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Z-Man Interview

 
Z-Man has just released his first full length album Dope Or Dog Food on Refill Records. Affiliated with the San Francisco Bay Area Collective Hieroglyphics, he talks art, 'toons, slang and candy in a Better Propaganda exclusive interview. The interview was conducted in the West Oakland warehouse offices of Hiero Imperium, the Hieroglyphic's label. Shelves and shelves of merchandise fill a room occupied by several staffers huddled behind computer monitors. The highly animated Z-man sits at a naturally lit desk, behind a computer and large sunglasses.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Z-Man

Better Propaganda: So say we could take the old P-Funk Mothership out on a joyride, and we went to some other planet, and there was a civilization there, and we were hangin' out with them...

Z-Man: Uh-huh.

BP: How would you describe what you did on earth to them?

Z: (laughter) What?

BP: Alright. If you had to tell your grandma what you did for a job, what would you tell her?

Z: Oh, I would say I used to dye Now & Laters.

BP: You used to dye Now & Laters?

Z: Yeah, I used to make the flavor for Now & Laters. (laughter)

BP: Alright. Did you make artificial or natural flavorings?

Z: Artificial, of course. The kids need it.

BP: Artificial are the best ones?

Z: Uh-huh, (laughter) it tastes good. Ya know, Corn syrup, all that, ya know, the good stuff man, the kids love, you know.

BP: You're all about sugar and sweet...?

Z: Nah, nah, I'm not actually, I used to eat a lot of sugar, but now, I don't eat sugar, I try to stay away from it a little bit, ya know. I have a song called "No Cure for Sugar."

BP: "No Cure for Sugar" is a song on the new album by Z-man...

Z: Yeah, Uh-huh, because it's the truth, there's no cure for it.

BP: You're hooked, huh?

Z: I mean, a lot of people are hooked, and you can't get away from it, it's in everything, so, it's just how you consume it. (laughter)

BP: So you've got like your first album's in the shops now...

Z: Uh-huh

BP: You've been out on tour a little bit...

Z: Yes.

BP: You've got a publicist working for you, all this stuff. What does that feel like?

Z: It's a little crazy. I mean, you know, at times it's a little overwhelming, but it's NICE. Because I mean, I can do a little bit, but I can't do all that. You know, I can't. And people sometimes say "hey, ah, you're not excited, you're not excited," no, I'm very excited. It's just really, it's crazy. I mean, back home, people are really, really proud of me, and they're really excited that this is happening, you know, they're just like I deserve it basically. And I mean, I feel I do deserve it in some ways, but I'm gonna make music regardless, you know what I'm sayin. So it's like, whether this would have happened or not, or if it would have happened fifteen years down the road, or whatever the case bein', you know, I'm still gonna make music, that's just number one, just out of the love of it, I'm hooked, I can't stop, you know. So.

BP: You're also an artist, and that's something that's always been really strong with all of the Hieroglyphics, as you see really excellent graphic design on their album covers...

Z: Um-hmm

BP: They've got really killer posters, a good website, all this stuff, and you yourself do your own album cover; you're pretty accomplished as an artist.

Z: Yeah.

BP: Do you think some musicians just lose the sight of the fact that they're an artist, and all these things- you know- make your whole body of work stronger. I mean, aren't some people missing that? What's up with that?

Z: I don't know, I guess some people are just really focused on one of their abilities, you know, and they just want to do that, and, I mean, if you can, I don't know...

BP: You're weaving all these different things together...

Z: Yeah yeah yeah. I mean, because it GOES together. I mean, the whole artwork, the whole- just it's all art. I figure, you know, that whole rennaisance, you know, it should just flow like that. You know, because I mean, I love to draw, and I just feel it should go with what I'm doing, because it's so animated. And making my character- it's me for real too- but, it's just, I'm just pretty much a cartoon, you know, just a walking, living cartoon, and I feel that you should be able to hear it, and SEE it too, you know what I'm sayin, like, just see it a little bit, at least, so that's why I incorporate it.

BP: You're talking about the cartoon thing- your album cover is full of like cartoon lyrics, cartoon sound effects, you know, you're pushing that real hard...

Z: A little bit. You know, without even knowing though, sometimes. I mean, you know, it is kinda cartoony.

BP: You still watch cartoons?

Z: Hell yeah.

BP: What are your favorites?

