Hip-hop duo gets lost in imitation
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which says a lot about the distorted, 808-driven sound that has made its way throughout hip-hop. There are only a handful of artists who are able to craft a worthwhile replica of the model, while the majority of projects clump together with little setting them apart. Unfortunately for ZGTO, A Piece of the Geto falls into the latter, bogged down by empty lyrics and limited originality.
It’s more of an indictment of ZelooperZ generic lines than Shigeto’s production. Both Detroit-based artists, the two started working together when they were introduced by mutual friends in the area. Return of the GETO is the culmination of two years of collaboration, intended to show that “people from separate worlds experience all the same types of pleasure and pain,” according to the album’s description on BandCamp. There’s certainly truth to that statement, but it’s hard to glean that from lyrics such as “them xans got me moving slow / but my brain ain’t slow,” on “Everlast.” The following song, “Unconditional Love,” wastes much of the first verse with bland repetition of elementary school rhymes. The slurred delivery doesn’t do the words any favors either, a fact for several of the songs on the album.
Production throughout A Piece of the Geto is stronger, however. It’s clear that proper care was put into the mixing and mastering stages, resulting in a clean album that’s sonically well balanced. It’s a very watery soundscape, succeeding by gripping the listener into the bass. An array of background sounds keeps the listener engaged, with the abnormal instruments proving to be the most interesting part of the project.
The rare times that ZelooperZ is able to catch the beat are noteworthy, occurring on songs such as “Remedy.” It’s the most upbeat track on A Piece of the Geto, and the rapper’s flow bounces over the percussion to great effect. “Whippin” succeeds with a similar strategy; repetition is ZelooperZ’ strongest attribute as an emcee, and his rhythmic pattern in the song brings some energy to the spaced-out back beat.
It’s not an overly long listen coming in at 42 minutes, but with little to differentiate the songs, A Piece of the Geto muddles together rather quickly and drags on for what feels like longer. Put simply, there are too many moments even the creatives themselves might struggle to listen to if the simple 808 loops weren’t there to anchor it together. Snarling through the chorus on “Long Ass Time,” ZelooperZ fails to hold the spotlight with anything appealing. The disorienting vocals on “Off Dat” would only be bearable to the over-inebriated but to the sober mind lines such as, “I don’t know how to feel / I have time, I’ve been peeled / I stay high until I can’t feel,” carry little to hold onto.
There’s still hope for the future of ZGTO, even if their introduction to the world proved forgettable. ZelooperZ’s solo material shows a lyricist with more talent than A Piece of the Geto lets on, and Shigeto’s skills have been proven on several of his previous albums. If the two are willing to go back to the drawing board and switch up their sound, they could develop into a name to watch moving forward. It’s unlikely that a project similar to A Piece of the Geto will move the needle, however; the drugged out, disoriented lane in hip-hop is crowded enough as it is.