Z-Ro – Drankin’ & Drivin’
Words and Interview By: Tyrone Davis (Editor)
When I was a Freshman in college and P2P networks like Warez, Kazaa, and Limewire were popular, I came across a record called, “Fuck All Y’all” by an artist from Houston named Z-Ro. I actually downloaded the song on accident because anyone who remembers those programs knows that everyday people uploaded the content, hence “Peer to Peer (P2P).” Often, people would upload the content and title it wrong, so you’d end up downloading something you either didn’t want or wasn’t looking for. In this case, I just so happened to like the song so I started researching this guy. Ultimately, I downloaded a few more of his records (on purpose this time) and the following year I went and bought his album via Rap-A-Lot Records, “The Life of Joseph W. McVey”. I’ve been a fan every since.
First off, let’s take it back and talk about how you got started in the game.
Actually, hustlin, listening to music, and rapping my own stuff over music I was listening to. Trying to occupy my time on the block while I was trying to get some money. Then it went from listening to music to making my own music from the music I was listening to.
Early on, you were in the group “Guerilla Maab”. How did that come about?
Guerilla Maab was actually born as an escape plan for me. My first record I dropped in ’98 with Fisherboy. He messed around and went to jail for some shit and I didn’t know if we were on good terms or not. So, of course I didn’t want to hold my career back. I continued to do music and he messed around and got a 5 year sentence and I definately wasn’t going to wait around for five years to see if this man was gone sue me or not for moving on as a solo artist. So, I had already created the name Guerilla Maab in 1991 for like a click of us and it was rap orientated but really was somewhat like a gang. When he went to jail we weren’t on speaking terms, so I took some of the songs I had done, took two verses off of each song, made a couple more songs, and pulled in those guys to fill spaces. This way, it made it look like I was a side man in this group and not the main artist in case he tried to sue. That was actually the reason I did Guerilla Maab.
Being you’re from Houston and at the time you started to come up, a lot of others from the city were as well. How was that time period?
It was cool, especially to see the whole city coming up no matter what side they were from. It didn’t matter. Everyone was prospering in a way, and it was good to see that. Everybody was eating. I wouldn’t say it was 100% togetherness but it was better than it is now, because to me it was a lot of real rap back then and it was like every neighborhood had a champion. Kind of like every basketball team has a star, it’s like every champion was even reaching down doing stuff with their own people. Slim had Boss Hog Outlaws. Lil Keke had people from his hood. Big Pokey had his people. I had a couple cats from my hood so it was a good thing to see. I respected it.
You’ve done a lot of features in your career. It reminds me of Nate Dogg. How did you become the go to guy when it came down to doing hooks?
I think I made my point when I started to sing on my own stuff when I began to transend with the vocal range. A lot of people couldn’t believe I could do a fallsetto the way I do with having the deep voice I have. I think “I Hate You” was a tone setter for me because people was like, “Ok, he can really do that.”. I think they really started reaching out because obviously, I’ve never been on a major label so some frugal ass people probably knew I charged way less than the people they actually really wanted and so they came my way and I was charging whatever I was charging at the time. It wasn’t one of them outrageous numbers that the big time singers were charging and I was just as good if not better than the people who was popping at the time. I think those are really the main two reasons, because I made my point on my own music and I wasn’t hitting them over the head with the price.
Coming from a freestyle (mixtape) era in Houston, you’ve put out a lot of music. What is your writing process like and how fast are you cranking out music being that you’re recording at home now?
I’d probably say I’m not fast to put out music but I’m hella fast at creating though because once you been in situations where you got some classical shit and the payday doesn’t reflect the music, it’s kind of like taking a wing dinner and trying to buy a car with it. Once you go through that, you’re not being too quick to release your shit until you put yourself in a position where can control it. But the creative process, I always tell people it’s like I’m cheating cause I got my shit in my house. It might take me a week to do a song I really want to do because I can actually run up there because, “Oh shit, I just thought of a bar”. I go up there and record that ONE bar, come downstairs, finish what I was doing, and then wake up in the middle of the night, “I just dreamed of another bar”. Run up there and drop the bar. I might do this song over week like that or over the course of a day. I’m not rushed anymore because I’m not somewhere were somebody is telling me to hurry up because they got a “9 o’clock” we got to do this by 8.
