Sunday, 6 January 2013

Elzhi: The Most Original Rapper We Have

First of all, I would like to say Happy New Year to all of my readers. I hope this year brings nothing but joy and prosperity to all. Second, I would like to apologize for not blogging in a while, I've been very busy during the holiday break and haven't had the time to write until now, so thank you for being patient. 

Now back to Hip-Hop! Today, many of the new rappers we have base their style and content on their influences. They look up to old-school rappers as inspirations and motivation for their work and this helps keep some elements of the old-school Hip-Hop alive. However, when rappers do this, I feel this removes some of the originality that should be present in Hip-Hop. For example, Kendrick Lamar raps over similar topics that Tupac Shakur (R.I.P.) used to rap about. Keisha's Song and Compton mirror those of Brenda's Got A Baby and California Love, respectively. This isn't a bad thing in any way as Kendrick Lamar pulls it off perfectly, but paying homage to other rappers doesn't show a lot of originality in our new rappers. Many rappers make concept albums, which many fans hail as original and daring, but concept albums have existed for years. Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet (1990) comes to mind as being the first Hip-Hop concept album, unless you count Slick Rick's The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988). Originality shouldn't be about paying homage in your own artistic way, but to do something no one has done before. With all that being said, is there any originality left in modern Hip-Hop? With that question being asked, the answer lies in the lyrical genius Elzhi.

If you're a Hip-Hop fan but haven't heard of Elzhi, please re-examine your life. Excuse the vulgarity (Shout-out to Nas) but he's not known as "Detroit's Best Kept Secret" for no reason. His rapping consists of metaphors, similes, lots of imagery as well as multiple syllables in his rhymes to produce one of the best flows I've heard in a rapper. The guy knows every style of rapping, having seen some of the finest rappers to emerge into the spotlight (such as Eminem, Royce Da 5'9'', Obie Trice and the other members of D12) in the underground rap battle scene of Detroit. He's a force to be reckoned with, having released two underground classics. But what makes Elzhi so original? The answer can be found in the content of his songs. Elzhi doesn't just rap about the same topics as other rappers, such as "his life in the ghetto", the pressures of fame, and the exhilaration of doing illegal things. Elzhi uses his lyrical style to grab you directly into the song to experience it and its content, but with a twist. His album The Preface features three songs that can showcase this. 

1- Guessing Game: For what the song is about (If you haven't already guessed it), I leave Elzhi's hook to do that for me instead! 
"I welcome y'all to the introduction
To learn how to play here's the instructions
A couple rules to show you how the game function
Yo, I'm a take a double, take a double syllable
And split it down the middle so it's no longer even
The first half stay, the last half leaving
So now the end of the line sound deceiving
So figure out the word that match before I change the meaning"
Still don't get it? Elzhi basically makes a fill-in-the-blank game with this song, by giving you the beginning syllables of a word and ending the last syllables in the next bar, but he gives you the opportunity to guess what the word is. What makes this concept so much more impressive is that the bars he's rapping on make sense, allowing both words from the end of the first bar and the beginning of the next to be related. For example, look at the following four bars: 

"Long as this beat keep the treats falling out of my pen-
(piñ)-ata. Rather slow or faster it's disaster
I come flowing harder than a master-
(mastur)-bator. Now in the streets we a mess, try to test"
How many rappers have done that? None as I recall. Elzhi manages to challenge the listener by placing something clever in this song. People who don't focus on the lyrics might not notice the genius of this song, which is something many people tend to do these days. And for this incredible song, I can definitely say Elzhi's originality out-shine's any other rapper's attempts. 

2- Colors: In this great song, Elzhi shows more of his originality by using words that are related to colors and placing in the song purposefully. While this may seem simple, Elzhi's usage of the color-related words brings double meanings to the rhymes he's spitting. For example: 

"Got them boys in "blue" with "black" jacks locking the new youth
They sell "purples" through "Black"berries with the "Blue" tooth
Saw this "gold" digger "red" bone I knew poising in "Black" Tail
Another "black" girl lost inside the world of "Black" Male"
Get the concept? Here, Elzhi is rapping about how the drug deals in our generation are done through more modern techniques such as using the Blackberry. He also raps about an woman of interracial background (Red bone) who is seeking a black man only for financial benefit (Gold digger). However, at the end of the bar, Elzhi says "lost inside the world of black male". This can literally refer to the black man she's seeing, but also has a doubling meaning, referring to being "blackmailed" because she poses in "Black tail" (An adult magazine). She benefits from him just as much as he does from her. With more lyrics like this throughout the song, its another great example of Elzhi's originality. 

