Skyzoo: “Whether you’re indie or signed to a major label, it’s still a business and you have to conduct yourself within it as such.”

Photo by Robert Adam Mayer

Brooklyn native Skyzoo has been rapping since he was 9-years-old and making money off his art for the past 15 years. Heavily influenced by the deep hip-hop culture of his community, Skyzoo has remained independent throughout the entire course of his career, admittedly turning down several major label deals over the years. He sat down with me for an article in Blavity, but his full interview begs to be shared. This Q&A was originally published in The Living Room.

LR: What is one of your personal career highlights?

Skyzoo: I’ve been fortunate enough to have a handful of highlights that I’m proud of. From headlining tours in South Africa, Japan, Europe, and the states every year for over a decade, to working with some of my idols and building friendships with them, to providing for my family solely off of my craft. But the main thing I’d say is the fact that I’ve been able to touch people musically. Leaving behind a legacy that has been listed amongst the fellow greats of my era, being regarded as someone who truly did it my way, and that integrity is what connects the fans to me for life. That’s been the biggest highlight.

LR: Aside from having complete ownership of your work, what are other benefits to staying indie?

Skyzoo: Creative freedom and control is something every artist wants. Whether they get it or not is another issue but we all want it. Me having creative control over what my music sounds like, the artwork, the singles chosen, the rollout, everything being of my decision solely, it’s definitely special.

LR: Based on your experience, what advice do you have for artists on the rise?

Skyzoo: I always tell upcoming artists to make sure they remember that this is a business. Whether you’re indie or signed to a major label, it’s still a business and you have to conduct yourself within it as such. The love for the music will push you through, but there’s so much on the other side of the booth that you have to be aware of if you’re independent.

I’ve been in sessions recording and had to stop mid-take because the phone rings and it’s the distributor, or someone wanting an interview, or my lawyer with details on a new deal, etc. As an independent artist, you truly wear every hat. Along with that, it’s knowing the game does have its wicked moments. You have to know those are coming because everyone isn’t as “stand up” as they should be. Otherwise, just create and make sure you can look in the mirror when you’re done creating.

LR: What platform, outlet, or resource has given you the best ability to showcase your work and earn money?

Skyzoo: Merch sales are always great because it’s a tangible item that people want, not a stream or something that can be copied and shared for free with anyone. Selling tour merch like hats and tees and vinyl is always great because it’s instant and it’s real. On top of that, licensing is huge. Getting a record placed in a film or TV show, a video game, commercial — those all bring in great revenue and spread awareness constantly. I once had a placement on a commercial that ran for four years straight. Those are incredible ways to generate income.

LR: Any indie artist myths that you want to bust?

Skyzoo: There used to be this theory that being indie means you failed at getting a major deal or you weren’t dope enough, and that’s nonsense. I’ve turned down multiple major label offers because they didn’t make sense to me at the time. I know a lot of major label artists who wish they were indie. Also, the idea of being indie meaning you’re broke is another myth. The splits on indie deals are 1,000 times more favorable to the artist. Being signed to a major is a great achievement, and I’d entertain it if presented to me where it made sense, but if I stayed indie forever, I’m perfectly fine with that as well.

LR: How did growing up in Brooklyn shape you both as a person and as an artist?

Skyzoo: There’s certain values and morals that come with the neighborhood and era that I grew up in. Those are important musically and just in life. A lot of things I do or not do are based on my upbringing and certain codes. Musically, the spirit of competition is through the roof coming from Brooklyn. We’re competitive by nature. The whole NY is like that.

LR: In what ways do you believe you’ve grown as an artist — from your lyrics to your performances; what has shaped you into the emcee you are today?

Skyzoo: I believe that as a creative force you grow daily. Michael Jordan would win a ring, go on vacation for two weeks, and then come back home and shoot 1,000 jumpers a day. That’s what it’s about. Knowing that no matter how great you are, you can always become even greater. So no matter the accolades I’ve been given of the success I’ve had, I’m always tryna one-up myself. Every album better than the previous, that’s the only way I know how to be as a creative force.

LR: Speaking of albums…

Skyzoo: My new album “All The Brilliant Things” drops on June 11th and it’s truly a special piece. It’s a conceptual project about gentrification and cultural appropriation, and how they go hand in hand. It’s about understanding what’s been done to us as a people in regards to our homes and what we’ve built and created and figuring out ways to combat that and take it all back, piece by piece.

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Leslie D. Rose

Welcome to a small piece of my world. I’m a writer, photographer, and PR consultant. My stories are real, and the names are too.