Finding The GOAT: Elzhi vs. Blu…Who You Got?
As we continue the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), we are asking you to help us rank who is the greatest MC to pick up a mic. We will take over 35 years of Hip-Hop into consideration, pairing special match-ups in a sequence not unlike March Madness. For the next several months, we will roll out battles, starting with artists from similar eras paired against one another, until one undisputed King or Queen of the microphone reigns supreme.
The next MCs to square-off are two of the most championed lyricists of the 2000s: Elzhi and Blu (click on one to vote). One artist is highly-technical, and thrived working with older peers. The other has been a big brother to a legion of artists from his region. One has one true studio album under his belt, which has become increasingly hard to find. The other artist has two handfuls of projects, and continues to record and release material at a Kool Keith-like pace.
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets
In the Internet-era of Hip-Hop, both Elzhi and Blu have built strong fan-bases. These two artists tour consistently, domestically and abroad. Masters of concept, these two might have their best days in front of them, but deserve inclusion in any discussion of elite MCs. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, listen to their music and cast your vote.
With work dating back to the late 1990s, Elzhi is an unsung hero in Detroit, Michigan’s Hip-Hop pinnacle. Surrounded by the stars of D, including Proof, Eminem, Slum Village, Phat Kat, Royce Da 5’9″, Invincible, Obie Trice and others, El’ emerged as a contender for one of the Motor City’s elite lyricists through self-made, underground tapes. This dogged persistence and respect for the craft would ultimately lead DJ House Shoes to take Elzhi’s music to J Dilla, who had hoped to produce the raw talent in the mid-2000s.
Sadly, fate had other plans. During that time however, as Dilla stepped away from his group, Slum Village, Elzhi ultimately stepped in, first as a guest, then as a full-time member by Trinity: Past, Present and Future. For four full-length albums, Elzhi maintained S.V., at times with only T3 as his band-mate. With a budding Black Milk (and Young RJ) on the boards, 2005’s self-titled album restored the excitement in the once cult-championed crew, thanks in large part to El’.
Outside of Slum Village, Elzhi made an underground gem in 2008’s (Black Milk-produced) The Preface. There, Elzhi was able to lead his own charge with conceptual tracks about his city, as well as verbal gymnastics. That knack for concept has bled its way onto Elzhi’s mixtape catalog, like 2008’s Euro Pass, which paired Jason Powers’ potent lyrics with stripped down or looped sample beats for an acclaimed project only sold on tour. Three years later, El’ traipsed on sacred ground, making Elmatic, an ode to Nas’ Illmatic. Risking career damage at a time he’d freshly left S.V., the look worked in El’s favor, making him poised to be on the rise once more.
Other Notable Songs:
Hip-Hop never saw Blu coming. This Los Angeles, California MC/producer entered the scene in the mid-2000s. An open mic performer courted by both Death Row and Interscope, the cerebral rapper opted to link with DJ Exile (Emanon) at fledgling Sound In Color Records. By 2006, Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens was a grassroots underground Hip-Hop game-changer, selling out of physical copies, on two different issues. Johnson Barnes’ perspectives as a preacher’s kid, a lady’s man, and a twenty-something in a whirlwind of a changing society, spiritual confusion, and more made him a breakout star.
Since his highly-acclaimed debut, what’s made Blu such a standout artist are his principles. Many times over, Blu will release an album without warning, barely promote it, and go on hiatus. After signing a major label deal with Sire/Warner Bros. Records, Blu made a deliberately avant-garde LP, No York, and then bootlegged it himself, throwing copies into the crowd at shows, long before a release date was ever confirmed. These antics have complemented Blu’s rhymes. At times, he comes across as a man living on the edge of reality. In other places, the California kid seems deeply grounded, just poking fun at industry conventions.
With side projects, EPs, one-off’s, and self-released works, Blu has provided Heads with tons of catalog in the last eight years. There’s a lot to sift through, but Blu remains a fan favorite by many, and a trail-blazer for the Kendrick Lamars, Ab-Souls, and Fashawns that followed after him. On stage, Blu is as polarizing as his audience. Accounts portray the Johnson & Jonson vocalist as rocking shows in the street after a black out one night, and on other dates, standing stationary with the mic in his hand for 90 minutes. Hip-Hop’s Andy Kaufman may be hard to read, but every time he opens his rhyme book or his mouth, it’s apparent that this fledgling star is one of Hip-Hop’s most honest, heartfelt voices of the 2000s.
Other Notable Songs:
So…who you got?