It’s a challenge for me to find rap I can listen to, much less enjoy. The advent of “mumble rap” has turned me further off a genre I thought had hit its low point with “crunk”. Due to this, when I find a rapper I think is worth a damn, I find it necessary to sing their praises to the world (hence the frequent promotion of Dessa on this site).
There’s a new name to add to the list of Indy Review approved rap, and that’s Skizzy Mars. On his most recent EP, are you OK?, Mars presents himself as a strong wordsmith and storyteller, one who doesn’t sacrifice lyrical depth for cheap hooks. This is most clear on single “American Dream”, where Mars turns “They gon’ let me in this club in these dirty vans” into a dark testament to the current state of America – if you have money, that gives you access to whatever you want. He then relates a story of growing up in poverty while surrounded by well-off friends who can’t relate, and ends by turning his eyes towards more national issues, lamenting kids looking up to drug dealers and a culture that causes them to “hate what they see in the mirror”. The base-heavy beat provides the necessary muscle to support his conscious lyrics perfectly.
On album opener “2006”, Mars rhymes over classical piano to spin a regretful tale of a failed romance, realizing “Maybe it’s time I made some good decisions”. He looks at his past jealousy and pill popping, and vows to take a new approach to life. He continues this confessional on “Help Me”, as he admits being at the mercy of substance abuse and obsessive behavior in relationships. The thoughtful, inward-looking content is reminiscent of Kid Cudi‘s best material, as is the fresh synthy samples used to carry the song along. This is far from “emo-rap” though, as Mars’ delivery always comes with a crisp, hard edge.
“Why Can’t We Work” is another look at the economic divide in terms of relationships, but rides a more melodic rhythm with an airy, orchestral production. It’s more geared towards Top 40 than “American Dream”, and while it lacks a true ear-worm chorus, it at least doesn’t pander to simple minded audiences.
Throughout the EP Mars proves he has an ear for melody, incorporating a guitar solo into a hook on “Greedy”, one of the catchiest songs on are you OK?, and one which could potentially crossover to alternative radio if some brave programmers were to take a chance.
Skizzy Mars is not new to the scene (his single “Makes Sense” dates back to 2014), but he’s obviously been developing a voice and is reaching new heights on this very personal collection of songs. He’s worth a listen, whether you’re a rap fan or not.