Zo The Scholar joined us today for a few questions about how he started up his music career and what brought him to be where he is today. His newly released EP titled "Power Move(s)" is full of very lyrical tracks, as the bass knocks his flow just keeps getting realer and realer. "DOA" is a heavy hitter that shows his true style as an artist. Zo has a more trap flow than any other artist we have had a chance to interview. Give his project a listen if you haven't already.
• Where are you from? Have your surroundings shaped you in a creative sense, and in what way?
I am from Detroit, Michigan - I would say growing up in a city like Detroit, my surroundings definitely shaped my creative sense. I've always liked the abandoned houses or the rough looking scenery because it was everyday life to me growing up. It wasn’t until life circumstances took place that I realized how much the Detroit culture influenced my mindset. My mother who was a painter, and aspiring architectural designer which she made sure she kept me involved in various events. She sold her art work around the city to different art gallerias, we went to various art shows, historical museums, or just kept it simple and walked around the city. We often went to the Wayne State University area where I would see college students laying out in the lawn studying, I believe this is what shaped my creative sense, it was inspiring to see this at a young age.
• What’s your background like? Where do you stand on the music scene in your area?
I started out growing up with my mother and father, after life circumstances happened, I went into the foster care system at the age of 8, which taught me a lot about adapting and many other life lessons. I went 10 years without seeing my family, I bounced around a few foster homes, I was in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers, group homes, bootcamps, etc. It wasn’t until I went to a more permanent foster home (age 14) that I found my passion for sports. I was involved in 4 sports in high school, wrestling, football, track and field, and cross country. The discipline I learned from these sports helped me get into college, which I thought was out of the question due to my past. After proving myself wrong and getting accepted to Central Michigan University in 2010 as a student athlete, I begin my college journey. After 3 years of attending CMU, I decided to transfer in hopes to finish my degree in North Carolina. When I left Michigan, I packed my Chevy Blazer as full as I could get it - with one of the items being a microphone. As far as where I stand on the music scene in my area nowadays, I feel like I’m starting to get more active in the Charlotte area. I have been on a few local radio stations like 92.7 The Block and an independent radio station called "True Dreams Radio", which is a great underground indie station for emerging artist in the area. I would like to see myself doing more open mics in 2019, I feel like performance is a major key if you want to be successful in this industry.
• What did you start doing first, producing or rapping? How did you get started?
I started rapping first. I grew up listening to Lil Wayne, Em, Andre 3000, and what fascinated me the most about these artist was their ability to string together creative thoughts that rhymed cleverly. I remember my mom having a cassette player and I would rewind the hell out of her tapes trying to memorize lyrics to Lil Wayne and Eazy-E. I would say I started rapping around 8-9 years old, I was always around people that rapped and freestyled. It wasn’t until my 6th year in college that I started taking it seriously. I always felt like school was something that held me back from music because I always had engineering homework stressing me out. After failing a senior level engineering class, I finally decided to put education on the back burners and pursue music. What really motivated me to start rapping was my uncle asking me to actually sit down and focus on writing to beats he would engineer from scratch. We didn’t have much equipment at the time but we had a strong vision which has helped us develop tremendously overtime.
• Do you have anyone that you consider your mentor? How has their help or advice shaped you?
I have a few mentors in my life that give me good advice when I need it. I have my foster care caseworker Lenair, who knew me since I left the Juvenile Detention Center at age 14. So we have developed a great relationship over the years, from helping me transition out of my juvenile delinquent years to helping me get into college, and helping with that transition. She continues to offer great advice, and I know I can count on her if I ever need guidance. I often joke with her about if I ever make it big, I would buy her big house and make her quit her job so she can become my publicist. I remember when I was feeling down about failing the engineering class I needed to graduate, and her telling me, “what ever it is you’re going to do in life, you have to do it now, you can’t hold back and wait anymore, its time to go.” At the time, she didn’t know I wanted to pursue music, but I interpreted her message as, “whatever you want to do, you need to get a start on it now since school isn’t working out.” So thats what I did, I started taking music more seriously.
• What is one experience in life that, without it, you wouldn’t be the artist you are today?
I think going through the foster care system made me who I am today. I felt like I never deserved to be in the system but we all know how crooked the system can be. It made me strong, resilient and very ambitious to succeed in life. I had to adapt and be around a lot of unfamiliar people, places and things. This taught me how to see things from other peoples perspective, and also taught me to keep fighting for what you want no matter what because all you have is yourself at the end of the day. You have to be your own motivator, you can’t expect no one to be it for you. I think my experiences molded me into a self-driven individual. I believe you have to take control if you want to get where you want go.
• What do you hope to accomplish this year?
I have many things I hope to accomplish this year, such as doing visuals to my first two EP’s. I haven’t had a chance to do any music videos yet because I’ve been busy working my day job and focusing on the music. I would also like to do a few performances at some local venues, just so I can get a feel for what its like. Those are the two biggest things on my priority list as of now.
• What does your work aim to say?
I want people to understand that you can truly do anything you want in this life. You don’t need the silver spoon to get ahead, you can start from behind and still catch up and surpass the silver spoon holders. Its all about your work ethic and how bad you want it.
• Who are your biggest influences and what do you like about them the most?
Coming from Detroit, I would have to say Em is my biggest influencer. I remember listening to songs off of his Infinite Ep and feeling like I could relate to a lot of his lyrics. He rapped about everyday life in Detroit and how crazy it was. I always liked how he could use the craziest analogies and metaphors to describe shit happening around him. I also liked the fact that he could tell a story and make you really envision it. Mos Def, Andre 300, and Lil Wayne would be my other influencers, I like them because I think they truly set the bar to lyric writing and creativity. I like their music and style because its so original and unique, you can tell they didn’t follow the crowd. I like music that has substance and makes you think but still keeps the fun and wittiness in it. Like Kendrick, Cole, Dizzy Wright, just to name a few I think that combination is dangerous.
• How would you describe your own style?
I feel I have a laid back 90’s style, like you didn’t see Mos Def and Em wearing flashy chains or clothes, they kept it simple. I keep it casual and I try to deliver motivating, yet new age shit that we as millennials can relate to. I mostly try to have fun with it but my mom tells me I should use my voice for positive rather than negative. She says the world has enough Tee Grizzley's in it, so I try to use rhyme schemes and ideas that you normally wouldn’t hear rappers talking about. I want to make the listener think like, “damn how’d he think of that word play or how did he relate this idea to the next and make it all tie in.”
• In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
I would say my newer music has gotten a bit deeper, yet simplistic at the same time. My latest project, Power Move(s), each track is really different from the last, and thats because I’m using different flows and rhyming schemes to see what people like more. I would say in the beginning, my flow sounded like I was a nervous kid reading a book in front of the class.
• What are the main inspirations for the lyrics you write?
I think I derive my ideas for lyric writing from personal experiences I had, whether it be from a past relationships or some sh*t talk from somebody on the basketball court. Everything I write about is directly related to my life in some form or another. I think that's where true inspiration comes from.
• What would be your dream venue in which to perform?
Probably somewhere in Detroit like Fox Theater or Little Caesar's Arena, that way my mom can make it out there, she is a die-hard Detroiter who doesn’t like to leave or travel outside the city limits. I would want her there so she can see how far her son has come.
• What’s a song you have stuck in your head these days?
I would probably say Lil Wayne’s Dedicate, so many crazy bars and metaphors, reminds me of that old Wayne, sh*t goes in hard.