Don’t be fooled by the rudimentary cover art. Barcelona ’92, the latest full-length release from Oklahoma City rapper L.T.Z., boasts slick tracks and heavyweight guest features that make this a must-listen for anyone watchful of the local hip-hop scene.
With a fresh, confident collection of rhymes, L.T.Z. presents a feel-good collage of various snapshots of his life in OKC. Verses run the gamut from sneakers and girls to roots and family. They swirl together in a stream-of-conscious flow across Barcelona’s 14 tracks as L.T.Z. dabbles in wordplay and braggadocio, but for the most part, he steers clear of being too showy. Even as he drops lines about nice clothes and decked out rides, they are tempered with insight—on “Breezy Excursions,” he states that “We never cared about going broke / Cause looking broke to us was the scariest.” Because he allows himself moments of humility, his more boastful ideas feel more grounded.
For instance, the album gets its name from the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. It was the first year that NBA players were allowed to participate, resulting in an unstoppable “Dream Team” of star players. L.T.Z. said in an email that he chose Barcelona ’92 to reflect the perfection that he says he has similarly achieved on this record—a lofty proclamation, to be sure, but one that doesn’t feel completely off the mark. This concept also plays well to the idea that he’s working with a who’s who of local hip-hop figures, with features from Jabee, Frank Black, Soul Williams, and a half dozen more. The school-recounting, Cosby-referencing opening track, “Hillman,” even closes with local hip-hop “players” announcing their “position” in the OKC area like a pre-game basketball lineup.
There are a number of hip-hop tropes that crop up in Barcelona, but none prove to be as forthright as neighborhood repping. His zip code gets a two-part tribute with the tracks “73120 (The Good)” and “73120 (The Bad),” and it features prominently on his merchandise. Even the cover art is meant to reference a specific 7 Eleven hangout spot, pinpointed in the album as the intersection of Penn and NW 122nd. While this sort of neighborhood pride is not new territory for L.T.Z., he seems to be hitting his stride this time around.
If there are any reservations to be had with Barcelona ’92, they lie with the way its verses can veer spontaneously from one subject to the next. Sometimes they go places that feel either repetitive or at odds with the overarching concept of the chorus and title of the track. Especially perplexing is the first interlude, which has a hook that brags on chrome rims and arm candy but begins its lone verse with serious personal drama, culminating in thoughts of suicide before jumping back into the funky chorus. This is an extreme example, as tracks like “Take It To Heaven” and “Hillman” prove to be more focused, but there are at least a few instances where one could probably swap one meandering verse for another and not affect the album much at all.
Nitpicking aside, Barcelona remains a strong and cohesive work, a feat that couldn’t be possible without DJ Chips’s exceptional production chops. The tracking here is pretty much perfect, and the variance in sample work keeps the 56-minute runtime from feeling repetitive or tired. Chips’s affinity for throwback, chill samples adds a smooth progression to L.T.Z.’s tight flow. There are other producers in the mix, too, most notably Worm and Bed People’s Steve Warlow, who contribute a grittier, moodier sound on a few cuts. However, DJ Chips is squarely at the helm, and by keeping the cooks out of the kitchen, he has helped put together L.T.Z.’s most consistent and polished effort to date.
As the album draws to a close with a tribute to his late grandmother on the genuinely tender “Lessie,” L.T.Z. reminds the listener of the respect he holds to his roots. Ultimately, that’s what Barcelona ‘92 best represents, and it probably explains why he’s still decorating his albums with homespun artwork even as his music enters the big leagues.
This article was originally written for Literati Press (literatipressok.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.