Artists Are Human Too: A Rare Talk With Elzhi

elzhi

You’re a superhero when you’re depressed. You carry a burden that only a few people know, and a weight that most people can’t see past the mask that you wear and the cape you drape yourself in. There are times where that weight gets too heavy, holding you down and preventing you from moving. But you’re a hero; you’re in the spotlight. Many people will talk of you. Some might be angry about what you’re doing and what you’ve done, and some may understand and thank you. What they seem to ignore is that even superheroes are human. Whether you’re a celebrity or an average person, we all wear masks. 

He said no matter how rich you are
Life can trouble you

The spotlight holds the potential to blind the ones that watch just as much as the entertainer under it. When it was Elzhi’s time to shine many of his fans were upset about his lack of music production. Elmatic was released in 2011 and then poof; the Detroit rapper disappeared.  Lead Poison, his EP released last month, is the means to bridge the communication gap between the artist and the listener.  

“The album that came about was me just working on myself while I was working on that album,” Elzhi said. The journey and final creation of Lead Poison was more than entertaining. It was more than a heroic act, it was human. “I went through a couple setbacks that got to me and my goal to recovery was me putting it into music.”

Elzhi understands what many put themselves through every day. Depression is a rare topic to discuss, especially with the machismo of hip hop, primarily because having a mental health issue sounds menial and holds heavy stigma. As hard as acknowledging Jay-Z falling off, it’s consistently ignored in every-day interaction. This was a struggle that delayed the album even further, and Elzhi aimed to open the discussion of dealing with depression in Lead Poison.


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“I could’ve just put out an album where I was just straight up rapping with no content the whole way through but I didn’t think that was me being honest, and real,” drawls Elzhi over the phone. “People who are artists and choose to do rap music, they like to paint a scene where everything’s good. I just felt like somebody had to step up.” If it had to be anybody, it should be Elzhi. Like Elzhi, Capital Steez was a young rapper from Pro Era who was a wildly successful indie rapper bearing a tortured soul. The mistake we made was covering it up and if we addressed his issues sooner, we’d be able to have a beer with him today. 

Don’t fall for the illusions of losing
Cause going through the ups and downs creates the W

Talking about having a recurring mental health issue has a seemingly emasculating effect that drives people away from dealing with the problem at hand. It’s another form of avoidance: silence. Just talking about it holds a measure of craziness against you, and Elzhi comes from a common air of culture. Where most are from, “therapist” and “counselor” are dirty words. Therapists are only for the crazy people and the rich that like to complain. Often do people say, “Oh, why can’t you just deal with the problems on your own?” Or, “Oh it can’t be that bad.” Most of the time the problem is that there is no problem, but the feeling still lingers in every fiber of your being. It’s hard to find a solution if you don’t even know the problem. 

While there are professionals that are available to talk to about your problems, there are other outlets to handle the shadow that follows you under the clouds. “Whatever their outlet is. They should get it out that way,” Elzhi said. “Playing ball or painting or acting or whatever. Anything they like doing.” Depression is a layer of clay around the brain, and molding with the negatives in our minds to produce something beneficial for our careers is where Elzhi can meet the common man. His outlet just happens to be writing.  

He was hip to the fact that I was stressing
I asked what gave him that impression
It was my expression

Elzhi found writing to be his outlet at the age of eight. What spurred his need for an outlet occurred around the time that his mother passed. Elzhi says that he “realized that once I [wrote], I felt better afterwards. It makes me feel good to play it back and take it in that way.” Once you find your area of escape, there’s more to it than just doing it, there’s feeling it and taking it to the next level to maintain your sanity. “The only time I really like to write or when I put something in a notebook is when I wanna see the words,” says Elzhi, “because I also like the way words look. I also like the way words sound. That’d be the only reason I’d put it in a notebook. To see how colorful the words are.” This is where the Detroit rapper differs from the rest of the pack.“In the current climate of hip hop it’s like you wanna act like you got your shit together and you wanna act like you’re doing your thing and today very few people do the art form that speak on setbacks.” While he says that everyone’s stepping to the right, someone out there has to rise up and step to the left.   

We parted ways and went home and started writing
Then notice how the poison from within me turned to medicine

To change the way people look at an issue, it’s vital to talk about it. To be open about it. With Lead Poison, Elzhi wanted to speak to the people that stay silent. The ones that wear their masks everyday and avoid their problems. He wants to let people feel that “if that person can get over it, I can get over it. No matter how deep it gets, everyone’s going through something,” says Elzhi. To change the negativity around the discussion of mental health, we have to open the discussion of mental health. It’s ignored more if you’re an artist. Elzhi thinks that “it starts with people speaking out and letting people know. Certain people can forget that people who entertain are human beings too. We gotta let’em know that we human. We are human, and we go through things.”

It takes time, work, and discussion to deal with what we keep behind the masks that we wear. Mental health for entertainers and others shouldn’t be polarizing, and it shouldn’t be slept on. To think of all the ones we’ve lost which we could have saved should be reason enough to make the effort to be more open and more human to each other. Depression is difficult to deal with. It takes a heavy toll on a person, and for some, it’s easier to quit than to drag on through the mud. It’s painful, and when Capital Steez went it was a shame for all of us. Elzhi is here to persist, and with Lead Poison he’s doing his best to make sure the hip-hop community doesn’t ignore something that should be addressed.

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