You can spend your entire life waiting for your moment. You can live through misery and non satisfaction waiting for that day when you can escape; praying for salvation. You look forward to the end of the pain and the advent of good times, but how many of you are prepared for salvation when it comes?
Skyzoo’s moment of salvation is finally here. The time is now. What did he do to prepare for his moment? What does salvation mean to him? Now that his day has arrived, what’s next? Planet Ill went in depth with Skyzoo to answer all of these questions and more. The Salvation is here. Are you ready?
Planet Ill: The Salvation is your first album, but you had material out before that. How do you prevent what you want to say from getting out with the free stuff so you can save it for your album?
Skyzoo: I think about that all the time. Before I started working on the album there was stuff I wanted to address, stuff I wanted to talk about. But I had to know where I wanted to go at that point because I knew there was stuff I wanted to hold for the album. For example the record “For What It’s Worth,” I had that concept three years ago, but I knew I wanted to hold that for the debut because it was such a powerful concept.
I didn’t just want to throw it on a mixtape and it get wasted or lost. With that song in particular, the last time I had a real job was three years ago. The day I got fired from my job, that’s when I came up with that concept; everything that you hear in that song, happened on that day. It turned out with that pink slip the same way it happened on that song. You have to know, “are they ready for this yet?” When is it going to make the most sense and when will people get the most use out of it?
Planet Ill: In keeping with that, how important was the mixtape in your development as an artist. In terms of creating structure, how is the process different between the two?
Skyzoo: I think they are incredibly important. I came up in the mixtape game. Before the internet, before the free downloads, I came up in the era of go to the mixtape spot, cop from the African for five dollars, take it home, bang it out and you wait for three months until Clue dropped another one.
The mixtapes are important because they keep your name out, they get your name out first off, and then once it’s out they keep your name buzzing. People like Maino, people like Fabolous, people like The Lox were built off the mixtapes and I’m a part of that cloth; I’m cut from that.
I was always about making sure I put out a dope mixtape. Some people throw out a hundred mixtapes a year; I’m not with that for me. I feel it’s about quality over quantity, but you still have to make sure you’re relevant; not giving them too much, but not giving them too little. I knew once the mixtapes got me where I needed to get, where the album would take me. I knew what I wanted to do from day one.
Planet Ill: On your album you are very referential to history. You mention specifically the Purple Tape and other albums of that ilk. How did that music inform you and how did you decide what to take from them and what not to duplicate?
Skyzoo: It was more like inspiration, it wasn’t “I want to sound like them.” It was more so taking what they did and growing from it. You take the Purple Tape, you take Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, Ready To Die. I always reference those four because those were the ones that hit closest to home, because what they were talking about, I lived. With those records, I took the quality; I took the sound and the cohesiveness of it.
Each one of those albums was a story based album, but it wasn’t stories in the sense of Tom, Dick, and Harry, it was telling you what was going on and talking about what they wanted to talk about, but in the story context. I took the honesty in it man, that’s really what it was about. I took the honesty of Nas sitting on a bench, a Jay, you know, “I seen it all from crack to opium, in third person I don’t want to see them.” I took that honesty, and the honesty of B.I.G. and the honesty of Rae and said I’m not going to say what they saying, cause I wasn’t there when they was doing it, but I’m going to give my honesty and what was going on with me.
Planet Ill: In keeping with that honesty how much of the music and your product in particular, is based on reality or powered by that energy?
Skyzoo: With the album, it was 100% honest. Every word on it really happened. Whether it was me, whether it was family, people around me, I was a part of it, I saw it or witnessed it, or it was me 100%, every single word on that album happened. From “For What It’s Worth” to “Like a Marathon” to “Shooter’s Sountrack” to “Dear Whoever” all of it happened. Every record on there really happened.
Planeti Ill: With groups, it’s important for them to establish their own sound sonically, but for a solo artist, perhaps it isn’t so much beat-wise. Was that a factor in selecting what producer you chose?
Skyzoo: Absolutely. But it wasn’t about the name [of the producer] it was more about the sound. I wanted to make sure that whatever I got it made sense sonically with what came before and after it. I knew the tracklist before I even wrote the records because I had the concepts and titles and things like that. I knew I had this record here and I wanted the next record to be that. I hadn’t written the records but I knew what the concept was going to be.
