Recording information: RMG Studios, NYC; Salem Psalms Studios, Atlanta, GA; The Village Cavems.
Photographer: Chris McAlindon.
The Easy Truth is the first collaboration between two highly prolific hip-hop artists, Detroit beatmaker Apollo Brown and Brooklyn MC Skyzoo. The pair prove to be a nearly perfect match, seamlessly blending Midwest and New York sensibilities and delivering no-nonsense tales about sky-high ambitions and harrowing street scenes. Skyzoo confidently reflects on his dreams but stays grounded in reality; "less dreaming, more living," as he states on "Innocent Ambition." Brown generally sticks to hard-hitting breakbeats and heavy drum machines, with a thick layer of vinyl crackle coating several tracks. "On the Stretch & Bob Show" simulates a late-night freestyle on the massively influential Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, which ran throughout the '90s on Columbia University station WKCR and helped launch the careers of nearly every successful New York-based hip-hop act from that time period. The track starts out with samples from Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito introducing a guest, with Skyzoo's voice spliced in, before a slamming "Funky Drummer" break kicks in and he delivers a raw, off-the-dome rap. Brown is skilled at taking lighter sounds (such as the Carpenters sample on "Spoils to the Victor") and pairing them with harder beats without sounding jarring. The production certainly evokes N.Y.C. legends such as Large Professor and DJ Premier, as well as Detroit's J Dilla and his disciples, but it never feels like a stuck-in-time retro exercise. There's a timeless quality to both Brown's powerful beats and Skyzoo's lyrics, which sound "beautiful like the truth," as label Mello Music Group is fond of saying. ~ Paul Simpson