Track By Track: The Heavens Will Help

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Track by track: THE HEAVENS WILL HELP

By James “Tubby” Storlie

 

I needed a vacation. I've been working up North a lot lately and haven't had the time to get away and relax in over a year. Between working on the Slope, coming home and doing the daddy thing and my musical endeavors (Tubby & Friends), I've been a busy man. So, I decided it was time to get away. 


Our family has a nice little house boat located in Port Orchard, Washington. The family tries to get together down there and spend time together on the boat two to three times a year. Because I’ve been so busy, it had been over a year since I got to go down and relax on the boat. And I decided that's where I wanted to go to unwind. I also figured while I was down there I'd go and visit my good friend Keezy of The Sky Division.

 

Keezy moved down to Seattle a few years ago. He had just recently moved into a new spot on the West end and invited me over to catch up, smoke some of Washington's finest and discuss his latest project, The Heavens Will Help, an album many are considering to be a hip-hop classic already, just weeks after its release. 



For those who may need a quick crash course on who Keezy is, here's a quick rundown:
In Anchorage, Alaska, there was a group of kids in their late teens who made music, they called themselves The Sky Division. It consisted of many people, but the main dudes were Keezy, Darius and Sk8 God (Darius' brother). There were many other affiliate artists as well. They were a collective of creatives who were well-known and respected all around Anchorage, and eventually Josh Boots put them under his Marvel Us Music imprint and their names continued to grow from there.

 

I noticed Sky Division early on via Boots and became a huge fan and supporter of not just the movement as a whole, but each artist individually. To many people, Keezy was the nucleus of Sky Div. To many others, Darius was that creative nucleus and, over time, just like many talented super groups—yes, I said SUPER groups. I'm available to break down what that is and why they are one for anyone, individually. DM Me—egos and emotions got the best of a beautiful situation and Darius and Keezy separated. Keezy and the rest of Sky Division pushed forward and Darius went on to pursue a solo route and is now one of the biggest hip-hop artists in Alaska. Not long after that, Sk8 God left to focus on his individual career. And even though those separations severed friendships, ones that haven't been completely reconciled to this day, there's no denying the impact Sky Division had on Anchorage. They were the first wave of young kids to make high quality rap music locally—there was crisp production and intricate lyricism and songwriting. They sounded like they knew what they were doing and they had the music, videos, performances and parties to back up the hype. They made an impact that is still evident in Anchorage today.

 

 

Keezy's apartment is pretty much empty. A couple unpacked boxes, a lamp, a bag of some strong sativa and a pack of Backwoods. That's it. No chairs, no furniture, nothing. He'd been there so briefly the cable guy hadn't installed the Wi-Fi yet.

 

Keezy went downstairs, introduced himself to a neighbor, and then paid her $20 for access to her Wi-Fi account. I was actually rather impressed by the move. 



So, I set up my laptop, GoPro and audio mic next to the stove in the kitchen and began to roll a blunt. I hit record, pulled up Keezy’s The Heavens Will Help and me and my good friend, who I hadn't seen in months, got to talking. 

 
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The Heavens Will Help


The album starts off with a gentleman speaking to Keezy. The man speaking is a family member of an individual who had a heart attack at a gym that Keezy works at. Keezy just so happened to learn CPR in a training class the day before this happened and because of that class Keezy was able to save this individual's life.

 

The gentleman speaks about prayer and God and how he truly believes Keezy was there for a reason. Then the title track begins.

 

"That's the same sample Jake One flipped for Drake's album—shout out to Jake One, but I think I did it better (laughs). This whole song is the same sample. That was one I made towards the end [of making the album]. When I made the beat, I thought I should sell it, but then I thought to myself, 'who is going to rap on this shit? I gotta do it myself."

 

Keezy goes on: "The point of this album was to stretch myself melodically. I was definitely more focused on the beats at first and that's where I started getting song ideas. A lot of the tracks have choirs in the samples. The samples are very soulful, and a lot of my ideas came from hearing those." 
 


Drop Heavy


According to Keezy, this was the funnest track to make. The inspiration behind it came from someone even younger than Keezy. "Zay Wonder's (who’s featured on Drop Heavy) producer Royce David is one of the best producers alive! This kid is 17-years-old. Filthy. He'll make anything. I met him before I started on this album, [and began] working with Zay on his project, and to be honest it inspired me. Why wouldn't you be inspired by a 17-year-old who is producing better than you? I made that beat, I made a couple of beats, ‘cause of hearing and seeing that. I played it for Zay and he was like, 'yeah…'" 
 


Foes


Foes is a dark, minimal track that Keezy says is a complete freestyle. "This song is a freestyle. I did not write anything for this song. Webb wrote the hook, so I didn't write shit. This is one of my favorite beats on the album." 

