mu­sic re­views

Sky­zoo | Ought | Harm’s Way | Justin Timberlake | Nils Frahm | First Aid Kit




In Cel­e­bra­tion of Us

Any­one re­motely fa­mil­iar with Sky­zoo would be re­miss not to con­cede the in­tri­cacy of his pen game; a new project from the Brook­lyn MC has a track record of be­ing guar­an­teed qual­ity. So when the 35-year-old rap­per calls a project his most “lay­ered and con­cep­tual” — es­sen­tially his best — to date, it’s rea­son­able for fans to sali­vate. In Cel­e­bra­tion of Us is many things at once. For starters, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of both the glo­ri­ous peaks and dark val­leys of the black com­mu­nity. As the al­bum pro­gresses, amid pro­duc­tion from the likes of !LLMIND and Apollo Brown (among oth­ers), he tack­les themes that range from ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion to po­lice bru­tal­ity, clas­sism and eco­nom­ics.

Prob­a­bly the most un­der­stated and yet pro­found theme on this al­bum is the value that Sky places on fa­ther­hood. The al­bum opener be­gins with a re-en­act­ment of his fa­ther’s life, as he leaves be­hind the streets in favour of rais­ing Sky­zoo for a bet­ter chance. The al­bum closer, “Honor Amongst Thieves,” pro­duced by Seige Mon­stracity, in­cludes a touch­ing story of his child­hood, stress­ing how in­flu­en­tial his fa­ther’s im­pact was on his early life. It’s not un­til you catch the ref­er­ence to his first child’s im­pend­ing ar­rival, on “Love Is Love,” that

PSYCH FOLK you con­nect the dots, mak­ing the cir­cu­lar na­ture of the em­bed­ded sto­ries feel like de­lib­er­ately placed Easter eggs for his son, which is amaz­ing. From top to bot­tom, In Cel­e­bra­tion of Us is ev­ery bit as im­pres­sive as Sky­zoo him­self al­luded to. Stel­lar pro­duc­tion, songs that re­quire mul­ti­ple lis­tens to fully grasp, and a con­cep­tual vi­sion that hits the mark — this is up­per-ech­e­lon hip-hop. (First Gen­er­a­tion Rich/Em­pire)

Did you ap­proach this LP with your son in mind?

Def­i­nitely. I wanted this al­bum to serve as a guide­book, you know? I wanted it to be some­thing [my son] could al­ways go back to, as far as what to ex­pect, what not to ac­cept, what not to tol­er­ate and what to strive for and achieve be­ing a black male in this world.

Has fa­ther­hood made you re­think your ap­proach to mu­sic?

I am slightly more cog­nizant of the ears that will hear [my mu­sic], but I’ve al­ways been that way. Per­son­ally, I make a dif­fer­ent type of mu­sic. It’s cool if kids lis­ten. Granted, it’s not cookie cut­ter or bub­blegum — at all — and I talk [a lot] about what’s go­ing on in the street, but I do it in a way that makes it ac­ces­si­ble.

though: each song on Steady is crafted with great care and blos­soms fur­ther with ev­ery lis­ten. “Cal­i­for­nia Coastin’” un­folds into a mel­low day­dream, while “The Only Dif­fer­ence” ex­pertly fuses rock, gospel and a hint of rag­time with its rous­ing tack pi­anos. On “Your Be­liever (Say Good­bye),” “2nd Most” and “The Rem­edy,” Beatchild pos­i­tively trans­forms: you’ll find it hard to be­lieve you’re not lis­ten­ing to a rare Jef­fer­son Air­plane record. Song af­ter song, there is much to dis­cover and even more to love. Retro, rich and lay­ered, Steady is a thrilling jour­ney you’ll be ea­ger to re­peat. There isn’t a sin­gle thing that Beatchild can­not do. (BBE) POP

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