Though they are not frequent visitors on Nielsen SoundScan, emcee Skyzoo and producer !llmind have both tallied up respectable catalogs that place them amongst Hip Hop’s new guard. Occasional collaborators in the past, the two artists come together for Live From The Tape Deck, a project that highlights their strict diet of beats and rhymes.
While the title of the album calls upon the cassette era of the 1990s, !llmind’s production features a progressive format. This can be heard on the album-opening “Digital Analog” where layered synth lines boost the intensity of the song. By contrast, “Speakers On Blast” sounds like an assembly line of instruments interlocking at the right time to create a well-rounded melody that drives the record forward. Giving the album an edgier mood, !llmind lays down a grimy back drop with “The Now Or Never.” Over aggressive drums and distorted guitar Sky, Styles P and Buckshot rap tales of their next violent heist. Contributing a wide array of beats, !llmind gives Live From The Tape Deck a distinguishable sound that simply can’t be duplicated.
Skyzoo holds up his end of the bargain as well with top-notch penmanship. This is most evident on “Frisbees” , where Skyzoo challenges the listener to follow and decipher his swift delivery. Over a pulsating beat, the record almost feels like lyrical exercise for the Brooklyn emcee. Teaming up with Coney Island rapper Torae, the two Duck Down artist’s trade rhymes about their underappreciated lyrical talents on “Barrel Brothers” . Needless to say, their hook-less verses provide a convincing argument. A spotty performance does seep through with “#AllAboutThat” as Skyzoo offers a new girl an open invitation into his life. While it does have affectionate moments, the track’s proverbial vibe is offset with lines like “I got her eating donuts every February 10th.” Sure, a nice homage to J Dilla, but poorly executed.
As evidenced by his past work, Skyzoo has been known to create conceptual records that highlight inner-city struggles. However, it’s his poetic imagery on “Krylon” that captures this portrayal vividly. Almost as if the image comes to life through his spray cans, Skyzoo raps, “White tee corners wit’ blue and whites upon ‘em / Brown paper stashes and grey sewers to support them / Purple tops is down, purple pouches of Crown / Black leather Bibles, gold robes and gowns / Green and white dice games, charcoal calibers / Silver hops out and burgundy the parameter / Running through burgundy cans, I can’t keep ‘em / Try painting the high ups but I can’t see none.” With a serious tone, the second verse goes into an intense story of rape that will immediately send shivers down the listeners’ spine. As such, its records like this from Skyzoo that make his comparison to the literary icon on “Langston’s Pen” sound admissible.
Much like label-mates 9th Wonder & Buckshot or Marco Polo & Torae, we can only hope !llmind and Skyzoo continue their collaborative efforts into the future. Both are great at their craft, and likewise have a clear drive to get better. Make no mistake, Live From The Tape Deck is worthy of your car stereo, iPod, CD player, or for heaven’s sake, your tape deck.