An Intro To Smoke DZA
Smoke DZA is a 36 year old rapper from New York who got his start on the scene as a battle rapper before deciding to pursue a career as a rap artist in 2002. He started off ghostwriting for other artists before forming half of the group ‘Smoke & Numbers’, before embarking on a solo career in 2008. He released 4 mixtapes between 2009 and 2011 before releasing his debut album ‘Rolling Stoned’ in August of 2011. The album received generally positive reviews and featured other big up-and-coming rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky & Big K.R.I.T.
DZA dropped another two mixtapes in the 6 months following his debut album, before dropping his second album ‘Rugby Thompson’ in June of 2012. The album was another stacked with features from rappers including Action Bronson, Domo Genesis & Currensy, and has the production handled entirely by Harry Fraud. He continued the frequent drops with 2 more mixtapes in the remainder of 2012, and then another 2 mixtapes in 2013 including a collaborative mixtape with Currensy and Harry Fraud. 2014 saw him drop a mixtape and then his third album with ‘Dream. Zone. Achieve.’, a 21 song project with a super impressive roster of features from Joey Badass, Wiz Khalifa, Cam’ron, Ab-Soul and a range of others.
Smoke DZA continued to grind throughout the latter half of the 2010’s, dropping anywhere from 1-9 projects a year every year from 2016-2019, with the most notable being his 2016 collab album ‘Don’t Smoke Rock’ with Pete Rock and his 2019 collaborative mixtape ‘Statue Of Limitations’ with rapper Benny The Butcher. His most recent project of his was the album ‘A Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed’ which dropped in February of 2020.
And that brings us to the topic of today’s review! On 20th of April 2020 (420) Smoke DZA released a 9 song project titled ‘The Smokers Club Presents: Worldwide Smoke Sessions’ with a stack of features from artists such as frequent collaborator Domo Genesis and more recent stars like Guapdad 4000. Below I’m going to review the project in two parts, first will be my observations on each track as I listened through, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include some links to stream the album as well as some discussion questions at the end. Enjoy!
Track By Track Review
1. Intro – Funny little spoken intro skit, short too which is good, transitions into the second track
2. Premium (ft. Jay Worthy & Nym Lo) – Real chill beat, love the bass line and the subtle percussion. Smoke Dza has some surprisingly impressive rhyme schemes and rides the beat excellently, lots of great flows and an enjoyable delivery. Beat has some subtle changes throughout to keep it interesting. Jay worthy has a real nice delivery which is laidback to begin with but gets more energetic as it goes on. Lots of good flows and impressive rhymes too. Hook has a nice flow to it and is quite catchy. Nym Lo rides the beat just as well as the others, more nice flows and bars. Three real good verses, a nice hook and a great beat, really good song overall
3. Pressure (ft. Luh Soldier) – Another great laid back beat, is basic at times but has some real majestic instrumentation at times. Luh Soldier flows consistently well on his verse and has an enjoyable delivery throughout too, nothing too special. His hook has a real enjoyable flow to it, is super catchy. Smoke DZA has some more great rhyme schemes and his delivery sounds amazing over this beat, the flows aren’t too special but he changes them up quite a bit. Funny little spoken skit at the end. Good song overall but not as good as the last one
4. Up Jump (ft. Domo Genesis & Jayy Grams) – Domos Hook has a decent glow to it but isn’t too catchy or memorable at all. His verse is much more exciting, lots of high energy flows and a solid delivery throughout, lots of impressive rhymes and bars too. Beat is simple but really majestic, hypnotic almost. Dza has some super interesting flows in his verse, great rhymes and delivery too, really enjoyed the start of his verse but it wasn’t as impressive towards the end. Jayy grams has a surprisingly enjoyable verse, has a really exciting delivery and flows well over the atmospheric instrumental, has some great rhyme schemes and a great energy to his entire verse. The hook grew on me by the fourth time haha. Another funny little outro. Real good song in the end
5. Smoke It Out (ft. 24hrs) – the 24hrs hook has a fairly nice flow to it and some nice melodies but is real forgettable, seems a bit lifeless or something. Another atmospheric beat with these majestic synths. Smoke dza has some more surprisingly impressive flows in his verse and a great delivery too, another good verse overall. Love the way the bass hits in the beat just before the final hook. The beat really drew me in as the song went on so I liked it by the end, on the fence overall though
6. Wholesale (ft. Flipp Dinero) – Another amazing beat, is a bit busy but everything comes together really well, lots of interesting instrumentation. Flipp’s hook is a little repetitive but has an amazing melody and is insanely catchy regardless. His verse is incredible too, probably my favourite feature of his, rides the beat amazingly with a great delivery and some hard hitting bars. Dza rides the beat just as well with more impressive flows and rhymes, probably the weaker verse on the track but it’s still real solid. Great song