I’m the landlord now so I’m comfortable to take however many hours I want to. But it usually takes me about an hour to do a song if it’s something I’m really feeling like, “These Days” or a real message that I’m trying to get out to the public. It don’t take me a long time to do it. I don’t just put out music how people want because I actually want to get paid for my work. But, I put out music now hella fast cause I just upload to Tunecore from my laptop and it’s been the quickest way for me to get money. It’s not a hell of a lot but it’s quicker than what I was getting. $50,000 a year is like minimum wage and I do that type shit in like a couple weeks how if I put some shit on iTunes and getting money from sound exchange. I’m quicker to release music now more than before because I’m in control.
Being the industry has changed, are you guys on the Houston scene able to maintain just in your region alone or has it gotten a little harder now that a lot of people are downloading for the most part?
I can’t speak for too many, but I can speak for me and my guy Slim Thug. We eat off a lot of shows and features. I do my own type of music so a lot of people would just go to tunecore to ge it. If you’re putting up song for .99 or $1.29, who doesn’t have that? So, a lot of people want to get it as soon as you put it out. You have to realize how far iTunes, Apple, Tidal, and Amazon goes. I’m just on the digital side. You have to think about how many people these people bout to service your music to within 24 hours. Say your shit go live at 5 o’clock your shit is going to be everywhere you probably haven’t been.
They’ll spend $1 with you for a week, then they’ll bootleg you to death after that. You got to think about how many hundreds of thousands of people done spent the $1 before they’re region starts to bootleg. In Houston alone you can go platinum. If you get 4 or 5 million people to spend that $1, you’ve made 4 or 5 million dollars. Shit, you might get bootlegged but you’ve made the money. It’s easy for us because Texas is big as fuck. It takes 8 hours just to get to the border. It’s a lot of places to eat at, a lot of stops, but mostly concerts. We’re charging so if you’re blessed enough to get five figures for the show then you’re blessed and you gone do alright.
You mentioned a house intruder and the laws in, “Devil Ass City”. What happened?
Lol, ah man, the same shit that happened to Chris Brown. A motherfucker high on that shit broke in my house. It was some girl I never seen before in my life and I’m just as at fault as she is because my dumb ass left the windows open and the screens were down. But, I had just exterminated and when you exterminate you got to lift that up so the poison shit can evaporate out the crib. I’m doing a show with Slim Thug and my phone goes off like, “Intruder Alert”. I’m like, “Fuck”, the alarm going off and I’m thinking maybe it’s going to scare whoever it is off. So, I cut the camera on and it’s some motherfucker that done came through the window and brought fruit.
She got her purse, a bowl of fruit and the remote control and she going through the channels and shit. I’m like, “What the Fuck!?”. So, I tell everybody I had to go and by the time I get to the house, she’s STILL in the house. I walked in the door, shit is everywhere and I’m thinking she’s gone but my bed covers are on my living room floor and they’re moving. I’m like, “This got to be a motherfucker who doesn’t have it all or they got one of my guns under this cover”. But either way it go, I got to move with knowledge around here.
I go around into the kitchen and I’m talking loud, using one of them “Jedi mind tricks”. I’m like, “Let me run upstairs and see if this motherfucker is upstairs.” When I run up the stairs, I’m running up the foyer, you know. The “for nothing” stairs in front of the real stairs so I come down on the other side by the kitchen. She thinks I’m gone upstairs so she tries to get up and run out the door and I’m not knowing what it is or what she got because my shit is all over the place and it’s a couple guns out. I’m thinking she she might have one of my guns. So, when she turned around and tried to swing it was, “Down Goes Frazier” and I’m beating that ass. I’m like, “Who the fuck is you? Who sent you here?”
