The selective songwriter from Brooklyn reaches a new height in his craft, expanding upon a preexisting template to further exercise his phenomenal talents.
Those who are tapped in with the Brooklyn legend, Skyzoo, know that the man’s pen is undeniable. Whether it’s penning a song for another artist behind the scenes or composing anther exquisitely-written number for his solo endeavors, Skyzoo has proved to be able to thrive in all aspects of the creative process. While it’d seem he’s reached the pinnacle position for any craftsman who is dedicated to their expertise, Sky doubles down on his superb songwriting by undergoing a concept album through the lens of a fictional character. His selection for such madness: the highly exhilirating Franklin Saint from the Hulu hit series, Snowfall.
Though composed entirely by Skyzoo, The Mind of a Saint provides an in-depth view on the psyche of the Damson Idris-led character, adding another layer to hip-hop’s translucent line between fantasy and reality.
Often times in hip-hop, we are led astray by the perception that rappers draw of themselves, frequently buying into the different narratives of exaggerated street tales being told in our headphones. This isn’t the case for Skyzoo as he’s delivered his story in pieces and prophesizes the transparency of self that we don’t typically hear or see. Even in a record that is heavily dependent on the predetermined concept, Sky sounds comfortable in a coke rap pocket; a pocket that he doesn’t claim nor tries to align with. The sheer confidence to be able to rap through the perspective of a fictional character takes more mental work than what meets the eye. In order to execute something of this caliber, one would have to be massively dedicated to learning every nook and cranny of such creative world.
Sky hits the nail on the head when extensively referencing his favorite series, definitely satisfying the fandom with various flashbacks and quotes from the show. It’s clear that this isn’t cookie-cutter rap hiding behind the preexisting concept for fan service – this record delves deep into the mind of the character being portrayed and analyzes the different scene from a first-person perspective. Even without the clips, you could clearly envision Franklin’s thought process trough the highs lows. Records like “Panthers & Powder” and “Views from the Valley” exhibit the inital awes of the show while the latter half of tracks such as “Bodies” and “Brick by Brick” take us through the same feelings of anxiety when the character is in the thick of chaos. This project can literally serve as an extension of the beloved series.
Not only is the record well-written, it is also scored perfectly as it matches the polarizing tones through the use of a late 80’s/early 90’s palette of sound via samples. For example, “Panthers & Powder” takes on the militant approach of the individual through a barebones hip-hop beat while “Brick by Brick” captures the dark tenor of the West Coast atmosphere where the timeline exists. All sounds provided by the DC-established duo, The Other Guys. Self-proclaimed OGs and CEOs, the pair click with Skyzoo on an entirely different level as the combined effort of translating existing television production into a distinct audio form.
Delving deeper into the canvas, the portrayal of Franklin Saint through this record serves as an excellent example of the depth missing in modern day media and the severity of Skyzoo’s pen. As far as the first half goes, it’s clear that the world of television and film is experiencing a flood of bloated fictional universes and a stagnation when attempting to depict the modern-day minority experience in America. The depiction of the drug-fueled crisis of inner city neighborhoods is one that has been on air for longer than it should be; the everlasting cycle of reliving the same traumas through our TV screens is one that we’ve grown weary of. But what makes Snowfall stand out in a blizzard of bruises is it shows both sides of the game and the psyches of those involved. It dives into the different characters involved, the emotions that are emitted, and the effects of actions that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.
How this connects to Skyzoo and his pen is simple – the Brooklyn author is notorious for his critiques of his Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and other inner-city urban areas that mirror it. With each piece that he dons, Sky tries to spread his messages and addresses the need for change in our communities. His authentic approach has spared him from the overly-preachy allegations that many artists continue to receive, but eventually you gotta find new ways to spread the gospel. Now this isn’t to say that the sole purpose of this record was to provide edutainment, but when you peel the layers behind the author’s background, hidden connections are revealed and further assist in the validity of the record. The outro track “Purity” makes this connection as this fictional storyline meets reality with an aged Franklin unknowingly passing the torch to who would become Nipsey Hussle and Blacc Sam: two community leaders who flipped their misfortune into hope for their struggling community.
Skyzoo’s The Mind of a Saint finds thrill and agony in an extended cut of the most transparent television series, delving deeper into the ideas and characters molded by John Singleton. The Brooklyn poet instills another layer of creative freedom into the genre while bending the line between reality and fiction in the world’s most polarizing genre. This record is a must-listen, even for those who have yet to tune in to Snowfall.
8.5 / 10
Best tracks: “The Balancing Act”, “Apologies In Order”, “Brick by Brick”, “Straight Drop”, “100 to One”