– by Louis Humberstone
The Easy Truth brings together Detroit beats and New York wordplay as Apollo Brown and Skyzoo join forces for an album that takes the traditional East Coast Rap sound in a new direction, resulting in an assertive and aggressive sound that still maintains a smooth soul.
After working together on different tracks in the last couple of years, Brown and Skyzoo commit to a full album of fifteen songs that sound like the breathing of an American city. The mixtures of soulful sounds and tight vocals echo the inner city life they depict with expert imagery.
The first track, “Soapbox”, is a spoken word piece which takes Hip-Hop’s affinity for skits and sketches and makes something new of it. The sounds of the city, passing cars and odd noises, filter in and out as we learn that life can be hard, and that resilience is important. The last lines are the ones to take away: “See, most people want it easy/ Easy come, easy what?/ Easy go”.
Evidence of Skyzoo’s rhyming skills is apparent on “Payout” as he weaves vivid imagery amongst Brown’s beats. The line “200 on the gas means 200 on the dash/ I need a 100 in the stash/couple runners, couple masks” is delivered with enough honesty to steer clear of the clichéd “gangsta-rap” lines, instead pulling us into a life that is grittier than bombastic boasts that have come to dominate the genre.
Album closer “Nodding Off” is a great track which takes traditional East Coast beats and gives them an undeniable contemporary twist. Skzyoo’s wordplay seems to just flow in a way that sounds like natural conversation. Just before the hook, the line “If the topic that I’m on isn’t quote unquote real/ Then at least Apollo here to get the kill/And you can still nod to it” seems to sum up their collaboration. Both artists bring something to the table that listeners can enjoy; Brown’s production hooks us in, and then Skyzoo’s words make us think. “Nodding Off” ends with a great little jazzy outro that sounds organic and authentic within the context of the song.
Other tracks that stand out include “One in the Same”, with its breezy, lonely piano riff and jazzy double bass, and “On the Stretch & Bob Show”, where Skyzoo flexes his heritage with great lyrics like “I’m part Vera at Par Tech, part brownstones, part Jects/ And nah I’d never be part Nets”. Apollo Brown’s production shines through on every track with a slick professionalism, yet maintains an organic flow that never feels heavy handed.
The true charm of The Easy Truth is what it brings to Hip-Hop in 2016. Whilst the popular market seems saturated with a lack of inspiration and attempts to rehash 808s and Heartbreak, it steps forward with topical rhymes and organic beats to shake things up a bit. The combination of Apollo Brown and Skyzoo makes for a good choice, as neither music nor words suffer as each takes care of their respective own.