Just Poetry is an extensive collection of characterful rap-led tracks that introduce a specifically deep thinking lyricist and an uncommon approach to hip hop. These values are highlighted early on, and things continue to explore further routes as the album progresses.
Hostages Of The Nation offers an early indicator of Zenlee’s lyrical style and rap delivery. The track is heavy in substance, holding nothing back, taking immediately to discussing the darkness of the world – but not without an all important flicker of hope and optimism. We lived through the destruction and we’ll live through it again. The change in direction at this point to the more optimistic, the revolutionary even, is reflected in the artist’s increased passion and higher, bolder tone on delivery.
Musically the album utilises a non-classic style of hip hop, certain riffs stand tall, always the vocals appear to have a slight distance – the reverb places the leading voice a little further away from the listener. Still you hear the realness of the words for this, the DIY nature of the production reminds you of the honesty and the drive.
Believe It introduces Lucy Grace and drives with a delicate instrumental backdrop and a gorgeously smooth and emotive leading voice. After this, the rap vocal hits with a more mellow approach, and the words follow this optimistic, inspiring pathway with intent. The song has a lot of potential to connect.
Elsewhere on the project, tracks like Tha Life I Choose bring the listener a little closer to the artist, he begins with a notably personal bit of story-telling, laying everything out on the table, and balancing this well with dashes of the universal – accessible references that reach out to any and all listeners. The concept of choice is well represented and offers an important reminder when you need it. One Million Years afterwards sees the pace pick up, the lyricism feels more like a stream of consciousness – quicker, unedited. The music too appears more colourful, taking elements of distorted synth-pop or electronic rock and having the music cascade around you.
Tracks like Xcuses offer a more minimalist, quieter soundscape, and within this setting the leading rap vocal stands a little taller and appears with more clarity. Whatever the subject matter, Zenlee holds nothing back – his writing style is unwaveringly honest, and so often it deals with every day difficulties that many listeners will understand. Goddess Of My Dreams afterwards is undoubtedly one of the most memorable tracks – the rising and falling chord progression, the vastness of the synths, the clap of the drum-line, and Zenlee’s laid back delivery – all of this has a sense of identity about it that’s easy to remember.
Toronto Dreamz is another story-telling moment that pays gratitude and tribute to an important place and time in the rapper’s life. Again, you feel a little closer to the artist here, less distant. Stix n Stonez brings the musicality to new heights, exploring retro dance synths further, and lyrically taking on the rap beef aura in a fitting way. The Gates of Eddystone follows with a manic energy and intensity and grit.
This album in full is something of an emotional roller-coaster that sees the leading artist shift suddenly between the hopeful and positively energized to the outright angry. Always his flow is confident and sticks to the truth that he knows. His voice has a level of individuality that’s easily recognisable. The musicality throughout this project adds further to this – you don’t get a lot of hip hop albums that experiment with electronic music in such a way. To everyone involved in the album the work is indeed just poetry, you can hear that it comes naturally, and there are plenty of ideas to ponder as it all pours through.