I'm Still Livin' (Rap-A-Lot / Asylum)
Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, Fri., Nov. 24, 2006
I'm Still Livin (Rap-a-Lot/Asylum)
While the intent of most rap albums is to win mass popularity through flippant excursions into the most commercial aspects of African-American culture, a rare few reveal the true heart of men ruled by the injustices thrust upon them by modern society. The oft-incarcerated rapper Z-Ro never strays from the mission of providing keen insight into both his turbulent plight and subsequent bouts with depression, chemical dependency, and the basic lack of trust he reserves for those around him. Opening what he refers to as his 17th album since '98 with a sweeping indictment of "City Streets," the emotionally charged lyricist can't help but find tragedy in his day-to-day. "All I see is the struggle, my tears drown my vision." With producer Mike Dean laying down a sonic foundation that might as well classify I'm Still Livin as a blues album rather than a hip-hop project, Z-Ro overcomes a rushed, piecemeal presentation of his latest work with the most brutally honest treatment of self-reflection anywhere. "Realizing I'm going crazy, wait 'til they get a load of me, it's fuck everybody lately." While songs including "Keep On," "Still Livin'," and "Battlefield" might paint Z-Ro as little more than a thoughtful thug to some, the multitalented Houston rapper/singer/producer maintains his innocence. "Homicide detective trying to threaten me with time, the only thing I ever murdered was college-ruled lines."