I’ve been meaning to drop some words about this for a few days now, but haven’t seemed to find the time. But having seen Elzhi perform alongside Illa J, Phat Kat and Frank n Dank for the Dilla tribute at London’s Jazz Cafe last night (and put on a top class show) I thought I should get down to putting pen to paper / fingers to keyboard.
The title and cover tells you almost everything you need to about this really – it’s by Elzhi and it’s reworking of Nas’ seminal LP, Illmatic. Simple enough.
In some ways it’s a risky move on Elzhi’s part to do this – he’s got an untarnished track record of credible releases behind him and without wishing to second guess his intentions, he really doesn’t need to utilise the popularity of a classic for the purposes of advancing his own career. For most, tampering with a certified classic is likely to leave you with more to lose than gain, but fortunately for Elzhi, it’s a gamble that’s paid off: This is not just a throw away cash in of new raps over old beats, it’s a tasteful reworking which sees fluid and engaging lyrics played out over cleverly constructed covers of the original versions utilising live instrumentation produced by Will Sessions.
Stand out tracks include Life’s A Bitch featuring Royce 5’9″ which sees the band segue seamlessly from the cover of Nas’s original into a well executed cover of Gap Band’s ‘Yearning For Your Love’ from which the original sample material came and Halftime which contains just enough of the original to be recognisable but brings an entirely new feel to the classic.
Ultimately the concept of this release may be fundamentally flawed since die hard Illmatic fans will surely ask themselves under what circumstances they would chose to listen to Elzhi’s rework over the original but I for one think this is a solid release in its own right which deserves your time and attention … and your hard earned money if you want a physical copy (the download is free).
To download click here.
To pre-order a CD copy click here.