Published on August 20th, 2015 | by Jerry Doby0
Z-Ro the humble Houston legend still King
Once in a while you get to meet and speak with someone who has such a strong spirit that you instantly know they can make it through anything. Houston music stalwart Z-Ro is just such a person. With a signature voice and a uniquely dynamic range for someone with a Barry White level bass/baritone, it makes you wonder why he isn’t more of a global sensation. Music business politics aside and calling it like it is, Z-Ro is one of those wise lions of the game who real street people look to as a voice that expresses their anger, pain, passion and even triumph.
Suffering the loss of his mother to Lupus at an early age, Z-Ro knows some serious pain and when he steps out of rapping to grace us with his well known singing voice, he can hit notes akin to those of a Souther fire and brimstone preacher and flat out rock you to your core. Often compared to unforgettable voices like Nate Dogg (RIP), Barry White (RIP) and Luther…big Luther of course, I dare to say, his catalogue has something for just about anyone who considers themselves a true music lover. His mastery of timber, harmonic and melodic partnerships in his music, set him apart from the usual fare we get from most artists from ANY region and his credibility is undeniable within the world of Hip-Hop world over.
My opportunity to speak with an artist whom I’ve been a fan of for more years than I care to reveal, allowed me to get some insight on more than just the music, he trusted me enough to talk openly about his experience in the entertainment business and some of the shocking discoveries he made as he gravitated through the maze of the industry. One of the most gut wrenching bits he shared with me was how his first record label advance was nine ounces of crack cocaine, rather than a legitimate check. I don’t know about you but, that is one of the most crazy “Where they do that at” situations I’ve ever heard. I mean don’t we get into this business to get AWAY from that bs?! Who in their right mind would disrespect a working person in that manner…Imagine getting your pay from some white collar corporation in the form of some illegal product which they expect YOU to sell in order to collect the money due you. WTF! Definitely one for the books…you can hear him tell that story in our exclusive “Live Session” attached to this editorial.
Some background for those who may not be totally familiar with Z-Ro and his journey in the music game:
Declared by the New York Times as “one of America’s most underrated rappers” Hip Hop artist Z-RO was born Joseph Wayne McVey in Houston, Texas. Orphaned at an early age, young Joseph was shuttled from relative to relative and eventually settled in Missouri City, southwest of Houston. The isolation, rejection and loneliness he experienced during this period would fuel his desire to establish himself independent of relatives and would become the lyrical basis of his musical career.
Rapping was not his first love. During his high school years Z-RO was a student athlete. He maintained good grades and attended church regularly with his father. It was while attending church and singing in the choir that Z-RO honed his now infamous ability to sing and harmonize. Unfortunately it was also during this time that he was shot. He still carries the shell casing in his body. This would effectively end his athletic career and forced him to look elsewhere for recognition. Dreams and hopes dashed, Z-RO turned to the streets. And with the streets comes the usual tale of drug selling and street brawling.
Meeting and befriending the Hip Hop group Street Military, who were signed with EMI, would change his life. “I’d go over they house, we playin’ ball, smokin’ weed, and around 8 o’clock, Lil’ Flea used to come downstairs and be like ‘look, we gonna start recording. Everybody that ain’t recording, get the fuck out! If you ain’t here to work, leave’,” recollects Z-Ro. “So I stayed, just to peep out the process. Z-RO fell in love with the process and began composing lyrics himself.
Z-RO then became a member of Street Military’s “Killa Klan Collective”, and his fame increased. In 1997 he was inducted into DJ SCREW’s legendary Screwed Up Click. In 1998, Z-Ro released his debut album, Look What You Did to Me. This album and the release of the SUC Blue Tape 22, Secured his street fame and credibility which caught the attention of the Houston and Southern Hip Hop powerhouse label RAP-A-LOT. Z-RO signed with the legendary label and began to release a string of hits. 2004 would see his debut release on the Rap-A-Lot label entitled The Life of Joseph W. McVey and on February 24, 2004, the release of the chart topping single “I Hate You Bitch” In which Z-RO not only raps but sings, explored the subjects of love and hate and at times focused on how the breakup of the relationship also removed the step children that he described as his “H.E.A.R.T”.
Since then Z-RO has consistently pumped out the hits. Chart topping singles, including Top Notch in 2009 and These Days. in 2010, mega collaborations and music videos have kept him on top. In total, Z-RO has 44 musical releases. In 2012 he collaborated with Slim Thug and the single, Summer Time.
Although he is no longer signed to the Rap-A-Lot label, Z-RO explains his departure this way “My eight years were up and I just moved on.” Taking the initiative and using his experience he started his own label K.O.T.G (King of the Ghetto). K.O.T.G is branching out into motion pictures, music video production and of course producing more great music by Z-RO.
2015 saw the release of Melting The Crown. Upcoming releases include Rother sings the Blues (his R&B alter ego and a Hip Hop twist on the name Luther Vandross) and the full release of the Slim Thug, Z-RO album A King and a Boss.
Despite all of his success and surviving the harsh trials of family loss and street life, seeing his athletic career dashed in the matter of seconds, Z-Ro stands out as a man on all sides of the coin. His story is inspirational to those who are self aware and like me, it shocks and bewilders reasonable people how one person can withstand so much and not just quit the game, totally turning rogue. His heart for humanity, may be his saving grace as a human being, realizing he’s been blessed, even though experiencing the “fluckery” of an industry built by super hustlers, he’s still in the streets but with a different mission. One might find Z-Ro lending a helping hand to the homeless, talking to kids and making select appearances at charitable events and just living up to the mandate that “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Nobody can tell Z-Ro’s story like he can so listen in to our exclusive conversation and meet the man most only know for his music and a few get to meet on a totally different level. He doesn’t help out of a wish for accolades or admiration, he’s just being the humble giant and doing the right thing as we all should…nuff said.
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