Who dares remake a classic? Detroit hip-hop mainstay and former Slum Villager Elzhi, that’s who. The emcee’s oft-delayed recreation of Illmatic, aptly titled Elmatic, has been eagerly anticipated by many, while prompting others to scoff at the thought of another interpretation of Nas’s pivotal debut.
That handful of homage naysayers are sure to change their tune after hearing rhymes on lead off cut “Genesis” like, “I’m too swift with the true grit/I knew if put a line down you’d sniff.” Following the opening act, Elz gives us “Detroit State of Mind,” kicking his block philosophies in true Nas fashion over a live instrumental that sustains the sinister tone of its original New York counterpart. Standout narratives on the track include the line, “I seen it all with my own two, the hood is like the glass house the devil throw stones through.” Memorable bars aplenty, joints such as “Halftime” and “Represent” greatly display the Motor City rapper’s verbal arsenal while complimenting the artistry of Nastradamus’s holy grail.
Guest verses are limited to Royce Da 5’9″, plays the role of AZ to Elzhi’s Nas on “Life’s A Bitch.” Elzhi’s mic skills along with heightened musicality supplied by funk band Will Sessions’ instrumentals (including extended outros) serve as viable bonuses to the project’s listening experience. After sitting with this D-Town vet’s Illmatic cover, it ain’t hard to tell that he manages to recoup some of the genre’s fleeting magic, surely earning further acclaim to his own underrated name. —Nate Santos