The stream of consciousness lyric: “Why you not in magazines and in the blogs?/Bitch I’m still up in these streets with my locs and a dog,” heard on Legendary track “Out His Mind” serves as an adequate summation of Z-Ro’s storied rap career. For the past two decades, The Mo City Don has released a slew of output that’s gone relatively unnoticed by mainstream music despite being as well known in Houston Hip Hop circles as Scarface or UGK. It’s only logical as to why Legendary’s artwork features twenty-five album covers behind a silhouette of Z-Ro. By the time “Out His Mind” ends, he’s giving lyrical anecdotes of failed Drake collaborations and working with Yo Gotti. And, that doesn’t even count everything from the unofficial releases to mixtapes and ABN releases with former patna-turned-frenemy, Trae Tha Truth.
Those who have followed him already understand his status as a luminary. His fellow Houstonite rap icon may have unearthed the term from a dusty Oxford dictionary years ago but Z-Ro is indeed “emeritus.” Everyone else is just starting to catch up as he’s increased his media presence since the press run for Drankin & Drivin back in July. Though nowhere near some his greatest achievements including Let the Truth Be Told, Legendary is a decent starter pack of tracks for those new to Z-Ro before diving into the better catalogue offerings. The dynamic piano loop transitions to crash-inducing drums allow for opener “Never Wrote” to make quite an introduction. A summation of what to expect from Sir Joseph McVey, the track features some shit talking where he calls himself “the Tupac of Texas,” street wisdom, drug talk and even light commentary on social media.
Legendary leans primarily on themes of self-reflection. “OG” is a proclamation statement while “My Time” has Z-Ro looking back on the grind from eating Vienna sausages to Hawaii vacations. “I Know” continues that with a startling admission: “who would have thought me and Slim Thug would’ve ended up brothers / who ever would have thought me and Trae Tha Truth would hate each other.” When Legendary gets deep into socio-political commentary, “Skrewed Up” serves as an album highlight using various news clips of police brutality served between gut-punch bars “High fivin’ after a shooting in front of a grieving family /It’s us against them I see it comin’ please understand me.”
Those who have followed Z-Ro from jump might enjoy the historic context within his bars while others possibly could find interest in looking back. Those looking for the drug inspired crooning that’s also come to define Rother Vandross may find milage on mellow joints “Dome, Kush, and Codeine” or “Drank & Smoke”s interesting female orientated moments. There are, however, some truly uninspired joints like Legendary closer “Come with Me,” fail at offering anything outside its interpolation of Tupac’s “Hail Mary” hook. “Ain’t No Love” is equally generic as its anthemic production sounds if it escaped captivity from a kidnapping 2011.
This project is the type of release from a tenured artist who doesn’t have anything left to prove, even if new listeners come aboard. Legendary continues Z-Ro’s demigod like musical output that never seems totally phoned in. For someone who mentioned during a DXLive interview that they possessed seven projects worth of music on his phone, it may be time for some sonic revaluation if he hopes to truly grow out of his local icon status. Longtime Z-Ro fans will nevertheless, satisfied with this 20th studio album presentation.