When Elzhi appeared on the late J Dilla's 2001 album, Welcome to Detroit, jaws dropped over his flowing lyricism and unconventional rhyme patterns on "Come and Get It." Deep into his seemingly never-ending second verse, Elzhi casually yet boldly declared, "I mean business." Seven years later, after reestablishing himself as one-half of hip-hop group Slum Village, those words ring truer than ever. The Preface, Elzhi's first solo album with distribution, is a smart and cohesive effort. Elzhi's writing skills align themselves with fellow Detroiter Black Milk's ever-expansive beats. His vocab, metaphors, and patterned bar complexity demand listeners' full attention. In addition to a penchant for killer braggadocio battle tracks ("Brag Swag," "Yeah"), the album presents slowed-down, feel-good tunes like "Save Ya" and "Transitional Joint." Some of the cleverest concepts surface during standout tracks "Guessing Game" and "Colors." On the tune "Motown 25," Elzhi and Royce Da 5'9'' annihilate Black Milk's thumping bassline and sped-up Motown samples, effortlessly deploying one quotable after another. Later, "Talking in My Sleep" emerges as a spaced-out dream narrative evolving into a vivid stream-of-consciousness chase scene featuring chain saws, guns shooting water rather than bullets, stairways, opening doors, phones ringing, and further evocations of Borgesian brilliance. Elzhi's "sharper than Viking hats" delivery will have listeners hitting the rewind-button frequently, and with Black Milk's beats cruising alongside such witty lyricism, The Preface deserves to be heralded as one of this year's best albums .
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