So, you find out that Pusha-T likes your music. What is the appropriate reaction? For Don Zio P, it was to write off the entire situation as a hoax. "They had reached out to me and I thought it was fake!" P tells me. "I hit my manager up, thinking it’s not real. It was real, he checked into it, and I hit them back the last day you could possibly hit them back. After that, it was crazy."
P allowed himself to believe this opportunity, this 1800 Seconds album, was real when he got in his car to go to the airport. Being handpicked for this record, according to him, is some legendary shit. "This doesn’t happen for everybody," he says. "It’s a good feeling, it’s another stepping stone in your career. There’s certain parts in your career that make you feel like you leveled up. This is one of those situations."
Leveling up at the hand of Pusha-T is one thing, but when not in the studio with the 1800 Tequila team and nine other artists, Don Zio P takes a methodical approach to his music. Whether he's moved by some bars in his head or a catching beat, P knows he's on to something when he can spin back the MP3s from a session in his car, over and over, on his way home from the studio. If he can rock with himself, the world can rock with him. At the least, Pusha-T is rocking with him, and mentoring him along the way.
"I learned a lot being around a lot of the people that work [at 1800], and whatever happens on top of it is a plus," he concludes. "I just wanna work and hopefully pleasure the people who listen." We'll be watching.
DJBooth's full interview with Don Zio P, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did 1800 reach out to you initially?
Don Zio P: They had reached out to me and I thought it was fake! I hit my manager up, thinking it’s not real. It was real, he checked into it, and I hit them back the last day you could possibly hit them back. After that, it was crazy.
When did it start to feel real for you?
With  Tequila, when they called and said you got car service to the airport [laughs]. This is some exclusive stuff. [Music-wise, it felt real] when people started to really recognize some songs and hit me up genuinely if they rock with a track. Other people started reaching out, that’s when it started feeling real.
What does it mean to have been handpicked for this record?
In my own sense, it feels legendary in my head. This doesn’t happen for everybody. It’s a good feeling, it’s another stepping stone in your career. There’s certain parts in your career that make you feel like you leveled up. This is one of those situations.
Tell me about your song, how would you define the energy you bring to the album?
Party! That’s it [laughs]. We party. It’s a vibe.
Is the party track the best way to hook a fan?
No, whoever you are as an artist… There’s different kinds of hits in the world that aren’t party songs. So I feel like, whatever your fan base, whoever you’re trying to reach, that’s who you make songs for. I just party a lot, so party tracks make sense for me.
Each song is around three minutes. So you have to make a big impact in a short time frame. How did that affect your creative process?
It was perfect. I feel like a minute into the song, you know if you like the song or not. I feel like you only need a minute to grab someone’s attention. Three minutes was more than enough time.
How do you usually create to make that first minute count?
That comes with a different array of things. There’s songs I know where the beat rocks in the beginning, and if you’re still bopping your head, the beat catches you. Sometimes it could be a talking intro, or sometimes the song starts off rip and catches you. It depends on if the song or the vibe is what you chasing. You know when you got something.
How do you know you’ve made a quality song?
When I leave the studio back home, on the ride back I make them send me the MP3. I’ll play the track at least three times. I play the song and see if I got a vibe. I know I like a song a lot if I play it the whole ride home. Or, I go back to it a week later. If you like it a week later, you know you got it.
Do you think music is enough anymore, or do you need a viral moment as an artist on the rise?
I think that goes back to the artist’s personality. I think some people get away without viral music if you make really great music. There’s people without radio hits that tour and are viral underground. There’s people that make radio hits and are hot for a year, and you never hear from them again. For me, personally, I think exposure helps. A viral moment can mean multiple things, you know what I’m saying?
With so much music dropping from so many artists, how valuable has the first impression become?
From my standpoint, I like people that just catch me. I don’t care about the viral moments. I like listening to music. If somebody has a good song, somebody has a good song. The first impression, nowadays, you’re a little more caught off-guard because the new generation, anybody can make a song on social media. If it’s a good song, anyone can find out about you. Right now, anyone can make themselves hot with social media. I think what you look like doesn’t matter no more. If you got a good song, you got a good song.
How do you plan on using this opportunity to your advantage?
I like to move step by step, so I don’t like to think ahead to the major move. I just like to take situations and make the best out of it. I learned a lot being around a lot of the people that work [at 1800], and whatever happens on top of it is a plus. I just wanna work and hopefully pleasure the people who listen.