Review: Skyzoo, ‘All the Brilliant Things’

The Brooklyn legend provides another insightful piece of work relating to the preservation of hip-hop culture & gentrification of its roots.

For those that are unaware of the man’s legacy, Skyzoo is an emcee that bleeds hip-hop and has always taken priority addressing the colonization of the culture and urban renewal of his city of Brooklyn, New York. From his various collaboration projects, such as the Apollo Brown-assisted, The Easy Truth, in 2016 & the Pete Rock-produced, Retropolitan in 2019, Skyzoo has notoriously been building a catalog of classics in the underground scene that perfectly embrace the authenticity of the genre. This keeps igniting the passionate fire in the witty emcee’s career, who mentioned having thoughts of stepping back after more than two decades in the game.

Skyzoo’s most recent release, All the Brilliant Things, maintains the conventional base that is present in almost all Skyzoo projects but builds a more layered concept this time around.

The album contains a fair amount of tracks, fourteen to be precise, but has a lengthy run time of 56 minutes. Even though the album could be considered as long, All the Brilliant Things proves to be an enjoyable listen, tapping in to a soulful base for the production and a relatable approach to the lyricism. These aspects combined make for a great listening experience for any hip-hop head, and feels more theatrical and special as Skyzoo takes you back to hot summer days on the stoop & overlooking the neighborhood while reflecting back on life.

Instead of recruiting an entire roster of hardcore rappers with vicious verses, the feature list this time around only includes singers and ensembles that add to the soul bearing experience. The way that each and every feature is placed feels strategic, as every contribution helps play into the theatric feel of the project. Artists such as BJ The Chicago Kid & Raheem DaVaughn lace individual records with background vocals over the soulful production base, most noticeably on the sentimental “Bodega Flowers” and “Something to Believe In.” And who could forget the most poignant track, “Bed-Stuy is Burning” which features the eight-piece Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The diversity in credited contributors is second to none and helps highlight Skyzoo’s skills, not only as an emcee but as a curator.

As far as lyricism goes, Skyzoo nails a passionate and witty performance on this project. Normally, the subject matter on most Skyzoo projects concerns the topic of gentrification of different neighborhoods throughout the New York boroughs. As the cultural war for New York proceeds, the more time Skyzoo finds to shed light on the situation. This time around, the lyricism is more vivid and detailed, making the listener feel as if they’re right in the middle of the Brooklyn neighborhood. The lucid track, “A Tour of the Neighborhood” gives listeners a day in the life of the area, while the exhilarating “St. James Liquors” gives an inside look on the hustling nature of New York in the 80’s/90’s, spawning an amazingly introspective line in the form of a catchy chorus (“With all this money that we could make / why don’t y’all just lead the way”). All the Brilliant Things bleeds New York culture and lives up to the title by sharing the positives of growing up in an area thats commonly referred to a rigorous.

To pair its introspective seeds and picturesque storytelling, All the Brilliant Things undertakes a soulful and jazzy base for its production. The Mello Music Group affiliate does an amazing job adopting profound samples, which convert to a sound that can only be described as reflective. The emotional “Bodega Flowers” serves as a great example of setting a thoughtful atmosphere, discussing the importance of giving people their love and respect while they are still alive. However, one of the best aspects of the album is the sampling, which is highlighted towards the remaining minute of certain tracks. The sudden switch in beat is almost reminiscent of J Dilla’s production style, who is noted as an influence to the Brooklyn emcee. A perfect example of this method appears on the speculative “I Was Supposed to Be a Trap Rapper,” which shifts from an obscure and spacey beat to an exhilarating trap beat.

The reoccurring topic that the project tackles is gentrification, specifically in the New York boroughs. Over the past few years, specific areas throughout the New York area have been “remodeled” and “cleaned up,” raising the price of the cost of living and stripping each neighborhood of its cultural significance. From the title, All the Brilliant Things, to the beautiful memories that Skyzoo shares on records such as “The Scrimmage” and “St. James Liquors,” this project shines light on the positives of the authenticity of the Brooklyn area. Instead of feeding into the negative stigmas of living in the hood, Skyzoo delivers poignant lessons, telling people to save and invest their money on the ambitious “What Money Taught Us” and informing the importance of cultural currency on the passionate “Culture-ish.” Nevertheless, the highlight that sums the project all up comes from the rich track that is “Bed-Stuy is Burning” which contains the introspective question “My neighborhood give you life, but was you here when it died?”. For an emcee as dedicated as Skyzoo, getting a topic of this magnitude across is crucial and All the Brilliant Things gets the message deliver loud and clear.

This project does an amazing job of sharing the importance of cultural relevancy and authenticity in a more relatable and digestible way. When you get to the core of the concept that Skyzoo lays out on the project, it seems as if delivering the message in an accessible manner would be near impossible, but the Brooklyn emcee hits the target with finding the balance between quality and relatability. Whether it be explaining the suburbanization of the hood or expressing the importance of cultural authenticity, Skyzoo delves straight into the topic head-on and hits the nail on each individual track.

All in all, All the Brilliant Things is a necessary release that discusses the importance of preserving culture in your area and in the genre of hip-hop. Skyzoo is one of the most dedicated emcees in the game right now; his passion for what he loves the most is apparent in every project he’s released. With that being said, All the Brilliant Things is the most essential Skyzoo project and is the pinnacle of what he stands for in his music. This album follow the same direction of its predecessors but digs deeper into the concept’s sub-components. While being the best in a catalog of classics is debatable, there’s no doubt that this project gleams just as bright as the other gems in the collection.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Free Jewelry”, “Bodega Flowers”, “Bed-Stuy is Burning”, “Something to Believe In”, “A Tour of the Neighborhood”, “Soft Eyes”

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