Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Fuck chillwave. Brooklyn rapper Skyzoo and producer !llmind have your tape-damaged nostalgia fix without any Peter Pan hysterics or lazy mush. Their full-length collaboration Live From The Tape Deck (out now via Duck Down) was constructed to have the warm, insular feel of a late-’80s or ’90s hip-hop cassette–recorded on analog synths, compressed to have that pre-Digalog wooze, and structured in that unbeatable 12-songs/no-skits formula. But nothing about Skyzoo’s rapidfire flow or !llmind’s lush blippery sounds vintage in the slightest. As evidenced by last year’s confessional masterpiece The Salvation (and as featured on the YIMBY Best Of 2009 mixtape), Skyzoo’s flow is strictly forward-thinking, an intricate and baffling stream that can jam more thoughts into one track than most rappers can muster in entire albums. Album highlight “Speakers On Blast” has the comforting feel of any number of classic New York rap records from between 1986 and 1995–those chest-caving LL Cool J 808s, the few lines nimbly reworked from Rakim, the clever Black Sheep interpolation, those rumbling Masta Ace jeep beats. But since dude is rapping circles around most New York MCs right here in 2010, it would be a grave disservice to call any of this “retro.” We reached out to Skyzoo to talk about it.
What inspired your lyrics on “Speakers On Blast?”
When I write, everything comes from what I get from the beat. The beat usually tells me what to do. So when I heard it, I automatically felt like it could be a radio/video mainstay, but it had a slight old school feel to it, from how raw it comes across. So I imagined what the club scene was like back in the late ’80’s/early ’90s, the Rich Porter/AZ/Alpo days, and meshed it with the club scene of today. I wanted to make the flow stand out as always, but I didn’t wanna lose the lyrical aspect, because people know me for being a lyricist, and I didn’t want anyone thinking I pushed that to the side for a radio shot. I figured, “Why not do both and put lyricism on the radio”?
How you and !llmind channel that “cassette tape” feeling? Did you pull out your old tapes?
We didn’t bring out any old tapes to inspire us, because we both vividly remember that era. Being that we’re both ’80s babies, we remember buying tapes, dubbing tapes, etc. The cassette tape feeling comes from the way !llmind mixed the album. Everything on the album is 2010 and beyond, as far as the lyrics and beat selection, but !llmind mixed the album thru certain compressors and used analog beat machines to give it that warm cassette feeling.
What is one of your formative tape experiences?
One of my earliest tape memories is buying Chi-Ali’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But a #” cassette single. That was the song that made me wanna start rapping. I was 9 when I heard it, and I immediately picked up a pen and got busy. That was also the first tape I bought with my own money. It was 99 cents at Nobody Beats The Wiz. Good times.
What is your favorite and least favorite things about the state of rap music in 2010?
My favorite thing would have to be the fact that you don’t have to surrender to what’s on the radio and TV if you don’t want to. With the net, you can find new music, become a fan, support that artist’s shows, without ever seeing or hearing them in a mainstream setting. My least favorite thing is seeing more and more record stores close every day. Ironically that’s also the net’s doing. There’s no pros without cons though, so you take it for what it is.
Have you listened to your album on cassette? Are there plans to release it on cassette?
I actually haven’t, but I’m definitely gonna do that ASAP. As far as pressing up cassettes, I’d love to do that, but that’s on Duck Down. Holla at Dru Ha!
What is your favorite 808 sound on any song, and what are your memories of hearing it?
I’d say a toss up between “Speakers On Blast” for obvious reasons, and Masta Ace’s “Sittin’ on Chrome.” I like the Ace joint because it’s a NYC record that had a West coast and Midwest feel. That was dope to me. I remember hearing it and not being sure of what it was because it was so West, but still so Brooklyn. It was a great record.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?
I’d say my album release party for The Salvation. I performed with a live band and, as a lover of the trumpet, I was able to incorporate that into the set for the first time. I now do all of my shows with my trumpet player OJ.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Farmer In The Deli on Myrtle Ave. and Adelphi St. in Ft. Greene. It’s by far the best hero sandwich you’ll ever eat, hands down. You’ve never had a hero until you had one from Farmer. No chain or mom and pop on the planet can come close.
Skyzoo and !llmind will be at the Duck Down/Blacksmith CMJ Showcase at Le Poisson Rouge on October 19, alongside Jean Grae, Pete Rock, Pharoahe Monch, the Boot Camp Clik, Marco Polo with Torae and Ruste Juxx, Strong Arm Steady, Team Facelift, and Promise.
Are you an emerging local band who has an upcoming 7″, MP3, or album? Are you not totally fucking terrible like 90% of the bands in this city? Then please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Links and YSIs only. No attachments please!