crumbling at his feet.

‘To whom it may concern, don’t let this happen to you

True to what you heard, they want this back like a loop

They gave you a curb and kept you back on the stoop

And now what they prefer is to help you pack when you move’

There are few reviews on this album, but many podcast interviews with Skyzoo. From a fan point of view some say it’s his best lyrically rounded album while some say it’s too long and the beats could be better on many tracks. I don’t disagree with either to a point. Personally I think that this is an album that when digested the four of us will use as a reference point for many albums in the future as this in its’ bones has the feels. The song by song justification and the ability to continually discover with each listen. Its’ long term importance to all of us is unseen but on different levels this album is important to all four of us and is worth everyone digesting. I’ve stayed in New York three times for work, once in Brooklyn. I’ll take Brooklyn and day of the week. It’s mind kind of place. It’s cool. Like east London is cool. The hipsters came in and made it cool for the middle classes. But at what cost? This album is about that cost. About a changing neighbourhood. This message transcends globally.

One of most common narratives on the blog and on the podcast is album length. ‘All the Brilliant Things’ is 14 songs long and just over 55 minutes which is standard for a hip hop album. At first I considered that the album could drop the middle three or fours tracks, but lyrically they’re growers and some of the best on the album.

The more I listen to this album the more I discover. Will it be perfect to the lesser hip hop fans? I’m not sure. I love it because it’s out and out hip hop that also delivers on a social commentary that we should all digest.

Mix – Up The Queens Stairs 2

For all of us on the podcast, the legendary club night Speed Queen in Leeds was a huge part of our clubbing lives in the 2000’s and for me especially as I was lucky enough to be one of the resident DJ’s.

With summer on my mind I’ve put together a mix inspired by some of the sets I played in the top room.

Tracklist:

MJ – Rock With You (The Reflex Revision)

Mary Clarke – Take Me I’m Yours

Red Astair – Love To Angie 

Erib B & Rakim – Paid In Full (Coldcut Remix)

Double Exposure – Everyman (Joey Negro’s Salsol Strut)

Loleatta Holloway – Love Sensation 

Drop Out City Rockers – International Track 

Alice Smith – Love Endeavour (Maurice Faulton Mix)

Gino Soccio – Dancer 

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams (Conan Liquid Crates Motel edit)

March AOTM: Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

Whilst most of us are waiting for 2021 to show a flicker of light, you could argue that music hasn’t let us down so far. After kicking of the year off with Bicep’s ‘Isles’ February has delivered another treat; ‘Collaped In Sunbeams’, the debuit Album from Arlo Parks. For transparency, I wasn’t too sure about this album or how to approach it. The cynic in me was slightly concerned about the hype. 

Much has already been written about the creation, but if you have missed the many articles here’s a top-line recap: Around a year ago Arlo Park embarked on writing her debut album as Covid hit. Instead of being whisked away to a glamorous recording studio in LA, New York or London Arlo and her writing partner hunkered down in a B&B in Hoxton and created much of this album as the world seemed to be falling apart. It seems that her focus could not be shaken and the results were fruitful.

As we all worked through 2020 we were treated with the first 5 tracks from the album; Eugine, Black Dog, Hurt, Green Eyes and Caroline.  Black Dog, a chillingly honest song about her friends depression landed on many (including our) Top Ten year end lists for tracks of the year. As David pointed out in our 2020 year end podcast, there was a lot of expectation and hype around her album. 

The album as a combined finished article is very approachable. From the spoken word intro into “Hurt’ Arlo quickly lets you into her world. Her honest lyrics are matched by her likeable vocals of the West London songstress. The pop sounding ‘Collapsed’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Caroline’ flow into each other and are pleasing on the ears whilst lyrically telling stories more in the vein of a poet than a pop star. She weaves stories into songs with ease, making you feel the album is closer to a conversation with a friend than a collection of songs. This is apparent as you move onto ‘Black Dog’, ‘Green Eyes’ and then ‘Just Go’ which feels like a summer jam on the outside and ever so familiar song about relationships to us all (at that age) when we think about our late teens and early 20’s. 

We often speak on this blog and our podcast about album pace. I’d argue this album has been mapped very well. Some reviews have questioned ‘Violet’, and have suggested it perhaps is one of the albums weaker songs. I think the opposite. The Portishead-esk track reminds us not to rest on our laurels and arguably is a nod to some of her less predictable influences such as Radiohead. After a quick break from the expected you’re quickly pulled into the well known ‘Eugene’. It reminds me of Lily Allen. Not just for the vocal presentation and similar West London accents but also ability to welcome you into the story that Arlo tells and Allen previously did on some of her work. This for me carries through to ‘Bluish’ and ‘Porta 400’. 

Like many debutant albums ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ oozes with vulnerability. It reminds me of so many conversations with friends at that time in my life. As a person in my 40’s I can relate to her as her songs remind me of so many things when I was a similar age to her. I think perhaps that’s the magic; her and the allowance into her world. 

