From the tip-off of the intro, Elzhi doesn’t just want you to acknowledge him as one half of Slum Village, but rather the emcee laying vocals in the basement with Waajeed circa 2000, the cat representing Fenkell Avenue, and the friend who cried when fellow rapper Bugz died. The majority of the 24 songs on this two-CD mixtape are not current, more like a lost tapes collection put together to show the evolution of Elzhi. Production from J. Dilla, Houseshoes, Nick Speed, Alchemist, Kareem Riggins and BR Gunna provide the right balance of raw and familiar melodies for Elzhi’s rapid-fire flow. Fellow Slummate T3 joins him to slay enemies on the gritty “Haters”; he gives props to the folks he grew with over a remixed version of Woudini’s classic “Friends”; and Dwele lends his vocals to the choral “All I want.” Big Tone, Yaknus and Detroit diva Rhian Benson also make cameos. Witness My Growth isn’t a bunch of moldy thrown-together tracks; instead it shows the eagerness of a young Elzhi taking baby steps forward — an anthology of work designed to tell a story.
Kahn Davison writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].