Before studio leaks hit the Internet at hyper-speed and album leaks became the normal course of business, the mixtape was the main way that we got the non album morsels to bang in our systems. Skyzoo and producer !llmind have collectively decided to take us back to that era with their ode to the TDK’s, Live From The Tape Deck, an album of dope beats and rhymes designed to project that raw Hip-Hop.
“Digital Analog” sets the album off with a heaping helping of synth and a boom-bap drum. Skyzoo rhymes both mid and end bar and takes no breaks ripping through his extended verse. “Frisbee” continues the verbal assault with Skyzoo ripping alliterative rhymes over an unrelenting rhythm.
Helter Skelter provide the first guest spots with the aptly-titled “Burn Notice.” Sky opens with fury and line after interconnected line before handing the baton to the Rockness Monster, who slows the pace down with his gruff delivery. Sean Price serves as the track’s “just right” with good energy and hard-hitting lines like “5,4,3,2 start the pistol blast off, no proctologist Ruck is rapping his ass off. N***as lost like Tribe of Shabazz, find ‘em with a verse that’ll surprise they ass.” The track ends with the classic Radio Raheem 20 D battery skit from Do The Right Thing.
The tension-filled “Speakers on Blast” is a highlight, with a dynamic beats that adds 808s and snares as the beat moves and at a certain point plays like a popped speaker while Skyzoo references Jigga’s “Blue Magic” and pop references from the aforementioned Spike Lee classic and sneaker culture. A soul sample powers “#Allaboutthat” as Skyzoo gets at some around the way filet through their collective love of music.
Frequent collaborator Torae stops by on “Barrel Bros.” their chemistry is readily apparent as they pass the mic back and forth a la EPMD, not settling for I go you go verse trading. There are lines galore and a Torae delivered nod to former Roc’ers the Young Gunz. The beat features a horn section for added gravity. The “Winner’s Circle” stands as a Dilla sounding slower pace for the album. The song finds Skyzoo wrangling over being over people’s heads or bringing his talent closer to earth and more readily digestible. He references the recent Lebron James “Decision,” sampling the much maligned “take my talent to South Beach” speech.
“Krylon” presents Skyzoo’s pen as his spray paint; drawing pictures with his words and creating different pieces of his lyrical mural. The moody piano of “Kitchen Table”, along with the hard-banging drum ,provide a strong backdrop for Skyzoo to rhyme about being a provider for everyone under his umbrella. With art as his spear, he’s trying to kill enough to feed his family. The song ends with another Do The Right Thing interlude, featuring Buggin’ Out and Radio Raheem talking about boycotting Sal’s Famous. Sky puts himself in the movie and describes the feel with precision on “The Now Or Never.” Styles P and Buckshot collaborate, with each building on that immediacy of the moment.
Rhymefest drops by on “Understanding Riley,” which deals with those who call for positive raps and decry the spoils of success, yet they don’t buy “positive” records. ‘Fest drops an ill verse that serves almost as an alter ego to his normally positive themes, even noting “kill me? Everybody on the block feel me, fuck El Che yeah n***a this the real me.” The record closes with “Langston’s Pen,” Skyzoo’s free-form rap to a light synth production without regards to bar count or structure. He symbolically raps until the tape pops, bringing both the song and album to an effective close.
Live From The Tape Deck delivers on its promise with a stunning array of beats and rhymes. Ironically, that’s also what holds it back from taking its place among high caliber albums. There isn’t anything gripping that goes deeper than the music. Both producer and rapper perform ably but in the end it feels like a very well-done mixtape and pales in comparison to Sky’sThe Salvation.
3.75 out of 5
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