8/10 New York state of mind
Breathing new life into a long-past era of music can be a tricky sell, but this new collaboration between legendary producer Pete Rock and young blood MC Skyzoo is a skillfully crafted homage to mid 90s NYC-based hip-hop.
The album wastes no time setting out its stall, with Skyzoo proclaiming: “Welcome to the rebirth of the city/it’s a love letter and a wakeup call/all at the same time” on opening gambit “Glorious”. Its jazzy beats and smooth lyrical flows further confirm where this album is going – namely a rose-tinted stroll down the mean streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan circa 1993, before gentrification and the homogenization of hip-hop culture brought the era to an end.
Arguably it’s the dreamily vintage “It’s All Good” and “Eastern Conference All Stars” that ring truest: Sampled piano hooks and languid ‘boom-bap’ beats swirl round Sky’s effortless delivery, all the while concealing the dark laments of police brutality and racial profiling – something that is as relevant today as it was back when the albums that inspired Retropolitan were released. Think Nas’ 1994 classic Illmatic or Pete Rock’s own Mecca & The Soul Brother and you’ll get the picture.
Old school hip-hop heads will lap this up, hopefully so will newbies looking for an alternative to the current wave of bling rap out there.
Like this? Try these:
Near-perfect NYC hip-hop blueprint.
Souls of Mischief 93 ‘til Infinity
Jazz-infused rap touchstone from Oakland MC collective.
Nostalgic colab courtesy of N. Carolina MC & Seattle producer L’Orange.