Elzhi – The Preface [Review]

Jay Dilla’s influence in Hip-Hop will probably live on forever. One of the cornerstones of his career is the Slum Village crew which has grown to include Elzhi. Even when he left the group, Dilla’s influence and beats remained with the crew even after Elzhi came on. Folks have been clamoring for this solo album for a long time, does he deliver? Let’s take a look…

Produced by Black Milk

The table is set as two men comment on how boring the game has become and how sick they are about it. We’ve heard this all and all, but it’s not typically ended with the emcee spittin’ a few bars to end the intro. Well done.

The Leak
Featuring Ayah; Produced by Black Milk
The beat features a chord loop and Ayah singing the hook. The track is ok but clearly benefits from Elzhi’s frenzied flow. The concept is for Elzhi to “leak” his past and his make-up in two verses in one song. His delivery is fantastic here and the concept isn’t brand new, but executed better than most.

Guessing Game
Produced by Black Milk
The drum work on this one is ridiculous. The rest of the track is just as ambitious as the melody of the guitar and the slightly mistimed kicks dare you to deny this one. The lyrics are even more incredible. It’s actually an interactive song in which he challenges you to figure out what the next word is and say it before he does. I can’t do this one any justice trying to explain it, but when you hear it, you will understand.

Motown 25
Featuring Royce Da 5’9″; Produced by Black Milk
Wow, just when you thought you had the formula figured out for the tracks, Milk introduces a fly background chord that changes the sound of this beat altogether. Lyrically…well, honestly, I don’t even want to fuck it up by typing it. This shit is nice…and that is an understatement. For those of us familiar with Elzhi’s antics, this shit is his flow on steroids. Royce comes on and is the PERFECT compliment on this track. His flow is much slower flow but not lacking lyrically at all. This is one helluva collaboration.

Brag Swag
Produced by Black Milk
This beat seems to have that R&B feel behind it that is most like what Slum Village has been doing for years. There is some scratching on the track, but the sample doesn’t really match the track and sounds a little off, but outside of that, it’s love. Elzhi’s ability to flip syllables is on display with lines like “…you smokin’ nigga weed/I buy hunned dolla bags/Cadillacs and polished Jags/Yeah, I show you how to brag/While the hour lags…” The combination of the relaxed track and his flow work really well.

Produced by Black Milk
Of course there is a small sample of the hook of “Colors”, but that’s where it stops. This song is very much different than the thug anthem of yesteryear. Another track built on chord and kick along with a simple yet effective guitar melody. The concept of this song is simple…follow the verses and pick out each color used in the flow. This is much more complex than it just sounded. It’s hard enough to keep up with him anyway, but when you have to try and pick out the colors that he seamlessly uses in his flow, it leaves you in awe. This song is fantastic.

Fire (remix)
Featuring Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Fatt Father, Danny Brown, & Fat Ray; Produced by Black Milk

This is probably the only track I am not a major fan of. The track itself is a little on the boring side and that is a shame. It seems like it set the tone for the hook as well, but definitely not the flows. Each emcee does a great job of keeping this song interesting despite the way the track sounds.

Produced by Black Milk
Sorry neck, no rest for you here either. The music is built over some layered percussion work along with a rattle sound of some sort. Trust me, it comes together really well. The challenge of an emcee is to provide social commentary and keep us interested. While the concept and title of this song are pretty straight forward, the example he sets on this song is a great blueprint on how to be REALevant in today’s climate.

Save Ya
Featuring & Produced by T3
THE VILLIAGE!!! This song is nothing but bottled SV magic. From top to bottom, this song is a great capsule of what you get on a Slum Village offering. The production on this one is dope as hell and it is my favorite song on the album.

Featuring Phat Kat; Produced by Black Milk
I’m not a big fan of this track. This is in the same vein of the rest of the album in that the majority of these beats seem pretty simplistic but they still manage to entertain. The horns seem a bit lazy and overall, it is a bit too musical to cut short and loop. It could have been stretched out a bit more and allowed to breathe. Phat Kat brings his raspy delivery and provides, somehow, even more motivation for Elzhi to slaughter another track. With lines like “girls feel it in they stomach like a fetus” he makes it seem so easy to do what he has been doing to music for years now.

Transitional Joint
Produced by Black Milk
This is another song more typical of his SV roots as Elzhi reminds of that moment when we fell for her. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.  t’s dope how he describes the moment and is able to make an entire song from such an overlooked moment.

Talkin’ In My Sleep
Produced by Black Milk
This one is a laid back groove that matches the song perfectly. El paints a dream for us that includes some serious dream and scenery changes. He puts on a lyrical exhibition yet again as his changes are seamless from one scene to the next.

The Science
Featuring Fes Roc; Produced by DJ Dez
This bass heavy track is clearly my favorite on the album. It is a loop like most of the other tracks bit the sound on this one is more cohesive than any other on the album. Unfortunately, the hook doesn’t follow suit. The lyricism on this song isn’t half steppin’ at all. The tails of the eternal chase of money are the subject on this jam. Pay close attention, this is a good song despite the hook.

Hands Up
Produced by Black Milk
This track is more of an 808 type drum sound, a head nod banger for you. We go on a robbery with El…No lyrical play here, a flat out hold up. This is just another example of Elzhi’s ability to tell a story and create very lucid images.

What I Write
Produced by Black Milk
This isn’t the best beat on the album, but not the worst either. It’s pretty middle of the road for this album. We hear the pen on paper sound in the background as Elzhi links different topics on what he writes about. This is a dope song that would shine over a little more complex track.

Growing Up
Featuring A.B.; Produced by Black Milk
The background singing is a welcome surprise on the hook as it ads something to the song. Elzhi goes first talking more about his childhood and his hood in general. A.B. steps in on verse two and starts off well but it seems to come apart near the end of his flow. It’s not bad, just noticeable.

Bottom Line:
Elzhi has long been thought of by those familiar with his work, as one of the most slept on lyricist in the game, bar none. This album not only asserts and confirms that, but should convince any doubters that this man is the truth. The tracks, while they work, are very simple and leave me wondering what he could do with some more complex tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the tracks stop your ability to enjoy the album, but they do stop it from being a 5 Star album. The album is worth a purchase hands down and is still a very amazing lyrical journey.

nappyPicks: Just buy the album. Too many to pick.

Download: Elzhi – “Guessing Game”