Most rappers typically compare themselves to famous musicians or to family members, but Lawrenceville-area native and rapper Afro DZ ak claims to have a lot in common with an unlikely person: presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Both have very similar multicultural backgrounds; their mothers are from Kansas and their fathers hail from Africa. Both are very progressive in their views, and are concerned with American youth. Because of their diverse backgrounds, both are interested in the global community as well as the local community.
In Afro DZ ak’s first solo album, elevation, he tells the world to become more educated about society. The urban hip-hop jazz sounds of elevation will pump anyone’s adrenaline and have him or her ready to go make a change in society.
Throughout the album the phrases “multi-racial,” “multi-talented,” “multi-lingual” and “finding the perfect balances” are used to express the artist’s best attributes.
Afro DZ ak, whose real name is Pete Shungu, is a local, currently residing in Boston as a financial aid advisor for the Action Center for Educational Services and Scholarships. He first learned to play the trumpet at age 11 and has incorporated this instrument, among many others, into his music.
The artist worked previously with a band called The Eclectic Collective and still records with Soul Movement. In comparison to these and other hip-hop groups, Afro DZ ak has a very layered sound of instrumentals and rhymes. The lyrical meaning can be compared to that of Run DMC, because it is trying to encourage positive changes in the world.
Several songs off this album are very personal and express a desire to relate to today’s youth. The track “Balancing Act,” featuring Gnotes, is particularly relatable. This song discusses the hardships of working several jobs and sifting through what can be done verses what one wants to do.
A more personal song for Afro DZ ak is “Brotherly Love.” In this song he expresses his loving and appreciative feelings towards his brothers, Mooks and Tevin, whom he met through a Big Brother program.
Some tracks have a more distinct sound, such as “Shine,” the first song on the CD. This includes soulful gospel background vocals. “Pump Your Fist,” featuring Reel Carter, shows diversity with a whole verse sung in French.
There are other songs more mellow than the rest. “Beautiful Story” is an almost entirely instrumental track; this is a change of pace from the rest of the upbeat album.
“In the Zone” is a reflection on how Afro DZ ak writes music. It’s about when he’s in the zone and can think more clearly, and is more repetitive in lyrical meaning. The verses are all very similar in content.
This is a new wave of media in the hip-hop world. With many instrumental layers consisting of complex solos, elevation is certainly a step beyond catchy hooks.
This record is one that should fly off the shelves, making strides to bring people together through positive songs. One major strength of the album is the use of diversity. There are many artists featured on the album, as well as many layers to each song.
If the world is indeed in need of change, as Afro DZ ak expresses, this is a good way of getting the music world through the doorway to the future.