|By: Teron Anderson
Mass Communications, University of Florida
Although though Elzhi’s dodging and ducking for cover as pencils rain from the sky on the album cover for his new album Lead Poison, the Detroit rapper does none of that with respect to our questions in Part 1 of this interview.
Lead Poison is Elzhi’s first album in almost five years. During that time, the rapper struggled with depression, which seriously impacted his entire life, as well as his musical output.
If it were not for writing the Lead Poison album as he slept in his car, it is tough to say just where Elzhi would be today. Nevertheless, he put his emotions to use and they manifests themselves on this new album.
Check out some insight as to how it was made in Part 1 of this three-part interview.
CollegeHipHop. com: On the intro to the album “Medicine Man” you make note of some advice that you received from a very wise man to help you through your struggles. Was this inspired by some words of wisdom that you received in real life to help you through your struggles and if not what was the inspiration for this concept? Because this track was very hard hitting and was a great tone setter for the album.
Elzhi: It really didn’t happen, but it was told from the perspective of the older me telling me at this moment in time some things and dropping some jewels. That first song was to set up the album as far as like showcasing the fact that everyone has an outlet. I had to find mine to get what I needed to get out of my system, and for me that’s writing. So that basically was me setting up the concept of the record and what the record was about.
CollegeHipHop. com: I feel like it definitely did that and I can relate because writing is really an outlet for me too and it’s how I express myself most effectively. The pen or the pencil, the lead you know, writing on paper, typing too.
Elzhi: Whatever it is you know for me and you its writing, but for somebody else it may be dribbling a ball or painting a picture with a paintbrush, and so I want to encourage anybody if they have anything that’s bothering them and they don’t have anybody to talk to at least get it out some kind of way.
CollegeHipHop. com: Now a little later on in the album on the track “Two 16’s” you tell a heavy, heartbreaking story about two young lives lost to crime while cleverly playing off the wordplay of the concept of writing two 16 bar verses in Hip-Hop. Was there a particular message that you were intending to send with these vivid tales? Because to me this was one of the standout tracks on the album so I just want you to expound on that a little.
Elzhi: The concept came about from me being online and seeing people’s comments of what they wanted to hear from me and a lot of people felt like they just wanted to hear me rhyme. And I feel like I’m much more than spitting a verse or two or whatever. I feel like I can give people something that they didn’t even know they wanted. I kept on seeing “man all we need from you is like two 16s.” So it’s like, “OK let me give them two 16s but in the way I want to give it to them.” It was really just inspired by the neighborhoods that we done came up in and grew from. Just stories that I might of heard or seen, so I just took that and the concept and kind of flipped it and that’s how the song came about.
CollegeHipHop. com: On one of your more lyrical tracks on the album “Alienated” you spoke of feelings of intense isolation and depression. Would you say that this track really captures the emotions of what you were going through while you were working on ‘Lead Poison’?
“I was working on ‘Lead Poison’ while I was sleeping in the whip. I feel like it definitely portrays just how it felt to lay in the back of the whip and rest my head trying to make sure nobody seen me going to sleep, and having the headphones in listening to the instrumentals trying to write and all that.” – Elzhi
Elzhi: I just feel like from that point of view and perspective it captured how I felt, you know the different emotions and feelings, just feeling hopeless. Not really knowing if I’m really gonna climb out of that hole or not, because I’m sleeping in the whip. So I would definitely say that song along with ‘Cloud’ capsulizes the whole record in itself.
CollegeHipHop. com: And I find that very interesting because if you look at music or art in general, you notice that a lot of the most legendary works of art and what people can relate to the most comes from that strong emotion and struggle. I feel like you got that across on this album very well.
Elzhi: Yeah, I feel like everybody wants to act like they have their shit together and at the end of the day when people go home they don’t have to act anymore. Sometimes when you talk about things that people may be going through that they may not say, I think it might hit them the most or hit them the hardest. It can come from any place though. If I was celebrating and I felt great and I start speaking about how that felt, somebody in that same mind frame is going to feel me and relate to it.
So, with this particular album I wanted to speak for people who may be going through similar situations that I was going through to start the conversation because it’s all about conversation. It’s all about getting it out in the open and really dealing with these issues head on and not trying to ignore it. And a couple of people have already told me it’s certain records on there that done helped them out so that’s a blessing.
CollegeHipHop. com: In the climate that we’re dealing with right now in the Hip-Hop industry, it’s definitely refreshing to see an artist take that step to show that type of vulnerability. Everybody tries to act like they’re not going through anything and put across that macho, untouchable image.
Elzhi: Dealing with that vulnerability is the only way that you’re going to come out stronger on the other end. So, it’s best to deal with it than ignore it.