With the production aspect it was the same thing. I was like I need something to sound like this. I need something to sound like that. Certain joints people sent and it was just like yo that’s dope. I wasn’t even looking for that but it fits perfectly so I’ll run with it. A lot of joints I went to people and said, “Yo I need something like this.”
When I was with 9th [Wonder] we did like 4 or 5 joints on the album, and “Like A Marathon” was one of the joints where I was like yo, this is my “D’Evils.” This is my version of that so I need something that talks to me like that. I need something not to where it has the same sample like that, but just where I gotta kick what I gotta kick the way Jay was kicking what he kicked on that, and where the beat supports it. When he played that joint I was like that’s it! He played that beat and I was like, “Yo let me get that.” I went in the other room, got on the iPod, and an hour later, “Yo, let’s go!”
I knew what I wanted. I knew for “The Shooter’s Sountrack” I wanted something aggressive and hard but I still wanted to have that sense of musicianship behind it, so I brought in my man with the live trumpet. I wanted to bring out that emotion.
All of the beats were chosen like that, every single one. Some of them were on the fly and I was just like, “Yo that just happens to fit.” I worked with a lot of producers that didn’t make the album, not because they weren’t dope, but because it didn’t fit. A lot of producers sent me stuff and it was like damn man this shit is hard, and I really want to just rock out on this, but it doesn’t fit the story.
Planet Ill. There is urgency on The Salvation. There is immediacy on The Salvation. What happens after salvation? Once you’re saved, then what?
Skyzoo: I don’t know, time will tell. I make music off inspiration, and what’s happened, what’s happening, and what could happen. I feel like the next album will be from September 30th on [-editor’s note The Salvation drops September 29th] I don’t know if I’m saved after this album. I use the music as my salvation and that’s the theme of it. People ask me all the time in these interviews what does it mean, The Salvation? The first thing people would think, saving Hip-Hop or saving New York. It wasn’t any of those. It’s cool that people thought that, but that was not my intention at all.
The title is a play on what the whole theme of the album is. If I could sum up what the album is in one word, it’s temptation. The whole album is about temptation from “My Interpretation,” “For What It’s Worth,” to “Dear Whoever,” the whole album is about temptation. The salvation comes into play as once you’re faced with these temptations, and they’re sitting in front of you, good or bad, how do you make that decision? What saves you from giving in, or what makes you go with it?
If you give in, what are the pros and cons? If you don’t give, in what are the pros and cons? You take a record like “For What It’s Worth” and you have a regular job and you hate it and you getting paid peanuts, but everybody you know around you is pumpin’ and they getting it and they inviting you into that life, what’s going to save you from getting in to that? If you listen to the song and you peep the decision I make, I don’t give in, but then what happens? You get fired from the job, so now what? Was that decision the right decision?
I’m not here to say what’s right or wrong, I’m not a preachy dude. I’m not a conscious dude. My hands are as dirty as the next man But the album is about temptation and at the end of the day, what saves you from giving in or what makes you give in. To sum it up, the music is my salvation. When you listen to it, whether you on the block pumpin, or you got a 9 to 5, or you and ex-con, or you a single mother, what’s your salvation?
Planet Ill: How important is failure to your success?
Skyzoo: I don’t really want to know. We all work hard to achieve success, but we all have a different view of what success is. Obviously we want money, if not I could have just made this album for free and put it out on the internet and kept it moving. We all want money we all want to sell records. I want to sell a ton of records throughout my career, but I want a career. I don’t want to have one dope album and then that’s what it is. To me that would be a failure. It doesn’t stop with this album. The Salvation is just the starting point.
That’s the first room in the house. It’s going to be the main room, because it’s the debut but it’s the first room in the house I’m building. I want people to get in touch with what I’m doing. I want people to say that album meant something to me. To me that’s a success. It means that me going hard and writing and giving my all wasn’t in vein.
Success is on different levels. Definitely the paper, but aside from that, being able to touch people. Ten years from now in 2019 for people to look back and go, The Salvation, yo, turn that on.
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