I called the police and when they get there, the first thing these motherfuckers do is look at the house and say, “Ok, who is the owner?”. I’m like, “I’m the owner”. They like, “This not your motherfucking house.” I’m like, “Wow, here is this “house nigga” shit again.”. Or, “field nigga”, I should say. They didn’t believe it was my house, and it’s weed out. They see the weed and I’m in handcuffs. They’re like, “You’re high”. I’m like, “I just fucking got here and I ain’t been here”. I’m telling them, “This is her shit”. They’re running tests on me to see if I’m high and they check my eyes realizing I’m not high. Think I got out the handcuffs? NOPE! They’re like, “Here’s an AR-15, a 7mm, a judge, a triple threat shotgun…..why you got all this?” Why you think I got it, I want to live in case a motherfucker comes running up in my house.” Long story short, they take her to jail and refused to charge her with a felony because this motherfucker never LEFT the house so she didn’t get a chance to take anything even though she broke in. They gave this motherfucker trespassing and tried to hit me with a felony with all the weapons. So, you know…hats off to America for that.
Was she on something?
I feel it was PCP and I know what PCP smells like cause as a young guy, I dibbled and dabbled with that shit. I sold that shit, I smoked it, and I know what it does to people. If you know who I am, and not to toot my own horn, but you really got to be a BAAAAD motherfucker to break in my house and think you’re not bout to get separated from you chromosomes. You got to be out your rabbit ass mind, breaking in my house…..and then be a women on top of that?
But they (the cops) was mad as hell when the DA said If I could make it back to my home with these weapons and there are no bodies on them, then I could protect my home no matter what. In Texas, you can protect your house with ANYTHING. Case closed. It was a whole bunch of wasted time type shit. I do give her credit though she broke in and cleaned my kitchen up though. She did clean my kitchen. Swept up, mopped, wiped shit off. She told me, “Whatever bitch you fucking with is a bullshit bitch because your kitchen floor was dirty. I cleaned your shit”. I was like, “Wow, this shit like it’s from the Twilight Zone.” I couldn’t fucking believe it.
Being that you got arrested and considering we as a people have been in this predicament for a long time, do you feel like things are going to change anytime soon?
Absolutely not. Nothing is gone change except it’s going to get worse. At the end of the day, we are a feared people and I don’t know why because I don’t remember lynching any white people, hitting no un-black person with no water hose. I didn’t see my people doing this to anybody. I saw my people being treated like this and like the bible said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Do we perpetuate this shit at times? Yes, we do. But, the only way this is going to get cool is if we start policing our own community and keeping motherfuckers who don’t know nothing personal about this community out of this community. This is just my opinion. All of this protest and marching is getting all of the blacks together in one place and we become a target for the oppressor. Every protest you see, somebody is getting beat up by the police, somebody is getting taken to jail or worse.
A lot of us are unruly. We’re fed up and we don’t know how to protest peacefully a whole lot of times. If it’s your immediate family that just got killed out there and you’re built up with anger, it’s going to be very very hard to keep your feelings in. So, that’s why I feel like we make ourselves targets gathering up at places they don’t want us at anyway. I think just staying the fuck away totally, going back to Africa without going back to Africa is actually policing our community, you know. Getting to know us better. You got to have police do like the chief in Dallas has done and try putting police in the community to talk to people and actually know the people they’re encountering. Because, if you’re from the east side of town and you’re patrolling the south side, you don’t really give a fuck about the south side of town. It’s just your job. You’re going to shoot the shit out of everybody. But, if people are fighting and you know them both, you’ll be like, “Hey, Bob! Hey, James! What the fuck is wrong with ya’ll!? Stop this shit right now!” They might look up, see you and be like, “Ah shit, man. That’s not Officer Jackson, that’s Tony.” and realize they’re tripping. It’s different when you know the people you’re encountering, but when you don’t and you really don’t give a fuck and you probably was a racist already, you’re going to fucking kill everybody.
