Detroit native eLZhi, is one of those very emcees not rappers, who stand for hip hop's unstated principles. He is clearly a versatile emcee whose matchless flow has earned him praises from underground audiences (Hip hop's last frontier) and his peers alike as this quote from Phonte would suggest, "eLZhi is one of the only emcees that is keeping me on my toes right now. I hear his verses and they make me go back to the lab." With the release of his solo album The Preface, it's evident that he has not watered down his music for the mainstream but hopes to reach more listeners through its release on a well established label- Fat Beats Records.
I recently caught up with eLZhi via telephone, who like most, views the internet as a double-edged sword, a gift and a curse. Throughout the conversation, when not reliving the omnipresent Verizon commercials, "Can you hear me now?" one could tell that the best has yet to come from this seasoned veteran. The Preface is merely his preliminary introduction to the world, as eLZhi, the very capable solo artist.
ER: What it do EL, how are you?
eLZhi: What's good man, just chillin', just chillin'...What's poppin'?
ER: Ain't nuthin'; Where you at?
eLZhi: In the D- driving about to head back to the cut.
ER: You could do this [interview] while you driving?
eLZhi: Yeah, it's all good.
ER: Iight I am about to get into this interview, you ready?
eLZhi: Yeah, I am ready
ER: With the rap game being the way it is youknow where swagger outweighs substance where or how do you fit in as a lyricist?
eLZhi: Where I fit in...I mean youknow it's hard like the mainstream youknow it's not really a place where I fit in as of now youknowwhatiamsayin' or as of right now, in this moment I do that real hip hop shit. So it's a little bit more than just swag when you're doing it for like the underground. Youknow they want to hear a little bit more youknow creativity, your concepts or they wanna hear a little bit more wordplay. You know I do it for the underground hip hop and whoever decides to catch on that's what's good but youknow I am not really trying to fit in, I am trying to make a mark in my own way and if that means making a mark in the underground and not really doing the mainstream thing then so be it. Youknow this is where my heart lies, just basically trying to improve on writing and helping the culture as far as creativity.
ER: Being that you previously recorded three albums as SV, how has the transition to a solo artist been?
eLZhi: I mean youknow I have always been a solo artist youknowwhatiamsayin'. I had an EP in '98 with my boy DJ House; it was called Out of Focus. I have also put out Witness My Growth youknowhatiamsayin' a double disc mixtape youknowhatiamsayin' youknow it hasn't been hard I know what Slum Village does and I know what ELZhi it does. It's kind of like two different worlds but youknow even when I was doing the SV I was always recording stuff for ELZhi so it really wasn't that hard. It was youknow ok let's go in and do this record...and there you have it.
ER: Why did you decide to title this album The Preface?
eLZhi: I called it The Preface because this is really like the first solo album that I have put out on a youknow... it's not really on a big scale but it's through a label that has been established for years. Fat Beats is like the-is like a label known for hip hop.
So The Preface really was just the beginning of the story, the beginning of my story, the beginning of my solo career so I called it that.
ER: What has the response being like to the album?
eLZhi: I mean from what I have been reading and seeing on the internet it has been great. I mean you know for certain people it took, it might have taken some time for them to comprehend what I do because some people think I just do girl songs because I rap with SV, certain people might have heard me on the Minstrel Show and thought I was just a battle rapper youknow good for only hot-16's and then some people didn't know what I was capable of. So I got songs on there like the Guessing Game, songs on there like Colors where it's kind of different from what they expected to hear. It might have taken more than one listen to get it cause' I am not a one dimensional emcee. I write stuff to where I make sure that I keep the songs fresh youknow. So you might hear it like five or six times and then on the seventh time you might hear something new on the track that you might not have heard the first time or the second time you heard it. But overall it has just been a great response, it has been real overwhelming, you know my MySpace man is off the meter with all the messages I have been getting youknowhatiamsayin.
ER: Is there any background to Save Ya? Cause' I am sure many fellas myself included could relate.
eLZhi: That's what the beat said youknowhatiamsayin'. I feel like as an emcee it's up to us...like if we have a track it's up to us to translate what the track is saying. So that's what the track spoke to me youknowhatiamsayin' - it made me write what I wrote. But don't get me wrong youknow I have had girls try to pull a fast one on me or pull a fast one on my niggas or whatever. But, nothing really like personal, personal, that's was what the track said. Youknow I kind of pulled from certain different experiences or whatever.
ER: Motown 25 featuring Royce Da 5' 9'' is one of the many gems on your album, and if that's any indication of the talked of collaboration that y'all supposed to have its sure to be fiyah. What's good?
eLZhi: It's just youknow basically we could put out the album anytime. But the thing is we want to create a buzz cause' we don't really want it to fall on deaf ears and there's still a lot of people sleeping on El. There still some people sleeping on Royce so we feel probably put out a couple of projects down the line before we dive in first into an album. But we got stuff together that you could probably hear now. We got a track on Jake One's record that's coming out called Glow. You can also catch me and him on The Bar Exam II.
ER: Now you mentioned that cats are sleeping on you and Royce. There's a lot of talent in the D.
eLZhi: Yeah I mean they sleeping on the D and that's the reason why I got cats on there like Black Milk, Fatt Father, Fat Ray, Phat Kat, Danny Brown and T3. Youknow I got people from the D on the record cause "dey sleepin." So it's about time for us to come as a force now. So more than likely when you hear a cat from the D coming out with a record you are gonna more than likely hear all of us on the album.
ER: I was surprised to see that you didn't manage to get any Dilla tracks for The Preface, why is that?
eLZhi: Well youknow there's a situation going on with that I don't really want to speak on at the moment; but it's kind of like some bullshit that's got to get resolved before anyone can use any tracks. It's just kind of sad cause' like my man done laid a legacy down and youknow his moms ain't even benefitting of from what he put down. I would have loved to use Dilla on my joint, I would probably have used...half the tracks probably would have been Dillas', but due to the circumstances I couldn't use any.
ER: What are you listening to?
eLZhi: I am listening to the new Coldplay record. I am listening to that new Black Milk record youknow Tronic that coming out October. I am listening to the Night Gallery,T3's Night Gallery.Night Gallery it's gonna raise the bar. So be on the lookout for all dem joints. Yeah I am just kind of like listening to my niggas youknow I am working on some new shit, so that's where I am at. That's coming out later this year. Y'all gonna be surprised when you hear
ER: You mentioned Coldplay; would you like to work with them sometime in the future?
eLZhi: Man I would love to. I have wanted to work with Coldplay since Yellow and the Parachutes album. I have been a big Coldplay fan for a minute, I mean I would love to work with Radiohead, too many people ain't really worked with Radiohead so that would be real like the dream collaboration right there.
ER: Any Last words?
eLZhi: Just be prepared to hear more music coming from me on the solo tip. As well as new Slum Village, new Royce Da 5'9'', me and Phat Kat we got a joint we putting together called Cold Steel.
ER: That was a joint off from Phat Kat's Carte Blanche?
eLZhi: Yeah, yeah and the reason being...the reason why we picked it was because it's our tribute to Dilla. That's what we standing for- Dilla and Proof held it down. They were two big figures in the city [Detroit] and since they passed youknow we feel that we have to take it amongst ourselves to carry the torch. We already picking beats for that shit and that shit's gonna be insane. Look out for that new Phat Kat record that's gonna be crazy too.
ER: When is that coming out?
eLZhi: I think it is scheduled to come out at the beginning of next year. The beats are insane; he got this new cat named Astro from Paris that's off the chain, he doing the bulk of the album so be on the lookout for him.
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