Rappers of Z-Ro's generation are no more lacking in self-knowledge than anyone else, but they're uniquely dead set against making that knowledge public. Z-Ro's 1998 debut, Look What You Did to Me, was revolutionary because it confounded the organizing principles of gangsta rap. He didn't care that the album was a potential boon to haters; he just wanted to tell the unvarnished truth as he saw it. No Love Boulevard is also defiantly transparent and vulnerable.
As usual, Z-Ro (a lifelong resident of Houston, Texas) speaks freely about his shortcomings. At various points on No Love Boulevard, he cops to making near-sighted business deals, abdicating his paternal responsibilities and settling for tawdry satisfactions. "From the Other Side" decries the moral rot of his hometown, where many black youths are subordinated to cannon fodder in the War on Drugs.
If "Lost My Mind" is to be believed, the world is a citadel of evil. "Lost My Mind" is a downer but musically ravishing — which is true of No Love Boulevard in general. It's been clear all along that Z-Ro's a master of melody, but Boulevard might be the prettiest of his 21 albums.
While the game has been good to Z-Ro, he's no industry loyalist. He breaks the news of his impending retirement on "They Don't Understand," citing his contempt for a major-label machine that needs to be destroyed cog by exploitative cog. Shame on the music distribution apparatus! Look what they did: Robbed us of a daring marvel of a rapper. (1 Deep Entertainment)