Z-Ro Smacks Out On Disappointing Heroin

So, here's one for you: Z-Ro's highly anticipated Heroin album, the junior LP in his line of drug-themed efforts, has apparently been released.

No press release, no Twitter tweets, no radio spots, no nothing. It's just out. You can cut that up any way you see fit, but it doesn't matter. Because there's only one thing that people need to mention when they talk about this album: it sucks.

The perplexing Mr. Rother Vandross, one of Houston's most beloved rappers, an MC so curiously underrated that he became overrated which somehow led to him being underrated again, Mo City's rapping demigod, has managed to deliver a highly disappointing album. The apocalypse is upon us, apparently.

Now, a little bit of clarification is necessary. For the average fan, for someone that doesn't own his discography, this will be a fine album. There are plenty of cuts on there that, musically, are tough as nails.

But for anyone that's been paying attention, Heroin is basically a balk. And there's only one major reason why. By and large, you've heard this album before. It is plagued with hand-me-down rerun beats, choruses and lyrics from other spots.

When he leans on it sparingly, referencing himself in his rhymes or mimicking R&B favorites, it feels meta and hip. On this CD though, it's just too much, and ends up unwinding what it is he's trying to do. Some bulleted examples that you can throw around like you came up with them:

• "Never Let It Go," the first song on the album, stands alone as a good track. It's wonky and country and melodic and Ro hits that quick speed flow, which is probably the third best version of his sound. But he recycles the important part of "King of the Ghetto" from The Life of Joseph W. McVey to give the song its spine. Plus, he works an R. Kelly sample in there too.

• There are two versions of this album out there: The one that's available on Amazon, and the one that you're going to find when you try and download it illegally. The illegal version, which will dub the 'Ro Version because we're so clever, has a redo of "Denzel Washington," originally spotted on Cham's Mixtape Messiah 7.

The new souped-up version of "Denzel Washington" is too metallic and wobbly. It strips Cham of his strength and doesn't wrap itself around Ro's sing-song section like the original version did. Paul Wall is effective here (he sounds particularly natural when measured against the general manufactured aesthetic of the song), but not so much that the rest of the song should've been mortgaged. If you're going to offer up the same song twice, at least make sure you pick the better version.

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Shea Serrano