Photography by: Sarah Arnold
Z-man’s first-ever album appearance was in 1996 with his group 99th-Demention, self-titled, which consisted of King Maz, Young Slim, Rev-Cope, Rated R, and Z-man. The group released another album in 1998, “RSP Student,” which only featured Z-man and Young Slim on it. The following two projects were Z-man’s solo projects that Young Slim would then produce. In that same year, Z-man dropped “A Verse or Two” and in 1999, “4 Hours of Sleep,” which gained him some buzz in the streets, notoriety, and recognition as an MC.
In 2003, Z-man signed with Refill Records/Hieroglyphics Crew, leading to “Anti Nerd,” an EP prequel to the LP “Dope Or Dog Food?”. After these brief but impactful dealings, he dropped another independent album, “Don’t forget to Brag,” in 2005. Released around that same time in 2004 was another group effort with L.A.-based members Marty James and MDA to form One Block Radius. They released “Long Story Short,” a very different project musically and more in the alternative genre. In 2008, One Block Radius signed with Mercury/Island Def Jam Records.
In 2010 Z-man put out another EP called “Show up Shut up and Rap” independently through Machete Vox Records. He soon collaborated with fellow MC, Rapper White Mic of Bored Stiff, to create the “Vegetable and the Ferret” in 2011. In 2013 Z-man went solo again to release “California Brainwashed,” followed by his 2014 project, “The Opening Act.”
Z-man is also a painter and illustrator with a broad range of acrylic on canvas paintings that portray a cartoon animated- surrealism style with vibrant, bold color schemes, characters, and creatures referencing black and Hip Hop culture. In addition, he paints all of his album covers, designs his logos and T-shirt art, and paints and designs covers for other artists. Z-Man is a Renaissance man dedicated to the arts and is a frequent collaborator and member of the Gurp City collective.
IRIE sat down with Z-man to share his latest project, ANIMAL SLAVERY, a fourteen-track album where the multi-artist uses his music and voice to stand up for animal rights.
IRIE. Tell us about your background and how you got started in music.
Z-man. My background in the musical arts? I wasn’t classically trained. I just grew up with the music of the ’70s and earlier surrounding me. Soul, R&B, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Rock, and Reggae came later but were the soundtrack of my life.
But then, I heard these electronic beats and sometimes on top of it rapping and rhyming, and some scratching. HIP HOP!!!
That held my attention more than all the grown-up music I was so used to hearing. I was a huge fan of it instantly, and I wanted to get in on that at some point. So I started to write down my favorite verses from MCs, biting them and got the nerve to write my own. There was a whole lot of ‘off the dome’ at first and wack writings.
IRIE. Who are some of your musical influences that helped shape your music style?
Z-man. My influences are kind of a vast mash-up of the music artists my Mamma, my Aunti, my Grandpa, my uncles, and cousins were playing. Cartoons I was watching combined with rappers like Slick Rick and Too $hort, and maybe The Beastie Boys made me want to rap. EPMD was a big influence, too, but Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G Rap made me want to write better.
And having a sense of humor did also. I sound nothing like these people now, but at one point, I did and having a group being in a group shaped me up to rap with my own identity.
IRIE. You’re also a painter and illustrator who produces art for your music projects. How did you develop your cartoon animated-surrealism style?
Z-man. I’m self-taught as far as that all goes, and I have always loved to draw. I started when I was 3, maybe four years old, and ain’t stopped since. My Mamma just let me do it and encouraged me to go for it like the rest of my family did, basically.
I appreciated art my whole life in all forms, watched a lot of cartoons, and went to museums on field trips. I had storybooks I would draw in, collected comic books, read comic strips, and like music, I would bite/copy from.
I found my own little style and used my imagination. Once I got older, I started to summon up crazy images; kind of what if things I wanted to see since I could draw anything. I noticed my art went very well with my music style.
IRIE. Let’s talk about your upcoming album, ANIMAL SLAVERY. This project is in a different direction for you regarding music subjects. What prompted you to use your voice to speak up for animal rights?
Z-man. I’ve always wanted to help out animals in one way or another, and since I didn’t eat them, I figured I speak up for them. (Nico – ‘IRIEEE!’)
