Review by Jez Cool exclusively for Blatantly Blunt –
Opinion is often polarized whenever West London producer Zdot is the topic of conversation; one could say his persistence in the face of what’s often fierce criticism is testament to the young man’s strength of character. His latest musical offering ‘Project Z’ is an interesting mish-mash of sounds, exploring various arenas and featuring a who’s who of the underground urban music scene, a formula particularly useful to Zdot in the last few years in helping him build a name and following for himself.
The EP kicks off with Zdot in collaboration with MC Manga and singer Ryan Keen on ‘Lonely Road’; a reflective, guitar-infused production upon which both sit tentatively. On first listen I misheard Keen’s introduction as being decidedly shaky; it’s actually that faint uncertainty in the singer’s voice which makes the chorus more endearing; he sounds genuinely cut up when he sings “my heart’s lost it’s hope”, and the track’s message is all the stronger for it.
Rapper Benny Banks and Jay Norton link up on ‘Roll’; the two talented artists sit comfortably on a typically jaunty hip-hop production with an equally typical “don’t try to get at us now” message. The track serves its purpose without producing the jaw-dropping element I love to hear in new music, which certainly isn’t to say that either artist did anything less than very well with their respective contributions.
‘2012’ feat. Roachee, JME & Fuda Guy:-
Probably the release’s highlight is ‘2012’; a dark, bass-laced grime production which would be intriguing enough without the verses supplied by Roachee, JME and a Fuda Guy who seems somewhat short of match fitness. Regardless, the trio provide skill and entertainment with their lyrics, and in terms of listenability (if such a term exists!) this was the track I found myself going back to play again.
Kal Levelle features alongside rapper Fem Fel on track four, confusingly entitled ‘Time Is Now’ despite seemingly being about a relationship’s demise. It was my first time hearing either artist and I felt they had come together at the wrong time, on the wrong track. There was little sense that any significant amount of emotion was expended by either; ultimately it sounds like they first met the same day that their vocals were recorded. Given what had come before, this was rather disappointing to listen to.
Similarly confusing was Lily McKenzie’s vocal on what I presume was an effort to produce a club smash instrumental to go with it. I think the best explanation for the track, entitled ‘Shows Me Love’, is I’m listening to a promo version of the EP; any other reason for the instrumental being so undermined by the vocal’s strength would be a massive oversight on Z Dot’s part. I imagine the beat would be better suited for use elsewhere even when fully mastered, because the current arrangement does both singer and producer a disservice.
Singer Lauren Mason comes together with MCs Harry Shotta and Propane on an uplifting track to finish the EP, entitled ‘Journey’. Shotta’s contribution is particularly impressive, and Mason’s chorus is very easy on the ear indeed, all of which combine to provide a pleasant end to the release.
‘Journey’ feat. Harry Shotta, Lauren Mason & Propane:-
Say what you like about the young man. Having listened through this EP, I can see why people do and will continue to; the problem is the phrase “you don’t know what to expect from the guy” can be as negative as it can be positive. His willingness to put out such diversity of sound in a release is as commendable (he’s not a one-trick pony, fingers in different pies etc) as it is regrettable (who wants to be a jack of all trades and a master of none etc). At its best, there’s no doubt that Z Dot’s music holds enough merit to warrant a high rating; with too much of his work however, he leaves too much scope for debate over its quality.