Fans who were complaining about the sparse output from Slum Village member eLZhi were forced to eat those words these past two years. In 2008, the slick-tongued Detroit emcee circulated a CD titled Europass to coincide with his then-upcoming tour before releasing his official debut solo LP, The Preface. He also announced plans at that time for a disc on which he planned to add his own rhymes to the beats Nas had built on his seminal Illmatic album; eLZhi's plans were to title his eLmatic. That project has yet to surface, but hip-hop heads will undoubtedly still be grateful for this collection of unreleased and rare tracks. The project is available as a free download or as a physical product to purchase on eLZhi's Website, as well as available at shows on his current Europe show run with Slum Village.
The songs here are mostly unmixed and not mastered. Some of the tracks will undoubtedly already be familiar to longtime loyalists — but that's where any "flaws" with this disc begin and end. The songs all fully display eLZhi's astute, layered lyricism. "Deep," for example, flaunts internal rhyme schemes and sharp punch lines ("I murk grins and kill grills…the skill fills and heals ills like Benadryl pills, the hottest artists reveal chills"), while "Living" chronicles a brief fling with a former lover.
It's the conceptual gems, though, that really help fill things out: "More Colors" continues and builds on a track from The Preface that showcases wordplay dealing with names (and various connotations) that are given to different skin pigments, while eLZhi adopts a voice change, reminiscent of a narrator of a Dick Tracy episode or something like that, on "5 Man Hustle," the tale of a quintet of hustlers aspiring to street thuggery
As Detroit tradition seems to dictate, eLZhi also enlists talented producers here to formulate sounds to back his hefty rhymes. Black Milk offers a mix of percussion-heavy ("Deep"), melodic ("Like This"), and minimalistic ("5 Man Hustle") soundbeds, while Slum Village turntablist DJ Dez offers a pair of soulful offerings with "Living" and "Dedication." There are even out-of-towners, such as Seattle's Jake One and California's Oh No, contributing worthy beats. It may not be an "official" release, but Leftovers has enough shelf life to last until eLZhi's next project…and even longer than that.
William E. Ketchem writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.