The latest album by Detroit rhymesayer eLZhi is entitled “Zhigeist”, a play on the word “zeitgeist” which is basically defined as “sign of the times”. The album cover is a depiction of him as a nomadic emcee staring at the viewer with his backdrop being the urban rubble from a post-apocalyptic Detroit. If that’s his perception of the current state of world affairs, then that dystopian viewpoint isn’t reflected in the music. Produced entirely by neo-soul artist Georgia Anne Muldrow, the sound is slightly a departure for eLZhi as listeners have become accustomed to his beats being sample-drenched with Motown soul. Here, Ms. Muldrow adds a modern R&B sound which complements eLZhi’s lyrics, most of which consist somewhat of stream-of-consciousness wordplay, imagery, and multis.
Starting off with the album intro, “News From The Ship”, it’s less than 90 seconds long and has an almost sci-fi vibe to it, like a transmission from another dimension. The music begins with “Amnesia.” It’s very piano-driven and psychedelic with its reverberation of the music and the vocal chanting of “don’t forget….you are loved…by someone.” The third track, “Every Moment”, follows a similar production with ethereal vocals and an atmospheric beat. “King Shit (Say Word)” is eLZhi at some of his best on this album, especially with an effortlessly flowed rhyme scheme like “But I prefer to spit a gamma-ray / And drop a couple lines that’s uplifting like a Grand Marnier / At parties in the mansions on the hills where James Cameron stay / A page from Alabama, country grammar off of Grand Marnier”. Putting it to words doesn’t do it that much justice, so have a listen:
On “Understanding / Understanding Reprise”, Ms. Muldrow adds her own vocal chops to the hook along with melodic bass, piano, and brass. On it, eLZhi raps about his city and how it’s got serious room for improvements. “Already Gone” has a synth-funk driven production with echoing multi-tracked vocals on the hook as eLZhi spits some braggadocio raps. “Strangeland” is more trash-talking raps in which eL threatens to “…destroy your fam like dysfunctional marriages / that won’t even spare the kids inside of the carriages.” The best-crafted lyrical track on this album belongs to “Pros & Cons”. Similar to two different songs combined into one, eLZhi puts his skills as both a rapper and lyricist to full use by meaningfully utilizing words across two verses which utilize the prefixes of “pro” and “con”, respectively. Ms. Muldrow deserves praise as well for the shift in productions, having a relaxed, jazzy beat for the first verse and then a traditional hip-hop beat for the second:
The final three tracks rounding out the album are “Nefertiti”, “Interlude”, and “Compassion”. On the former, eLZhi raps praises to a woman whom he views as the titular queen. The middle track consists of inspirational vocals, filler really. For the final track, eLZhi raps about the ups and downs of being a young Black child and gives some advice for the ones after him. While “Zhigeist” feels like an interlude because of the change in producer and the lack of several customary high-concept tracks, eLZhi nonetheless remains the syllable sensei” from albums prior.