Honesty, Poison, and Medicine: A Conversation With Elzhi
"I gotta get this out of me. 'Cause that’s the only way I’ll be able to overcome what I’m going through.”
The past few years were like one giant, dark cloud for Elzhi. On Lead Poison, his first album since 2011’s Elmatic, the Detroit native unravels a narrative detailing his long and painful battle with depression, one that became so severe, it completely blocked him creatively.
“I couldn’t write,” Elzhi reveals. “The emotions weren’t allowing me to be an artist.” Making the decision to face what was really going on in his life allowed him to overcome the writer’s block and break through the surface level into the truth, which ultimately served as the inspiration for the direction of Lead Poison. “It’s about getting the poison out of me the only way I know how to do it,” he explains.
In dark times, self-reflection guided him to a silver lining. “The cloud is the surface,” Elzhi muses. “The silver lining is what’s inside. Like the root of what it is.” He notes that it can be scary to dig deep and find the truth, but that’s ultimately what keeps one healthy and sane. “People gotta quit looking at life on a surface level,” he says. “I think that’s the reason why people go through depression and go through being stressed the way they do.”
Although this time for reflection helped him overcome the most painful aspects of his depression, he wasn’t necessarily ready to be as honest with his fan as he had been with himself. “I had written personal songs,” he explains. “But this is the most personal I’ve ever gotten. I was writing songs about partying and having fun, and they were cool songs, but I didn’t think they were a representation of what I was going through,” he reflects. “I wasn’t feeling those records because I wasn’t being true to myself, so I decided, ‘You know what? I gotta get this out of me. ‘Cause that’s the only way I’ll be able to overcome what I’m going through.’”
Addressing his pain truthfully through music, Elzhi’s poison became medicine. “When you put it all down and go into the booth and you recite it and play it back and listen to it, it becomes medicine to you,” he says. “It goes through this metamorphosis and this change where it turns into something beautiful.”
Looking back, Elzhi’s glad he disregarded his reservations about sharing so much with his fans. “It feels good,” he admits. “I feel like I’m living my truth. Even though the stuff I’m talking about happened years back and I’m a different person than I was on the record, I still feel good that the people who appreciate my music and want to get more in touch with me and know more about me know the truth of what I went through,” he says. “And hopefully if they’re going through some things, they can listen to what I’ve done and maybe apply it or relate to what they’re going through. So you know, it’s a beautiful thing. I feel like it’s always best to be truthful.”