The life and times of SkyBlew have never been easy. As a child, the illustrative emcee born Mario Farrow was shuffled to and fro from family and friends to foster and adoption homes, sometimes for the better, other times for the worse, but Farrow made it through to healthy young adulthood. To this day, though he enjoys awards and recognition for being Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s preeminent hip-hop artist, the conscious positive SkyBlew, who is also independent, works tremendously hard to reach the audiences that mainstream acts are given access to so easily. In short, he earns all of his accolades. Practiced at releasing multiple quality albums per year, SkyBlew has reached the feat again this year, with the followup to February’s Dreams, Toonami and Jazzier Days, entitled Destined: The [R]Evolution, a June 2017 issue from the visionary rhymer.
The sequel to Sky’s Destined: The Rebirth EP from last year, [R]Evolution is produced by beat prodigy SublimeCloud (Christian Whitson), who also served on the boards for Rebirth. This time we get a full LP with [R]Evolution and song after song of hearty wholesome rap that paints pictures – but keep in mind Sky’s staple saying: he doesn’t rap, he paints the sky, blew! Opening to memory-forming jazz, a “Tin Man” sample from ’70s band America, and of course Sky’s signature positivity, [R]Evolution can do nothing but hook us in atop before it gets even weightier in “Autumn, Lovely Convo!” with wisdom on everything coming at a price, notes on ambition, ATCQ-love and more classic rock sample-strength.
Sky succinctly summarizes the pleasure-from-pain principle in “HM04!” rapping, “I suffered, it made me tougher, through the hate became a lover,” referring to his own growth experience. He shakes his head at a rap game of greatly expanding head counts yet with little compelling material throughout the vast field. Still he stays himself, an aficionado of animation and worldly awareness. Listeners will find at least one loaded line to love per song. The classic metaphor of words as food is reimagined perfectly in “Chill, We Coolin’ Off!” where Sky says:
[I] cook food for thought so, here goes my recipe, psych! You ain’t gettin’ it, I’m thick and they have to but the flow is too much to process like fast foods.
Around claps, light piano and sax, Sky brims with dreams, aspirations and true knowledge but admits “there’s just gotta be more to living than labor and woe, we offer hope to the globe then after, we go.”
Look out because next, SkyBlew will melt your heart, in “Sailor Moon & Stars!” and soul-weaver Donovan and his soft song vocals add an irreplaceable suppleness over this pretty love-piece’s happy piano lines and joyful admissions. Naturally the heat goes up again afterwards. Sky drops some of his heaviest thoughts in “Speak That Breeze!”, this time regarding the terrible effects of negativity but with hope at the end:
Most cast away their dreams ‘cause they fear rejection and failure. Look at the election. That’s proof anything is possible in this nation of idiots, humanity becoming insidious. My city ain’t the prettiest but I still rep to the death. Just give us your all until there’s none left.
Of course SkyBlew knows there are many fabulous people out there but it’s also true that there are enough of the other kind to make a nation as he says, if only a small one at most.
The elegant SublimeCloud and the eloquent SkyBlew make the album’s step down to the close smooth yet impactful still. Hip guitar flicks and drum snaps in “Pen Tama!” move to more committed resolved wisdom from our generous wiz (never dumb) in “Movement of the Destined!” and “Parallel Echoes!” provides the calm cap-off of Sky stating where he’s from, what he’s about, where he’s going and how he’s gonna get there. Sky the “Colorful Dreamer” hasn’t an equal ratio of hard to soft obviously, seeing as how he’s mostly warm and bright, but he makes it work because one – it’s what the game’s been sorely missing – and two – his background and personality have given him allowance to be as such. SkyBlew with incredible help from the gifted talented SublimeCloud firmly takes his place next to the most progressive optimistic emcees of all time thanks to Destined: The [R]Evolution and the rest of his catalog. (4 out of 5 stars)