Published Apr 14, 2016The recently released Lead Poison marks Elzhi's first full-length release since 2011's ELmatic. With a Kickstarter campaign to fund (and depending on how you look at it, tease) the album going back to November 2013, his dormancy might have drawn the anxiety and ire of impatient hip-hop heads, but the Detroit MC's hiatus was not spent in vain.
"I wasn't just working on the album, but I was working on myself," he tells Exclaim! "I've never had to do that before."
While his time off was rife with hardship, he was initially reluctant to turn his struggles into bars. "When I decided to actually write down the things that I was going through for therapy, I came to a crossroads where I had to decide what kind of vibe I would bring to the table," he says.
True enough, Elzhi's cathartic efforts dominate the finished product, especially on the earlier cuts. He opens the album heeding his "older and wiser" self's advice to purge via pencil and pad, hence its title, and spends the majority of the LP self-medicating. The MC laments everything that's plagued him in "the years I was off the scene," from depression and loss to legal trouble. "February," arguably the LP's most revelatory track, sees Elzhi lamenting past friendships and relationships and mourning the loss of close friends over producer 14KT's piano and string arrangements.
"It was a beat that [14KT] had that he had titled 'February.' He felt like that's what it sounded like. We talked about February and the things that were happening in my life, the things that happened in his life in February. And from that conversation, that's how the song was created."
While Lead Poison is the sum of Elzhi's efforts to purge himself of said poison, the MC opted for a "more whimsical" approach as the album was being fleshed out. After putting down what he calls his darkest thoughts on the LP's earlier tracks, the latter half is chock-full of evidence of Elzhi's change of tone, most notably on "The Healing Process" and "Misright."
"Even though the black cloud was over me, I still wanted to be a little bit playful with the album. The things that I went through are true, but just with a little bit more animation."
Now that his struggles have been put on phonics, Elzhi says he's in a great space mentally. His catharsis has granted him a more optimistic outlook and the wisdom to look "behind the surface." As for those who've already heard the album, the wordsmith is pleased it's "opened up the dialogue," having heard from listeners with common trials.
Elzhi's immediate future concerns little other than Lead Poison. After making the customary rounds in promoting the album and touring it, he hopes to immortalize its content in other ways.
"Hopefully I'll be able to do speaking engagements and maybe a book will come out of it."
Have a listen to Lead Poison track "February" below. The album is out now via GLOW365 LLC.