3- Talking In My Sleep: In this song, Elzhi raps about the dreams he has and how they affect him emotionally and spiritually. He raps about his mother, his fantasies of wealth and different violent images. Simple right? Well, since I'm talking about his originality you would expect a twist! Elzhi doesn't just talk about these dreams, but puts you in them! He makes you the main character in his dreams as you experience all of these horrible images. For example, here's a small excerpt:

"It flips over, now I'm in a barber's chair
With the clips closer to the God but it's sharp enough to part my hair
I couldn't make out the customers' faces
That was once in the place, who was with somethin in patience
Then I'm cut with this razor, I feel blood when [gun shots]
My barber just was shot, the clip was dropped while they was still buzzin
I got to hittin the floor
But it was weird, it disappeared and it just was here a minute ago
I'm glidin in air
Flew through a cloud, while I was in it, saw the image of a man that was tied to the chair
My hand's on a nine
I blink once, my gun in his palm, I'm in disbelief 'cause it vanished from mine
I'm shot, is this heaven, did I come in the gates?
Did I have this uncomfortable fate from somethin I ate?"
What makes this song so believable is he describes all the things that you as a dreamer experience in your sleep. You keep seeing spontaneous images, you do surprising supernatural things (Like flying and making things vanish), and you can't control your actions. As the tension builds up to a climactic ending, this is a must listen to any Hip-Hop fan!

Elmatic: Last year, Elzhi did something very daring that sparked a lot of controversy. Elzhi announced that he was working on a project that envolved remaking Nas' classic Illmatic. This caused an outrage in the Hip-Hop community for even thinking about handling such an untouchable album. Now I know what your thinking, this contradicts what I said earlier about paying homage to other artists and how that's not original. Hell! A remake!? That's not original at all right? Well, with Elzhi's Elmatic, he doesn't just remake Illmatic. He makes it his own album! Elzhi doesn't just borrow Nas' instrumentals, he brings his own band (Will Sessions), and has them re-record the music with their own twist. He adds interludes and extensions to the music (One Love & The World Is Yours) to add more of a dramatic and climactic effect. But Elzhi doesn't just bring great production to the project, he spits some of the most introspective lyrics brought up by a rapper in a long time. On tracks like Memory Lane, he brings his own life experiences and spits them on a long verse, dealing with the illness of his mother and his envolvment in the underground Hip-Hop scene. On One Love, he raps about his love life and the heartbreak brought up by his past lovers, unlike Nas who raps about sending letters to incarcerated friends. Elzhi really makes Elmatic his own project and, in my opinion, almost matches Nas' classic on the same levels. It is my favorite album of 2011 and will remain to be a great accomplishment by the Detroit rapper.

In conclusion, Elzhi is in my opinion the most original rapper in the game right now. He represents what the old-school Hip-Hop should be now but in his own artistic way. With two classics in his discography and an upcoming album coming soon entitled The Weather Man, I could not be more excited! Here's the lead single from his upcoming album: 

What do you think? Do you like Elzhi or not? Do you think he's original at all or another overrated rapper? Do you believe there is a lot of originality left in Hip-Hop? And do you think there are any other original rappers out there? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! 


  1. I've been following el for a minute now, and he never cease to amaze me. Lyrically he can challenge anyone in the game, and outside of Nas, he psychologically runs circles around any other mc. It should be a crime that his name is never mentioned along with the great lyricist. I'm looking forward to the new album; hopefully it doesn't get slept on like elmatic and the preface did.
    Growing up a die hard nas fan, being from detroit, and a student of the game, I got nothing but love for elzhi and the gift that he possess.
    Great article!!!!!

    1. Thanks for the comment! And i agree with everything you said, Elzhi can go toe-to-toe with any rapper in the game. His next album will be dope as hell.