Skyzoo is a unique talent. The Brooklyn emcee honed his skills on the mixtape circuit starting in the early 2000s before signing on with Duck Down in 2009. His catalog is extensive, laden with collaboration albums with popular producers, from 9th Wonder to Illmind. The solo studio endeavors, however, have been less frequent; an impressive feat considering his level of respect and dedicated cult following. With Music For My Friends, Skyzoo provides a fearless work, rooted in traditional East Coast sounds and powerful first-person nostalgia.

The title doesn’t mince words: the album is a collection of stories and anecdotes from Skyzoo’s youth, with shout outs to — and from — friends and family. Its message is relatable for those who find solace in the memories of teenage angst and young adulthood. As such, the stories, wisdom, and tonal production of Music For My Friends make it a distinctly human record.

More than once, Skyzoo articulates the power of being fully present, a prevailing theme of the album. On “Playing Favorites,” he speaks directly to an old flame: “Say hi to knowing me, and hi to who you be / ‘Cause being in the now is the high that you need.” Likewise, alongside Black Thought and Bilal on “Money Makes Us Happy,” he provides positive reinforcement against the classic root of all evil: “Because money makes us happy and, happiness is / Everything, and everything is now and, now is more than never and, there’ll never / Be a moment where happiness doesn’t matter so, if you can quote the prices of / You’re happy then get at us yo.”

Earnest moments notwithstanding, the bulk of the album is a tour de force in lyricism. “Women Who Can Cook,” is cleverly lustful, loaded with food puns and metaphors: “From the K but my family from the country / A bowl of banana pudding is the dopest way to love me / You say I gave you the dopeness / I say I’m just whipping the way you whip at the stove and / Compliments in doses.” The level of thought is appreciated, considering he never exhausts a particular rhyme style. “Suicide Doors,” for instance, is an impressive bar-for-bar expose with complex rhyme patterns (if you’re interested, Skyzoo himself explains each of the track’s verses on its Genius page). And with regards to his aforementioned clout in the game, he shares the spotlight with Jadakiss on the extra grimy “See a Key (Ki’),” an album highlight.

The beats are rooted in classic styles. Most everything has New York boom-bap flavor, save for the J Dilla sound on “See a Key (Ki’), and the synth-driven production of “Sweet Pursuit.” A recurring theme is trumpet instrumentation, which establishes ambiance and a certain vibe (“Suicide Doors”; “Civilized Leisure”). A mellow overtone prevails, and the mood is consistent.

Music For My Friends is an above-average effort from Skyzoo. Hip Hop purists will appreciate the framework in particular, but everyone can relate to the album as a whole for its universal sentiment, conveyed vis-a-vis storytelling and life lessons from the artist himself.