DJ Drez and Zaire Black are back in action with the release of their new album Aficionados on Nectar Drop Records.
Musically, the album represents the essence of Drez’s eclectic style. Rooted in his signature jahta beat, the album features sounds from Africa and the East, nyabinghi, jazz and straight-up hip-hop.
Lyrically, Zaire Black leads the listener on a rhyming tour of his inspired mind, touching upon topics that move within and around him day-to-day. Songs about social justice and fatherhood interact instinctively with tracks about yoga and Ayurveda. Urgent calls to action are effortlessly interspersed with parables about the rap game and messages about the benefits of healthy self-care.
Drez and Zaire have been friends and crucial contributors to L.A.’s underground hip-hop scene since the early 90’s — Drez spinning records and Zaire impressing with his athleticism on the microphone and dance floor.
In 2007, DJ Drez wanted to bring an MC with him on tour in Thailand and Taiwan. Zaire was available, but it defied economic logic to go on tour without any product to sell along the way. Within a month, the pair produced an album named Panoramic Utopia — a hard-core conscious hip-hop album replete with dope beats and in-your-face higher awareness.
Ten years later, Drez says, “[Aficionados] is definitely a more mature album than Panoramic Utopia, but it’s still got some thumping hiphop [and] more of a focus on consciousness.”
To truly appreciate the diverse musical styles applied by Drez requires a certain degree of intelligence to begin with; add to that Zaire Black’s witty word-play and new paradigm perspectives, and it becomes clear that everyone else has some catching up to do.
These two are on record with what is, to this writer’s knowledge, the first ever Ayurvedic rap track, “Dosha Talk,” where Black spits about balancing doshas through appropriate food choices, chanting mantras and the science of iridology.
Almost in the same breath comes a potent protest song called “Same Different feat. Buxaburn,” calling attention to the living history of racial oppression in the United States. Ultimately, the message is this: “state of crisis nothing new / we will overcome because we have to.”
Drez has a tendency to pull music from everywhere, and Aficionados is no exception. Throughout the album there are samples from classic hip-hop pioneers Eric B. and Rakim; Guru from Gangstarr; Q-Tip; and Digable Planets. The track “I Will I Want” alone features snippets from Michael Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, Adele and Bob Marley, among others that this writer didn’t recognize.
There are also guest appearances from Srikala (“Guru”), Medusa (“They”), Domonic (“The Better Path”), and Drez’s wife and constant collaborator, vocalist Marti Nikko (“Push It Up” and “Playing”). Warrior King contributes a verse to “Earth People,” an epic reggae track calling out crown chakras, medusa and the Lion of Judah all at once in a profound demonstration of the eclectic, esoteric traditions synthesized by these two artists.
Of he and Zaire Black, Drez says, “We’ve walked similar paths, as far as rastas, as far as yogis… [and] we come from the independent, underground side of the hiphop world, so [the album] feels that way.”
The shared spiritual heritage and deep musical credentials make Aficionados the very definition of conscious hip-hop. More than any allusions to Krsna or Jah, what makes hip-hop conscious is its relevance to the real. From kids, to spiritual practice, to pressing political issues, Zaire Black’s lyrical content derives directly from his real life experience. There’s no gloating about money or misogyny here; as Black himself says, “this is hiphop you can share with your team or yo momma.”
According to DJ Drez, “The idea is to make music for everyone and to make music timeless. That’s it!”
released March 28, 2017
Lyrics: Zaire Black, Medusa, Marti Nikko, Warrior King, Srikala, David Geathers, Buxaburn
Bansuri: Joshua Geisler
Horns and Flutes: Domonic Dean Breaux
Beats, Keys, Turntables: DJ Drez
Produced by DJ Drez aka Dr.Ez
Drez delves into blending yesterday's roots with the innovative urban beats of today. His gradual evolution from Hip Hop DJ
to World Music Taste Maker has blossomed a litany of accomplishments that have garnered Drez the title as one of the highest ranking DJs and producers in LA's underground music scene....more