How are you doing man?
Zo the Jerk: “Fresh off the plane…”
Where are you coming from?
Zo the Jerk: “Just got back from Kansas City. Now I’m back home.”
So are you born and raised here in Detroit?
Zo the Jerk: “Yessir, North End boy. And then I was raised on the Westside on Montrose.”
Ok, so what was it like growing up here in the “D”?
Zo the Jerk: “It had its challenges economically but those challenges create ingenuity at the same time. So it was a much needed stomping ground to get you prepared for life, so to say. There’s no other people like Detroit, nowhere on the planet.”
Zo the Jerk: “Actually I had a buddy, oh man…probably started maybe 20 years ago and he just liked to rap and tell me,”rap” “rap”. So one day I just tried it and loved it ,then I heard Dana Dane and then we started researching it and hearing Grandmaster Flash going back and hearing the stuff and I just fell in love with it. And ever since then I wanted to perfect the craft. So I’m still on that escapade to perfect the craft, but the love hasn’t went nowhere.”
Ok, so who are some of your influences growing up? Whether it’s from the “D” or New York, California?
Zo the Jerk: “I would say Dr. Dre, his whole history and catalog of music kinda inspired me. DJ Quik who is from the West Coast. Biggie took it to another level for me. His wordplay was kinda like a, kinda jazzy and I was just digging the way his flow sound. Then of course you had Tupac, u got Eminem, u got Big Proof, and it’s the whole Detroit Hip-Hop scene just made me fall deeper in love. Because I didn’t know it was so many talented people here. You got Guilty Simpson, Boldy James, Super M.C., you got Black Milk, you got Cashis Clay.It’s a lot of talent in the city….”
Zo the Jerk: “Yea, I did that. So the stint I did in the movie, I was an extra and they used a couple of my cars throughout the movie. So I was in the battle scene, where they shot at the dudes with the paint guns. I was in several scenes in the movie. Those were some long days like 18, 19 hour days…. ”
What was it like on the set?
Zo the Jerk: “Long,long days and it was cold. It was freezing when they shot it…but the checks were nice. (Laughs) The checks were real nice….”
You think that movie was a accurate portrayal of Detroit at that time?
Zo the Jerk: “I do. I can honestly say I do. They did good job of preserving how it is growing up in Detroit where the most random things can happen at any time for any reason. They did a great job of capturing that. Shoutout to Eminem for preserving that in that movie. Because still today it’s being talked about as a cult classic at this point.”
Man, that’s one of my favorite movies of all time. So, I mean I felt like it portrayed from what I know Detroit very accurately.
Zo the Jerk: “Yea, it did.”
Zo the Jerk: “That guy was a….he was a personality. He was a good mentor and he was a good friend. I don’t have bad stories about him, ya know? Any wild things that he did like that. But he was a great practical joker. So one day we were in this office and I was drinking a Corona and I sat it down and turned my back because we were playing I wanna say 2k or something like that. And he had this hot sauce called “Ass Reaper” and he took some and put it around the rim of my beer. I didn’t know, so everybody chuckling ya know? I go ahead and take a sip, lips got numb and I’m like,” what’s this?” Everybody dying laughing that he got me with the practical joke. Then he would also do Tyrannosaurus Rex, running around like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and try to bite people. He was a good, fun guy. He was always so energetic, that was a great tragedy for the city.”
You have the Humanitarian of the Year award. What was that all about?
Zo the Jerk: “Well in Kansas City I was coaching a lot of kids basketball and doing a lot of mentoring with boys because when I would be out with my sons I would notice that there were never no fathers around. Whether white,black,asian…the fathers were always off working. I guess historically that’s what we do, we go hunt and gather but they weren’t really there to teach these boys how to be men. So you had a lot of kids real whiny or just different behavior problems that I was seeing. So I just started getting real serious about working with them and just trying to teach them and show them what a man is and how to behave as men. Because the gender roles get kinda confused where they would behave like little girls a lot and I’m like,”dude if you scrape your knee you can’t have an anxiety panic attack” we gotta learn to deal with things. Just something that small translates big over time because that’s how you first learn problem solving. Learning things from a scrape of a knee gets better over time. But, I kept doing that and I was blessed to win that Humanitarian Award at the Kansas City Hip-Hop Music Awards.”
Zo the Jerk: “So I went from Detroit to Kansas City, from Kansas City to Ohio. I follow the bag. (Laughs) Wherever the money going that’s where I go.”
Smart man,smart man….
