Afro DZ ak – Elevation


Afro DZ ak - Elevation

Jazz and hip-hop have always gone hand in hand, even when it seemed the most unlikely. Back when jazz was first starting to creep into the scene, people wrote it off as cheap, wanna-be classical music with no substance, musicality or merit. The same was said of hip-hop when it was beginning to break through; people found it implausible to award it its true respect. A lot of the styles are similar: smooth and laid-back beats (the drums), melodic music (the bass) and a rapping MC (the soloist). And still, to this day, channeling fusion masters A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and others; Afro DZ ak tries his best at combining the two.

There’s a certain charm required to pull it all off, your music needs to sound inviting and soulful, it needs to be socially-conscious and most of all, there must be a genuine musicianship that the music craves. Elevation isn’t the next The Low End Theory, far from it actually, but it doesn’t do too shabby for itself either. Pete Shungu has done well in relaying honest hip-hop that has enough diversity to keep your feet tapping and your brain stimulated.

The Boston native’s name is a play on the word aphrodisiac and all corniness aside, it suits him well. Music and instruments are used by anyone to “set the mood” and Shungu creates placid beats that support his intelligent rapping. “Cus I’m multi-racial, multi-talented, multi-lingual, finding the perfect balance” Shungu sings on “Multiversity” before he toots away on his muted trumpet. The musicianship is gifted from Shungu’s own skill, a talented trumpeter in his own right; he feeds the songs with a gentle blend of warmth.

Shungu is a student of history and art and he pays homage to fore-fathers in “Beautiful Story.” Beginning with a classical guitar and Shungu’s own trumpet fixtures, the song is an instrumental joy that is surprisingly one of the album’s strong points. What he lacks in rapping talent, he more than makes up for in sincerity. The music on Elevation possesses a fabulous air of realness that is intoxicating and nothing ever sounds forced. Even on moments like the roaring “Shine” where Shungu places the drums and horns in the front, loud and center, the music still feels tremendously powerful.

For the most part, this is a laid-back affair to enjoy while relaxing with friends. It’s the kind of music that welcomes an open attitude and the kind of music that is peaceful enough to lay low in the background. It will be interesting where Shungu goes from here because as a musician, he holds the talent to create some truly awesome music.