Elzhi
The Preface


4.0
excellent

Review

by joshuatree EMERITUS
January 11th, 2009 | 54 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist


I’d imagine the years leading up to the 2008 release of The Preface to be reasonably frustrating for Midwestern rapper Elzhi. For quite a while, roughly from 1999 to 2002, hip hop artist Jason Powers used his talent mostly for collaborations, mostly as a session rapper, and he never really getting a chance to spit his flow throughout an entire record. This eventually changed in 2002 when he joined esteemed Detroit group Slum Village, which was a group Elzhi’s stayed with to this day. Unfortunately, he had quite a pair of shoes to fill: he was essentially replacing wunderkind producer J Dilla, who’d quit the group for a solo career. Elzhi held up his part in Slum Village from then up until The Preface, but he was of course subject to unfortunate comparisons.

My point is that toiling in the underground with absolutely no real success for that long would’ve had to be frustrating for Elzhi. That’s why it’s an utter delight that The Preface, a record Elzhi has undoubtedly been ready to make for almost a decade, is so damn good. Combining crisp soul beats mostly courtesy of producer/genius Black Milk with Elzhi’s urgent flow and confident braggadocio, The Preface is a poignant album that’s a showcase for both of its main unstoppable performers.

It’s hard to tell if Elzhi or Black Milk rocks it more throughout these sixteen tracks. The production here is admittedly perfect, and Black Milk is obviously the force behind it: he mans the boards for 13 of the album’s sixteen tracks. His beats are definitely reminiscent of other Detroit icons, especially of J Dilla’s work, but they carry flair of their own. Milk mostly concerns himself with soul samples from his city’s past, and the man does a good job with making these samples sound equally imbedded in Detroit’s past and modern enough to not sound dated. Particular highlights include the murky funk of “Fire Remix”, which sounds intentionally lo-fi and nostalgic and features crisp instrumentation courtesy of natural-sounding guitars and pianos. Other highlights, such as the bubbling trumpets of “Yeah” and the thudding percussion of “Hands Up”, are as equally impressive.

But this album doesn’t have Black Milk’s name plastered on its front, even though The Preface’s production could act as a teaser to his sophomore outing. No, this is obviously Elzhi’s time to shine, and shine he fuckin’ does. His traditional flow--no real quirks, nothing too different, just straightforward vocals that accompany his deft lyricism--is rather compatible with the rule-bending production. Elzhi sounds like a mix of Common’s confidence and Nas’s slippery lyricism, but to describe his flow as a portmanteau of other rappers’ doesn’t really do Elzhi justice. It’s easier, and more accurate, to simply say that Elzhi basically does a perfect job throughout the whole of The Preface. His impressive flow mixed with his creative lyricism--which mostly deals with, as I already mentioned, brag, but Elzhi’s one-track mind doesn’t prevent him from dropping some fresh verses on almost every track--is at its peak here. Elzhi also manages to make his presence felt throughout the entire album, which, in itself, is a positive considering how so many other rappers of Elzhi’s ilk are so completely forgettable.

The Preface isn’t a perfect record. Guest spots from Detroit’s finest, such as Guilty Simpson and Royce da 5’9, are disappointing, and some obviously unworthy collaborators (Phat Kat, ahem) really bring otherwise brilliant tracks down. Another problem is the album’s sameness: The Preface is rather long, and while there’s no actual “filler”, as mostly every song is a force in its own right, many tracks seem to blend together throughout a full listen. But this and some lazy efforts from lesser artists don’t prevent The Preface from being a formidable debut, and, looking back, one of 2008’s best albums. It certainly dwarfs Black Milk’s excellent Tronic as the best hip hop work of last year, and for that reason alone, The Preface deserves a definite listen.



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user ratings (69)
Chart.
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
joshuatree
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


3741 Comments


good stuff

bastard
January 11th 2009


3432 Comments


hey i'd probably dig this

nice review, you're becoming one of my favorite reviewers even though you do laugh at everyone of my efforts, yada yada yada.

JumpTheF**kUp
January 11th 2009


2722 Comments


I should probably listen to this, obv great review.

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


3741 Comments


nice review, you're becoming one of my favorite reviewers even though you do laugh at everyone of my efforts, yada yada yada.


ily maxy whatchoo talkin about
you'd probably like this too

bastard
January 11th 2009


3432 Comments


watchoo talkin about willis

robin
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4517 Comments


i reckon this is your best review yet, very detailed

gaslightanthem
January 11th 2009


5209 Comments


yeah you're a pretty damn good reviewer joshuatreeThis Message Edited On 01.11.09

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


3741 Comments


thanks bros

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i agree with your rating, but i completely disagree with your review. i thought the guest performances were tight (especially Phat Kat) and some of your adjectives didn't make sense (bubbly trumpets? and thudding percussion? of course it's thudding it's hiphop). the term portmanteau felt forced in there... and the description of his flow in general didn't really tell me much to be honest; some of it is just wrong. i dont see any nas or common comparisons at all, actually.

i'm glad someone finally did this at least, so i won't neg bruh.

also, last paragraph, what what what... i hate you.

gaslightanthem
January 11th 2009


5209 Comments


well tronic was pretty dull so unless this is plain rubbish it would have to work hella hard to not be better

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah man, the album that mostly every hiphop critic considers the best hiphop release of 2008 was dull. good reasoning.

actually, mr. wilson has tronic rated as a 4.5... ?

gaslightanthem
January 11th 2009


5209 Comments


idc that mostly every hip hop critic considers it the best hip hop release of 2008, it was boring as fuck man :/ ...
but good reasoning ofc that because hip hop critics like it i should
anyway i'll give this a spin at some point

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

feel free to have your own opinion of course; but dont demand that it be considered obvious when the critical majority says the contrary. the majority of people reading this thread should know that tronic is widely considered an awesome release, not "dull".

from your ratings it seems like you dig this kind of traditional-oriented stuff over progressive, so definitely check it out.

also, cam, you might want to change that last sentence to read "is dwarfed by", which is what i think you meant to say.

bastard
January 11th 2009


3432 Comments


why bleak why?

gaslightanthem
January 11th 2009


5209 Comments


the reason tronic gets boring for me is because his delivery is pretty dull whatever the underground consensus is, not only that but the beats which he gets a lot of credit for don't click with me - i'm not denying that it's a good album but it's nothing that special

i basically copy/pasta'd from my comment on the tronic thread

robin
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4517 Comments


sometimes i just want to give you a hug, kingsoby.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

im good with hugs typically; i feel a bit awkward hugging my dad though.

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


3741 Comments


also, cam, you might want to change that last sentence to read "is dwarfed by", which is what i think you meant to say.

lol no i like this more than tronic, i just didn't realize i had tronic rated that high. oh well.
i disagree majorly about phat kat being anywhere close near good on "yeah", and i can understand your qualms about some descriptions here as you obviously listen to a lotttt more hip hop than me, and could probably describe stuff like this better. i just tried to describe things (like the nas comparasion, i find his flow is slightly reminiscent of recent nas stuff) broadly and as best as i could. i basically just wrote this since there wasn't a review already here, and i think this at least does the job.
i dont think using 'portmanteau' there felt forced, but whatever.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, i was really pumped to see this when i logged on today. definitely thanks a ton for doing it, just trying to give some constructive criticism yo.



bro my portmanteau is trill.



edit: i tend to be a bit more critical on fellow contrib reviews; im sure we all enjoy hearing from each other on improving our l33t writing skillzThis Message Edited On 01.11.09

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 11th 2009


3741 Comments


yeah thanks for the pointers and constructive criticism as well, always appreciated.
bumpin this album again, shit's so sweet



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