Jason Powers has been making rap music since the early 2000s. Those in the know recognize his genius, having come out of the same rap battles as Eminem, Obie Trice, Guilty Simpson, Royce da 5’9—in the basement club shows of Detroit, hosted by Proof.
He first hit my radar as part of Slum Village, but I didn’t understand what an amazing rapper he was until his 2011 mixtape, elmatic, which was a track-for-track tribute to Nas’ Illmatic (possibly the greatest rap album of all time). It’s definitely in my top 5 mixtapes of all time—maybe second only to Clipse’s We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 2.
But Elzhi isn’t prolific. There’s been radio silence since 2013. So when I saw this album, Lead Poison, had dropped, I had to scoop it up immediately.
Why did it take so long? He explains it for us in the very first track, which has him talking about his writing process over the sounds of pencil scratches and erases. He’s a perfectionist. He struggles with his inner critic. He raps about being an introvert. He raps about feeling alienated. He raps about losing friends. But he can still dodge raindrops on the cut “Clouds,” and can drop a track about getting high and having fun (“Weedipedia”). Two 16s is a track straight for the hardcore fans. It’s about laying down 16 bars about two different 16-year-olds, with tragic stories. Only a master of the technique would even think to do this, and only real heads will appreciate it. It recalls Jay-Z’s brilliant 22 2s.
There’s only a few misses on the album (“She Sucks” is a mysoginistic and strange song about a girl who may have been a vampire, and it neither makes sense nor is interesting). But the rest of it more than makes up for it.
Check out a few choice tracks below. And if you don’t have his incredible mixtape, snatch it at the bottom of this post. Come back, drop a comment and tell me if you liked it.