Strength is generally found in numbers and the pairing of one of Hip-Hop’s most studious lyricists along with a divergent producer proves just that. Live From The Tape Deck, the remarkable collaborative LP from Skyzoo and !llmiind, has plenty of heads reminiscing back to the days when all you needed was a JVC stereo and Shell-Toe Adidas to get by.
Checking in with The Crew’s TC, the rock box duo discuss delivering a nostalgic offering in these modern times and how they were able to win with analog in the digital age. Put your speakers on blast!
TSS: From the first two singles, it appears that your current motivation is to spill out on tracks with extreme lyricism.
Skyzoo: Yeah, well, the goal with me is to always take the music to newer heights than the previous project. No matter how critically acclaimed I am, I still wanna grow as a lyricist. From now until my last notebook, I wanna always grow. Its like Kobe winning the championship back to back, but still working out every day. It never stops.
TSS: !llmind, how does one go about creating an “cassette LP?” Do you limit yourself to the technology of that era?
!llmind: When me and Sky thought of the concept, it sort of came naturally. The basis of my sound today is already “analog” based so it was kind of easy. I went back to old synthesizers and samplers from the last 80s/early 90s to create a lot of the music. I also mixed the entire project, so I ran the mixes through a real two-inch tape recorder to help capture that sound.
TSS: !llmind, this is the first project with your name attached, is it not? Does it feel like a defining and pivotal moment in your career? What other beats are you currently tracking?
!llmind: I actually came out with a full length album in 2005 called The Art Of Onemind, which featured a bunch of artists and was entirely produced by me and my good friend Symbolyc One (producer for Kanye’s “Power”). So that was my first official full length release with my name on it. Live From The Tape Deck is definitely a turning point in my career, though. It was one platform for me to show the world that I am more than capable of producing an entire album. Yes I’ve got some records coming with the incredibly talented Jared Evan, and a handful of really great placements/projects are in the works that I look forward to sharing with the world.
TSS: Sky, do you feel that since the majority of the lyricism takes a backseat, that kids won’t get it? Do you even aim to hit the youth?
Skyzoo: I do feel that way sometimes, but with a good amount of people with mainstream success who can really rap, I think its easier for kids to understand it now. The success of the Lil Wayne’s, Kanye’s, Drake’s, Lupe’s, etc, have made kids aware that lyricism does still matter. So I think the lyricism sometimes does go over people’s heads, but there are also a ton of kids who get the drift and love it.
TSS: With all the Douging and cookin’ and “Soulja-Boying” going on these days, how many peope do you expect to know what a cassette sounds like let alone look like?
!llmind: The “cassette tape” thing is actually referring to a time when Hip Hop was dope. When tapes went out of print and CD’s came along, the quality of hip hop just so happened to decline with it. We wanted to put out a project reminiscent of those times when you bought a cassette, and you knew it was dope! During the cassette tape era, you had that one tape in your Walkman® that you carried with you wherever you went. It had to be dope, straight through, with no fillers. We tried to make an album like that.
Skyzoo: I’m not sure how many people will remember the cassette tape era, but I know the RIGHT people will. The people who the album is intended for, even if they don’t realize it at first. Plus, there’s Wikipedia, so everyone should be good to go.
TSS: [Laughs] Seems like an active attempt to make something classic in the MP3 era.
Skyzoo: Well the motive is to always go the distance and make what could be considered a classic, but to let the people decide. I know the work !llmind and I put in, so the accolades are a humbling bonus. We know what we have on our hands.
!llmind: That’s basically what it was. I don’t like to throw around the term “classic” like that, but we put 110% into the project. If people like to call it their own modern day “classic,” that means a lot!
TSS: Listening to the final product, do you notice a big difference in the one-producer flow compared to multiple producers working on your album?
Skyzoo: I’d say there’s definitely a difference, but not saying one is necessarily better than the other. When there’s one single producer, you have to find a common ground, and Illmind and I were able to do that with ease. There wasn’t any back and forth or disagreements on anything at all. We think alike musically. But that doesn’t always work when artists use just one producer. When working with multiple producers, you’re bringing all of the producers into your world and only picking what you think fits your vision. There’s pros and cons with both depending on the situation and parties involved.
TSS: “Dear Whoever” was one of the premier cuts on The Salvation. Was that track enough to get a full length going between you two?
!llmind: Me and Sky have been good friends for years now. We already had about six or seven records together, and I’m on almost every album/mixtape Skyzoo has released. We always knew the chemistry was there.
Skyzoo: Honestly, that track, which is one of my favs, wasn’t what birthed the project. We did that song just like we did all our others in the past. The project came about due to Dru Ha suggesting it to us. We had never thought about it until he asked us to do it.
TSS: Is this album something you decided to do because you felt it would be dope or could you see it leading to something bigger?
!llmind: It was just something that was staring in front of us this whole time, but didn’t realize it. When Dru Ha approached us about it, and it made total sense, so we went with it!
TSS: Think we can see y’all take it a step further with Direct From The 8-Track? Reporting from the Record Player, maybe?
!llmind: [Laughs] How about Live From The Shakespearian Theatre!?
TSS: [Laughs] Good one. What kind of boombox did y’all have growing up?
Skyzoo: My pops had a Ghetto Blaster, so as a kid I used to sit by it and subliminally study. My actual first tape player though was a red “my first sony” that my grandmoms got me when I was eight-years-old.
TSS: Can you remember the first tape you had growing up?
!llmind: The very first tape I purchased was a cassette single by O.P.P: “Written On Ya Kitten.” I still have it actually!
Skyzoo: The first tape I purchased on my own was Chi-Ali’s “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A #”. It was the 99¢ cassette single with the blue cover, and I copped it at Nobody Beats The Wiz in Brooklyn, which used to be across the street from Kings Plaza mall. That video and song made me instantly start rapping. I got his full album The Fabulous Chi-Ali for my birthday, and I think I played it for like eight months, with nothing else ever getting into my Walkman®. Good times… [Laughs]
Skyzoo & !llmind’s Live From The Tape Deck is available courtesy of Duck Down Records on iTunes, Amazon and record stores across the country. Visit www.duckdown.com and follow them on Twitter @TheRealSkyzoo & @illmindPRODUCER for consistent updates live from the tweet deck.