7. Inhale (skit) – Another comedic skit, is quite funny and transitions amazingly into the next track with the coughing from the skit appearing in the start of the next track
8. They Just Don’t Know (ft. Guapdad 4000 & Green R Fields) – Real solid start to the song, Guapdads hook is amazingly catchy, has a great flow to it and some super pleasant melodies. Another exceptional beat, has an old school feel to it but is real captivating. Dza does his thing again with an enjoyable delivery and a great range of flows that glide over the instrumental. Guapdads verse is great too, love his nonchalant delivery and his humorous bars, lots of great quotables and his delivery is just ridiculously enjoyable throughout, even has a beautiful little melodic end to the verse, amazing verse. Green R Fields has a pretty generic delivery but he flows well over the beat, has the worst verse of the song but it isn’t a bad verse, just isn’t exciting in any way. Real good song overall
9. High Grade (Outro) – Interesting outro, starts off kinda instrumental, then has some singing, then some talking, then some lazy rapping, then the beat gets much more exciting when the drums kick in and Dza spits some real solid bars and impressive rhymes. Is just a strange song, sounds more like an interlude than an outro but it’s oddly enjoyable, has this fun feel to it similar to a couple of songs off Dreamville’s ‘Revenge of the Dreamers 3’ (1993, Wells Fargo). On the fence overall
In the end this album ended up exceeding my expectations more so than possibly every other album this year. I’ve listened to around seven Smoke DZA projects in the past (primarily for the features) and have never been impressed by his performances, but this album had some of his most enjoyable and technically impressive rapping I’ve ever heard. Combined with the incredible features that I initially came to the album to and some of the best production of any album in 2020 and this was easily one of the best projects I’ve listened to this year!
As mentioned above I initially listened to this album for the same reason I always listen to Smoke DZA albums, for the features, and in this case I would say almost every single one delivered a great performance. The rappers who I was most keen to listen to birth fame through, with Domo Genesis handling both the hook and a verse with ease on ‘Up Jump’, and Guapdad having my favourite feature of the album with one of his most enjoyable verses ever on ‘I Just Don’t Know’ which is his him deliver the best hook on the album. I’ve always been on the fence about 24hrs and Flipp Dinero but felt like each of them impressed me too, with 24hrs’ hook growing on me as the song ‘Smoke It Out’ progressed, and Flipp bringing this insane energy to what is probably my favourite track, ‘Wholesale’. There were even a few features I hadn’t heard of (Jayy Grams, Luh Soldier, Nym Lo, Green R Fields), and I felt like pretty much all of them impressed me, Jayy Grams in particular. I would say the only feature who had an average performance on the whole album was Green R Fields, and it wasn’t even bad, just basic.
The production on this album was exceptional, with everything sounding so majestic and immaculate and having this smooth cohesion throughout the project. Each beat was unique while also blending well with the rest of the album. Overall though the production was just perfect smoking music; laid back, atmospheric and even hypnotic at times. Normally the worst thing about Smoke DZA projects is Smoke DZA himself but fortunately this isn’t the case for once, with him delivering some of the best verses I’ve ever heard from him. He is the best of the three rappers on ‘Premium’ with some impressive rhyme schemes and a thoroughly enjoyable delivery, has some interesting flows on ‘Up Jump’, and he brings a great energy to ‘Smoke It Out’ with a plethora of great flows and rhymes. For once there were many more impressive verses from dza than forgettable ones, and that was a breath of fresh air!
So overall this was easily one of my favourite projects of this year so far, and is probably the biggest surprise of 2020 for me. With 6 songs containing amazing instrumentals, and impressive verses & hooks that compliment them perfectly I thought every actual song on this was memorable. Even the other 3 tracks were enjoyable, with 2 funny skits and an interesting outro, meaning this project was a good listen from start to end! With so much enjoyment in offer and a tiny 23 minute run time I recommend this one to anyone looking for something new!
Or you can listen for free on YouTube here!
My Favourite Songs were Premium, Pressure, Up Jump, Smoke It Out, Wholesale, and I Just Don’t Know.
What were your favourite tracks on the project?
Who do you think had the best feature verse?
What is your favourite Smoke Dza project and how do you think this compares?
Thanks for reading!
– Shan –