In Celebration of Us, the masterful new Skyzoo album that dropped earlier this year, is the tenured MC’s first project that feels utterly driven by the fierce urgency of the current times.

In fact, the album is dedicated to Skyzoo’s newborn son, Miles, and the album feels in many ways to be written directly for him. As an independent rapper, the Brooklynite has always balanced the backpack and the street, classicist verbosity and gritty street narratives. Although, Sky says the concepts for the album didn’t change too much once he found out he was about to be a father.

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On that note, here are the five records he can’t wait for his son to soak up game to.

“Everybody’s Fine”

I think, for anybody who listens to that record, it’s kind of self-explanatory. It’s just a barrage of all the things that I’m talking about. I purposely went into the record wanting to talk about things on this huge spectrum, and everything just kind of hits you, boom, boom, boom, on that song. Because that’s the way it feel living out here now! So I purposely wrote it like that, because every day there’s things happening, and some of it is good, some of it is bad, and ALL of it is confusing.

“Til you’re back to backing the semi from inside of your coat /Either that, or standing on the other side of the scope/Or it’s a celebration of being nowhere near where that aim is/Trigger fingers turn to quotations/Same fingers boxing you in will leave you vacant.”

You know, it just was so much that goes on with us and I wanted the record to reflect and feel that way. So definitely “Everybody’s Fine” is a must-listen.

On why it repeats it’s sole verse and features no chorus:

There’s no chorus at all, it’s just one long—I don’t know, maybe 64 bars or 82 bars? Whatever it is, I repeated it because I want it to really hit hard. I wanted the listener to feel the drums and “get it,” but then I wanted the drums to drop out and I want to spit the whole thing again. So there’s no excuse to not understand every word I’m saying, and because I wanted it to be that impactful where it’s like “no, listen, this is what’s really happening out here. I felt like if I spit it twice without the drums, with it being really melancholy and solemn, it was going to be like “Wow, OK, I get it.” I wanted it to hurt a little bit.

“Black Sambo”

100 percent “Black Sambo.” I think again the pic is pretty self-explanatory. Just how it is out here and what is going on with us. You know the chorus is: “How they said a little black Sambo can never fit a crown/Mama said now that got it, don’t ever put it down?” Right away in the first two lines of the hook, I’m saying here’s what they said would never happen, and here’s how you defy the odds because you proved them wrong. And I didn’t say, “Momma said when you get it don’t ever put it down,” it’s now that you got it, don’t ever put it down. You’ve already defied the odds. They are going to have to kill me first before it ever hits the ground.

It takes honor and prestige, this way I’ve been able to lift myself up to be somebody who truly can wear a crown, has done great things and lived life a certain way. Don’t ever let “him” take it from you and if they do, let it be by default. Let it be because they had to get rid of you to take it from you. So when you add that to what I’m talking about [in terms of] the police brutality.

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“They press y’all like suit clothes, and them suit clothes/Couldn’t save you from the type of stereo/That they’re willing to shoot for/And the loophole turns blacker than the light/That they had you under when they handed you a mic/And they asked you whether you was acting outta fright/When they asked you if you was out trafficking tonight”

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The whole record is solely about police brutality. And with [my son] being a young black boy who’s going to grow up to be a black man, it’s something that he needs to know. Because it’s a reality. You know a day doesn’t pass by where there aren’t police in my neighborhood. A day doesn’t pass by without cop cars zipping by with the sirens blaring as if there was a huge emergency. They go by and I’m walking through the store and they drive by slower when they see me. They look at me out the window and go real slow. I have never seen a cop sitting on the corner looking at me and everyone around me without their hand on their hip.

“Hoodie SZN”

The hoodie is the most complicated garment you know in the history of fashion. There’s multiple layers to it, okay? The protection in the literal sense — when it’s cold outside, it is a good protection from that. But when you are in the house and you decide to jump off the stoop … jump off the stoop is a phrase in the inner city for the first time you go outside and start getting your hands dirty; when you go get some money. First thing you do is put on a hoodie. Why? Because you’ve never been outside before on that level. So anybody who sees you come out, they’re going to question why you are outside. You got a hoodie, you’re less likely to get questioned and it will protect you in that sense.

