It’s hard to deny that Elz Bentley is a born weaver of tales. He has a real gift for narrating the dramatic arc of his life you hear in every second of his new single “Buddha” and it never sounds like hokey dramatics. The Lexington, Kentucky born Bentley is no con job. He doesn’t spend the entirety of “Buddha” engaged with figurative chest-thumping but nonetheless proudly embraces his identity. The feel of tight-knit relationships and community alike run through the song’s lyrics and conjures character and mood alike with a few key brush strokes. He has the sort of confidence you cannot teach. It doesn’t come across with a lot of buster, Bentley knows exactly how to play the lyrics, but it’s never unconvincing. It’s the latest peak in a rapidly evolving career and you can hear Bentley’s growing powers in tracks such as this.
His vocal never puts a foot wrong. Bentley bounces from word to word, changes things up seemingly on the fly, and puts emphasis on all the right moments. The production does an exceptional job of capturing Bentley’s personality without any overwrought aural dramatics to make its case. He transitions seamlessly from one line to the next and never shows a hint of losing his way. Bentley has a dexterous way of complementing the song’s rhythm that makes the words stand out more. His vocal counterpoints to the percussion and placement of the bass transforms and develops throughout the cut; Bentley never takes on a single line of attack.
Returning to the production, you can’t help but admire the solid construction underlying this track. There’s wonderful balance moving from one portion of the song to the next, nothing garners the lion’s share of attention, and this even-handed take on the track makes it even more appealing for listeners. This is a solo project, obviously, but Bentley works hard to make sure he isn’t the whole story. He wants listeners to have a complete musical experience and Bentley supplies it with ease.
This isn’t a track that glides over listener’s heads. Bentley keeps things on a level listeners can relate to and the language is street while still retaining credibility, but it isn’t over-inflated nonsense. His personality comes through with a loose-limbed confidence that you can’t learn. You’re born with it. He gives you each line with decisive forcefulness that never relents during the song and the underrated humanity of his talents comes through as well. This is a man fully engaged with the world.
“Buddha” is another high point in the productive 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe hasn’t cowed Elz Bentley and his ongoing discipline to continue creating deserves our respect. Each new recording from Bentley reflects significant steps forward in his musical and performing development and “Buddha” is no exception. Everything about this track, as well, suggests it’s just another step up the mountain for Bentley and even more impressive achievements lay ahead. If you love hip hop, it’s easy to love this performance.