Sophisticated Slabs might draw heavy influence from hip-hop’s golden era, but rapper LTZ sounds anything but dated.
The north Oklahoma City emcee, born Tony LeSure, released his newest album (a 20-song effort with features from Bowlsey, Cooki Turner, Frank Black and more) Aug. 5. He performs 6 p.m. Saturday on the main stage of WestFest, Western Avenue Association’s annual street fair and music festival.
The appearance also doubles as his official Sophisticated Slabs album release party. The WestFest main stage can be found on NW 41st Street between VZD’s Restaurant & Bar and A Date With Iris.
The smooth, instrumental beats on songs like “Warm It Up” would seamlessly fit in a playlist alongside A Tribe Called Quest. Opener “73120,” a tribute to the northside ZIP code, has a classic West Coast feel.
A self-admitted fan of contemporary hip-hop’s streaming giants Drake and Future, LTZ is an artist clearly cut from rap’s early ’90s cloth. At the same time, Sophisticated Slabs doesn’t feel aged. LTZ’s smart lyrics and turns of phrase make the music timeless.
The emcee said he went into Sophisticated Slabs with a chip on his shoulder after someone accused him of not being a “lyrical” rapper. LTZ’s music (most often produced by Jeff “Chips” Kraetzer) might be so butter-smooth and easy to listen to that some listeners fail to take in the full effect of what the rapper is saying.
“Lyrically [on this album], I wanted to challenge myself on what I was going to say,” LTZ said. “I wanted to challenge myself to push the bar and knock out all of those things.”
Though he has always been a relatable wordsmith, Sophisticated Slabs finds LTZ as real and personal as ever.
Aside from rapping, LTZ can also be found assisting young children as an elementary school mentor with a nonprofit. On the second half of the 11th track, “Used Up:dePRESSUREn,” the rapper talks about seeing the kids he cares about directly affected by school budget cuts. Essential supplies were no longer made available; favorite teachers could not be rehired.
Yet, at the same time, LTZ’s music career is at an all-time high. Internally, he struggles with how he should feel about himself and the world.
“If I’m happy, that makes me a jerk,” he said. “If I’m sad, I’m a jerk.”
LTZ wrestles with emotions rarely touched by rap’s young class of “mumble” rappers. As a bit of an old soul, the emcee said he is not impressed with a lot of what he hears from rap’s newest mainstream crop.
“I think it’s very lazily done,” he said. “I see all these blog posts that say, ‘Such and such made this Top 40 beat in 10 minutes,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it sounds like it was made in 10 minutes.’ It sounds like if you wanted to perform it with a band, the band would be like, ‘We don’t know what to play; these are all synth pads.’”
LTZ will instead continue to bank on the long-lasting appeal of rap’s most classic sound, the music of his father’s generation.
“Why would you alienate a whole genre?” he said. “Why would you alienate a whole age of people? I think of it like this: If you were just selfishly doing music for money, why would you cut off a whole age bracket?”
noon-10 p.m. Saturday
N. Western Ave. between NW 41st
and 43rd Streets
Print headline: Timeless tradition, Rapper LTZ celebrates his new album with an appearance at WestFest.