Writing a song about animal rights wasn’t the easiest or most hippest thing to achieve. But, fuck it, it’s time I felt enough is enough, and it was something never done before. I wanted to do something different, and unconsciously it happened that way, poof. But it took a long time before I dialed in on it and got the courage to push forward.
Being creative comes easy, but knowing what you are talking about without being preachy and pushing was a bit challenging, only because I hoped not to sound self-righteous and more compassionate about this crisis.
IRIE. Your lyrics don’t hold back on describing the reality of how animals suffer in the food industry. Tell us why it was important to be genuine and honest with your words?
Z-man. No, I’m definitely not one to hold back for the sake of honesty and creativity. This needed to be heard; this needed to be done and told like this. It’s important because there are too many unnecessary deaths and diseases and for what?
Why are we still going about it in this barbaric neanderthal ignorant way? Money? Is it all because the whole world or half of it refuses to eat fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables? I needed to shift my disdain for this to be known on record; you get me? Educate people on what is being done to these creatures.
IRIE. You weren’t always vegan. When did you first reset your mindset for a vegan lifestyle?
Z-man. I first became vegetarian and wasn’t very good at it. But I tried harder and got smarter, more compassionate, and honest with myself.
I was vegan off and on; I consumed fish here and again for a while. But I kept threatening to stop eating them. Ex-girlfriends were like, no, baby. They didn’t care, and I was ready to take it to the next level; plus, how could I eat fish and feel sorry for the land critters only?
It was wrong, and I have been solid for several years straight now and feel much, much better.
IRIE. Do you consider yourself an outspoken Vegan?
Z-man. I’m not outspoken enough. I don’t tell my friends or family what to eat or how they should eat, and that’s a shame on my part! Hah! They are dying and sick and in denial. I do give advice, but these people are crazy about their food.
And most people are conditioned and don’t care. They might love animals but only the ones they wouldn’t eat—Slave food.
IRIE. We love the music production on ANIMAL SLAVERY. The flow between lyrics and music is IRIE! Can you take us behind the scenes in producing the music for ANIMAL SLAVERY?
Z-man. I got a bunch of CDs full of Tahaj the 1st beats and sat with them a while, along while then slowly choosing the ones to write to.
The music made me rap the way I did, but the ideas were there already. I like to be very unpredictable in how I come off with tracks. I also do research unless I hear about or remember something terrible I saw or knew of.
After anything great is written, l go to the studio and rap, as it was written like a script. Then, after the vocals are laid, I sprinkle in some commentary, sound effects, and maybe more vocals, making each song unique and entertaining.
IRIE. Are there any plans for live shows to support the album release of ANIMAL SLAVERY?
Z-man. Not now, but I will add some of these songs to my song list, show list, and list. I have a few shows coming up, and I’ll try these to see how my supporters react to them. But I do plan on doing something in support of this album specifically. It’s been two years not performing; shit is crazy.
IRIE. Is there a track on ANIMAL SLAVERY that resonates most with you?
Z-man. That’s a good question; I like these songs but yet to have one favorite. I have a few I resonate with, like “All in the name of Protein,” “Givin up,” “Vegan Venus,” and ” Carnism Based Diet .” That could change, but off the top, those are the ones.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans and first-time listeners take with them after listening to ANIMAL SLAVERY?
Z-man. I hope they like how I’m rapping and how my voice sounds. I really hope they appreciate the efforts, information, and passion put in along with the production. I hope that I can help them understand what is really happening that they are too scared to look at with their heads in the sand.
And if they like what they hear and get where I’m coming from, both artistically, they should consider telling other people and looking me up and possibly considering a life change.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?
Z-man. I just want to say it’s an honor to have this grandtastic opportunity to open up and be featured on this subject in IRIE Magazine. I feel blessed and grateful, Hella Healthy. I will also have merchandise like prints, T-shirts, and hoodies for the cause, my artwork, of course.
You can check out my art on Instagram @zmaineyzdazzle. My Facebook is the same as zmaineyzdazzle and my Twitter @zmantheoriginal. Also, be looking out for my new projects this year, and you can find my older music on every major streaming service. I will definitely have physical copies of music too.
I wanna thank you, Nico, my brotha! I love you to death! And I hope to help you all get through these urges to want to forever eat flesh.
IRIE. Maaad Love & Respect, Z-man!
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