He first came to the public’s attention around 2011 when he released the mixtape Elmatic, a play on Nas’ masterwork Illmatic. With some apprehension that’s when I really gave him a chance as he spit crisp bars over a live studio band who recreated and updated Nas’ sound which was the genius risk by producer Will Sessions. After laying low for some time and dropping a decent yet disappointing project, Lead Poison in 2016, some wondered if El could push past the bouts of depression which were evident throughout that track list.
It wasn’t until February of 2018 that Elzhi seemed to reemerge with that same passion and fire that made him a standout in previous years. Hooking up with Krysis of Jamla records, home of the great 9th Wonder, El, the former Slum Village member came out swinging with the project Jericho Jackson. For once all of Krysis beat productions seemed to match Elzhi’s intricate lyrics and allowed his to dig deep and tell stories like he used to. The first track “Overthinking” starts off calmly as Elzhi takes the listener on a journey through that maze in his mind that shows a top tier lyricist at work. “Self Made” is a joint that expresses the determination even amongst the pushback which he received for years. “Cuffin Season” is rather catchy and probably the most light hearted song on the album while “Seventeen” is like a time capsule to the Detroit rappers younger days.
While there really is no fillers on this album in my opinion, there’s no uptempo party anthems either which plays a role in limiting its reach. “Listen” Featuring Amber Navran, who is the only guest on this project, plays out like a timeless love letter in a sense. It’s a track where Elzhi appears to be the most vulnerable and for a fan gives kind of a throwback feeling to his earlier songs “Scattered Pictures” and “The Real Her” but the closing track entitled “Thank You” is a definite repeat. There’s strength in hearing an artist lament about his journey while openly acknowledging the ups and downs which brought him to this point, whether it be past relationships, business partnerships or just straight up missteps, it all had to happen to propel El to this point.
This album may not be for everyone, but for those who like lyrics first and beats that are smooth enough to give a throwback feel this is the best choice that many overlooked.