CD Reviews

Self Made, Vol. 1, Elmatic and JESUS EP

Mainstream Hip-Hop

Maybach Music Group Self Made, Vol. 1 (Maybach Music/Warner Bros)

Rick Ross promised a new empire in hip-hop when he inked Wale, Meek Mill and Pill to his Maybach Music Group label. Now the public gets a taste of what The Bawse’s squadron has to offer on the collaborative outing titled Self Made, Vol. 1. The album opens with a Just Blaze-produced burner, “Self Made,” where each artist showcases what they have … or don’t have. It’s immediately evident that Wale and Rick Ross stand head and shoulders above Pill and Meek Mill. Wale flexes his lyrical muscle on “600 Benz” and steals the show on the album’s closer, “Running Rebels.” However, the album stumbles when the focus is on Pill and Meek Mill as dreary offerings such as “Tupac Back” and “Ridin’ on Dat Pole” are simply awful. In the end, the uneven talent keeps Self Made, Vol. 1 from having balance and demonstrates more of the Maybach Music collective’s weaknesses than strengths. ★☆☆☆☆

Detroit Hip-Hop

Elzhi Elmatic (Self-Released)

Any MC looking to re-create Nas’ seminal classic Illmatic would be accused of hip-hop blasphemy. But for Detroit rhymeslinger Elzhi, his ode to the 1994 classic is a brilliant piece of work that pays homage to a hip-hop staple while avoiding a karaoke-like rehash. With the Will Sessions band providing the instrumentation, each track on Elmatic is etched from the foundation of the original but revamped with Elzhi’s penchant for a wicked rhyme or two. El rolls over the same piano loop that Pete Rock crafted on “The World Is Yours” and shines over the xylophones of “One Love.” Alongside fellow Detroit MC Royce Da 5’9” on “Life’s a Bitch,” the two re-create the magic that the original duo made over the Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love.” Rather than be a lazy Hollywood knockoff, Elmatic patterns its game after the original while adding new wrinkles to the game. If Illmatic is Michael Jordan, Elmatic is Kobe Bryant. ★★★☆☆

West Coast Indie Rap

Blu JESUS EP (Self-Released)

Ever since Blu landed on the cover of XXL as one of the inaugural freshman back in 2009, the Los Angeles MC has virtually vanished from hip-hop’s radar. Sporadic performances, random releases and an altogether elusive attitude has had fans wondering if Blu would ever drop an album. Out of the blue (pun intended) the West Coast MC drops an 11-track project titled JESUS that should hold fans over until the next time Blu chooses to surface without warning. JESUS confirms why we’ve been anticipating a full-length release from Blu since 2007’s Below The Heavens. Soulful production backs Blu’s slick lyrics as he laments on a variety of topics, including God, love and women. With production provided by 9th Wonder, Alchemist and Blu himself, the soundscapes are a solid mix of soul and experimentation. Although part of a relatively short project, songs such as the spiritual title track, the heavenly vibes of “Lucky” and the silky ode to the ladies “7 4 U” are evidence that Blu still has it. This EP is just a reminder. ★★☆☆☆

Suggested Next Read

America’s Got Nothing to Watch


America’s Got Nothing to Watch

Although I have startlingly low standards for television, the summer lineup always manages to get me down. The final weeks of May seem rife with endless possibilities—who knows what long-awaited sexual encounters, weddings, births or even grisly demises will finally unfold during the bevy of jam-packed, super-size season finales, which stack up in my Hulu queue like glittering precious gems, their clarity flawed only by extended Geico commercials. But then, after the climax, a crushing lull.