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For today's Mixtape Monday, I'm reviewing The High Times of Cielo Smooth, an old mixtape by Skyy Royal. This project dropped back in 2014 but Skyy wanted me to see what I think listening to it now. So below is my track by track analysis, check it out!
1. Darker Peter Parker (Prod. by D Millz)
Starting off, this track features Skyy Royal doing what he does best - straight storytelling with his smooth style. The beat has an old school vibe with different live instruments playing. True to Skyy’s brand, he is playful at times but can also express serious perspective.
2. Anytime (Prod. by RXN)
This track has an old school feel as well, more like a smooth disco beat with more hip hop drums. It seems like Skyy’s flow on this is like he’s talking to a girl - flirty, seductive, but also genuine and sincere. Hella smooth track. I dig it.
3. Baddest Thing (Prod. by Zuper/Sango)
This track has a sensual feel, inspired by female beauty. The beat has a psychedelic feel in my opinion, and dope lyricism by Skyy. He also samples a little bit of his own singing on here. That’s dope.
4. Dig This! (Prod. by Hocus Pocus)
I’m relieved that this song picks up the pace from the first three tracks. The beat has a west coast Warren G type of vibe, G-Funk type stuff. Skyy continues to smash this track with his dope lyricism and smooth voice. The old school style matches Skyy, but his own personality and flow that he brings is refreshing.
5. “Eruption” Freestyle (Prod. by Prozak Morris)
If I didn’t know this was a freestyle, I would think that these are written lyrics because of how smooth and chill Skyy’s flow is. But this is a dope “break” in the mixtape. He talks about his youth, girls, parties, etc. Dope stuff.
6. Get It How You Live It (Prod. by Ohbliv)
Skyy seems to be inspired a lot by females. This song is another track along the same lines. This time, the story starts off about a girl who works late and does what she needs to do. I think it’s cool that he expresses his male perspective of females and his own feelings, but not just about being in the club and shaking their asses. Definitely has some “adult” connotations, but his tone comes from a deeper mental state versus simply shallow.
7. I Feel Good (Prod. by IAMNOBODI)
This beat has a relaxed feel, with Jazz elements like the saxophone and smooth drums. Skyy is in his element on this track - smooth, seductive, and even sings a little.
8. Lyrical Exercize (Prod. by Wayvee)
This track features Skyy just flowing and having fun on this “lyrical exercise.” The beat seems to be Skyy’s forte, some chill instrumentals and drums.
9. New Shoe Aroma (Prod. by Ackryte)
This beat is hella groovy. You can really hear the 90s influence on Skyy’s flow. He doesn’t seem to ever sound aggressive on his tracks. This song seems to reminisce on childhood memories such as the smell of new shoes out the box. I appreciate that. I’d say that this is a “hip hop culture” type of song.
10. Off the Top (Prod. by Briarcliff Beats)
This beat still has the Jazz and funky smoothness that has been consistent on this project so far. But I’d say that it also has an “trap” feel, as far as the base and other instruments on the beat.
11. Smoked Out (Prod. by S0ulUnreal)
This is a dope joint! Stoney, psychedelic vibes. The beat has a chill classic hip hop style, with more Jazz and soulful elements. There’s a feature from Skyy’s friend in the beginning of the song, and then Skyy comes in singing “I stayyy smoked.” This is another “culture,” type of track, focused on smoking cannabis and relaxing.
12. What? (Prod. by Justice)
This song is probably the most different from all of the tracks on this project thus far. The beat has more of a “house” feel, but largely still hip hop sounding. Skyy raps a lot faster on this one, different from the chill 90s G-Funk style that has been pretty consistent on this project.
13. Expose the Truth (Prod. by Gramatik)
It’s refreshing to hear Skyy rap at a faster pace. I dig his chill, sensual styles that he seems to stick to. But he sounds hella good rapping fast, while still keeping his own smooth style, which is how I’d describe the sound on this track. He sounds more aggressive and shares his perspective on many topics like politics, social media, and society, etc. He goes hella unorthodox with his rhyme patterns on this. I’d say that content and flow-wise, this is my favorite track from The High Times of Cielo Smooth.