Zo the Jerk: “So it’s a matter of uhm, you have to position yourself strategically for success. Success doesn’t come to you sometimes you have to go get it. So with Proof dying in the city, it sparked a lot of violence in the city. Ya know the city was hurt, so when Detroit mourns it normally brings about a lot of violence. So I had just had my son and decided I had an opportunity to go to Kansas for some work, why not just go so I went. I didn’t know a soul ,I moved into a hotel stayed there for a month. Ya know I was always getting a couple dollars working and then I bought a house and that was the way that went. And then from there I wanted to make more money, so I started fishing again and transitioned over to Ohio.”
Whats the scene like in Kansas music wise?
Zo the Jerk: “Oh it’s beautiful. They have a beautiful scene in Kansas. Tech N9ne is doing a magnificent job opening up the gateway and showing them how to do shows. I would say they’re live performances are probably on a different level of other cities due to the fact of what Tech N9ne created. But if you never experienced his live show, you probably wouldn’t know what I’m talking about but he puts on an actual show. He’s not just an M.C. that just prance back and forth. He made me look at my show different like ok I need to put on a performance, I can’t just get up here and just rap. So he kinda changed the game as far as the Hip-Hop scene and being independent goes. So their scene is striving great, their jazz scene is magnificent. They got a rich jazz history, very rich in arts. It’s a beautiful city if you get a chance to visit it.”
So for all the new fans who are not familiar with you, take us back to some of your earlier projects.
Zo the Jerk: “First solo project was,”Zo the Jerk” when I was kind of redefining myself musically after the whole the whole Big Proof thing because when we were with Big Proof, we were in a group called IMACK. So when I left the group everybody parted ways. The two other members went to Arizona and I was in Kansas City. So I started to redefine myself as Zo the Jerk so I had to figure out what Zo the Jerk sound like so to speak. So I started to learn how to be more vulnerable in music and not cater to what a club single or a radio single or what everybody else is doing, I stepped out on my own. And then it blossomed into “The Jerk 2″. “The Jerk 2” was a great project but it was still that transition of “ok, I need a radio song” but I wanted to sound more like me. So then it went to “Live the Reality Show”. “Live the Reality Show” is a whole album about a conversation that I had to have with myself about where I was at as a man. You know what I’m saying? It was more spiritual, dealing with the economic plight of black people and then I transitioned to,”Black Beach” and then I refound it…now we got it on the money.”
Speaking of “Black Beach” that’s the new album coming out May 26th. We’re days away from that. How did you link up with Frost Gamble for this project?
Zo the Jerk: “We had the same publicist and she became a great friend. She’s actually an activist out in Ferguson, so with her work doing that it kind of took her away from being our publicist for a minute because she was so entrenched in fighting that struggle. So I met Frost, I was doing a podcast called the JN radio. He was my first guest, I interviewed him and we clicked almost immediately because we had so many similarities. So we call eachother twins so we formed like a brotherhood at this point. From there we went to A3C Music Festival, so we freestyled a music video shoot out there just having fun. Then we went to Detroit and worked on some of “Black Beach” actually in Denaun Porter’s old studio where Eminem wrote some of “Infinite”. So we had a vibe out there because a buddy of mine bought that property so we kicked it in there. And me and Frost have been like unstoppable since, we been close friends man. That’s my brother.”
Do you like working with one producer for a project or do you like working with multiple producers?
Zo the Jerk: “That question has a lot of complexities at this juncture. I love working with Frost, Frost gives me the Soul yet I’m a D-boy at the same time so I like some trap beats because I’ve been kinda playing with doing conscious music over trap beats which is not Frost forte’. But he’s like Dr. Dre, I would never not work with Frost, you know what I’m saying? So it’s like a beat has to stimulate me emotionally, that’s kind of difficult to do. So I would work with any producer as long as I can connect with the beat, that’s just my biggest thing.”
So take us on a journey, what went into putting “Black Beach” together?
Zo the Jerk: “So, I went to Ferguson for Mike Brown the one year anniversary of his death and we actually went to VonDerrit Myers candle light vigil. And we kicked it and talk to his grandmother, I interviewed her and I talked to his father. The feeling was just different there. It’s like every night at 11:00 pm when we were there, the police came out, the snipers came out, tanks came out. Like regardless whatever the people were doing, this happened religiously every night at 11:00. And this is not what was being promoted on the news you know what I’m saying? So being able to witness that and be apart of it, I wanted to do something socially responsible. Because I can see the implications of what we do and how it effects our communities and our people. And we are fighting a way different battle than we are speaking about in music. So I decided on taking the people on a journey of what it’s like to be a black man in 2017 in America.”
Now the album features heavy hitters such a Guilty Simpson, Crooked I, Sadat X, & Boldy James. I had the pleasure of interviewing Guilty before and Boldy. How did you pick and choose who was going to be on this album?
