Remake attempts of timeless cultural classics have always been a risky trail to venture. Most often, the results always falls flat as a defamation of the original’s eminence. The effort of adapting an ‘epic’ to be more suitable for the newer generation (you little pricks!) ultimately ends up as a backlash pissing off (grawr!) the older generation that appreciates every little traits that embraces it as a prominent ‘classic.’ In the realm of hiphop, it’s probably even a far more dangerous game to play; a gamble at the cost of the producer and/or MC’s street cred.
So when an MC, even as marvel as Jason Powers a.k.a ELZHI – former member of the hiphop group Slum Village – announces that he will release a mixtape tribute to one of hiphop’s critically acclaimed treasure album ‘Illmatic‘ (1994) none other by New York’s prodigal son Nas, it is imminent that fans will raise an important question: can Elzhi manage to live up to the original’s legacy?
Released on May 10, 2011, the highly anticipated mixtape ‘eLMatic‘ produced by Will Sessions has proven that not only Elzhi is capable of tackling one of the most esteemed LP ever to surface in hiphop, but he is truly deserved to be knighted as “Detroit’s Best Kept Secret.”
If we reassess once more the brilliance of ‘Illmatic’, it is undisputed that this album displays one of the rawest spit ever flown in hiphop history, and there is so little room for improvement for any attempts of remixes, or yet even impossible. But Elzhi did justice with the mixtape tribute, and most importantly honored it by not trying to outshine Nas but pay respect by interpreting the tales of gritty New York into his own Detroit point of view.
Although there are quite a few resemblances between the two MC’s lyrical style from the delivery and the flow over the bars, it is astonishing how Elzhi prevails in personalizing ‘Illmatic’ into ‘eLmatic.’ “New York State of Mind” turns into “Detroit State of Mind,” the wordplay in “Halftime” is hair-raising, and the storytelling in “Memory Lane” is superb.
A noticeable difference between those two of course lies with the beats, in which Elzhi enhances the original with live instrumentation by the band Will Sessions. They have almost all of the original elements and the basic sound essence of ‘Illmatic’, but the recycled work fuels a much more fresh and modern feel. In a way, Elzhi has impressively brought back hiphop’s glory days of the 90s with a tribute that is worthy of multiple plays.
Here are the list of tracks of Elzhi’s ‘eLmatic’, and did I mention its a free album to download? Click here for the download link.
1. The Genesis
2. Detroit State of Mind (Houseshoes Shout)
4. Memory Lane
5. The World Is Yours
7. Life’s A Bitch feat. Royce da 5’9 and Stokley Williams of Mint Condition
8. One Love
9. It Ain’t Hard To Tell
10. Pete Rock Shout