On the personal classic Rawkus album “Internal Affairs,” lead emcee Pharoahe Monch teamed up with Busta Rhymes over a carnival beat to rap about the “Next Shit.” It seems that it is every true rap head’s (and critic’s) undying quest to discover what, who or whom that may be. It could be Drake, Charles Hamilton, Wale, or someone else that is just waiting to drop. Izza Kizza has put his name in that same hat. “The Wizard of IZ,” his second mixtape, is just another measuring stick towards that lofty goal.
Like many up and comers Izza’s music – particularly the track “Millionaire” – was featured in a video game; last year’s edition of the Madden franchise. Along with his highly esteemed rap circle, this is how most know Mr. Kizza. In all honesty I think the whole idea of featuring your music in a video game is a bit corny but, HEY! It is exposure after all.
Izza keeps up with the concept of mixtape with the intro when he utters “symbols and kicks and snares, oh my!” This is an obvious play off of cowardly tiger from “Wizard of OZ” that wanders the yellow brick road saying “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” The quote is a nice homage to the source material while connecting his own hip-hop message.
It’s further appreciated how Izza continuously shows respect to classic material without straight biting rhymes or jacking beats completely. On the hollow drums of “Bump!” he channels the Fresh Prince with the immediately recognizable, “This is the story all about how/My life got flipped turned upside downâ€¦” before he delves into his own mode. Here he attacks the beat in a battle rap style by dropping several quotable one-liners like, “Raw–like a T-bone from your butcher/ I’ll burn you like gonorrhea from unprotected sex with a hooker.” The rhyme scheme is semi-loose and he might remind you of Grand Puba had the Brand Nubian ever made a conscious effort to go mainstream.
Nick Catchdubs, the DJ who mixes “The Wizard of IZ,” does a great job of melding the songs together. Unfortunately “Different-It,” one of two additions from producer Nottz, is in fact different in a bad way, mainly due to the obnoxious vocal sample. “Mine,” which immediately follows, makes up for it with a bluesy vibe. Izza Kizza continues to shine with his sense of humor, “I know I’m supposed to be off in the GM by eight/ Figure cuz I got a deal my ass can be late.” This is what keeps the listener going.
Most casual fans will be more drawn to the notable features on the disc, which come in the form of “It’s Going Down” featuring Lil Wayne and Birdman and “Throw It Up” featuring David Banner, respectively. Both of these tracks could get some airplay given the current industry standards. “It’s Going Down” takes the cake though, with its funky horns and handclaps. Surprisingly Weezy does not sound like he has been sniffing angel dust on the cut, so it may be an old verse. As per usual, Birdman does his best to ruin an otherwise strong effort.
Producer Koolade takes the production nods away from the aforementioned Nottz in the middle portion of the CD. None of his credits seem to have much impact. “Connect the Dots,” a stripped down beat in the vein of Banner’s “Play” is the closest thing to a hit beat that he offers.
“Too Close for Comfort” is too close to a pop track for Izza Kizza. It comes complete with a sugary hook. Luckily Izza’s seemingly careless personality evokes a good feeling. Another apt comparison is made here to Chicagoan Rhymefest. Yet, “Top of the World,” a synth-driven conclusion complete with auto-tune distortion is a sad end to an otherwise quality mixtape.
Thankfully, before all is said and done, Izza Kizza explains that his rap moniker is an interpretation of his creative side–as are most rap names–on “Kizz Iz.” With such a strange name it is expected to have some kind of artist introspection. He does this over “The Wiz” sample; the same used on Nas’ “Surviving the Times.”
After listening to “The Wizard of IZ” one feels like they’ve been down the yellow brick road on a hip-hop journey, not to find a heart, brain or their way home; rather, the journey here is a music experience in the form of a mixtape to find the “next shit” in the industry. Izza’s beat selection stops this disc from having the immediate impact he hopes it to, but still, the effort of the featured emcee IZ enough to have those hungry rap listeners wanting an official release.