(AllHipHop Feature) Today (December 4th) is the 44th birthday of one of the greatest emcees of all time – Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. The Brooklyn rapper’s impact on the culture is undeniable, and it all began in 1996 with his first studio album Reasonable Doubt.
One of Jay’s many rap descendants is fellow BK rhymer Skyzoo. To show his appreciation to HOV’s first musical offering, Skyzoo connected with producer Antman Wonder to release their new project An Ode To Reasonable Doubt.
The 9-track “pay-what-you-want” EP pays homage to one of Hip Hop’s most celebrated debut albums by reinterpreting classic cuts like “Dead Presidents II” as “Meeting The Presidents” and “Can I Live” as “In Love With Living.”
AllHipHop caught up with Skyzoo to speak with the renown lyricist about his new effort. In part one of the interview the Bed-Stuy rapper discusses what sparked his decision to make An Ode To Reasonable Doubt, his opinion of Jay’s recent music, and what fans can expect from Sky in the future.
Why did you decide to revisit Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt for this project?
Honestly, the idea came off of Twitter. About two years ago, right after Elzhi dropped Elmatic, I got a tweet from a fan that said, “Would you ever do Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt the way Elzhi did Nas’ Illmatic?” I retweeted it out of fun. Upon retweeting that I got endless retweets and questions like, “Yo is this for real?” I saw that it was really taking off so I said, “I never really thought about it, but who knows?” I left it at that. Every single day over the past two years I received a tweet about it. I never even said I would do it. I just said it would be something cool. It just wouldn’t stop.
At the same time I met a producer by the name of Antman Wonder who, on his own, was recreating all the beats from Reasonable Doubt just for fun. When I heard about the beats it just looked like divine intervention to me. This is supposed to happen. It kind of just all made sense. If it wasn’t for that tweet this project wouldn’t even be happening. I don’t remember who the tweeter was. I wish I did, because I would show them a ton of love on Twitter.
There are some Jay fans that feel like Reasonable Doubt is one of those albums that should never be touched. Were you ever concerned that some of his fans may not be as open to what you’re doing?
I was concerned that it would put people in a different sense until they heard it. When they hear it nothing else can be said. I don’t want people to think it’s an album that I’m trying to go straight retail with. It’s not that at all. That’s why it’s called “An Ode To Reasonable Doubt.” I named it that solely so people would know in no way was it disrespectful to Jay or anybody else. I did that out of respect for him, what he’s’ done, and his legacy of being the greatest of all time in my eyes.
That album came out about seventeen years ago. There are kids that were born when that album came out who are now graduating high school this year. They know nothing about it, but they deserve to know about it because it’s an album that shaped Hip Hop. Maybe this is a way to introduce it to them. If they’re a fan of me and hear it, maybe they’ll go back and hear the original and fall in love with it.
Why did you decide to go with a “pay-what-you-want” model for the project?
Because the option is still there for it to be free. I wanted people to get the option to get the music at the end of the day. If you want to pay zero, then you pay zero and get it for free. I was getting tweets from people that said, “I hope it’s available for sale because I want to buy it,” “I hope it’s available on vinyl. I want to support you.” I said well, if you want to support me then I’ll give you that option to support. However you get it, I just want you to get it.
We’re also doing a contest. We’re doing a deal with Burn Rubber out in Detroit. If you pay $7 your name goes in a raffle, and you can win $250 worth of sneakers. At the end of the day, I just want people to get it. If people want to click zero and download it, then click zero and download it. I just want it to be the music you ride out to for the rest of the year.
The original Reasonable Doubt had 14 tracks on it, but you’re releasing your Ode as an EP. How did you decide which of the tracks you wanted to reinterpret for this project?
It came down to me working with Antman Wonder. When he produces, he composes, so there are string and horn sections. It came down to which records made the most sense when they are reimagined that way. So a record like “Brooklyn’s Finest,” would that beat sound right with a string and horn section? I didn’t think it would. That beat is more straight to the point, so I think if you turned that beat into something with strings and horns it would take away from it as oppose to adding to it. So records like “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Cashmere Thoughts,” and “Friend and Foe” aren’t on it, because I felt like when you reimagine those records with an orchestra they don’t hit the same with just a sample and a drum.
You’re a big fan of jazz, and you did a live acoustic performance earlier this year. Have you considered doing a full album with all live instrumentation?
Absolutely. That’s something I definitely want to do later on. I definitely want to do a whole album with a jazz band or a full jazz section.
You’ve been a fan of Jay Z since Reasonable Doubt. What is your opinion of where he is now musically?
I think he’s in a great space. You look at what he’s achieved with everything on his plate outside of writing records, and then you look at the fact that he still writes records of the highest order. How many people are involved in as many things as he has and still makes great music? You look at how many people have a clothing line, a business and it pulls away from the talent, from the artistic expression. It pulls away from the records they’re making, and those records start to suffer or they stop making records. But with him it hasn’t happened. He still goes in every year and gives you fourteen, fifteen bangers. He gives you two or three records for the summer.
I thought the Magna Carta Holy Grail album was great. I loved where he went on certain things, especially records like “Picasso Baby,” “F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “F.U.T.W.,” and “Oceans.” There’s a nice chuck in there where everything just hits back-to-back. He was just grand slamming these. I think artistically he’s in a great space.
What’s the status on your book When Paintings Talk?
It’s definitely coming out next year. I haven’t been able to work on it as much as I want to because of different projects like this one. My goal is to get that out next year. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be really dope. The fans are looking forward to it. My fans they are dedicated. When they know about something’s coming they’re ready.
What else can your fans expect to hear from Skyzoo in the near future?
Next year, probably around March, an album with me and my man Torae. We’re doing a collabo album – The Barrel Brothers. Also, hopefully by the end of next year is my next solo album Music For My Friends. So it will be a busy year again next year.
In part 2 of AllHipHop’s exclusive interview, Skyzoo shares his thoughts on Trinidad James recent comments about New York, the new generation of emcees from the city, and ghostwriting in Hip Hop.
To download/purchase Skyzoo and Antman Wonder’s An Ode To Reasonable Doubt visit www.aotrd.com
Follow Sky and Antman on Twitter @Skyzoo and @AntmanWonder
Follow Sky and Antman on Instragram @SkyzooTheWriter and @AntmanWonder
Check out the track “Meeting The Presidents” below.