So, it’s only going to get worse if we don’t start policing our own community or at least moonlight people like Dallas had did where you start putting police in the community where they actually pull up and not break your balls. They might pull up to just get to you know. Might hop out the car and come shoot some ball with you, play a quick game of 21 vs shooting you 21 times. If we don’t do either of those things, we’re fucking doomed.
Now, in reference to music and content. You’ve been a guy who has always been true to yourself. You’ve put a lot of what you’ve been going through in the music. “Baby Mommy Blues” reminds me of “I Hate You”. Now, is this the same situation or something separate?
It’s something separate. It’s a whole lot of dumb shit. You know us black men already go through enough and then to have the system turn our women against us, giving them avenues not to really fuck us over but fuck over the child. Or, giving them the opportunity…..Well, let me retract. Not black women. It be the bitches. The motherfuckers who use their children as hustles or weapons against the father because the father isn’t making enough money or like in my situation, the father just don’t want to be your fucking husband or boyfriend so this is your reply. You’re going to try to get all our money. If you’re a hustler, that shit don’t matter but know she got your kid looking at you all sideways cause it’s only hearing one side of the situation all of the time. She’ll tell the child, “Fuck your dad. He does this and that and don’t come around.” and when I’m calling to come fuck with my child, she’s pressing “end” or not telling the child I’m calling to check on them.
That’s my situation. I done had motherfuckers I was dating try to lock down on me then get up and be like, “I’m going straight down to the attorney general.” That’s bullshit. Another baby mother was like, “When are we going to be together?” and I was like, “When are you going to get a fucking job? When are you going to do something for yourself? I’m not here to take care of you. I’m here to take care of the child. The child can be with me in this big ass house whenever she wants to. Whenever she wants me to come get her, I’ll do that and I will line her pockets with money, but I’m not doing that shit for you. You know what I’m saying? As old as I am and you’re almost as old as me and you aren’t working and you aren’t doing shit. You aren’t getting a free ride out of me. The child gets the free ride because she is my obligation, not you. We both made this together so we’re both supposed to get together and take care of the child. Not get together to do your fucking hair, your fucking nails, and get your face rubbed on, facials and all that shit. No, this is not for you. This is for the child.” This is not only my situation. This is everybody that’s a man that doesn’t make enough.
They aren’t around as much but the basic underline is they don’t want to fuck with this motherfucker (baby mother) on a personal note, because of the hateful and evil shit that they do. Its fucked up we have a government that will actually tell these females that as long as they keep this man out of their households, they will take care of them, and they will be the backbone and the stability of their families. The whole thing about it is, “You’ve got to have this man outside of the house.” There are wedges between black men, white men, whatever color you are. They’re going to wedge a gap between the the father and his child to get their Medicaid and give her a little money so they can take care of the child. I just really think its some bullshit. Well, I’ll take that back, I KNOW it’s some bullshit.
That’s why people are posting videos on Facebook of people beating up their fathers on Father’s Day. Motherfuckers be having a bad stigma over the father because the child only knows the mother’s side. They never got to see how many times dude was at the door and the mother didn’t want to open it and didn’t tell the child. Man, I could talk about this shit forever but I’m not going to talk your ear off with that shit. We would grow grey hairs talking about that, man. But yea, it’s a different situation and it’s a sad situation but it’s like that in so many households where it’s only the mother and the child and in some situations it’s the father and the child, where the father than get custody and do bitch ass shit like that. It’s not just the women. Its some hateful ass dudes out here that do the same shit and I just think it’s some weak ass shit so I’m talking about it.
We know the system overall is corrupt, the government and things of that nature. We did a cover story on K-Rino a few years back and he broke down a lot of information for us. Also being from Houston, what does K-Rino mean to you?
