Besides rapping, the Bedford–Stuyvesant native has done music placements for brands like ESPN, HBO, Buffalo Wild Wings, NBA 2K, Entourage and Grand Theft Auto, while also writing and working alongside Grammy Award-winning artists. His future plans include touring within the U.S., Europe, Africa and Australia, as well as video shoots.
I spoke to Skyzoo about his new album 'Music For My Friends' and his influences from Biggie to Nirvana.
What got you into music? I started rapping when I was nine years old. The funny thing is, I grew up with music in my house but no one in my family is musically-inclined. No one in my family does anything musically except purchase a record and listen to it. It really is a true blessing and gift. I felt like I was put here to do this from early on.
I was nine years old when I heard an artist named Chi Ali. At the time he was 14 years old and was from the Bronx. He had a record called 'Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A #.' When I saw the video, I fell in love with the idea of becoming him. I had been listening to hip-hop my entire life leading up to that point. I was into everything that was on the radio. The cars driving down the block and whatever they were playing. Sticking your head out of the window and seeing the car parked on the corner in front of your building and a girl leaning on the car with a guy, and the guy is shooting dice while blasting Big Daddy Kane. I grew up on that. That being everyday around me. But it wasn’t until I saw Chi Ali that I said I wanted to do that. I was younger than a teen and I knew from day one. The moment I started rapping, I knew I wanted to do this forever.
Describe your music in your own words. What makes it stand out other musicians?
My music is lyrical, it’s story-driven. Sonically it’s lust in the way it feels, the way it’s put together and the feeling that it leaves you with. The goal of my music is to really stand for reliability. I really want you to relate to it as a listener. Find yourself in it somehow, someway. The music really acts as a mirror where you can find yourself in the music.
I want the music to be relatable but still leave behind a legacy so when I move on from music, the music is still here, still matters and is still being listened to 20 years down the line.
The music we grew up on, not the music that is out today, is the music and the artists that we go back to for a reason. And I want my music to be a part of that as well. So far, so good.
Do you think your music is old school nostalgic?
I don’t think it’s old school nostalgic, but it is cut from it in a certain sense since I grew up in a certain era. But I don’t make my music to say let’s keep it old school or forget 2015, I make my music to represent what that music would’ve progressed towards in 2015 if it didn’t take such a hard stop in the sound, the genre and the culture. I make my music to represent where I’m from, what I’m about, who I am, as well as the values and morals that I pride myself on. But I make it for nowadays. I don’t want to rhyme over records that sound like they were made in 1988.
I am here in 2015 as a young adult who is also a fan of music outside of the music I make myself. There’s tons of artists that I am a fan of, whether it’s hip-hop, pop or R&B, and I want my music to live in the same realm. I want my music to represent me and that’s what it really comes down to.
Tell me about your album 'Music For My Friends.'
I’m speaking about emotions, real-life events, the juxtapositions, and the tug-of-wars of life that we all grow up in. The album is about my friends and I, how we grew up and the way we see the world in 2015 based on how we grew up. It’s the ideas and thoughts you have because of what you were around when you were 13 or 14 years old.
I feel like the 13 or 14 year old bracket is so detrimental and imperative because whatever happens to you in that timeframe will shape you. This album is about what we saw when we were 13 or 14, sitting on the steps in Brooklyn, like the guys we admired running up and down the block who looked like they were successful in life. We didn’t know how they got their money but we wanted to know because we were becoming adults. That’s when things got scary and that’s what the album is about.
Who are some artists that have influenced you? Anyone that people would be surprised about?
Growing up, I had this hop-hop trinity of Jay-Z, Biggie and Nas as well as other artists like Andre 3000, Talib Kweli and Raekwon. I’m also a big jazz head, so Miles Davis is everything to me. Clifford Brown and John Coltrane are guys who I find inspirational. Not a day goes by where I don’t listen to jazz in some capacity.
I’m also a big Nirvana fan as well. Kurt Cobain’s tenor was fluid. I’m a huge fan. The way he was able to tell a story and evoke emotion out of you. Sometimes in the most minimal amount of words.
I’m a 32-year-old African-American guy from Bed-Stuy, so a lot of guys who look like me and are from where I’m from don’t even know who Cobain is. A lot of that comes from going to school in Manhattan. It’s what my new album is all about. I went to school with kids from Bed-Stuy, but also with kids from the Upper West Side, Lower East Side, West Village, Tribeca and so on.
Kids are listening to Green Day and Nirvana and you learn what that is. I really fell in love with Nirvana. Maybe what Cobain was talking about had nothing to do with Bed-Stuy, but I saw something in it in terms of storytelling. I was able to pull from it. It played a part in my songwriting.
I see that you’ve got some serious work under your belt. What advice do you have for a young rapper who isn’t sure how to make a name for his or her self?
Keep the music and passion first. But the same time, remember this is a business. The sooner that you realize that this is a business, the sooner you can figure it all out. You have to learn to juggle the two.