Nov 6, 2008 - 6:05 PM
"I just do what the beat say do and don't go against it," says Detroit rapper Elzhi.
Listen to "Motown 25" ft. Royce Da 5'9"
Listen to "Transitional Joint"
He and the beat must share some special type of talk because the man who, for more than a decade, has been consistently one of the sickest members of the Waterworld movement of Michigan is too busy being one of the hottest MCs most have never heard of to waste time trumping himself. His debut album, The Prelude, released earlier this year on FatBeats, features a blitzkrieg of multi-syllabic rhymes over laid back beats that transition effortlessly back and forth between battle and sentimental styles.
It's Elzhi who made "Selfish" a hit with Kanye West while superseding J Dilla as the third member of Slum Village in 2001. Detroit's MC Dangerfield is finally beginning to make moves towards gaining the respect he deserves.
Since the D's link up with LA, made famous by 8 Mile Marshall signing with Dr. Dre and followed by Dilla and Madlib's collaborative JayLib project, the aftermath has been some of the best hip-hop music ever. Elzhi is hoping to co-captain a renaissance of Caltroit success with the champion sound, founded by the heir to the donut sized hole Dilla left in Motown's thrown, Black Milk, and LA emcee Bishop Lamont.
"Hip-hop is in need of a makeover," states the disillusioned MC about the lack of good hip-hop being played on the radio these days. Though he claims he's not at odds with the artists making money from the art without first paying their due diligence, he is "mad at the radio for catering to those in it for the fortune and fame because I feel like its an insult to the listeners."
"People are getting away with shwag because they got a dance," he continues. "Fans are getting beat over the head with bad shit."
Slum Village's ability to gain mass appeal without sacrificing their trademark thump and soul proves to Elzhi that such a sound can be marketable, if the radio would give it a chance.
In the absence of being a part of mainstream playlists, he calls the internet "a double edged sword." "You can be sitting in one spot and be everywhere in the world," he says but it also causes artists to "lose out of album sales and kills the anticipation of a new release.
Those who have paid attention to Elzhi have seen recent collaboration with another understated and under-appreciated Detroit emcee: Royce Da 5'9". The man who broke on the scene as the bad half of Eminem's evil rhyme scheme, and just joined Crooked I and Joe Budden in the Slaughterhouse supergroup, is the only man alive Elzhi admits to fearing on the mic.
"Me and Elzhi, we split, he's sick, I'm sick, I'm sick of how sick he is, he's sick of how me is," raps Royce on "Motown 25" off of The Preface. A track featuring Elzhi going verse for verse with Royce. Producer Jake One's 2008 release, White Van Music, featured a similar song by the duo entitled "Glow."
When asked if there was a chance the two would work together on an album, Elzhi responded "that's the goal." Stating that both are working on establishing their own names as individuals to ensure that "the project doesn't fall on deaf ears. No one has heard the D in all its splendor."
If that's true, the rest of the hip-hop world needs to keep an eye over its shoulder. There is not another MC who has been in the game longer with more skill and fewer accolades to show for it than Elzhi. And now, combined with the likes of the new era's best beatmaker, his city's stiffest competition, and the hunger to regain the same success he's barely tasted, the world needs to prepare itself for Elzhi to be a household name.
Austin Walsh is one of God's own prototypes—a high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Originally from Humboldt county, he recently venni, vitti, vicci'd The City of Frisco, and is now taking his conquest abroad to infect the rest of the globe with his passion for music, appetite for destruction, and loathing of fear.