Gorilla Zoe Interview
|Next Project:||Don't Feed The Animals (Sept 23)|
|Twitter:||Gorilla Zoe on Twitter|
|Website:||Gorilla Zoe's Website|
Hip-hop’s history is littered with stars who burned bright, collected a few checks, and then slowly faded into obscurity. In such a constantly shifting musical environment, it’s not making it onto the radio that’s a challenge, it’s staying there. For the few artists that are blessed enough to drop a second album, the pressures of establishing a permanent place in the game can be daunting.
No one knows this better than Gorilla Zoe. Signed to Bad Boy as part of Boyz In The Hood, the gravel-voiced rapper exploded onto the scene with his debut solo album “Welcome to the Zoo” featuring the hit “Hood Figga.” Now, determined to continue building a long-lasting career, Zoe is back on the block with his upcoming project “Don’t Feed the Animals”, set to drop this summer.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s “DJ Z”, Gorilla Zoe steps inside the booth to talk about how he plans to make a name for himself nationwide, why delivery is such an important skill to a rapper, and why he’s so “kudzu” (you’ll have to listen to figure out what it means).
Listen to the Interview
Gorilla Zoe Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an ATL MC who works both records for the streets and for the charts. Please welcome my man, Black Ent. and Bad Boy recording artists, Gorilla Zoe – how you doin’?
Gorilla Zoe: I’m doin’ great, Z, how you doin’?
DJ Booth: I’m doin’ very well, thank you for asking. Thank you for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Gorilla Zoe: Definitely, definitely. I wanna tell everybody who’s listening, what’s up, thank you all for listenin’, thanks for all the support, you know. Thank y’all.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Zoe, as I alluded to in the intro, you’re a very versatile MC. Since that’s the word that I’m using to describe you, what word would you use to describe yourself as an artist?
Gorilla Zoe: I would say, “kudzu.”
DJ Booth: Okay, why is that?
Gorilla Zoe: Wrap around anything, rap on anything. [laughter] Basically, I can adapt, and adjust to any situation, any style – as long as it’s music, I’m on it.
DJ Booth: Welcome to the Zoo, of course, your debut album, received mixed reviews, and most likely did not sell as many copies [as] you probably would have like for your release. When you think about the entire process – we’re talkin’ about recording, to the release, to retail – was the project, in your eyes, a success, a failure, or somewhere in between?
Gorilla Zoe: For me it was a success. I had no recorded albums. The single Hood Figga blew up so fast. I didn’t even know what I did to record that, you know? So, I had my album done before I went on promo Boyz n da Hood, so I jumped straight out there on promo for that album, because that album was comin’ out before mine, way before mine, but then it got pushed back, you know, comin’ out before mine, but right around the same time. I had been on promo, for the songs that I’d been workin’ on for the album, because the single was blowin’ up so fast, people wanted to hear some more stuff. I think it was a great job, first comin’ [into] the game, first album. I kept it real on the album, all the way, one hundred. If you listen to the mixtapes that came off the album, I’ve learned how to use my voice; I realized I’ve got a unique voice, and I’ve learned how to use it, not only to express myself with words, but be able to tell you through the delivery, and people like hearin’ it.
DJ Booth: Well, Zoe, you stole my next question, which was, “While recording your debut, what did you learn that you could take into account as you prepare for the drop of this sophomore set?” and you said your voice. In addition to that, what else did you learn, nut musically but behind that scenes, that you’re gonna be able to take with you going into this sophomore set?
Gorilla Zoe: Understanding how big this industry is, and how big the world is, and knowing that relationships and meeting and knowing people is a big part of the game – networking, reachin’ out, doin’ what we’re doin’ here.
DJ Booth: I agree wholeheartedly: you can only get somewhere in this industry if you know a lot of people, so you’re doin’ the right thing. I checked out your MySpace page. There’s a quote on there from the bio, and it says, “One of my favorite albums is Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. That’s the kind of album I want to create: something that can stand the test of time.” So, two-part question: do you feel that you achieved that goal on your debut, and, if not, is this upcoming sophomore album going to do that?
Gorilla Zoe: Definitely I’m goin’ in, and this album is going to be crazy. It’s definitely going to be a classic album and be an album that’s going to stand the test of time. My first album is going to always be a classic album in the Southeast region, in the South, but this album is gonna bounce coast to coast and be a classic.
DJ Booth: What is different, Zoe, from the debut to the sophomore set, that’s going to make it span more outside of your own region?
Gorilla Zoe: Basically, I understand tempos and drum placement, and drum kick, snares, and I understand what regions like, what regions don’t like. What you’re lookin’ for is findin’ a drum kick that is universal. You can add an 808 up front there, but you wanna click it so that it sounds so fierce, and then you find your analog clap and you cover it up with a real clap, so it’s club-ish but it still has a real feel to it for people who just don’t wanna hear club.
DJ Booth: Do you think, in the process of appealing to a broader demographic, you at all lost your identity as an artist?
