Exclusive Interview: Elzhi Talks Touring in Europe, Upcoming Project and Working with J Dilla
RESPECT.’s Brian Farmer catches up with Elzhi. They talk tour, twitter and why hip-hops next bang might come from overseas.
I’ve been seeing videos of you in Germany and London, what’s the reasoning behind doing the European tour?
Elzhi: Aw, man. They are so appreciative of the hip-hop culture. Its amazing over there, there are some people that actually learn English through the music of hip-hop; thats how much they like it. You gotta show ’em love when they show you a lot of love when you go over there, it’s always a pleasure to rock over seas.
I feel like Europe is the next frontier for hip-hop, a lot of new artists are branching outside of the United States trying to reach all of their fans.
Oh yeah. It’s crazy man, there are actually a couple producers that I’m working with right now from over seas. One guy out of London, his name is Agor, he’s pretty dope man, and another kid out of Paris, his name is Astronote, he’s pretty live too. They got a lot of talent, I think in a way they’re putting forth 110%, because at one point people didn’t really want to hear what they had to offer, so they are coming full force now; its great.
I know you’re working on your next big project, have you decided on a title or is it still in the works?
It’s still in negotiation. I just want to make sure the project is right. I want to make sure the title represents everything that I’m about and what the music is about, as well as the whole message behind it.
Absolutely. I know the whole Elmatic project was produced by Will Sessions, how was it working with them?
Working with Will Sessions was pretty cool. The whole band and myself had a love for the Illmatic album, so when I came to them with the idea they were with it, it was easy, and we all knew that we wanted to put a twist on the music as well as the lyrics. I put forth some ideas and they incorporated it in the music, made it come to life, it was pretty easy working with them. They are some talented cats, it was a blessing having them behind the project.
What kind of affect do you think all the social media outlets, mainly Twitter, have contributed to hip-hop? Do you think its a good thing?
I definitely think it’s a good thing. I think its a good thing for people who are coming up on an independent level, who might not be on MTV or BET, its all about building up their fan base. They are able to do tours because the fan base they’ve built online, I think its beautiful thing. It allows them to talk to the people that they are actually touching with their music.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I noticed Mikael Colombu and Youngsavv (from Def Jam) are following you on Twitter. Are there any deals that are being discussed at the moment?
Yeah, me and my manager are in talks with a few deals, we aren’t sure which one we are going to go with yet. There are a couple majors and a couple independent labels. Whatever we decide, we are going to make sure that it works out for us and the music.
What are you working on right now? What’s your agenda looking like?
Really just making music, man. Getting myself ready, setting up some tour dates and staying creative basically. I just want to continue to put out the best music that I can make.
Mikael Colombu is one of my favorite directors right now, seeing that he is following you on Twitter, is there a possibility of shooting a video with him?
We reached out to him, my management has spoken with him, hopefully we can get that done. I love his visuals, I love how he puts his videos together, its real creative; it’s different. Those Cee Lo videos are insane.
Yeah, all his visuals are really dope, man.
I ain’t mad, he is killin’ right now.
Production wise, who are you really fuckin’ with? Who are some producers that you are always fuckin’ with, no matter what they are putting out?
Aw, man. Alchemist, Oh No, Pete Rock and Denmark Vessey from Detroit, Michigan.
Is your permanent residence still in Detroit?Are you considering relocating?
I got a place in Detroit, and I got a spot in another place [Laughs]. Im back and forth, all over.
Have you ever considered moving over seas? Having a spot to go to in Europe? Considering how much time you have been spending over there.
I thought about it, actually me and my man Fat Cat thought about it. I love over seas, there are a lot of great places, but I am a big fan of the environment of Paris. I love it all over, its a beautiful thing, it’s a blessing just stepping foot on foreign land coming from where I’m from.
I really think that going over seas is the next big move for hip-hop.
Oh, yeah. I see it, man. I hear it in the music. In London, there is a guy…I think his name is K Koke.
Yup, K Koke. He is signed to Roc Nation right now.
Yeah, he’s pretty nice man. I heard a couple freestyles online, thought he was killin’ it.
Is there a tentative date for your next project?
Honestly, I’m not even worried about that. I’m more worried about the music and the product I put out. I would love to speed up time and put the project out real soon, but I just want to make sure it’s right. I feel like I gotta do my part in preserving the rules of hip-hop and what it was about. I have to make sure there is some good music balancing out this whack music out here [Laughs]. I’m not really worried about the release date, I’m just worried about making it right.
That’s the best move. Being from Detroit, what kind of influence did J Dilla have on your music growing up, as well as your upcoming project?
Just staying true to what it was about. The rules of hip-hop have changed, its not like it was back in the day. I saw Dilla coming up in the hip-hop shop, fresh out the studio, anxious to play a joint that he just made, or produced or programmed, called “The Look Of Love” by Slum Village. He made it fun, he made it interesting, He brought some excitement to it. There are things that he did with the MP — I’m not a producer, but I’ve heard other producers talking — that weren’t even logical, stuff you weren’t supposed to do. He was all about creating a new sound. I look at him like Raymond Scott, he did commercials back in the day, and he actually created his own sound. I look at Dilla as the reincarnation of Raymond Scott. Dilla was a triple threat, for real. Thats just somebody I looked at, that pushes me to take it to the next level. As well as him being a cool guy, a man of his word and someone that really spoke out what he felt.
Did you ever have an opportunity to personally record with him in the studio?
Yeah, we were actually up in the studio a few times. I have a song called “Love It Here”, and a song called “Concrete Eyes”, that I recorded with him in the studio. In that particular session I saw him whip up a beat in five minutes. It was easy to him, it was easy. He just dropped the needle on the record and was like “Okay, I’m gonna record that.” Then he got another record, dropped the needle a few times, heard a sound, and was like “Okay, I’m gonna record that.” Next thing I know, five minutes later, It’s a track. He was amazing like that, it was definitely inspiring to see him work.
Dilla was big into musicianship, he was one of the best.
I don’t really know how much he could play, but I know he could play some things. He incorporated a lot of live instrumentation into his music too, he is just the illest man…
Photo: Jeremy Deputat