Born in Trenton, New Jersey, YZ (aka Anthony Hill) was active in the late 1980s east coast hip hop scene and released his first single, “I’m Bad,” in 1987. Soon after he was signed to Tuff City and became one of their most successful artists, though far from a household name. A full-length album, Sons of the Father, was released by Tuff City in 1990, after which YZ jumped over to Livin’ Large Records and released The Ghetto’s Been Good to Me in 1993. Despite some follow-up exposure on MTV, he soon faded from the scene.
The Best of YZ is actually a reissue of his first album, along with several bonus tracks apparently culled from singles he cut for Tuff City, including the previously unreleased “Maflobi Pimp Strut.” All were produced by Tony D (aka Tony Depula, another Trenton native perhaps better known for his work with the group Poor Righteous Teachers), who was apparently also responsible for introducing elements of jazz-hip hop fusion in several of the tracks. As for the vocals, YZ has been categorized as a socially conscious rapper, and certainly several of the tracks are political and/or afrocentric in nature. In particular, “Thinking of a Master Plan” slams the Reagan era, while “Crocodile Dundee” is filled with hidden messages referencing the Nation of Islam. Though other tracks also contain socially conscious elements, the CD is not without a few more light-hearted raps.
A quote by Aaron Fuchs (Tuff City founder) in the liner notes sums up this compilation, “YZ came and went in a flash of lightening, and this album captures the lightening in a jar.” He may not be remembered today by anyone but the most diehard crate diggers, but YZ’s raps are certainly worth checking out, especially by students seeking old-school-style political raps that are neither oversimplified nor overblown. Too bad the CD doesn’t also include cuts from The Ghetto’s Been Good to Me. If you really want a complete overview of YZ, you’ll have to do a little crate digging of your own.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss