Having just left Canada, how was it?
It was pretty cool, I like to have fun in Canada. It’s a great place to be; Nice people, they’re really into their hip-hop out there.
Can we expect you back?
No doubt. Anytime Canada wants me to come back, I’ll come back. I’m always down to do shows for people who appreciate an understand my craft and what I do.
Similar to Canadian hip-hop, Detroit has often been underrated in the scene as well in the past. Is it still underrated even with the success of rappers such as yourself, Eminem, and Royce?
Not as it used to be. This is just my perception from growing up in Detroit, I feel like a lot of people are turning a blind eye to Michigan and hip-hop inside of it. I feel like people didn’t really give it the respect that it deserved and maybe it’s because they didn’t know. At one point, I didn’t know. Before I went to The Hip Hop Shop and I got a chance to actually run into people like Royce, Em, Obie Trice, Proof, and so on and so forth. I didn’t know that Detroit had that kind of hip hop to offer. I feel like it’s probably just people outside of Detroit being ignorant to the fact that it existed. In the other sense, J Dilla came out and you can’t deny that Detroit had, and have, a big influence on how hip-hop sounds today. So, compared to the 90s, I don’t feel like we’re that much slept on. As far as emcees in the community, we still got a lot of work to do.
Why did you choose to do a whole mixtape in honour of Nas’ Illmatic album with eLmatic?
Well the idea came from DJ House Shoes, he thought it would be clever to do eLmatic by the first part of my name being “El” and the last part of Nas’ album being “magic”. I thought it was tight too because, growing up, Illmatic was something that I used to listen to over and over and over again. It made me want to become a better emcee. The real reasons why it came out when it did was because we put out some samples of the project three years ago and, ever since we put those out, there have been people on social media asking for that project. If it wasn’t for the people asking for it, it probably would have never came out.
Did it get the response you wanted?
The response that I wanted was to pay homage and also put the youth upon what I consider to be a classic, which is Illmatic. I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s a lot of young kids who have never heard Stress by Organized Konfusion, 93 Til Infinity, or just classic albums in general. I wanted to shine light on Illmatic for the youth so they could go back and listen to what and hopefully, if they aspire to be writers, they can learn from that and study that and it can boost their creativity. It could broaden their horizons as far as writing goes. That’s what I wanted to do and I felt like I accomplished it.
Could you tell us a little about who you’ve got working on “The Feed” album with you?
Ive been in the studio with a few people that are really like hip-hop greats in their own right. I don’t really want to put too much out there, I’ve learned my lesson of putting stuff out there prematurely and it not happening. I’ll just say that I’m making some of the best music that I’ve made in my career to date right now. Be on the lookout for that, hopefully you’ll catch a glimpse of it by the beginning of next year.
Can you explain what your name means or where it came from?
My name originated from two letters: L and Z. They stood, at the time, for Lyrical Zenith. You had your Jay-Z and your AZ, so I wanted to spell my name out. When I spelled it out, my first attempt was El-zhi and when I said it back to myself, I thought it was cool. My boy told me that I should keep it. Little did I know that “Elzhi” in Hebrew stood for “God’s spirit” because “El” is God and “zhi” is seven– seven is a spiritual number. It ended up having a deeper meaning than just, you know, me just trying to form a name and make it sound cool.
What pushed you to go solo?
I guess there comes a time in every persons life where you kind of gotta dodge the punches and walk a certain path. It was something that happened unexpectedly and I had to deal with it and I’ve dealt with it. Now I’m just starting to come into my own and it feels like a re-buzz. It’s a good look.