HHS: When were you approached about joining Slum Village? Was it something that came about out of the blue or was it a “if something happens, would you be down” scenario?
Elzhi: Really, it was something that came out of the blue. At first, I was T3′ artist, because he was getting into management and he wanted to showcase me on Slum’s Trinity album. Initially, I was only supposed to be on 4-5 tracks on that album, but then one day I went up to the studio and T3 and Baatin and RJ Rice who runs Barak Records called me in the office and just sprung it on me. They were like look, we want you to be in Slum Village and I was like “What”? I’m thinking “me”? Because in my eyes the crew was so legendary, it was an honor. It really took me by surprise.
HHS: Even though Slum Village is a known and proven entity, there’s a perception out there with some fans that before you entered the fold Slum Village was a little light in the lyrics department. Because of this you’re still much slept on as an emcee, would you agree?
Elzhi: Well, I think that T3 and Baatin are actually slept-on as artists. You gotta look at it like this, T3 does not write anything down half the time. I know allot of people who say they come in the booth and come up with things while there in the booth (Jay-Z etc.) and brag on it, some people do, some don’t. People would never know that T3 is one of those guys and just do his rhyme on the spot. All of the albums I’ve witnessed T3 putting vocals down on, 95% of the time he was putting it down right there on the spot like “boom.” And you don’t even wanna know what Baatin be doing, he takes it to a whole nother level, he’ll have ad-libs where he’s adding to the beat, he just add so many effect that you would think were done with a computer or the mix, but its really just him and you see him doing it and your like “whassup with that”? This guy makes music with just him beatboxing and him making the beat the beat is really just his vocals and he’ll sing on top of that. I think Baatin is one of the greatest to ever bless the mic; just off the creativity I’ve seen behind closed doors.
HHS: When SV slimmed down too two members, did you sense their was more of an opportunity for you to establish a name for yourself, obviously you had more responsibility and input.
Elzhi: Yeah, yeah, I felt like OK for one I don’t want to let the Slum down. Like honestly, T3 brought me into the camp and he was like OK “do what you do.” So I was like OK bet I got on the tracks and do what I do at that time. Really, I did not want too really try to outshine anyone on the lyrical end because Slum and I are like two different artists ya know. There stylish, I’m more of a personal, battle/lyric telling artist. I didn’t really wanna come out the gate like that, so I really kept it at a small minimum. Basically at that time I was on level 20, but I gave cats level 15 and I just toned it down a little bit. I did feel like, OK, this is like my introduction to the world, this is my voice that’s finally about to be heard in maybe about 100,000 homes so let me give what I can give without outshining anyone. I wanted to chill and not mess up the formula that SV had, cause they had their own thing going and I did not want to bring my equation in and disrupt that, I wanted SV fans to enjoy that LP as if Jay Dee was still there, so I came in and added my spice to it.
HHS: Being that it’s in a solo-forum, is the mixtape, Witness My Growth, another way of letting people know what time it is and getting more personal with you?
Elzhi: Yeah, I’m giving everyone a time capsule with this mixtape. Allot of people know me from SV, but they don’t know the Elzhi that flew out to NY with Paul Rosenberg and meet up with Alchemist in 1997, they don’t know the Elzhi that’s been in the studio with Proof and Bizarre (D-12), they don’t know the Elzhi that has recorded an endless amount of tracks with Jay Dee. I want people to witness my growth and bring them up to date now so when I actually bring out a solo-LP, or anything else, they’ll be prepared for it.
HHS: Speaking of, your mixtape, Witness My Growth: The Mixtape, is material you have culled away from 1997-2004, considering you were a solo-artist first, then recruited into SV as a replacement for Jay Dee, was it already widely established that at some point you were going to release a solo-LP?
Elzhi: Yeah! It was established that everyone in SV would one day go solo. Everyone’s happy in the group, but the group has its own vibe. And since you’re in a group you have to compromise a little bit. So everyone wants to go the solo-route to give you all of them as an artist. Eventually, I was going to go solo, but don’t get it twisted, I’m still with the Slum and I’ll always be with the Slum when they need me. But eventually you will hear the Elzhi solo album.
HHS: Were your solo plans expedited any by the success of Detroit Deli, or are things just progressing naturally?
Elzhi: I mean I’m just starting to realize I have fans out there (laughs) ya know. I mean, I’ve never really gotten onto the Internet and checked to see things, but people come back and tell me like “El you just a quoteable on HipHopSite, or you just got a quoteable on this.” Or somebody talking about “Out Of Focus” (one of El’s earlier solo tracks) in Switzerland. So I’m like “man” I never really knew I had fans like that. It’s a shock to me; it’s a real big surprise and a pleasant surprise for real.
HHS: Can u give us any early insight into your official solo debut, when we can expect it, title, label, guests, producers, etc?
Elzhi: Right now were basically trying to get this label together, were trying to get the label popping (Libido Sounds). I’m working on material; I got things in the works with Dilla, 9th Wonder, Nick Speed. Right now I’m just basically gathering a whole bunch of material from everybody, as well as getting the label off the ground. After the mixtape you’ll see a project called Speed from Nick Speed. Being in this business on the mainstream level, I’ve been blessed to see the things I’ve seen and I just want to apply it to my label now.
HHS: So your official solo LP will not be coming out on Capitol?
Elzhi: Its going to have to be Libido slash whatever? Whether it’s Capitol, Barak whoever?
HHS: With Eminem becoming a pop icon, he has undeniably become the face of Detroit Hiphop, but there’s allot of talent in Rock City (Slum Village, D-12, Royce 5-9, MC Hush, MC Breed, etc) besides being slept on individually, do you feel Detroit’s base of artists are under-appreciated?
Elzhi: I’m not going to say their not appreciated, but people just really do not know. Cause allot of Detroit artists don’t really go out the city and to be honest, the city does not have any sort of community right now. I mean we have little spots like Buddha Lounge and places like Oslow, but that’s it. But the talent is off the chain, people like Hostile, Dreadknotz, Big Dave, I can go on and on. Its just the people outside the town don’t know they exist.
HHS: Speaking of Breed, he made a few guest spots on Detroit Deli, how did those collaborations come about, because it was really good to hear from him again and showed that SV really respects Detroit’s roots.
Elzhi: Yeah! Detroit Deli was an LP that we really wanted to represent Michigan and Detroit as a whole, like it was time for Michigan to come up. MC Breed was about to sign with Barak Records, but I don’t know what really went down with that. Breed was always in the studio and so we did cuts with him for his album, he was like its only right to do cuts on our album, because we respect him as an artist. He was one of the first Michigan cats to get out to other places and represent Michigan the correct way.
HHS: OK, being a Detroit resident, your in the first section of rows behind the scorers table in Detroit the night the now infamous basket-brawl took place, if Ron Artest and the rest of the Indiana Pacers rush the seats, what would your reaction have been?
Elzhi: (Laughter ensues) say that again? (Laughter ensues again). Ahhh, I don’t know, like, I don’t know (laughing)? There’s two ways you can look at it man, see they got all that money, all you gotta do is just sue if they come at you the wrong way. But being the cat that I am, I don’t know. I may take a swing (laughs). I’d look it at like, should I swing, or let you swing and take the money? But I need to think about thatâ€¦
HHS: Any parting words?
Elzhi: Libido Sounds and the website (libidosounds.com). Be on the lookout for Verse Magazine, that’s something else we got in the works; be on the lookout for my mixtape, the Houseshoes mixtape and just Detroit in general!
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