Gorilla Zoe: No, definitely not, because what you do is you make sure you talk about the same stuff, stay grounded, you know what I’m sayin’? I still go back to the hood, I still ,kick it with the same folks, I still talk the same, feel the same problems. But the thing is, part of bein’ an artist, you gotta understand you paintin’ a picture, and you’re doin’ it with your mouth and with your words, and you gotta be able to speak it and spit it in your way but where everybody can understand it. I learned a whole lot.
DJ Booth: Sure. Well, it seems like all that knowledge is really going to be put to good use on the sophomore album. Its title [is] Don’t Feed the Animals and it drops this summer. While I’m sure, Zoe, that you’re an animal lover, it’s safe to assume, right, that the title is a metaphor for something much deeper?
Gorilla Zoe: Exactly. People were sayin’, “Well, where did you get Welcome to the Zoo?” I was sayin, “Welcome to the streets.” “Well, how’d you got ‘the zoo’ from ‘the streets?’” “The concrete jungle,” is what they called it back in the day, but it’s so controlled and watched, I thought it was like a zoo. You know, concrete jungle, it changed to a zoo. And then you have animals, and I’m a gorilla, but not actually a gorilla – I was branded with that because of my actions. You know, people say, “You’re a gorilla, you go hard, you’re just it.” Now, with this Don’t Feed the Animals thing, we animals are in the streets, and you should never feed an animal in the zoo. It says, “Don’t feed the animals,” in the zoo ‘cause every time they see somebody walkin’ by with a bag of peanuts, they gonna want them peanuts ‘cause they’ve tasted ‘em. So, whenever that dog eat that red meat, ever time he sees or smells red meat, he’s always gonna want it. Now, that’s what’s happened. I’m really from the street. Never let us get money, ‘cause we’re gonna want more money, and now we know how to get it, so Don’t Feed the Animals.”
DJ Booth: Zoe, from previous interviews I’ve read that you’ve conducted, it seems as though this album, just like its title, represents almost a warning – is my sense correct? Like, with this you’re trying to warn people?
Gorilla Zoe: Yeah, it’s definitely a warning: I’m here, I’m a problem.
DJ Booth: A good problem, though, right?
Gorilla Zoe: Yeah, a great problem. [laughter]
DJ Booth: Do you think there was something you could’ve done on the debut to make a larger impact, so that this message that you’re trying to portray now was made in a bigger way the first time around?
Gorilla Zoe: No, I really don’t, because if the first time around everything would’ve went skyrocket, if you ever seen any artist who blew [up] their first time around, they can’t come back the second time. I mean, once you’ve made it to the moon, where else you gonna go, Jupiter? You already made it to outer space, you’ve peaked. After you peak, there’s nowhere to go but down. That was my first album, I’m very [happy] about it; I sold more digital downloads on single than anybody at [Warner or Atlantic], so, I mean, people liked the music that they heard. And a lot of people didn’t know my album was out, so, you know, I’m happy with the success of it. I just know where I’m goin’ this time, and this is gonna be bigger.
DJ Booth: Zoe, a second ago you said the album dropped and a lot of people didn’t even know it was available. Do you point the finger at your labels and say, “You gotta do a better job promoting and marketing this next project?”
Gorilla Zoe: I mean, some people could say that. I try to stay in my lane and do what I can do. Now that I’ve been around, I got a little bit of money, I’m straight – I can fill in what I think needs to be filled in. People are gonna what they wanna do, or do what they know to do, you know? So I’m not saying I’m easiest artist to market, either. Gorilla Zoe, I’m street.
DJ Booth: Sure. Well, so let’s say then – because obviously you don’t wanna throw your label under the bus, and that’s understandable – what can you do, yourself, what can you do? ‘‘Cause only you know how to best market and promote yourself, the artists that is Gorilla Zoe, so that on September 23rd, when your sophomore set drops, it’s not going to be the same story as the first album?
Gorilla Zoe: I would definitely believe in myself, believe in the things that I know. You know, if you listen to R&B, then you grow up off R&B, you don’t listen to rap, how would you market people? You don’t know, but you know how [to] market R&B. If you believe in a project, you’re gonna put everything you got behind it and go for it, same thing I would do for me. ‘Cause I got a big lane that I’m on, I got my own story, and it’s the same story around the country, and, tourin’ overseas, I feel around the world: real life. ‘Cause it’s real out here, and everybody can relate to everything that I’m talkin’ about, because they go through these situations daily. I mean, that’s what people want to hear: real sh*t, man. And I wouldn’t be scared to put out real sh*t.
DJ Booth: Well, hopefully you’ll get that opportunity on this sophomore album, Don’t Feed the Animals. I wish you nothing but the best of luck in your sophomore endeavor. Go ahead, give everybody, Zoe, a website or a MySpace page, somewhere they can find out more about what you got goin’ on.
DJ Booth: Well, that’s what’s up. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, my man.
Gorilla Zoe: Thank you, man.