Music Review: Elzhi-The Preface

Elzhi has all the credibility any emcee would need to rock a cipher on the block or be taken seriously by any crate digger, critic or hip-hop scholar. As a member of the Dilla propelled Slum Village and former time with The Breakfast Club group of local significants he is a Detroit hip-hop notable. The Preface is his second album and it is almost entirely produced by Black Milk.His palette of mostly archetypical tones and beat formations gives a throwback sound to support Elzhi’s words. Lyrically thick spaces combine with Black Milk’s stock urban soundchecks that occasionally meet with a greater inspiration. “Talking In My Sleep” evokes nocturnal luminosity with a trance-inducing horn filled with an off-key paranoia. Elzhi takes pride in his wordsmith wordiness when he is challenging listeners and colleagues to pick the lyrical patterns of “Guessing Game” or calling out the mundane symbolism of “Colors.” The rugged “Motown 25″ collaboration with Royce Da 5′ 9” breathes through Black Milk’s softly hit snares. His liking for jazz horns shows again under the droning phrases of “Yeah” that make warm circles around Phat Kat’s vocals. Elzhi’s flawless flow at times can sound like a younger hungrier Nas but the problem is his lack of conviction about anything but his rhyme skills. His marginal attempts at reporting on the life around him are more of battle tone instead of a philosophical one. Rapping for over a decade this album is not a chronological preface but a developmental one for an emcee still reaching for his prime.