Z-Ro is one of the most honest artists in Hip hop. He never hides his struggles, emotions or failures; in fact he does the opposite. Every album is an open book, complete with drama, tragedy and an artist wrestling with it all. Following up 2008’s acclaimed Crack, Heroin is no different; it’s an honest effort from one of Texas’ finest.
Heroin starts with its best production effort on “Never Let Go” where Z-Ro shines. Over a beat that is reminscent of work from former label-mate Scarface‘s The Fix, Z-Ro takes his confidence to another world. From there, the ABN emcee flips the script and goes with a commercial oriented feel. It is an initially disappointing, but in the scope of the project it makes sense. Throughout the album, Z-Ro experiences mood swings, both in the content and in the style. On “DenZel Washington” you get pure confidence, and a few tracks later “Blast Myself” shows the desperate side of solitude. Like depression, Z-Ro rides his highs and digs deep into his lows, and the art that comes of it is honest and telling. It doesn’t mean that the beginning of the album isn’t without flaws, but it does mean that those flaws seem deliberate. The at times tired content, on tracks like “Boss” puts “Do Bad On My Own” in perspective. Furthermore, even on cliché tracks, Z-Ro’s gift of harmonizing with the track is showcased.
Four tracks into Heroin, Z-Ro dives into a more personal narrative. “Thug Nigga” is deeper than the title suggests, while “Blast Myself” sees Z-Ro at his best. Lyrics like, “I ain’t trying to be a role model, but I am / what kind of role model get arrested for 300 grams? / I struggle with my addiction, I ain’t perfect / I realize it’s bringing me closer to my grave, so maybe it’s worth it” are haunting. The track is everything that Celebrity Rehab and other reality driven drug abuse shows attempt to capture. The building beat, with Z-Ro attacking it to perfection makes it one of the better tracks released this year. “Blast Myself” is followed by the very good “Do Bad on my Own.”
The production on this album varies between a ’90s Rap-A Lot vibe, and the modern day Houston sound. At times, the board-work seems to lack the instrumentation necessary in order to make it great. Even a very dope effort on “Blast Myself” had the potential to be classic with extra polish. With that said, evaluating Z-Ro’s production is like evaluating Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony beats. Their vocal harmonies are so distinctive that they change the entire texture of the music. Z-Ro’s vocal abilities and unique delivery and voice can allow for below average production to appear solid and in the case of “Blast Myself” good production to seem near great.
With the exception of good guest spots from Paul Wall and Chamillionaire, the remainder of features leave a lot to be desired. Lil Flip disappoints, as does Mike D. Also, cliché subject matter is sprinkled throughout the project. “Drive Me Wild” is out of place while “Gangsta Girl” is quite simply bad. “Move Ya Body” sees Z-Ro embracing a Reggae/Dancehall influence. The result is awkward and by all means a failure. Luckily for Z-Ro and this project, the good severely outweighs the bad.
Heroin is another solid addition to Z-Ro’s rather remarkable, definitely extensive catalogue. The listener is educated with more insight on the man’s struggles and blessed to listen to an artist who is superb at his craft. The album has its flaws but unlike many of his peers, Z-Ro brings forth an album that sounds complete. The ups and downs of the project make sense, and in the end, Z-Ro delivers another good album.