There are few emcees working today that are able to channel the cacophonous intensity yet lyrical sharpness and prowess as SKECH185, and I’m basing that off one album alone. I was introduced to the talented wordsmith briefly via Armand Hammer’s record “If He Holla” off their classic 2018 album Paraffin, and have been intrigued by his style since. Along with long time Backwoodz Studioz producer, affiliate and friend Jeff Markey, who released a pretty impressive album of his on late last year titled Sports & Leisure, SKECH185 has released a pretty impressive new album titled He Left Nothing for the Swim Back. This, admittedly being my first proper SKECH185 album experience, I was absolutely intrigued to delve into it and boy did it not disappoint at all.
Over 9 tracks and some of the craziest and most disorienting production I’ve heard so far this year (still early days, I know), SKECH185 creates a dense, introspective and fascinating body of work that sounds truly ahead of his time. His style is difficult to pin down, but he enunciates his words with viciousness and precision in a way few wordsmiths can, with lyrical complexities that make my head turn. The title track kicks the album off in style, with punch bars off the jump that are delivered with such menace and purpose. “I was born in ’85 but feel like ’97 Jus / Penning anthems to a burning century as the scenery erupts” he proclaims emphatically, while flowing pretty effortlessly over the banging beat. “Badly Drawn Zero” keeps the energy flowing, as he brings humour in his raps and delivery, perfectly complementing the jarring production. “East Side Summer” featuring I.B. Fokuz, Collasoul Structure and Solar Five is another great moment on the album, with all three emcees flexing their skills as wordsmiths, while “The River” is this intense anti-American Imperialism track with striking wordplay and lyricism, as he states “This is America, With it’s hungered pains and overpowered plates”, with intensity. “Nights and Weekends” featuring PremRock and Lt Headtrip is another interesting track, with introspections from a man who is trying to balance work and personal life. “Up to Speed” has a soulful beat to it, contrasted by SKECH185’s energetic and personal verse, as we delve into his state of mind and personal experiences, making it one one the more introspective tracks on the album. The two closing tracks, however, are exceptional. “Western Automatic Music, Part 1” and “Western Automatic Music, Part 2” featuring billy woods are phenomenal. The way billy woods kicks the latter track off is incredible – “In my home, cold come through the floor like a malevolent force / It’s a war going on inside, probably why I ain’t lock the door” continuing his verse in his usually dystopian thoughts. SKECH185’s verse is personal and revealing, a beautiful moment that captures his vulnerability and how that relates to the chaos and sombreness around him. It’s one of the most heartfelt and brutally honest verses of the album and really captures the essence of his artistry and poetry. He really excelled on all fronts on this album, and Jeff Markey’s cocophonous, textured and layered production is also truly exceptional.
He Left Nothing for the Swim Back is one of the more dense, cohesive and fun-to-digest hip-hop albums I’ve listened to in a little while. Jeff Markey’s usually vibrant and colourful production complements SKECH185’s punchy and animated delivery and flow, perfectly combining for a memorable album I’ll be having on repeat for some time to come. Great job to everyone involved!
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