19. Elzhi "More Colors" (2009)
Elzhi's 2009 track "More Colors" was a sequel to "Colors," which had appeared on the rapper's The Preface LP the previous year. The trick was the same on each, although "More Colors" was a more effective execution of the same idea, thanks in part to the emotional turblence of DJ Spinna's production. Elzhi builds the song by integrating colors into each line, describing the world through the hues he sees. It's a gimmick that could easily undercut the song's message without the right sense of subtlety, but Elzhi—who wasn't the only one to try this method—pulls it off by using the trick for a larger purpose.
For Elzhi, color grants moral perspective: "George Bush sent them boys to war, what is he, colorblind?" What is the purpose of focusing on color, in this instance? We think of color being used, typically, to illustrate the beauty of something: flowers, panoramic views, nature. Hearing the same focus oriented towards harsh reality creates a striking friction, drawing attention to the details, orienting on the yellow police tape or the dripping blood as if it were simply a part of the environment. As if to force us face-to-face with the building blocks of what we see. It abstracts them, temporarily, makes us reflect on the curious properties of hood tragedy before the visceral meaning sets in: "You never know who it might be, to have you dropped on the blacktop leakin' red through your white tee." —David Drake