Skyzoo Brilliantly Exacts “Revenge” On Jay Z On “Friend Or Foe Pt. 3″ (Audio)
Crown Heights Brooklyn MC Skyzoo grew up not far from the Marcy Houses that raised Jay Z. Although the two lyricists are more than a dozen years apart in age, S-K-Y always vocalized just how much S.Carter inspired his art and style. The extended, nasal bars, emphasis on brands and imagery, and nuances of a New York City upbringing are deeply at play in the music of both. In creating his own independent career, Skyzoo has worked with the likes of Just Blaze, DJ Premier, and 9th Wonder—who had all previously assisted Jay.
Appropriately, to honor the recent 20th anniversary of Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt, Skyzoo—a lover of concepts, wanted to bring that connection even closer. Initiated by Rap Genius, the MC took a clever stab at “Friend Or Foe,” a famed two-part song series that began in 1996. On the Preemo-produced original, Jay set the scene with a real-time storytelling track about setting up shop to move product out of town—keeping the competition out. The song, which would get a video treatment, was a masterpiece in bridging Jay’s ironclad street reputation, with his dazzling, conversational lyricism. Although softer spoken compared to The Notorious B.I.G., Raekwon, or E-40, Jay used Reasonable Doubt to stake his claim as one of the greatest songwriters about hustling.
Seventeen months later, Jay (who had already released two parts of “Dead Presidents”) would create a “Friend Or Foe ’98.” Again with Gang Starr’s producer (who had laced many multi-part songs in his career), this more uptempo take picked up where the first tale left off. The strong-arm back-down got gory details, with the bluntly speaking MC tracing the confrontation from a warning to a massacre at a Motel 6 in a two-hotel town. By ’97’s In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, Jay Z was clearly basking in the glory of his creativity and rep.
In mid-2016, Skyzoo gets cinematic with an unofficial third installment. After Jay “ran across a brethren,” S-K-Y plays the part of the revenge-seeker. Taking the original ’96 beat, Skyzoo eloquently recaps the two confrontations—speaking directly to Jay Z. He makes the moment pure non-fiction, explaining how Shawn Carter was juggling Rap City appearances with low-key “trips to Baltimore in a Ford Explorer.” The lyrics reveal that Skyzoo The Writer is actually playing the part of the antagonist’s son—who was raised fatherless. Using some precisely poking wordplay (“serenade you with ether,” “nah, this duke lemonade’in with his woman”), the revenge gets intense. While Sky’ makes it clear his character is a mere 20 years old, the song takes on a “How To Rob” grit, as it traces the young buck boosting the Roc-A-Fella Records plaques and other items of value from Jay’s crib. Like the previous two, the song ends with a bang (of sorts), and enough to close the book entirely on the living, breathing, series.
With the song’s release, Skyzoo said the following: “For the record, this is not a Jay-Z diss by any means. We all know Jay is one of my favorite MCs of all time. This is a creative take on a fictional story told from the point of view of a fictional character. Enjoy it in the essence of what it is. And happy anni’ to Reasonable Doubt, a timeless piece for the ages.”
Throughout his career, Jay Z has been very shrewd about responding to mentions—from friends or foes. While The Game has been addressed only in perceived subliminals, others were only worth of “half a bar” on 2001’s “The Takeover.” As Skyzoo (as he asserted) is merely paying homage to a song that felt all too real to many of the last 20 years, one can speculate if Hov’ will “Clark Kent his way back to the booth” to follow-up “Drug Dealers Anonymous” with another D-boy callback.
Moreover, as Skyzoo has been one of the most creative and consistent MCs from BK in the last 10 years, this may be one step closer to a collaboration he and his fans would likely love to see.