Every line of work can cause someone anxiety. In an instant, your mind can be bum rushed by a gang of doubts. Is my job secure? How can I grow my career? Am I in the right profession? The weight of these thoughts can bear down on you, and the load can feel even heavier when your job is in the public eye. This is the dilemma that Elzhi has faced over the years, and it has him very reflective on his latest effort, Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson.
Elzhi hails from Detroit, a city that has bred some of hip-hop's greatest talents. From Eminem to J Dilla, Royce Da 5'9 to Black Milk, there's a high standard for music linked to the Motor City and Elzhi has helped build that legacy for years. This time around, Elzhi's partner has just as strong of a pedigree as his. Khrysis is a producer that first gained buzz for his work as a member of the Justus League, a collective that helped Little Brother create their classic 2005 album The Minstrel Show. Khrysis is now signed to Jamla Records, the 9th Wonder-led label that brought us Rapsody’s acclaimed Laila's Wisdom and has now delivered Khrysis and Elzhi's album.
The LP may be the first collaboration of its kind between Khrysis and Elzhi, but their styles mesh as if they've been working together for years. Jericho Jackson begins with "World of Illusion," the first of many vocal samples that muse about the nature of thought. This track sets the tone for an album that probably revealed as much to Elzhi as it does to listeners.
Elzhi first appears on "Overthinking." The song is a stream of consciousness that finds him describing many things he's learned over the years, yet doubting if he actually has it all figured out. Elzhi raps over a beat that's stripped-down and atmospheric, making the song an embodiment of the thinking sessions that keep people up at night. Elzhi's thoughts range from bad record deals to family struggles, from the pitfalls of fame to the pursuit of recognition. Elzhi’s rhymes prove that, although he has talents that seem supernatural, he is every bit of a mortal man.
Despite the setbacks and doubts he reveals on "Overthinking," Elzhi still has the confidence of a gladiator when it comes to his rhymes. He drives this point home on "Self Made," a track where Khrysis samples the horns from "Darkest Light" that fans have heard from the likes of Public Enemy and Jay-Z. The beat has a natural sense of confidence to it, and Elzhi amplifies it with his boastful rhymes. He says, "Science and dollar signs are underneath my D fitted / Saw a light at the end of the tunnel, I lit my tree with it / That's just how I'm blazing, nothing short of amazing / Had a brush with death and all it did was make my waves spin."
There's no shortage of wordplay on the album and the more of it you catch, the more you'll look like Doc Rivers after a bad foul call. Still in all, the songs on Jericho Jackson aren't just exercises in rhyming. Elzhi displays his storytelling skills on "Seventeen," a coming of age story that doesn't quite have a happy ending. The song describes a teenager that's lured into street life and all of the dangers it brings. The fantasy of jewelry and pretty girls hides the reality of jail cells and bullet shells from the young man.
Elzhi offers another tale on "Listen" that's more light-hearted than "Seventeen," but just as vivid. On the song, Elzhi reminisces about a love lost. He’s accompanied by Amber Navran, whose soothing vocals lay over a jazzy sound bed. Elzhi starts the song recounting his heartbreak, but he eventually shows gratitude for the solace his ex gave him during his bouts with depression.
The introspection needed to make a song like "Listen" is a constant on the album. "To Do List" is a prime example, as Elzhi reveals many of his ambitions. The song's beat is fit to score a scene in The Godfather, and Elzhi raps over it with the poise of a kingpin. He rhymes, "Lounging with a gorgeous view from the balcony / Create gold bars by pushing lead, call it alchemy / Stay out the belly of the beast dripping Christ blood / without a blood sacrifice for ice and some nice duds" (I growled like Funk Flex the first time I heard these lines).
The rest of "To Do List" finds Elzhi planning to regain his buzz, better support his loved ones and more. It's clear that he has a lot to accomplish, but Jericho Jackson shows that he'll have the music to achieve it all. Thanks to Khrysis, he'll have production that is varied enough to help him grow. And Elzhi will have content that will resonate with fans, both old and new. As long as he doesn't overthink it.
Notable Tracks: “Overthinking” | “Self Made” | “Seventeen” | “To Do List”