If you are reading your first Track by Track, here on iStandardProducers.com, then there are a few things you must know:
#1 The writers here at iStandardProducers.com focus mostly on the beats … obviously – hence the name “PRODUCERS” in iStandardProducers.com… however we are still reviewing the record as a whole.
#2 EVERY track gets equal shine…
#3 You know how we do it…we don’t check the credits until the album is heard in its entirety.
“Dreams In A Basement” featuring Jill Scott (Produced by !llmind) – A Dream Deferred kicks off with a smooth beat and boom-bap drums that fit Skyzoo’s vocals nicely. I like the vocal sample on the intro and Jill Scott’s background harmonies on the second and third verses sound great and really give this song a true soulful feel. Also, I really think it’s dope how the drums drop on the chorus and the bell melodies on there fit nicely. I’m really digging the brass that comes in after the third verse as well as the extra strings; this track is very well orchestrated.
“Jansport Strings” (Produced by 9th Wonder) – This track has a soulful sample with brass and smooth vocal samples. The lyrics on here are really dope but after a little bit of listening I think it’d be dope to hear more done with the sample in the track; personally I’d really like to hear more of the vocal sample. Overall though this is a dope record, I’d just like to hear a little more done on the production.
“Pockets Full” featuring Freeway (Produced by !llmind) – The soulful bell melody on “Pockets Full” with the hard hip-hop drums goes nicely with Skyzoo and Freeway’s voices and lyrics. This track has a real smooth ride-out feel to it. The concept on here is dope too and is far from being a typical “baller” track. At first I wasn’t really feeling the brass on the outro of this song but then all of the pieces of the track come together in a nice jazzy-sounding orchestra.
“Give It Up” featuring DJ Prince (Produced by !llmind) – “Give It Up” has 808 snares throughout and lots of dope changes in the production that I could go on about for a while. I honestly wasn’t feeling this track entirely at first until it built up to the chorus and then I really fell in love with it. The changes on the chorus here are really great and help give the song a really dope head nodding feel that will make you want to move. If you’re not feeling “Give It Up” at first, make sure you give it a chance as it definitely would make a dope club banger and performance record that stays true to Skyzoo’s essence of hip-hop flavor.
“Glass Ceilings” (Produced by !llmind) – I love the go-hard motivational vibe of this song. The synths/brass on here with the drums will make you feel like you can take over the world and will really get you hyped up. The anthem sounding verses transition to a very smooth and melodic chorus and it all sounds great in the process of doing so. On a side note, I could really hear Lupe Fiasco featuring on here for a remix.
“Range Rover Rhythm” (Produced by Jahlil Beats) – Skyzoo sounds great on this beat that at some points sounds dark and grimy but also manages to keep a modern soulful vibe at the same time (especially on the chorus). The change ups on here are great and flow perfectly, especially the melodic brass melody on the chorus. With dope drum patterns to match the instruments, “Range Rover Rhythm” sounds great to me and the production on it almost reminds me of a less dark sounding “Triple Beam Dreams” by Rick Ross.
“The Knowing” featuring Jessy Wilson (Produced by Eric G) – I’m loving the ambient sounding production on this song, especially the synths/pads in the background that build up with smooth brass and vocal harmonies. The percussion on here just builds on the smooth and jazzy feel of the song to make it sound full and complete. Jessy Wilson does a great job on the chorus as well as the background vocals and breakdown. This is a great song to me that has a very smooth and laid back feel to it.
“Drew & Derwin” featuring Raheem Devaughn (Produced by Focus) – “Drew & Derwin” builds nicely off of the outro skit from “The Knowing” and does so perfectly. The smooth and catchy synths on this track compliment Skyzoo and Raheem’s vocals nicely. This is definitely the love making song off of the album and it works nicely for that type of concept without being corny.
“Realization” featuring Jared Evan (Produced by DJ Khalil) – I’m a big fan of Jared Evan’s work so I had to make sure I stayed unbiased when reviewing this song but this is definitely dope. Smooth strings with matching drum patterns make for a dope record with a really laid back and almost futuristic feel to it on the chorus. The melodies and harmonies on here sound great and help gives this song a grown up and classic sound to it, especially with Jared Evan on the chorus. I also like the use of a few vocal samples from other hip-hop songs on here.
“The Rage Of Roemello” (Produced by DJ Khalil) – This song has a very smooth and poetic feel to it that I really enjoyed and will definitely be replaying a few times to make sure I catch everything in the lyrics. The production on here is great and fits the overall smooth and jazzy feel of the album. Skyzoo continues to keep up with dope concepts and I really enjoy where he went with this song. All over the production here is really dope from the concept to the actual instrumentation and percussion.
“How To Make It Through Hysteria” (Produced by Best Kept Secret) – “How To Make It Through Hysteria” finds Skyzoo celebrating his success of making it through hysteria over some very dope production. The drums here have a head-nodding vibe and the strings, brass and guitars fit very nicely and almost have a menacing sound to them. The brass and string melodies on the chorus as well as the chorus lyrics themselves are very catchy and dope. One of my favorite parts of this song is when the drums drop out and the production changes up to find Skyzoo slowing his delivery to almost a spoken word style until the song gradually fades out.
“Steel’s Apartment” (Produced by Black Milk) – After hearing this song I’m really starting to appreciate a lot of the concepts on this album, especially the movie and TV show based references such as this one (think of Juice). The actual beat production here is laid back and cool but it doesn’t stand out to me by itself. Regardless, the beat here works really well for the song and the concept and lyrics are dope and more than enough to hold my attention.
“Spike Lee Was My Hero” featuring Talib Kweli (Produced by Tall Black Guy) – “Spike Lee Was My Hero” has a consistent brass sample throughout with some boom-bap sounding production. I like this song as a whole but the beat itself is simple and at some points can get repetitive. The concept here is dope and original and I also really enjoyed the pianos that came in at the end of this song (although it may have been more interesting to hear the pianos throughout the song as well).
“The Cost of Sleep” (Produced by Tall Black Guy) – This song gradually grew one me, especially as other sounds came into the track as it built up to the chorus but at first I wasn’t really feeling the main synths and strings (mainly the detuned sound of them). “The Cost of Sleep” is dope lyrically and conceptually and also works nicely as an ending song to the album. I really thought it was dope how the beat changed up towards to the end with a filter being used and then the brass coming in but it took time to grow on me.
A Dream Deferred is mostly a very smooth sounding album that fans of lyrical and original hip-hop music will enjoy. I really enjoyed the concepts and lyrics on this album and most of the production was truly rock solid. Although at some points I did feel the production could have been stronger, I think every beat on the album worked well for each song and there was no generic sounding or copycat production either. Overall I give A Dream Deferred a rating of 4 out of 5 because I think the concepts of the songs (and the album as a whole) really are dope and as a fan of hip-hop music that is something I really appreciate. I also think the album was pretty well balanced in terms of not being too laid back to the point that you want to fall asleep but there are a few songs I might skip over after a few listens, mainly because of the production. On a side note, I think it’d be cool to hear more experimental records like “Give It Up” from Skyzoo in the future.