Z: Right now, my favorite- I have to say- is um, "Very Odd Parents," (laughter) it comes on Nickleodeon. And I like "He Man", the new school He-man looks kinda good. A few cartoons just kind of... I don't know... I like "Sponge Bob Squarepants..."

BP: But you grew up watching them?

Z: Yeah, hell yeah. I grew up watching them. I still like "Looney Tunes," the old ones. Good "Tom and Jerry" shit, you know.

BP: So uh, I'm sure you know, over the last year, the term "bling bling" got added to the Oxford Dictionary, which is very formal...

Z: Are you serious?

BP: "Bling bling" is now in the Oxford Dictionary...

Z: (laugher) GOD DAMN!

BP: You're already pretty well known for coming up with all these super-new linguistics and style and vernacular and stuff, and like, you've been pushing that on your website, there's a lot of terminology on your album that's new for people...

Z: I'll tell ya, that's crazy right there, I mean, it's just like they're really tripping on the slang.

BP: Yeah.

Z: I mean, and it's COOL, you know what I mean, but it's like, DAMN, I'm still tripping off the Oxford having "bling bling."

BP: Right. But hey, check this out: if they could take one your words, and put in the Oxford, which one would you put in there, that you know that's not in there?

Z: I'd probably put "rellie" in there, let them know what rellie is.

BP: What is the primary definition of "rellie?"

Z: Primary? Primarily, the definition of "rellie" is like, your GOOD homey, your FRIEND. And it's like you know, he's so tight with you, you know, and- he or she- and that's your RELLIE. Like, you know, short for relative, you know.

BP: Relation.

Z: Yeah, exactly, Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm. So simple.

BP: From listening to your music, it doesn't sound like you're scared of any sound or any word or any rhyme, you've got some really crazy stuff in there...

Z: Yeah.

BP: Where do you stop yourself? Where would you not go with your work?

Z: I don't know, I can't say. You have to be able to say what you want to say. It's like I know some people... I don't know. To me, honestly, when I'm writing it, I just don't think like "what shouldn't I say." I'm always thinking like how to say it, but sound intelligent to say it- you know- but not sound stupid sayin' it. It's like, me, it's more like I'm calling people out really, you know, just calling things out. I think some of these people should say this, and don't be afraid. I know some people are like "DAMN are you serious?" and yeah, I'm serious, but it's not shock value, it's not that, it's just this how I write. It's not a gimmick, I think people should hear these words- especially young people- because it's what we're all going through.

BP: Some of the hieroglyphics material and rhymes can get very overtly political, and you don't seem to go there very much, what are your comments on that?

Z: Umm, well it depends, it depends on the mood too. It's like I would say the only little political words- if any- would be probably "Knock on Wood" and "No Cure for Sugar" and maybe even "God was Watching." It's not so much political, but it's just like something to let people know about. And "Knock on Wood" is more like sort of an upliftment, but it's not like PREACHING, it's not telling people like, "ah yeah, you should..." I don't think I need to preach and tell people what the fuck to do, you know what I mean, it's like they do what they want to do, but this is how it's.... you know, this is what's going on. It's more like I'm painting a picture for them, and they're seeing it, like, instead of just like living it, they're really looking at the mirror. You know what I mean, so...

BP: It's almost like you're notating reality in your rhymes...

Z: Yeah yeah yeah, oh yeah, definitely. And I mean, I have fun with it, I'm very imaginitive with it, so...

BP: You've done a lot of murals, huh?

Z: Mmm-hmmm.

BP: So is a song like a mural, yeah?

Z: Yeah, oh yeah, definitely. Uh-huh, definitely. Every song, every song. With me, I like detail, and I like to make sure the listener can visualize EVERYTHING, like EVERYTHING, so, and I'm having fun with it. It's just fun to write, fun to write the shit that I write. And that isn't even it, I mean, there's more to come that's more like- you know- like OKAY... people will be like probably be on like "WHAT THE FUCK?," you know what I'm sayin,' but it's good stuff though, "keep the writing good," that's my motto.

BP: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Z: Doing more shows, touring more. I want to get out more for a few months, take some trips, really perform in front of more people. Do more songs, drop more albums, you know, make more projects.

BP: So you'll be busy then?

Z: I'll be busy. Then, maybe chill out for like maybe a month, and then get back on it, you know, STRONG. I just want to give people the shit. It's nice to be an underground artist and do what you want to do, but also, if other people can listen... you know, I just want people to you know, appreciate it, you know, basically appreciate what I'm doing and what I'm giving to them, you know. And that's it.

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