Skyzoo and Pete Rock Retropolitan
Published Sep 25, 2019"Heavy is the crown, but love the way fit on," Skyzoo spits on the chorus of "Carry the Tradition," making bearing that weight sound less like a burden than a feat he was born to accomplish. Such boasts aren't hyperbolic on that track from the criminally underrated underground rapper's new LP, Retropolitan. On top of the Jenga intricate wordplay and varnish smooth flow we've come to expect from Sky, the esteemed New York MC has also recruited none other than Pete Rock to provide the proper instrumentals for his Big Apple odes.
Yes, that means Rock riddles this new LP with the kind of gritty, strategically looped jazz samples that he offered to NYC luminary Nas on his landmark LP Illmatic. But Sky must've been all the more humbled when Rock upped that ante by dusting off a soundscape left over from the mid-'90s period when he was crafting "The World Is Yours" for Esco.
Indeed, Retropolitan track "It's All Good" is worth savouring like a 25-year-old single malt, thanks to its tight loop of sliding piano notes that evoke melancholy and nostalgia pouring over your mind's eye. And just like carefully carved ice in on-the-rocks scotch, Skyzoo rises to the beat's occasion, floating up intricate lines about the aftermath of Biggie Smalls' cremation and describing an encroaching circle of crooked cops, the latter of which will give you chills.
Hip-hop heads will also revel in Retropolitan highlights like "Ten Days," which is rendered anthemic by Rock's thudding percussion. That beat resembles Sky's figurative chest-thumping, as he equates the song with "theme music for superheroes in Louis capes." "Eastern Conference All-Stars" is all the more galvanizing, thanks to its triumphant horn blasts, gleaming key chimes, and above all its deep bench of guest stars, a who's who of underground rap gurus like Elzhi, Westside Gunn, Conway and Benny the Butcher. The track's loose theme about basketball, meanwhile, puts it over the top.
Speaking of b-ball: "Penny Jerseys" details the street significance of a particular athletic fashion item, on which Sky pins pivotal youthful memories. Best of all, however, might be "The Audacity of Dope," which finds Sky paying tribute to pre-gentrified, crime victimized New York.
Together, these elements elevate Retropolitan past what could've been a nostalgia trip in lesser hands. That shouldn't come as a surprise, however, when the beats come from a studio legend that has remained at the top of his game, and the lyrics come from an aficionado of the old school with one of the moment's freshest flows. (Mello Music Group)