Elzhi in your area, about to back-slap and bury ya.
Elzhi: Rebirth of Ill
As a former member of post-Dilla Slum Village and currently venturing into his solo career, Elzhi breaks down his latest project, Elmatic, a reworking of Nas' classic, Illmatic.
Pound's Olivia Arezes also talks to Elzhi about lessons learned from the Slum Village DRA-MA, who he thinks has dope musical taste, working with Drizzy Drake, and what he thinks is bullshit.
Pound: Reworking Illmatic is something that could’ve gone horribly wrong really easily, how did you go about it in a way where you weren’t competing with Nas, but creating a tribute rather than a cover album?
Elzhi: Just coming from a fan’s point of view or perspective, that’s one of those albums growing up that made me want to become a better emcee and it inspired me. I just had a lot of love for the project so when me and Will Sessions went in the studio we just approached it from the angle of being real avid fans of the real Illmatic project and that’s why Elmatic came out the way it came out.
Pound: What made you choose live instrumentation over traditional hip-hop production?
Elzhi: The thing was, before my version of Elmatic there were other people that came out with their tributes to the classic Illmatic album, so that happened and I just felt like I wanted to put a different spin on it.
Pound: What’s the connection between you and Will Sessions?
Elzhi: Will Sessions is a funk based group that’s out of Detroit, Michigan, they’ve played behind me before, they’ve played behind Phat Cat and Guilty Simpson so I’ve known them for years. When I thought about live instrumentation they were the first people that came to mind to create the right sound for the project.
Pound: How has Elmatic translated into a live show? Has it been well received?
Elzhi: Man, it’s been incredible. We just did a show on the 27th in Detroit and it was packed wall to wall. It was an incredible night, it felt magical and when we were in the studio creating these songs we always had it in mind that wow, we gotta make sure we create these songs in a way where they’d come off great in a live show.
Pound: You’ve stated that through Elmatic you’re introducing younger generations to Illmatic who may not have heard it before, how do you feel about that?
Elzhi: I’m just playing my part, you know. Elmatic is really paying homage and if some young kid can get caught up in that energy and it makes them wanna go check out Illmatic if they never did, I’m truly making a contribution in my own way, as far as hip-hop goes.
Pound: How important do you think it is for new hip-hop fans to get in touch with the classic era of hip-hop?
Elzhi: I think it’s crazy important because that era was about raw talent and was about taking your craft serious and I just think that’s lacking these days. I definitely feel like the 90’s era was one of the best eras for hip-hop.
Pound: Have you got any feedback from Nas yet?
Elzhi: My manager is speaking to his manager and it’s all love.
Pound: Canadian emcee Eternia really loved your project and threw a verse on your version of "One Love". Have you heard it?
Elzhi: Yeah I actually retweeted that, much respect to her, I definitely enjoyed her version too, it was pretty dope.
Pound: Now to life after Slum Village, the falling out was a little messy, but what’s one lesson you took from that experience?
Elzhi: The lesson I took from it was watch out for people who come in peace and project a family image because, I don’t wanna say nine times out of ten, but mostly rather than less, those kind of people are people that just project that image and don’t really fill it. You just gotta watch out for people with hidden agendas, and definitely, definitely, be smart about paperwork that you sign. Make sure you have your own lawyer and just make sure you’re watching your back at all times because people are out there to get you.
Pound: How was working with Toronto’s golden boy, Drake back in the day?
Elzhi: That was great, I mean that was a long time ago, that was before Drake was Drake. He actually reached out to me on MySpace and wanted to do a song and then it was all good. He was a real cool dude and had a great energy about him, and on some other stuff we were supposed to make another song but it didn’t pan out. I was touring and dealing with certain things in my life, but he was a great dude I would love working with him again in the future if possible and I’m glad I did that collaboration with him.
Pound: You’re reaching out to Phonte and Alchemist for your next album, how’s that coming along?
Elzhi: I can’t really say that I have too much family in the industry, but those guys, I consider family. I done slept over at Alchemist’s crib before, just making music and Phonte is like my bro for real. I got his back, he got my back we’ve said that 100 times and that’s my people so it’s good to do music with your fam.
Pound: To get a sense of you, if you could trade ipods with anyone who would it be?
Elzhi: I’d probably want to trade ipods with ?uestlove, ‘cause I know ?uestlove probably got a bunch of Dilla music, a bunch of samples from records that Dilla created music from, I know he probably got a lot of Neptunes. He probably just has music that I never heard, like different little jazz joints that I’ve never even heard before, so it’d definitely be ?uestlove.
Pound: What’s bullshit to you?
Elzhi: It could be anything? Uhhhhhh… Wow. What’s bullshit to me is when people see you at an uprise in your career and for some reason people don’t want to see you shine and just want to hate on you because either they are jealous and they feel like they need to be in that position or they feel like you owe them something, so I think that’s bullshit.