“It turned everything that you saw into a sequence/Similar but different and all like it’s a remix/But bet you that hoodie is with me through any season/Bet it holds me over if somebody’s rolling over/Saying that I look familiar but they needed to see me closer/Bet you that it got me if they got me in their line/With an infrared light show following behind”

But that same hoodie can harm you because it can make everyone around you afraid. And because of that fear, it might make them one to take you out, like police might want to drop you because of their fear. It just gives you, allegedly, a certain stigma, particularly for police, or make people look at you a certain way when you walk into a store or drive by, never mind if it’s raining or not. They look at you a certain way because you have it on, i.e. Trayvon Martin. A hoodie does so much good and so much harm at the same time.

“The Stick-Up Tape Menace”

People think [the song] is about being a menace to society, but it is and it isn’t. It uses it as an example. It’s as if you and I were having a conversation about something and I gave you an example I said “yo, for example, such and such” and you said, “oh yeah, I remember that.” That’s what ‘society’ is on that record. I’m so using it as an example of validation. “Stick-up Tape Menace” is about validation, because of the message like validation has been the plight, whether right or wrong for black people. Since the day we got on the boat, we wanted validation forever. It’s why as a people and I’m speaking in general. Obviously, that’s why the people … we put so much value living in the projects, but you’ve got the newest sneakers as soon as they come out. So they come out or you live in the projects but the outfit is a $1000 every day. It could equal to a $1000 every day. Or you’re on food stamps but you’re throwing your three-year-old the $3000 birthday party.

“And then all of the attention is with you until you blind/And then all that you was given was written for you to find/As true as the religion concealing your .45, .45’s and gauges, Macs in fact, it switch places, act for act/It switch stages or switch pages it gets makeshift and gets taken/It gets layman’s then gets sacred”

The reason why we put so much value on these things is because we’ve been fighting for validation from day one. They told us: “you guys go in the house, and the rest of y’all go in the fields.” They told us: “Give us your women and we going to take advantage of them and do whatever we want. We’ll send them back to you at some point. And if they get pregnant that’s your problem.” They told us you’re not allowed to vote. You’re not allowed to learn how to read and write. You’re not allowed to start businesses over here. You’re not allowed to. Don’t really think that you’re home. You’re not allowed to shop at the same restaurants, the same grocery stores that we are allowed to shop at, so stuff became important as validation. We’ve been fighting for validation forever.

It’s why if you bump somebody on the shoulder or you accidentally step on their sneaker, somebody dies. Because it’s about validation. You’re not respecting those who you deal with. And then tragedy happens.

skyzoo celebration hard copy

That’s why in Menace II Society, O-Dog wanted everybody to see the tape as validation. He was proud of what he did, regardless of how wild it was or the fact that it started out as an accident. “Look, I did that. Don’t forget that I did.” He started selling the tape and everything. And it ultimately became part of his downfall. So validation is what their record is about. And I would say extremely because you put so much importance on validation, it could wind up harming you in more ways than you could ever imagine.

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“Honor Amongst Thieves”

I could give you way more, but if we are capping it at five, “Honor Amongst Thieves,” which is solely about the relationship between father and son. Whether the parents are together or not, it’s solely about the relationship between father and son. Well, it starts out with me talking about cultural appropriation. “Do you believe that you can be told how to be you? Do you believe that you could be told how to improve? Do you believe that you could be taught how to be who you already was before you were bogged down—bogging down like tied on the boat?

“There was a story of a kid who had his father everyday/And his father had the grip but he also had a name/ Off of more than just the grip, it was off of how he changed/And it was all because his kid wasn’t supposed to be the same”

So the first verse is about cultural appropriation, and then it goes into the father-son relationship. Because if you don’t have that strong figure; that strong black male role model in your life and in your house every day. Then you can easily be taken advantage of as far as cultural appropriation. Don’t let nobody tell you who you are or how to be you if they’ve never been in your shoes. Only having that figure in your life can teach you those types of things. And then he goes on with the whole Boyz n the Hood thing, with Tre and “Furious” Styles, you’re going to see how your friends up.

You’re gonna see how your friends end up later in life. And it totally happened and that was exactly what happened in my life, with my father. Just some of my friends, though.

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I can give you a bunch of stories like Doughboy, a bunch of stories like Ricky. So those are my five.

Stream Skyzoo’s new album, In Celebration of Us on Apple Music right here.