Q&A: Zii | Rock Candy

Q&A: Zii

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In advance of his show at Maxximum Impact tonight — his first in Little Rock in several years and likely his last for the near future — one of Little Rock's most charismatic rappers talked to me yesterday (on his 27th birthday!) about collaborating with Mike Shinoda, the influence of "The Muppet Babies" on his artistic philosophy and redefining not just the rap game, but all of music.

First off, where you been gone so long?


Man, I just came back from L.A. I won a contest through a website called wemix.com, which is actually sponsored by Ludacris. It’s been running for a little over a year. There’s probably 60,000 artists on the website, and I’m ranked number two right now.

Earlier, they had a contest with the mastermind behind Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda, and the contest consisted of doing music that portrayed his art, and I ended up getting picked out of like 90,000 entries and that came down to a list of 20, and he had to pick from that list five, and I was in that five and then everybody else had to vote, and I won. So I went to L.A. got in the studio with him — cool guy — and we did a record, and I made a lot of connections.

But that was like six months ago. I’ve been here for six months, but I’ve been under a rock doing this “Zii Dimensional” album.

So where’s the Mike Shinoda album?

It wasn’t an album. It was a song called “Stories of the Lost” that’s going to premier with his second art exhibit in the fall. Whether it’s here in the U.S. or in Tokyo or the U.K., I don't know.

But before L.A., I was in Ohio, doing portions of my album there, working with two producers, one by the name of Big Mack, who works out of R. Kelly’s camp. He produced “Rollin'” that made it on R. Kelly’s last album. Then there’s another producer, Peanut Ronald Sauce, who landed the second single on Jill Scott’s first album.

So I’ve been a few different places, for four to five months, then I’m somewhere else again. The funny thing about it is that I’ve been working on this album for four or five years, but I never knew I was working on it until when I came out here. The only thing I knew I was making a lot of songs, but executing a song is totally different than executing an album if you want to have your version of perfection and surpass the city, surpass the state and surpass the country and eventually hit the world.

Where did your catch phrase, Waca Waca, come from?

Wounds are like colors to me. When I hear certain types of sounds it expresses certain types of colors. And when I was a little kid, I thought it was so bright and animated when I would watch Fozzie on “The Muppet Babies,” and every time he would tell a joke that no one liked, they’d always be like “Fozzie!” and he’d go “Waca Waca Waca!” But at the end of the day, regardless if they liked it or not, he was always the center of attention. Obnoxious or not, he was always the center of attention. As I got older, I decided, why not be my version of obnoxious. But you can’t deny my approach. At the end of the day, when you hear the music, “Poppin’ in your locker, Zii! Wowzas! Waca Waca Waca!” Like all in your shit. This is what I do. This is what I was born to do. I’m going to be the center of attention regardless if you like it or not. WACA. WACA. WACA.

So when is Zii Dimensional going to come out?

October. Every single Internet store known to man is going to have it. I’m doing the album through Disc Makers. I’ve got the same people who mastered Eminem’s last album mastering my album. Before the spring, I’ll have a distribution deal with a major, but it’ll be tangible in October.

You say that hopefully or you have something lined up?

[Laughs] I never really understood how people could say, “I’m not able to say this.” I always thought that was bullshit, but then I started understanding the politics, so I have to regretfully not answer that one. What I can say is that I’m 27 today. I will not be 28 and still try to figure out if the world’s ever going to know about Zii Dimensional.

So what should people expect at the show?

Not a rapper, I know that. You’re going to get an artist who happens to do rap. You’re going to get, and I’m probably going to copyright this, it’s a new movement of music: “reach-out music.” Which of course stems from the meaning of “Zii Dimensional.”

I want to be able to do music that’s so vividly clear that you can’t believe that you’re listening to it. My album is a movie. I’m not saying it in the stereotypically sense. I’m breaking it down, literally, from my brain, from beginning, middle to end. It’s formatted like a soap-movie, but it’s on some next level kind of stuff.

It’s just like the single, “I’m On My Grind.” Stereotypically, you think from that title alone you’ve got me pegged, but when you hear the record, it throws you for a loop. So if you’re able to get that off my single, which is already going to be redefining what music is supposed to represent right now, and then you see my album cover that looks like a damn movie display of something coming soon, you should already know what the show’s going to be like.

I feel like every 10 to 15 years somebody comes along off some redefining shit. Some times it gets a little spooky standing on the front lines by yourself until you establish the movement. But I guarantee I’m going to be the next version of what’s to come. Not just in rap music, but for music period.

[Earlier: Zii, still grinding]

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