Smoke DZA has a busy year of music, but he isn’t letting his productivity get in the way of tradition. He has already released an EP with Harry Fraud last month, and has a full-length with Pete Rock scheduled to drop by the end of the year. But the die-hard wrestling fan also has an annual tradition of teaming with producer 183rd to release a Ringside EP to coincide with Wrestlemania, and he continues that here.
Ringside 4 goes down like a set of snacks to eat during the big event: nothing that’s likely to stick to your ribs as high level dining, but suitable for the occasion. Of this tape’s nine tracks, three of them are skits (voicemails by Peter Rosenberg and TheStashed founder Kazeem Famuyide), and none of the actual songs are mostly songs shorter than three minutes. The EP is still solid thematically and musically though, with clips from WWE television events seamlessly meshed between songs and verses, with rhymes that reference star wrestlers. “Cosmic High” name drops legends like Rick Steiner and Big Show after boasting, “we made wrestling cool again, rapping.” The NWO-inspired “Black and White Promo” sees DZA and Bodega Bamz dropping punchlines around the notorious wrestling stable from the mid-90s, and on “Absolutely Perfect,” he and Wale pay homage to the legendary heel, Mr. Perfect. “Mr. 420” is full of references to wrestler Rob Van Damme, down to sampling his voice and mentioning specific moves and characters he worked with. Sonically, 183rd brings productions fueled by electric guitar samples, giving many of the the beats the feel of a WWE star’s theme music.
The references are things that only true pro wrestling fans will notice. So if you don’t watch, you’re better off just enjoying the production and the mic presence of DZA and his guests instead of trying to decipher the cipher. But just like the WWE, outsiders are only a small concern. Fans will be satisfied, and with a year that will conclude with two other projects, those not enthused with a niche project will get their Smoke DZA fix regardless.