By Alex P80 Parks
On a first listen of Pro Zay, your focus will most likely center on Pro Zay’s strained and raspy vocals. Upon further listen, you hear a passionate emcee, very particular about the sound he’s created. His beat selection shows a sophisticated ear, as evidenced by his last 2 projects, both from 2018, Slump and Powder Shoe Prints. On his newest release, 3Piece, Pro Zay continues to employ some of the finest producers for an even more elevated selection of beats.
The Psych Ward emcee brings a strong sense of pain and turmoil behind that croaky voice. No sugary raps here. Subject matter sticks to bleak street references, drug yarns and dangerous moves. Yet Zay tells them all with a sense of warning behind his narration. As he’s advising us all not to journey down those paths, as cautionary tales and potential beatdowns await within every verse.
Pro Zay told DRHH how the album is broken into 3 distinct acts:
Pro Zay: “It’s set up like a movie, there are 3 acts and each act is solely “directed” by a producer, and each act has its own emotion or tone.”
Act l: Rock, Paper, Razors Directed By Farma
PZ: “Act l is upbeat, it’s in your face; it follows the adrenaline of the hand in hand deals and what comes with it for our narrator.”
“G6” feat Rome Streetz and Rigz sports chopped violins and thunderous bass. A standout beat on an album overflowing with excellent production. Rome continues to show why he’s one of the best emcees in the game as a top-notch feature like this. Rigz slides through with his sneaky persuasion, like he’s always trying to sell something to the listener. With “My Day” feat Sleep Sinatra and Lord Juco, all three emcees bring their own unmistakable styles to a sweeping strings loop. On “Sly” Farma samples The Five Stairsteps “Danger She’s a Stranger.” Though it may be a prominent sample, the choice fits well with the overall tone of Act I. “2000 Vials” feat Theravada features a tense orchestral loop and lingering bass notes that rattle the speakers. Thrvda brings his serious tone to the track. Not relying on features like on “Snakes Slide,” shows a solo Zay at his best. Here he begins the track weaving a tale of a friend involved in a drug-spot robbery. Pro Zay gets introspective and nostalgic while also looking back at the struggles as well. Over crisp drums, Farma lays a delicate piano loop and booming bass as Zay himself, slides on the track.
Act ll: Spinal Cord Vision Directed By Camoflauge Monk
PZ: “Act ll is the paranoia of our narrator, feeling like he needs eyes in his back, not knowing who to trust, essentially like a bad acid trip”
On “Accept it” feat Jamal Gasol, Camo Monk creates a mood worthy of a late-night mission, a pickup of a shipment down by the docks. Jamal lends his calm, but intent street flow; playing in stark contrast to Pro Zay’s grating yet emotive vocals. “Red Dot” feat Wiardon displays another delicate and melodic piano loop over minimal beats, with just enough punch. Wiardon lends his unique wordplay to the track, providing yet another well-cast guest feature. The aptly titled “Mutant” features Academy spitters Fly Anakin and Big Kahuna. The beat lurches with compressed smoky drums as Anakin sets it off with his distinctive voice, spitting rhymes that seem to just spill and tumble, while Kahuna brings his boastful and confident bars.
Over the futuristic, dystopian soundscape “Sideways” Zay repeats the hook:
“Black tar slide,
always smell it passin by
always find these muthafuckers lyin sideways
I ain’t never questioned why
I can feel it in my spine
I ain’t trust a muthafucker round my way.”
Act lll: The Golden Swamp Directed By SadhuGold & Hesh
PZ: “Act lll brings our narrator to the final conclusion, having obtained all he had seeked, only to be pulled back in by the temptations of the “swamp”
“Back In” feat DapZini and Chris Crnza. the Psych Ward crew connect over anxious and frenetic woodwinds and rumbling bass. Check the track here:
“Pan Dry” feat SmooVth is a pleasantly melodic clarinet loop that uplifts the emcees while the muffled drums skitter just below the surface. SmooVth provides a veteran presence with his assured cadence on this hazy, swaying joint. Pro Zay spits a quick verse over the echoing organs of the closer “Hell.” The tone of this and the outro both leave the listener with some intended lingering uncertainty of the narrative.
It may take a couple of verses to get used to his hoarse vocals, but Pro Zay’s voice is most certainly unique. Lyrically he’s at his best when he rhymes of some of the harsh realities he’s faced in his life. He definitely builds a solid foundation with his choice of excellent beats across this project, satisfying even the most discerning hip hop heads looking for some gems from some of hip hop’s best beat creators.
PZ on beat selection: Honestly, the beats are one of the biggest parts for me, I’m extremely particular on production selection, and I at least try to get the beats to flow fluently from one track to the next.
Bringing us on a 3-part story, teeming with All-Star producers and emcees on several tracks, Pro Zay constructs a well-designed and executed album, polished and full of varying beats and samples. 3Piece is definitely worth checking out.
Cop the album here: