In the summer of 2015, Charlotte rapper Elevator Jay made waves in the local hip-hop scene by dropping Sum'na Say, a bouncing and colorful album marked by syruppy Southern production and razor-sharp delivery, both courtesy of Elevator himself. About two months ago — yes, we're late, a lot's been happening in our fair city — Elevator followed that up by releasing the eight-track EP Slurred in Mecklenburg.
Charlotte may not have the hip-hop name recognition of our neighbors down I-85, but make no mistake, Elevator Jay is every bit as dangerous an MC as anyone to come from the South. Jay controls his flow with expert precision, delivering crystal-clear lines with a satisfyingly percussive rhythm. He's also adept at creating infectious hooks with a smooth singing ability that you might not expect at first. It's a result of having sung choir in church when he was a kid. Perhaps most impressive of all, Elevator never uses the same flow twice on Slurred (or Sum'na Say, for that matter), hitting you with a new melody and rhythm with each new song.
Mecklenburg isn't a markedly different product than Sum'na Say, which can often times be a sign of a creative plateau from young artists. In Elevator's case, however, it underscores an extremely talented dual threat MC and producer continuing to sharpen all aspects of his craft like a sculptor sanding marble until the finish is just right.
From the opening track, "Crank Up and Dip", Elevator invites you into his world of Southern slang, chicken wings and bass fishing in CLT's ponds. Jay pays homage to growing up on the Queen City's west side in "Mosquitoes & Gnats" while reminding the listener he's still always down for a party on "Pimps & Players." Jay effortlessly moves his vocals in and out of keys, cadences and tones, most notably on "Cold".
Jay's rhymes are rooted in the reality of his upbringing in Charlotte, and are void of many of those tired rap clichés. Instead, he channels his love for his community into a positive energy. "I see you hungry / I got food for days / but it ain't special, got no roof to raid / cuz it's that southern playalistic nature player funky music / we could use it in my hood today," he raps on "Hold Me Down".
Slurred is also a lively project from a production standpoint, with Elevator taking EP credits. The instrumentals are more lush and dynamic than the stereotypical Southern trap sound, and owe quite a bit of inspiration to the pioneering work of the Dungeon Family. Live bass and guitar are provided by Ronald Timmons and Ethan Gardner respectively. "Ain't It" and "Doin' my Thang" both feature synth-driven, slow-as-molasses minimalist beats reminiscent of Riding Dirty-era UGK. The EP was mastered by Kevin "Black Pearl" McCloskey, and well done, as Elevator's vocals live in harmony and clarity with the instrumentals with each passing bar.
The final track on the album, "The Seven", may be the weakest song on the project, marking a bit of an underwhelming end to the effort. Both the beat and the lyrical flow sound like concepts for a larger song, but don't develop to that point before fading out. However, you're still left wanting more when the EP reaches its conclusion.
For fans of Southern hip-hop, Slurred in Mecklenburg is a must have for the fall season.