14. Magic (Prod. by Tajima Hal)
This beat has a west coast psychedelic vibe, which I dig. Skyy spits well on this one too. I’d like to hear him on newer sounding beats, but this is actually his second project, so it’s cool to get a reference of where he comes from.
15. Mista Funkafide (Prod. by Grooveman Spot)
Another hella groovy beat, and funky vibes from Skyy. What I find interesting is that by listening to Skyy’s vocals, you can’t really tell where he’s from. I mean, he has the west coast G-Funk beats and sticks to those types of beats on this project. But, he is definitely diverse in his sound and content.
This song starts off with what I believe is a female singing, and then Skyy comes in about half way to start rapping. Pretty dope concept. The vocals sound hella good to me!
17. Strange Places (Prod. by Oscar Peanuts)
Love the beat, simple hip hop instrumental. Skyy does what he does best just flowing and storytelling over the beat. Pay attention to how he describes females, so different from what we’re hearing rappers say today!
18. Need Us Like Water (Prod. by Ta-Ku)
Lovin’ the 90s classic style flow from Skyy and the featured artist on here. The contrast from both artists make the song fun to listen to. Great beat too, reminds me of Nas.
19. Stand Still is Defeat
Very similar to the song and pace of “Need Us Like Water.” Skyy definitely has a lot to say about various topics. I like that he can talk about anything and make it relevant to the listener. From politics to women,Skyy has great perspective and lets it flow out. I’d say that this has a subtle inspiring message.
20. Feel It (Prod. by S0ulUnreal)
This song has a spiritual vibe to it. I feel like Skyy is a “new hippie,” similar to the movement that Dizzy Wright and Demrick lead. This collab track reminds me a lot of them.
21. You’re the One I Want (Prod. by Handbook)
This song has a soulful, hip hop beat. Skyy talks about troubles that relationships go through. He has a poetic soul that he puts out on this track.
22. Life is a Beach (Prod. by Sela)
Sonically, I’d say that this is my favorite track on this project. I think it’s a great closing song, and encompasses a lot of the topics and vibes that are consistent on this tape. I dig the wavy, neo-soul elements on the beat, but still very hip hop.
Overall, I'd give this project a 3.8/5 on my "Rap's Lumpia Scale." Considering that Skyy Royal has newer tracks out, this was a great place to start and get introduced to his vibe and style. I dig his choices of beats and general concept for this mixtape, definitely looking forward to reviewing his newer projects.
For many music artists from small towns, it can be tough trying to gain exposure. But Johari L, a singer/songwriter/producer from Grand Rapids, MI, sees this as an opportunity rather than a barrier. “As of now, there's no one really making a name for our city in music. From what I’ve heard, most of the musicians here are too focused on the trends that surface in mainstream. It’s the perfect place for me to really stand out with my unique sound. Hopefully I can inspire others to do the same,” said Johari.
Johari L has been cranking out music from his bedroom/home studio for many years. He and I met online through my cousin Kaileia back in 2011. At the time, we were both amatuer teenagers just trying to make music. Although we might’ve not been as skilled just yet, we collaborated on a track together and I remember specifically playing the song over and over again to hear Johari singing his verse. We lost contact for a few years, but recently reconnected as both of us have progressed artistically and professionally since then.
Formerly known as L12 for eleven years, Johari recently changed his official stage name to Johari L. He felt that the name change was necessary in showing his growth and maturity as an artist and as a young man. Johari’s music journey began even before his birth, and only developed further and further through his childhood and youth. “I was born around music. My mom has always told me stories about how she'd play her favorite albums aloud close to her stomach while she was pregnant. I'd always kick while she sung. My mom is an amazing singer. Her and I always sung together, especially our favorite cuts from Prince albums,” said Johari.