It’s hard to read any article that doesn’t focus on the age of Arlo Parks which I struggle with. Many have arguably written their best work at this age; though perhaps this is the point. Is Arlo Parks going to be one of the greats? There is little doubt that poetic lyrics and welcoming vocals are ahead of many of her peers in a similar age group. 

The album is easy to listen to, and has been on constantly in our house. It flows nicely and doesn’t seem to offend any of our ears. I often catch my Hayley and the kids humming along. 

Any hype that this album has received is well earned in my opinion. Will she be one of the greats? I truly hope she can carry on the trajectory she has started on. But she has a lifetime of songs still to write and in the meantime this album has a fair bit of tread on it for me. There are many miles left in it before I’ll be needing the next model. 

2021 should be a good year for music

With all 2020 gave us, music was one of the positives. From artists we have always loved such as Caribou and Run the Jewels, to artists such as Sault and Phoebe Bridgers planting their flag for a constant spot at the table to fresh new sounds like Troy Kingy, Khruanbin and Arlo Parks. 

As we wrap up 2020 there have also been some unexpected surprises; Paul McCartney, Black Thought and most recently Parallel by Four Tet. 

With a positive bounce in everyones step looking ahead to 2021 there is not only optimism in the air for things finding some normality around the world but also for new music. The hope being that many of our favourite artist have spent the last 12 months creating new material for us. 


So far we know the following artists are ready to roll: Arlo Parks, Bicep, Darkside, Foo Fighters plus a Madlib & FourTet collaboration which all should be solid. 

Plus unconfirmed but expect there will be new albums from Kanye West, Adele, Julia Stone, The Staves, Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky to name a few. 

Will 2021 meet our expectations? 

What are you looking forward to?

2020 year end lists

Never has there been a year that we have looked forward to seeing the end of the year more than 2020. For all of the negatives one of the rare bright spots has been the music. As the world went through harrowing times, the artists of the world delivered some of the best albums and songs in recent memory.

We’re going to be talking through our collective top albums of the year on our December podcast. Ahead of that we thought we would share our personal top 10 albums and our favourite tracks of the year, which we’ve created a playlist for all to enjoy!

Nolan

Top 10 Albums

1. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

2. Run The Jewels – RTJ4

3. Caribou – Suddenly

4, Marlowe – Marlowe 2

5. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

6. Royce 5’9 – the Allegory

7. Sa Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter

8. Romare – Home

9. Mac Miller – Circles

10. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Favourite tracks of the year (in no particular order)

Royce 5’9 – Tricked

Aesop Rock – Drums On The Wheel

Phoebe Bridges – Garden Song

Sa Roc – deliverance

Troy Kingi – All Your Ships Have Sailed

Jayda G – Both Of Us

Disclosure – Tondo

Michael Mayer – Higher

Run The Jewels – Ooh La La

Marlowe – Otherworld

Guy

Top 10 Albums

1. Sault – Untitled [Black Is]

2. Caribou – Suddenly

3. Sault – Untitled [Rise]

4. Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine

5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

6. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

7. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure

8. Doves – The Universal Want

9. Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

10. The Vision – The Vision

Favourite tracks of the year (in no particular order)

Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century

Khruangbin – Time (You and I)

SAULT – Don’t Shoot Guns Down

Róisín Murphy; Soulwax – Something More – Soulwax Remix

Holy Fuck; Alexis Taylor – Luxe

Caribou – Home

Mim Suleiman – Mingi

Katy J Pearson – Take Back The Radio

Doves – Prisoners

Run The Jewels – JU$T

Joey

Top 10 Albums

1. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

2. Caribou – Suddenly

3. Run The Jewels – RTJ4

4. Laura Marling – Song for our Daughter

5. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

6. Kevin Morby – Sundowner

7. US Girls – Heavy Light

8. Mac Miller – Circles

9. J HUS – Big Conspiracy 

10. Sevdaliza – Shabrang

Favourite tracks of the year (in no particular order)

Run the Jewels – JU$T

Kevin Morby – Sundowner

Home – Caribou

Perfume Genius. – Your body changes everything

U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars

Laura Marling – Held Down

Nilufer Yanya – Crash

La Vita Nuova –  Christine and the Queens

So We Don’t Forget – Khruangbin

Lamp Lady – Sevdaliza

David

Top 10 Albums

1. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

2. Caribou – Suddenly

3. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

4. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

5. Roisin Murphy  – Machine

6. US Girls – Heavy Light

7. Loma  – Don’t Shy Away

8. Jessie Ware- What’s Your Pleasure?

9. Fleet Foxes – Shore

10. Songhoy Blues – Optimisme

Favourite tracks of the year (in no particular order)

Run The Jewels – JU$T (feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha)

Róisín Murphy – Something More – Extended Mix

Arlo Parks – Black Dog

The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Waxahatchee – Fire

Anderson .Paak – Lockdown

Katy J Pearson – Take Back The Radio

Marlowe; L’Orange; Solemn Brigham – Future Power Sources

SAULT feat. Michael Kiwanuka – Bow

Sylvan Esso – Ferris Wheel