One of my favorite cuts on THWH


Don't Make Me Wait


On “Don't Make Me Wait,” a track I feel has radio play potential, Keezy begins with a catchy hook utilizing a lil bit of autotune which, fortunately, he doesn't overdo while snappin’ on the verse with bars aimed at those trying to rain on his parade. "Ain't gotta prove that I'm ‘bout it, knowin’ they just trying to knock me off balance, I go brazy brazy, I go the wildest, God given, I ain't wasting my talents."

"This song is tight ‘cause I speak Korean in it, " Keezy adds. I laugh. 


Sad Girls Club


SGC is a dark, violin-infused track I was blessed with hearing months ago. It has Keezy speaking to a dishonest, dramatic ex. "I know them lies on your brain, now it's habitual, now it's a ritual, you telling stories, and all of them fictional, I believe it, it's a way that we could fix it, but right now, there ain't no going back, I'm just trying to keep my soul intact."

"Sad Girls Club is about the only girl outside of the person I'm with, that I've ever loved, and people who know me know who that is." 


GS7


This Brain produced cut reminds me of vintage Wiz Khalifa records. Keezy flows effortlessly at any and every person not down for The Div. "I wasn't trying to stunt, but then I had to, you niggas only do what you're allowed to, I swear I only flex when I have to, just be ready for it ‘cause it's past due."

"Me, Brain and Webb were in the studio, we just recorded “Stay With Me,” Brain's playing beats. It wasn't even mixed. It was hella flat. I wrote that song so fucking quick! I don't even think I wrote it, type shit. This is one I've performed a million times."
 


Don't Skip This Interlude


A stand out record on the album, this mellow track showcases Keezy's ability to harmonize and use melodies to add to his arsenal of deliveries. On it, he sings, "This another stupid ass song about this girl I used to know, and she changed, yeah she changed, when she moved away from home, but I think about her every time I get up in this zone and her name come around when I get around some old friends."

"I think that's one of my best songs ever. I think this is one of THEE best songs ever." Keezy tells me with a serious face. "This is the song I listen to the most on the album. This was the very last song I recorded for the album. This song is completely about “her.” That shit is Drake-level emotions (laughs)"



Stay With Me


The Brain produced "Stay With Me" is a fan favorite that I was fortunate enough to hear several months ago in the early stages of THWH. It features vocals courtesy of Sky Div member Slim Delaphante, whose harmonizing is present thoughout THWH. Slim's Kid Cudi-like vocals compliment Keezy's voice as he spits game. "All I think about is being next to you, blessed with you, the only time I ever reply to my text is you, baby, you got that, and I need the rest of you."
 


Changed Up


The Keezy-produced "Changed Up" may be my favorite song on the album. It's one I can relate to greatly. On it, Keezy starts off by simply saying, "Nah… never." then he starts his verse with "I done lost a lot of friends to the raps now, a lot of things said, never going back, now, but if you heard me say it, it was facts, ooooh, oh, they don't like to hear all that now." 

Keezy's had a few falling outs with previous members of Sky Division over the years and with the added pressures of being known as one of the elite in the local music scene, Keezy makes it clear that he's still the same kid from the Eastside of Anchorage in the chorus. "You can't say I change, you can't say I changed up. Seen em' steal the style, niggas trying to frame us, just know that I got it way before the fame come, I was born to get it, that's how I was raised up."

When speaking about who the track was directed at Keezy decides to keep it vague. "This song isn't about anyone specifically, all I'm saying is this song addresses whatever issue someone may have with me, and it could pertain to so many people." Fair enough.
 


Run It


The braggadocios bars continue on "Run It," where an enthusiastic Keezy showcases his word play with lines like, "Over time, I've been working overtime, overdrive when the light changes, look at my life, light stages, like the dope game, the price changes, need to take my own advice, with the vices, they ain't been reading off the right pages, from the outside, if you're looking in, you might just assume that I made it. Sike, face it, so far from where I wanna be, but these guys hatin!" Bars, bro. Bars.

According to Keezy, the track almost got left off the final cut. "This song got scratched from the album at one point. I made it in January. I showed it to a girl and she was like “where are we at with this song,” and that shit fucked me up (laughs). But the song's tight as fuck. I kept it."
 


Luv4u


Track 11 on THWH, "Luv4u," shows Keezy at his most vulnerable as he pens a song to his family, who he rarely gets to see, while his uncle plays the guitar over one of his handcrafted boom bap instrumentals. On it he speaks about his distant relationship with his sister. "Got sick of home, but home sick, that's no kiddin’, so busy, ain't seen my sister in the last four Christmases. I miss you, though we don't talk all the time, when life is really all bad, I'm still gonna tell you it's fine. ‘Cause I don't need to leave you worried, know you'd be there in hurry, if you could, that's why you forever good, you should know I got love for you."