Johari’s experience and exposure to music has allowed him to experiment with all genres, most notably R&B, Soul, Pop, and Rap. Johari stated, “I grew up listening to Prince, TLC, Missy Elliott, Jon B. and any other well known artists from the 80's - 90's.” We can see heavy R&B and Soul influence in the artist’s songs “Press Play” and “Come and Get Me,” both which are classic love-making styled tunes. Recently, however, Johari L has leaked his newest self-produced & self-written, Hip Hop and almost poetically inspired track - “Waves,” which just might be circulating in email inboxes around the U.S. As a businessman and artist, Johari chose to release “Waves” in September 2016 as an exclusive download which can only be received directly via email from the artist himself. He is more focused in long-term growth than mere plays, and focuses on generating long-lasting relationships with his small but growing loyal fan base.
Johari L has a new name and developed persona, to go along with his new audio and visual material that will be coming very soon. He is consistently working in his home studio and doing all he can to improve all aspects of his music career, from studio equipment to networking to videos and promotions. “I’d like people to know that when it comes to me and my music, it’ll be an experience for them. When you listen front to back without skipping a track, you'll see a story line. I love cohesive projects. It's what turns music into art,” said Johari. For more information on Johari L, visit his Youtube channel and/or follow him on Facebook.
We can’t deny that the world seems to get crazier every day. Stories of violence, corruption, and abuse fill our media. But remarkably, it is often in states of oppression or repression that creative minds produce the most unique art. Recently, I’ve been watching Netflix’s newest show, “The Get Down,” which tells the story of the very beginnings of Hip Hop music and culture. Hip Hop itself began in the ghettos of New York City, with strong roots in the South Bronx. During the 1970’s, the South Bronx was a borough known for its highly impoverished population of low-income black and Hispanic people. Remarkably, pioneer DJs like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa took old vinyl records, began “looping” beats, and developed “scratching” and “cutting” techniques that changed the entire sonic experience for the next generation of music listeners...and that new sound was Hip Hop. Today, Hip Hop & Rap has not only grown into a multimillion dollar industry, but has also developed into a cultural lineage that is now two to three generations deep and growing.
This brings me to Leair, a very good friend of mine, who despite faced many challenges growing up, has worked hard and continues to make a name for himself as an all around artist. With skills ranging from singing to songwriting to producing, Leair’s music brings elements from R&B, Hip Hop, Acoustic Soul, and Neo Soul together to create his own experimental sound. His latest single “Earth” was released earlier this year, and showcases his unique writing, arranging, and performing abilities.
The song’s hook echoes “I’m from the ghetto of the universe,” which Leair states is a reflection of how he feels about the planet earth and the people that inhabits it. “I wanted to correlate this song in the the same way as someone given an outsider a tour of their neighborhood, like what really goes on,” states Leair. “In a lot of neighborhoods I grew up in and around, you would hear things like, ‘Bruh dont go down this street it’s fonk, or on this block, such and such happens.’ I took that same approach with the world to show that this entire planet is most likely a ‘ghetto’ to possible outsiders. But in the majority of ghettos, there’s always room for improvement, a lot of spiritually nourishing ideas, movements, and out-of-this-world creativity that sparks from them. I simply broadened that lense of how people view the ghetto, and painted the entire world with the same brush.”
With the same elements as the origins of Hip Hop, Leair realized that he can used the world that he sees, and transforms it into a piece of art through lyrics, imagination, creativity, storytelling. Leair is a 26 year old musician, singer, songwriter, composer, and producer from the Bay Area. Although currently based in Oakland, the artist has lived in many cities including Hayward, Oakland, East Palo Alto, Stockton, Oklahoma City, and others. Leair always had an appreciation for music as a listener, but it wasn’t until he was 17 when he fell in love with music while taking a class in high school. From there, he learned how to play piano, guitar, and read and write sheet music, all while teaching himself how to sing from a kit he bought online. Leair highly credits his Bay Area upbringing for giving him the inspiration to create and perform music. His very first EP, “The Musician Next Door,” was released last Fall. He continues to perform around California and build his fan base around the world through videos and social media. “Music is my heARTwork. I’ve also learned on this journey that to be treated like a professional, you must carry yourself as a professional. As an Indie artist, it’s tough business wise and promoting while working full-time. But, I’ve learned that you have to learn your own numbers, know your value in your market and other markets, and surround yourself with genuine people who can guide you toward the right direction ,” said Leair.
OTDHipHop is an independent music network & blog, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.