Man, K-Rino in one word? He is “Everything.” He is my favorite rapper to date and is going to be my favorite rapper. I don’t think there’s ever been a guy in my opinion that can emulate him or come close. It’s few motherfuckers I don’t even want to rap when they come around and it’s not so much the skills, cause his skills is light years ahead of mine and everyone else’s, but at the same time it’s his wisdom. He’s a big brother and he’ll ask and I’ll be like, “Man, I’m not rapping on a song with you and he be like, “You’re tripping man. You’re dope.” But, like I said, he is everything to me on this music level. There’s no one better. No one more informative…I take my hat off to him and that’s all I can say. He is the greatest, man. This is the Muhammad Ali of rap and a lot of people don’t know about him because he isn’t with that commercial shit. He doesn’t want to be on no commercial beats, he don’t want to go on a radio station. But, without all of this, he still manages to go and lock Australia down and places like that. This man is global with no radio. How can you not love and respect tha
He gave is a really good interview, man. It was a pleasure. Also, my favorite group of all time is Bone Thugs N Harmony and one of the reasons I really got into Texas music is because I’ve always been a fan of the rapping and singing. You guys have a wide range of artists down there who are doing that. You have a feature from Krazie Bone on this new project. How did that come about?
That came about by me finding out that Krayzie Bone thought I was dope and he liked my work. So I was like, “Let’s do a song.” He gave me his number and I put his number in my phone. And you know me, I’m the type of person that don’t like being bothered so I don’t like bothering people. So, I really never hit him up. We were out on a tour and our dressing rooms were like right beside each other and somehow my manager got me in their dressing room, we kind of touched up on our first conversation, and he was like, Man, let’s go on ahead and do this.” Then, one of my homeboys ended up getting murdered and I got a beat from Bruce Bang that sounded like, “Tha Crossroads”. I was like, ‘Man, if I do something with Krayzie, this has got to be it.” I sent the song over, he blessed it, and sent it back. We made a classic, in my opinion.
What can the fans who haven’t heard it yet expect from this project?
Classical Z-Ro. Classical “Fuck Everybody” shit. It’s new conscious Z-Ro on here. It’s my heart felt, opinionated music on here and like you said earlier, it’s a lot of melody on here. Also for the first time in a long time, its really me. Besides Krayzie Bone, nobody else is on there. you want hear anybody else on their. I’m really giving my fans me again and this is really like a gateway album to let people know I’m still here and still doing my thing. I aim to please, especially my core audience, I know they’re going to be satisfied with it. And, I normally put more songs on a project but this new rap today, they give you just enough to get you off. I think I did that and gave them what they would want to hear out of me. I’m looking for positive response from my people and my new fans I may get after they’ve heard it.
This new project is via, “One Deep Entertainment”. You mention being a loner and a lot of your records have the phrase, “Fuck You” in it in some form or fashion, lol. What is like being a “one man army” and is it easier or harder for you?
I say it’s both. I say it’s easier because I don’t have to argue with motherfuckers any more. I don’t have to worry about motherfuckers stealing shit or worry about too many motherfuckers doing shit they’re supposed to do or not supposed to do. So it’s easier on that note. It’s harder because so much of the workload comes from yourself. Like sitting up in here recording yourself, putting premixes in, hitting this button and running back to the mic, taking your shit to be mixed and mastered and sitting through that. Riding around listening to your own shit and not having nobody to be your ear and give you feedback, etc. So, a lot of shit is like a lotto ticket. It’s like shooting a shot from half court with every song and everything you do. It’s rough, but I like it because my trust is 2.5% for everybody so I’m definitely not going to trust nobody with my body of work. I’m going to do my body of work then I’m going to come out of the shell a little bit because I have to try and sell my shit. So, it’s easy and it’s hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way though.
Lastly, how can people reach you if they trying to contact you?
They can contact me on Instagram and Twitter @ZROmocitydon and Z-RO on Facebook. My personal Facebook page is Joseph McVey. They can go to my soundcloud and check out new shit from time to time @ZROmocitydon. They can follow me on those. I engage with my fans from time to time on these networks when I got time to. Or, they can hit up BKG (management) at 408-687-3501 and let’s get some money.