Truly standing out as the late coming member of the acclaimed group Slum Village, Elzhi basically had the difficult task of filling the void left after J Dilla’s departure. Well, with impressive talent through sharp lyricism, Elzhi lived up to the expectations set by wowing listeners on Slum Village projects, as well as guest appearances. It was only a matter of time that he would receive the opportunity to display his gift and the time came with the release of his solo debut The Preface, a clinic of lyrical wizardry that at times overreaches for perfection.
It is evident that Elzhi is a true lyricist as exemplified on the opening track “The Leak” with the artist giving you a “sneak peak” into his life that brilliantly sets up the album, consistent with the majority of the production done by Black Milk. “Motown 25” is a thumping track that features fellow Detroit Native Royce Da 5’9”. In fact, what is very interesting is how Elzhi manages to incorporate his fellow Mid West cohorts on songs like “Fire” featuring Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Fatt Father, Danny Brown, and Fat Ray, recruiting fellow Slum Village partner T3 on “Save Ya,” and “Yeah” featuring Phat Kat, all the while managing to hold his own and not drowned out by the solid guest appearances.
Where the album seems to not live up to its potential is particularly the fault of the artist. Elzhi has had a tendency to try and prove himself to be a lyricist when he really does not have to, because it is already evident. This can be seen on “Guessing Game” a song to where the last word of the verse is changed, changing the meaning of the verse itself, leaving the listener trying to keep up and not able to just enjoy the music. “Talking in My Sleep” is a track that deals with his inner thoughts, but comes off convoluted and at times simple rambling. In addition, no matter how impressive, there are too many guest appearances for a debut LP.
Overall, The Preface is a solid debut from a very good artist. Elzhi proves that he can hold his own when it comes to a solo effort once again living up to expectations. Minus its imprefections, The Preface just like its featured artist manages to get the job done. – RH
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