We were recently able to chop it up with Elzhi and discuss a couple things: his new album, sampling issues and even the social responsibility rappers have as public figures in the hip-hop community. It was a request that this wasn’t filmed, so quite frankly, y’all lazy selves are going to happen to use that good old practice of READING. It’s a dope interview and not only would it be foul if you passed on it, you’d be a fool. Allow me to introduce the new and refreshed Elzhi to y’all!
[Erin of Bad-Perm] So, it’s been over a year since the release of Elmatic and you’ve been touring for a year off of a mixtape…did you ever expect that?
[Elzhi] You know what, I wasn’t really expecting too much. Man, you know, I was just trying to pay homage to a classic album really, so all this other stuff that’s been coming has been a bonus. It’s all a blessing.
[BP] Did you have any fears about releasing Elmatic because it is a classic album and many people say that you “shouldn’t touch it” and you “shouldn’t mess with it.”
[Elzhi] When I was in the process of making it, I wasn’t even thinking about that, I was just thinking about paying homage and making sure I did it justice. But me and my manager had a conversation about calling it a mixtape or calling it an album and I as like, “Nah, we can’t call it no album, we gotta call it a mixtape”. Even though it might sound like an album to some people with the way we put it together, it’s a mixtape – Illmatic is the album.
[BP] With the recent controversy around the Mac Miller and Lord Finesse sampling issues…if you take a beat from someone else and you use it, whether it’s a free mixtape or not, where do you draw the lines as calling it your own?
[Elzhi] Mm… I mean, I don’t know man. That situation is kinda tricky ’cause I mean, a lot of people do mixtapes and sell mixtapes. I guess in this case… I read where Finesse was saying something about he contacted Mac Miller’s people and they made it seem like, you know, he [Finesse] should be honored for Mac Miller to perform a song or over his beat cause it’s keeping it relevant. I guess he felt disrespected and that’s why he sued, but I mean who knows what’s really going on so I can’t even comment on it.
[BP] Your new album, which I believe it’s called The Weather Man…
[BP] I guess that’s why you deleted the tweet, huh? And I guess it’s not called The Feed or The Weather Report either, is it?
[Elzhi] No, not Weather Report either!
[BP] So, I guess it’s untitled?
[Elzhi] Well, it’s a title in progress.
[BP] Can you talk to me about the production, the features or the concept of the album…or is that all top secret?
[Elzhi] The concept of the album, I can talk about that. It’s just me kinda like, reaching deep inside myself and pulling out my personal side and letting people know what’s going on in my life. I went through a lot you know…these past couple years with Slum and just being in Detroit and how Detroit has changed over the years, and I felt like it was actually healthy for me to actually put it down and put it on a track that have it bottled up inside of me. That’s what’s going on, I’m giving you my emotions on this next album and that’s pretty much it.
[BP] Would you say it’s your most vulnerable album?
[Elzhi] Yeah. I’m letting out my vulnerable side, I’m being a human being, you know what I’m saying? I’m giving you everything, not just the downs but the ups too, you know, so I’m just giving you all of me. If you never knew Elzhi, you’ll know him after you hear this album.
[BP] I read a comment somewhere where someone called “Blue Widow” the “blaxploitation harmonies from Detroit”…
[Elzhi] (laughs) Really?! That’s my first time hearing that.
[BP] Yeah, so how do you believe you represent Detroit when you’re going back and forth between L.A. and Detroit?
[Elzhi] I mean, you can’t take Detroit out of me, I’m Detroit all the way. It don’t matter where you put me on God’s green Earth, I’ll still be Detroit. I just rep what it’s about, I rep good music man. It’s an energy there…like me going back, I feel it. Like, I felt it before I actually moved out to Cali, but going back I [now] understand there’s definitely an energy in the air…from the past era like Motown and techno…every name that it’s dubbed like ‘Rock City’. It’s like…a creativity in the air that makes you wanna write, makes you wanna get creative and I probably wrote like three or four songs while I was out there. I love Detroit.
[BP] We interviewed Black Milk a bit back and he was talking about “Deadly Medley” and the actually process of recording the song. He said while Royce Da 5’9 went in the booth and spit his verse after a couple drinks, you disappeared and took your time with it. So, what’s your writing process?
[Elzhi] Um, it’s all over the place. You know, I’m known for writing in my head but I don’t really brag about it. I write a lot in my head…sometimes I may write it down and sometimes I might get in the booth and put it together like that or piece it together bar by bar, and sometimes I might need to be by myself and just vibe out and come back and do my thing. I try to keep it fresh since I’ve been doing it for so long.
[BP] (At the show) On stage you mentioned that you’re trying to keep the entire hip-hop culture alive, so what do you believe is your social responsibility is as a rapper in this culture?
[Elzhi] To just keep good music pumping out here, man, cause there’s a lot of garbage. There’s good music as well, but I feel like the radio only plays one type of music…and not to say that everything on the radio is garbage cause it’s not, but I feel like it’s my duty to keep it strong. I’m from the era where hip-hop was strong back in the day: Redman was strong back in the day, Gang Starr, Souls of Mischief, even Nas…everybody was doing it big, and I feel like we can do that again on a hip-hop level. And when I look at cats like Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica, I feel like they’re upholding the culture and I feel like that’s my obligation as well.
[BP] Any last words?
[Elzhi] I would like to say if people wanna get at me, holla at me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or whatnot, you know. And I wanna say peace to all the fans. One love!
Make sure you check out the pictures from his recent Toronto show captured by our girls on our gallery here!
(Sidenote: Thank you again to Lydia for her amazingness!)