One of the greatest Detroit emcees of all-time eLZhi teaming up with Oxnard producer Oh No for his 5th LP. Rising to prominence as a member of Slum Village shortly after the departure of the late J Dilla about 2 decades ago, he eventually saw success of his own with his classic solo debut The Preface in the summer of ‘08 & was followed up 8 years later with Lead Poison. 7 Times Down, 8 Times Up happens to be my 2nd favorite of his behind The Preface due to JR Swiftz’ stellar production as well as it’s resilience heavy concept & the last album Zhigeist produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow was a boom bap/neo-soul love letter to people of color. But since Oh No is fresh off producing Berserko for Tha God Fahim this spring, eL’s keeping it rolling on the Nature Sounds roster for Heavy Vibrato.
After the “What Is Heavy Vibrato?!?” intro, the first song “Trick Dice” starts the album by mixing these vibraphones with kicks & snares detailing the type he is & that he stays on point whereas “In Your Feelings” featuring Dankery Harv gives off a suspenseful boom bap approach instrumentally blasting those who be squealing on them. After the “Doc No Check Up” interlude, “R.I.P. (Radio International Programming)” featuring Guilty Simpson continues to move forward hoping on top of pianos declaring this shit ain’t real now just before “Possessed” shifts gears into darker turf talking about not being sent to another dimension in this lifetime.
“Bishop” works in more kicks, snares & pianos admitting that he’s been feeling like it’s him against the world as of late leading into “Fireballs” keeps in to the basement musically talking about what’s exactly going to happen when you speak ill on his name. “Smoke” featuring Blu as well as Oh No himself & Phez Roc strips the drums in favor of a jazzy loop admitting that they’re from another space & time occasionally, but then “Twilight Zone” talks about opening up the doors with the keys to imagination over a fragilely calm beat. The penultimate track “Say It Don’t Spray It” draws near the end of the album by bringing it hardcore responding to shots being fired & to wrap up Heavy Vibrato, the closer “Last Nerve” admits that there are only a few things in this life that be getting on his nerves over another boom bap instrumental.
You can’t really go wrong with eLZhi’s discography since he’s been constantly putting out quality material in the last 25 years, but I happen to like Heavy Vibrato slightly more than Zhigeist. Oh No‘s production here is more jazzier in comparison to Georgia’s swapping those elements out for neo soul last time & the storytelling from the Detroit lyrical wizard is cinematic top to bottom.