Zo the Jerk: “Well Boldy’s my brother, so that’s like a no brainer. I’m actually a Con Creature like that’s my buddy we go way back about 13,14 years.Thats my brother so we always work together anyways. So I was like,”bro just jump on a track” and we ended up using it for this project. Guilty is another one, that’s my dog. I’m also a member of X-Fam you know what I’m saying? I’m so Detroit it’s crazy. But I always wanted to work with Guilt, but I had to get in the right situation. We’ve done songs before when we worked with Conflict, he’s one of the Almighty Dreadnautz, we’ve done a lot of work with him but I wanted to do something special and get him to get on the conscious side for a little bit as well as let him be himself because I’m just a big fan of Guilt. Then Sadat, Frost put the Sadat play together. He was like we should get Sadat on this so I’m like ok if we can make it happen. Frost made it happen and then Sadat did what he always do, he showed up and showed out. But Crooked I that feature was special to me as a M.C. Because you know how you have people you look up to? At first I was like “I don’t wanna do no song with Crooked, he gonna blow me off the song. I am not ready, I am not doin’ that.” You know I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m humble. Crooked I is like a genius, him and Royce (of Slaughterhouse)…not to be touched. So I’m like I don’t wanna do it. So then our label owner was like I can get him if you wanna do it. So me and Frost talked and he was like “you ready?” I’m like man that’s why i didn’t call Royce, you know what I’m saying? Like I’m not trying to get blown off the song, as an M.C. you don’t get blew off your own song. So then I was like alright let’s do it, so then I came up with the whole,”Whispers in the wind” concept and I did what I did and he came and he went nuts. He went nuts as he always do but the song as a whole is beautiful, it’s a real beautiful piece and it also let me know where I stand as an M.C. because I didn’t get blew off the song.”
Who else can we look forward to on the album that I may have not mentioned?
Zo the Jerk: “Let’s see, we got Boldy,we got Sadat, we got Guilt,… We got Coko Butterflie she sang on “Drunk Roses”. She’s a brilliant funk singer from Detroit she is so dope, she so dope B. And it was a pleasure to work with her like we did that song so quick, it just flowed the chemistry was right. Then we got my guy from Kansas City, his name is Eveready the Beast. He’s kinda reminiscent of the Jodeci era. His Soul, but he got so many layers he was able to do the Curtis Mayfield on there. So it was a pleasure working with him. Who else we have on there? Oh! Young Bleed! Bleed..I didn’t forget you buddy. Working with Young Bleed a platinum artist and I’ve loved his music for so long it would always just get me hyped and through Keith Clizark who is a producer we were both working with, he’s like a diamond level producer you know what I’m saying? And me and Bleed kinda conversing, I was like,”man you wanna work?”He was like,”yea” and that brother jumped right on that song man and blessed it and I’m thankful for that. That’s also dope too tho.”
How long do you think it took to wrap this album up? When did you start and how long did it take to complete?
Zo the Jerk: “We threw around concepts probably from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016 November we had to turn it in. And then a week before, I was supposed to turn it in in November I changed 70% of the album. (Laughs) I just listened to it and was like”nah”. And I changed it and I’m glad I did because now I have no regrets on no song.”
What plans does Zo the Jerk have here in the future, right after this album what can we expect from you?
Zo the Jerk: “We gonna work on videos for the project and we’ve already started working on the follow up to it and in between it I’m just going to be layering singles. I’m helping Frost work on his new album he’s coming out with,”I missed the bus”. That’s gonna be classic, it’s some surprises on there man that’s crazy. But I’m gonna stay working and stay relevant. Keep working with Boldy, you know what I’m saying? Keep trying to help bro further his career while he help further mine. We just gonna keep working and building and get this Detroit dynasty where it needs to be.”
Can we expect you touring anytime soon?
Zo the Jerk: “We working on that. That’s actually a complicated layer to get into. So I’ve been getting some offers from overseas, we just really trying to work things out to where it makes time sense with the release of the album. So as soon as I have something more definite locked in I’ll speak on that.”
What about social media wise, where can all your new fans and old fans find you at on social media?
Zo the Jerk: “Y’all can check me out on @thejerknation on Instagram, @thejerknation on Twitter, The Jerk Nation on Facebook and you can find me @therealjerknation on YouTube.”
I appreciate you meeting with me today.
Zo the Jerk: “Aw, brother I appreciate it anytime.”
Any message you want to leave your fans before you get out of here? You made some new fans today, you’re old fans…what would you like to leave them with?
Zo the Jerk: “May 26th! “Black Beach”. Make sure you pick that up, support it this is true Soul music. Real Hip-Hop that means something.”
Where can we find that at?
Zo the Jerk: “It’s gonna be on ITunes, Google Play, Spotify, it’s gonna be everywhere digital music is sold. You’ll find “Black Beach”…..”
Available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, & all digital outlets.