Although Elzhi's "eLmatic" is technically a mixtape, it could just as well be an album since there's nothing but full songs on there and No DJ shouts over the vocals which are also all brand new. The album is, of course, a true homage to Nas' classic 1994 debut "Illmatic" and it's as anyone should know one of those albums that are often considered the perfect hip-hop album of all time - in other words it's something that not many emcees have the right to fuck with in my opinion. eLzhi treats the project with enough respect to manage to make it his own though. Instead of using the original '94 instrumentals like Fashawn's pointless "An Ode to Illmatic" last year, eLzhi has appointed madly underrated Detroit live band Will Sessions to create update live instrumentation versions of the original that captures the original flavor so close that DJ Premier and Pete Rock were absolute blown away; at the same time their production can stand on it's own as a respectable homage to the original.
While the beats is close to the original instrumentals without sounding like straight rip-offs, eLzhi's lyrical performance is equally superior - while his lyrics are completely new, with some homages to the original Nas lyrics, it's almost as he's channeling the spirit of Nas when it comes to flow and delivery. I could quote several amazing quotables and even full verses that blew my mind on this "tape" but what's the point? - You need to hear this for yourself as it's without a doubt one of the best lyrical performances of the year. You could call this eLzhi's redemption after all the bullshit that went down with the last and final Slum Village album that caused the group to break up on bad terms.
The original "Illmatic" only featured 9 songs and the intro "The Genesis" (that's equally classic though and are rearranged here as well), but just like on Fashawn's tape for some reason there's no remake of one of my favorites, the freestyle chill-out joint "One Time For Your Mind". Oh well, you can't win them all - instead as a bonus track a mindblowing version of "Verbal Intercourse" has been included; one of Nas' most praised cameos that originally appeared on another one of hip-hop's true masterpieces - Raekwon's 1995 "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...".
eLzhi has created a fantastic homage to one of the best albums of all time and is worth hearing by any fan of Slum Village, Nas and Will Sessions. My only gripe with the record is that it has only been released in a very limited 2xLP set that I would want badly but due to my economy this was one album I had to pass up on this year. I can only hope for a reissue!