Afro DZ ak :: Elevation :: Gnawledge Records
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

You ever heard of an emcee you can also play the trumpet? Me neither, though I'm sure it's not a first in the game, it is a unique blend of talent. Afro DZ ak is such a rapper whose unfortunately corny name shouldn't lead you to prejudgment. The Somerville, MA native has been rapping for a few years and developed a reputation locally. The Boston area suburbs have been a little hot overall in the last few months as Termanology, Reks, and Statik Selektah all hail from Lawrence, MA. Afro DZ ak's rhymes don't contain the street element of the aforementioned emcees and producers, but that doesn't mean his music doesn't hit hard. "Elevation" is his latest CD and it features 12 tracks of laid-back jazzy rap tunes.

The first thing that catches your attention with "Elevation" is the music as it contains a live and improvisational element that you don't hear very often in a rap CD. There really isn't a bad track on this CD, even if some of the songs aren't as distinct as one would like. "Shine" is the perfect intro with it's blaring horns. "Lyrics to Grow" really kills it, especially at the end with it's clarinet solo (could be a flute though). Afro DZ ak even pays tribute to Pete Rock and CL Smooth's "T.R.O.Y." through his trumpet towards the end of the album on "Beautiful Story," a head-nodding instrumental track.

Lyrically, Afro DZ ak doesn't slack on the mic as he weaves through different topics with ease and an uncanny ability to connect with the listener. "Shine" is a soulful and uplifting number about Afro DZ ak's message and music. He gets preachy for a line or two, but overall presents himself well. "Lyrics to Grow" shows him flexing his lyrical muscle a bit:

"I grab my pen right away and write away in handwriting that's sloppy
But I got the right of way so nobody can stop me
It's hot see, every time I start to scribble
on a new level I'm traveling but never double dribble
It's simple, cause all I need is a writing utensil
A piece of paper and preferably a dope ass instrumental
To build a fire, providing heat and light
It's like the sheet ignites when I proceed to write
Every spark of energy ascends to me into an endless sea
Where knowledge is a friend of me and ignorance the enemy
I study light endlessly just like organic chemistry
Instead of me using weaponry I look for a remedy
On tracks I'm sound heavenly, I'm elevated mentally
And tend to reach everyone whether 17 or 70
I'm not a killer like most cats pretend to be
Instead I be asking myself what I can do for others like Kennedy
And my rhymes are my venue to send you hope
To get past all the troubles you've been through
Cause my writings an escape, it frees my mind
Hope you find it does the same to you if you rewind enough times
In rough and tough times I persevere
Fight for the cause like Santa Claus in that song by Atmosphere
And hold dear my thoughts, my pen, my notebook
So stop and think as we sink into this dope hook"

The sweet singing in the hook and instrumentation reminds me of vintage ATCQ. Things remain at a similar quality level throughout. "Pump Your Fist" is on a laid back, funky 70's tip and finds Afro DZ ak crafting a relaxed anthem. The foreign rapper in the middle throws things off, but not by much. "Elevation" is another heartfelt track where Afro DZ ak reflects on the current state of the rap game and his feelings on what needs to change to make things better. "Brotherly Love" is a unique track as it is dedicated to "little brothers worldwide" but also makes a slick reference to the group of the same name. "See the World" finds Afro DZ ak advocating his love of travel while at the same time promoting the knowledge and discovery that comes with an open mind in new lands.

"Elevation" is surprisingly fresh. Surprising, only because I'd never heard of Afro DZ ak before receiving this CD and surprising because rappers with a gimmick tend to lack in the rapping department. Afro DZ ak has skill behind the mic and his gimmick only adds to the music. Smooth trumpet sounds have always been a favorite of mine when it comes to rap music and having a living trumpet throughout the album makes it very fresh. Afro DZ ak's raps aren't groundbreaking, but they present a balanced look at every day life. Though the man has a corny name and label (Gnawledge Records?), his music is everything but corny. Overall, if you dig your raps positive and your production smooth, "Elevation" will be a worthy purchase.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: November 18, 2008