Skyzoo is a 36 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York that first gained attention in 2006 with his 9th Wonder debut album Cloud 9: The 3 Day High. This was followed up in 2009 with The Salvation & then the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck the following year. Then after taking 2011 off, he came back with his 3rd & final Duck Down album A Dream Deferred. Zoo would go on to form his own label First Generation Rich Inc. & make his debut on there with Music for My Friends in 2015. He would then drop the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth under Mello Music Group the following year, but would go back to dropping projects on FGR at the beginning of last year with In Celebration of Us. But almost 2 years later, he’s teaming up with MMG once again for his 8th full-length album & has enlisted the revered Pete Rock to produce it from front to back.
After the “Men Like Us” intro, we go into the first song “Glorious”. Where talks about how he’s just that over a boom bap beat with a soul sample & some horns. The track “Truck Jewels” with Pete sees the 2 getting fly over a woodwind infused instrumental & the song “Carry the Tradition” with Styles P lyrically needs no further explanation, but I really like the claps in the beat a lot.
The track “Homegrown” talks about keeping it just that over a funky instrumental while the song “It’s All Good” is a positivity anthem with an instrumental that was made during the illmatic sessions. The track “10 Days” finds Rich Porter talking to Azie over a euphoric instrumental while the song “Richie” is vice versa over a boom bap beat with some keyboards.
The track “Penny Jerseys” reflects on his block over the same sample that Gang Starr used for “The Planet” while the song “1 Time” finds Zoo paying homage to a number of things over a smooth beat. The penultimate track “Eastern Conference All-Stars” with eLZhi & Griselda Records is an triumphantly epic posse cut & then the album ends with “The Audacity of Dope”, where Sky comes through with a bar-fest over a soulful boom bap beat.
Personally, this is the man’s best work to date. You can really tell that he & Pete Rock took their time in crafting a near perfect love letter/wakeup call to NYC & a nonchalant chemistry.
Joell Ortiz is a 39 year old rapper who first gained recognition after being included in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006, who allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Yaowa would eventually leave Aftermath in 2008 & form Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden shortly after. The supergroup rose to prominence with their self-titled debut that just celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this year & would go on to sign with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011. But sadly, their major label debut welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the summer of 2012 would unfortunately end up being their last. Joell has been focusing on his solo career ever since then & not even a year after his Apollo Brown produced Mona Lisa, he’s hitting fans with his 7th full-length album.
After the titular intro, we go into the first song “Captain”. Where Joell talks about his place in hip hop over a stylistic Heatmakerz beat. The track “Sip Slow” is filled with clever battle bars over a joyous boom bap beat from Apollo Brown while the song “Champion” declares himself as just that over a tribal instrumental from Nottz. The track “Anxiety” vents about his insecurities over a soulful acoustic instrumental while the song “Same Time” talks about hearing a lot all at once over a boom bap beat with some strings.
The song “Learn You” talks about the sacrifices he made to chase his dreams over a grand Big K.R.I.T. instrumental then the track “Screens” talks about his kids & reflecting on his own childhood over a colorful instrumental. The song “Jamaican Food” is a lust anthem with a sweet minimalist beat while the track “Before Hip Hop” talks about his life before making music over some bongos & soulful background vocals. The penultimate track “Momma” of course pays tribute to Yaowa’s mother over an piano that suits the vibe & then the album ends with “Grammy”, where Joell talks about doing him over a boom bap beat with some more beautiful keyboard passages.
This is easily one of Yaowa’s best releases to date. The production is sweet to the ear & the lyrics are some of his most personal yet.
Joell Ortiz is a 38 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York who rose to prominence after being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006 & they allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Then in 2008, he left Aftermath & formed Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden. They saw a lot of success together with their self-titled debut the next year, landing a contract with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011 (the same year Joell put out his sophomore album Free Agent. However, the supergroup’s only album on the label welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the following year would unfortunately end up being their last. He’s been focusing on his solo career ever since then & now for his 6th full-length album, he has enlisted Detroit’s very own Apollo Brown to produce it in it’s entirety.
After the “Brushstrokes” intro, we go into the first song “Reflection”. Here, Yaowa putting his 2 cents in on the demise of Slaughterhouse over a mellow beat with some strings. The track “‘My Block” is a vivid tribute to the Cooper Park Houses over a soulful beat while the song “Cocaine Fingertips” is filled with hilarious battle bars over a settle bass-line. The track “Grace of God” is about making it out of the projects with an orchestral boom bap beat while the song “That Place” recalls a friend of his being shot over a somber beat.
The track “Word…” talks about his main squeeze over some bass guitar while the song ““Decisions” contemplates whether to keep rapping or selling cocaine over a gloomy instrumental. The track “Timberlan’d Up” sees Joell linking up with Royce to talk about fighting people over a gritty boom bap beat but if you were a huge Slaughterhouse fan like I was, then you’ll definitely like the remix with KXNG CROOKED a lot more. The penultimate track “Come Back Home” reflects on the good times in his block over a soulful boom bap beat & then the titular song is a 3 minute epic that finishes the album.
As expected, this is Joell’s best work yet. His lyricism is sharper over time & the organic Apollo Brown production suits his stories near perfectly. If you wanna hear an underrated vet at his most mature moments, then give this a listen.