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On the Brink of Greatness: King Mez’ “My Everlasting Zeal” (Album Review)

Posted by Nathan S. on 06/29/12 | Filed under Opinion, Features, Album Reviews, King Mez
No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe. King Leonidas could have said, “300 guys aren’t nearly enough to beat the Persian army, let’s just get the f*ck out of here,” but then they wouldn’t have made a movie about him 2500 years later. Michael Jordan could have gotten cut from his high school basketball team and decided to have some more realistic career goals, but no one calls the manager of a Hertz Rent-A-Car the GOAT. Barack Obama could have looked at the previous 43 presidents, looked at himself, and called it a day, but then he wouldn’t be calling the White House home. You can play it safe and be good, but you’ll never be great.

We already knew King Mez was a good rapper. His previous projects "The Paraplegics" and "King’s Khrysis" were all the evidence anyone could need that the NC emcee had a way with words. But it wasn’t until his new album, "My Everlasting Zeal", that he’s truly showed signs of greatness. Mez could have played it safe. He could have put together a solid mixtape, paid for a few big name beats and features, chased a co-sign and disappeared into major label purgatory with enough of an advance to make some bad decisions. Lord knows 100s of rappers before him have. Instead, he chose to handle the rhyme work on "Zeal" entirely by himself and take some real chances. How many people will get the reference of a track title like Diadem (without hitting Wikipedia)? How many people would put a three minute spoken word piece in the middle of their album? Not many, but truly pursuing your vision means accepting that not everyone will be able to see it. It was a risky choice, but it worked out great for Mez.

The bulk of "Everlasting Zeal" carries with it a certain darkness – not a bleakness, but an understanding that life is essentially hard. I don’t know what other way to describe Intro, which feels like a crowd chanting a boxers name before he’s entered the arena; a preparation for battle. While the aptly-titled "About Me" is certainly lighter, it still had a certain haunting quality: “Eventually we changed though / scurried out of sorrow / hurt because our people smart but wasn’t going far though.” Add in a track like "Allure" that goes out of its way to admit the double-edged sword that is success, "Reign", which proves that while he may not be loud he’s certainly nothing to be f**ked with, and "Fallen", which demands repeat listens (and maybe some footnotes), and you’ve got an album that demands some real investment from the listener. Demanding that type of investment is risky, but…well…you know the rest.

That’s not to say that you need to have a bottle of Prozac (do people still take Prozac?) by your side when delving into "Everlasting Zeal". While Mez never stoops so low as to make his appeal to radio programmers, he does offer up some more easily enjoyable cuts. On the surface "Timely Fashion" is the album’s brightest most head-noddable cut, a nice sax line and some R&B crooning goes a long way, but embedded in all that smoothness is a warning to all those who choose shine over substance: “I appreciate your offer / but if I do decide to get jewelry it be armor / cause if you gonna floss just be ready for the scope / get brushed from the teeth of lady karma.” If you’re really looking to just rock out your best bet is probably "Monte Carlo", Zeal’s most outright “banger” featuring one hell of a beat from Mez’ longtime production partner Commissioner Gordon and a more charismatic flow.

"My Everlasting Zeal" is never a party though, and that’s the point. Parties always end, usually with someone covered in vomit. Mez is a serious artist who we’re watching fully embrace his seriousness, and the result is the best album he’s done yet. If I believed in destiny I’d say he was destined for greatness, so instead I’ll say that it’s now clear he has greatness within him. Whether or not that greatness is ever realized depends in large part on Mez himself, and just how many risks he’s willing to take.

See Also: It Doesn’t Get Much Doper Than King Mez’ “My Everlasting Zeal” (Listen & Download)

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