“My Earth” is a mood-infused, deeply nostalgic track, infusing the classic sounds of hip hop’s golden years with the lo-fi, emotional chords common to Neo-Soul and down-tempo confessionals. This song is a collaborative effort by 410 Tazz and SKILLZMEGA (aka: DSkillzHarris), both out of Baltimore, Maryland. This MC duo appear together on most of their projects, with SKILLZ handling the production and engineering, and both he and Tazz generally taking a verse. When and MC/Producer comes onto the scene, there’s an immediate respect for the double threat skill set that title implies. When two MC’s work together and collaborate harmoniously, this can create an unstoppable creative force. With these two both being accomplished MC’s, and SKILLZ being a capable, meticulous producer with a defined, well-honed style of his own, this pair clearly has an edge on the come up game in Hip Hop’s underground.
Both artists sound a little like J-Dilla in terms of their flow and vocal quality. There’s something old and inviting about their rhymes, a return to lyrical complexity is desperately needed in hip hop’s main stream. SKILLZMEGA takes the first verse of this track, and immediately the Neo-Soul influence is felt, with a vocal infusion of somewhat more modern artists also coming to the forefront of his tone and vocal stylings. Sounding a little bit like Boogie in tonality, with warm vocal fry in his intonations and a satisfying dose of emotional reserve in his vocal strain, SKILLZ immediately creates a mood, bringing you back to the old days of hip hop, with the slow roll of long verse and repeating cadence. His tone and flow style is also somewhat reminiscent of Chance the Rapper, especially in his earliest works. 410 Tazz takes the second verse, and the hooks in this track. His flow was immediately recognizable, more to an era than to an artist. But, when I really tried to put a name to it, I realized that Tazz sounds like he could have easily been the lost member of A Tribe Called Quest.
The beat, composed, produced, and engineered by SKILLZMEGA is an extremely accomplished production, which seems well beyond the scope of an underground producer. This is not the quality one would expect from some bedroom producer dabbling with sound packs and batch-uploading type beats onto soundcloud. This is precise, thoughtful, established work. With grooving vocal samples and a very traditional boom-bap beat supporting the riffs, this is a little like De La Soul, circa 2016. The vibe is old and new at the same time, and in the influence of old, it is taking the best parts of this all-but-forgotten era of hip hop and expertly interlacing it with the more modern tastes of today.
With SKILLZMEGA’s ability to finesse Neo-soul into classic hip hop’s instrumental intricacies, and both artists ability to craft perfectly timed lyrics which flow effortlessly to these old-school styles of beat where there are no drops or chops, no changes between verse and hook, and no big, showy additions of bells or 808’s or sub base (which are used to give interest to beats today, and allow artists to rap shorter lines without it seeming to get lost on the beat) there is something very accomplished about these two artist’s ability to both create and accompany a beat so heavy in instrumental repetitions. It shows their skillset as lyricists, and showcases the ability and talent of SKILLZMEGA, specifically, as a producer.
This older style of beat may not sound accomplished to today’s listener, but making a song like this, with lyrics that flow over bars and with an instrumental that is literally without any bells or whistles, takes a lot of precision and ability, and employs a requisite skillset absent from many mainstream artists today. Respect where respect is due, and “My Earth” by 410 Tazz featuring SKILLZMEGA earns the respect of any true hip hop enthusiast. Hip Hop today is hurting for something like this, with impressive lyricism and true fineness and nuance in production.