"I had this song for awhile—the first verse. It took awhile for the second verse," Keezy explains. "I love my sister. We were close but she's five years older than me, so she missed out on a lot of my life. We kind of don't know each other like that. The song is just hella deep. This was another one of those beats where I just wrote on it because I didn't know what someone else would've wrote on it."
 


Prophet


"Prophet" gives you a taste of what a potential 2017 Sky Division album would sound like as both Slim Delaphante and Cartier Cash grace us with their presence on this Keezy-produced record. "I tried to make this beat as simple as possible, and kind of 'trappy' (laughs). Slim goes on this and Cash floated on it," Keezy says with a proud smile.

Slim Delaphante steals the show, in my opinion, with this catchy cadence as he sings, "All I see is Profit, money on my mind, and I got it in my pocket. Everything I do is Otto Rocket, vertical is through the roof, I feel like I'ma prophet." 

Keezy comes in on the second verse with a completely new flow, which is something I noticed on this project. Keezy showcases a wide range of deliveries and rhyme patterns on this album. He doesn't allow himself to be boxed into a specific style, lyrically. The Sky Div front man spits, "Let me break it down, the demonstration, it's not often that you witness greatness, I know, I know, it's a difference between me and them, so I haven't been trippin’ lately, I sit em' down like detention, baby. I would love to stay and parlez-vous with you, but I would hate to keep the business waiting."

Cartier Cash, one of the more charismatic members of Sky Division, makes a last minute appearance as he effortlessly flows with the swagger of an old school pimp. "I said the party don't start bitch till I walk in, young nigga about his ends, better talk Benjamins. Got this thotty on my line, saying 'let's be friends,' I finessed that little bitch and skurt skurt in her Benz!"

If "Prophet" is any indication of what that highly anticipated Sky Div Forever album would sound like, I'm all for it and hope we eventually see/hear that project.
 


Lifetime


Another album highlight, in my opinion, is "Lifetime," the T-Smirk-produced record that feels more like an interlude. It starts with Slim Delaphante singing "Once in a lifetime, this kind of love happens once in a lifetime…"

Keezy explains how the song almost didn't happen: "When Webb (Slim Delaphante) first showed me the hook, I wasn't sure about it. To be honest, I thought it was kind of corny, but then I was like, damn, it hella relates to my life (laughs). It took me four hours to write that verse. Spent all day on it. The verse is hella dope, man. That shit's real.”
 


Right Now


The album ends with the first track Keezy recorded for THWH, "Right Now." The dark, crisp production, courtesy of Keezy himself, thumps as the artist born Keon McMillan proclaims, "This is for all the times they tried to flex on me, ‘cause I don't ever like to hold my breath, homie, and I don't bite my tongue, say what's on my mind, and one day that'll be the death of me." 

Slim Delaphante adds to the track. "I ain't ever change, no, I ain't ever change on you… I ain't ever change, no, I ain't ever change on you!"

Keezy continues: "Even if I never make a penny off the raps that I wrote, I'ma still be the GOAT, huh! You could do the math, check the score, I've been up for a minute, you're just trying to stay afloat, huh! They tried to count me out, but of course always knew that I was chose, I'm the one who hold the torch, huh! You don't want to see me spaz on these niggas, act an ass out here, ‘cause they know I do the most, huh!!" 

Keezy lets it be known on the final track where he stands in this local hip hop rap game… right now.

 
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We let the entire album play. Afterwards, Keezy drove us to some restaurant, beer pub spot nearby where we had a couple drinks, ate some delicious food if I remember correctly (I was stoned, everything's delicious when I'm stoned) and talked about Keezy's career and what his end goal was, currently. "My main goal is to get a discography to the point where I could tour forever, and as long as I can tour forever, then I'll be good. This album is going to take me to a different place because the music is so good. And I know now."



After dinner, we go back to Keezy's empty apartment, roll up another Backwood and play the album again while talking about a wide range of topics—his thoughts of former Sky Div members solo careers, that "cute" little greatest local rappers list of mine, and whether or not I'll ever get that Keezy/Darius/Tayy Tarantino record. Then I realized I had totally forgotten to ask how he came up with the album title. 



"So, I got in this car accident a few years ago, down here. Long story short, I ended up getting a settlement. My lawyer is this Asian dude. This is our first time meeting and he's telling me that he doesn't like being a lawyer. This nigga is making good money, takes care of his family, he's straight, but he doesn't like what he's doing. He thought it was cool I was doing what I loved. He wants to be a cook. He loves to cook. He tells me about this saying in his culture, and it translated to "The Heavens Will Help." I had it written on a business card and carried that shit forever. When he said it to me, it was like a movie. Everything froze. I was like, this is it. I just knew that was it, and I just prayed about it, and because of that I have this project."

 

Listen to the #TubbyManCaveProject x Crude podcast with Keezy.

 

You can download or stream The Heavens Will Help by Keezy on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and all other media outlets now.