Don't Sleep: Necessary Notables

Mixtape: Elmatic

Headliner: Elzhi

Key Cameo: "Life's a Bitch" (featuring Royce Da 5'9")

Essential Info: It's no big secret that Nas' 1994 debut, Illmatic, inspired a generation of MCs, and Detroit spitter Elzhi is no exception. The former Slum Village rapper's latest mixtape is a retread on Nasty Nas' highly regarded classic, which he redubbed Elmatic.

For Elzhi, the concept was birthed three years ago at the suggestion of a friend. "I was given the concept by a guy named DJ Houseshoes. And he came up with the idea of me doing a mixtape called Elmatic off of my name, Elzhi, and off of Illmatic," El told Mixtape Daily. "When I thought about it, not only was it clever wordplay, it meant so much more to me because as an MC, me being young and listening to Illmatic, it made me want to step my game up. It inspired me to be a better artist and a better writer."

As an artist, Elzhi cut his teeth as a part of the Detroit's Slum Village, the landmark hip-hop group which at one time included the late great J. Dilla. Though he has since split from the group, Elzhi has made his mark as a soloist, and in 2008 he dropped his LP The Preface. Now he is busy promoting Elmatic.

El, along with local band Will Sessions, put their own spin on God Son's record, transforming his "New York State of Mind" into "Detroit State of Mind." For the most part, much of Illmatic's titles remain unchanged; on the tape there is a version of "Memory Lane," "It Ain't Hard to Tell" and "The World Is Yours." The twist on Elzhi's homage, however, is the new instrumentals that were built around the original Illmatic beats.

While many artists might have felt the pressure for taking on such a revered work, Elzhi insists that he had no fear going into the project. "It was just me having fun, coming from a fan's perspective of what I would want to hear. I never felt like I was in competition to outdo Illmatic. I don't think that's possible, he explained. "I was inspired by Illmatic as a youngster and it was just me going in there having fun with the band Will Sessions and just having a great piece of work for people to listen to."

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