March Madness: Z-Ro vs. the World

With so much news to that flies by in the Houston rap scene, luckily we are here to sit back and deal with all of the madness. Welcome to our own version of March Madness, where we're delivering stories every workday to keep you occupied with the ins and outs of the Houston rap landscape.

Z-Ro lookin' sharp at the Arena Theatre, January 2011
Z-Ro lookin' sharp at the Arena Theatre, January 2011

Where do you even begin with the last seven days in Houston? Beyond the mix of cold and warm weather and Mother Nature unable to makeup her mind in some instances, the one thing that has been damn near flame broiled for a long period of time is the rap scene. Every day it seems we've been stockpiling new material to sift through.

The first issue came about a week ago as Z-Ro was doing press for his recently released Melting the Crown album. The main impetus behind Z-Ro's latest album is not any of the major features -- Rick Ross shows up on the radio single, "Keep It Real" -- but rather his comments regarding the unity of the city's rap artists.

"There ain't no togetherness in the music," he told XXL. I've been saying that for years. Everybody wanna be the man by themselves and there's no synergy working. I mean, it's cool everybody can pay they bills, but I mean, our rap scene's fucked up. It's not a music city anymore."

In a way, Z-Ro is right. I've often compared the city's rap scene to that of a Royal Rumble. In no way is it the halcyon days of 2004-05, when everyone was building towards something and Asylum built a longstanding bridge between Houston acts and major labels.

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I could have argued even louder that two of DeLorean's last projects; Grace and Hood Politics 2 should have been treated much bigger; that Propain should have more singles on the radio; that "Father's Day" didn't need to be shopped around like it was a vent session from a brand-new artist. And that BeatKing's harder records, the ones where he displays just how much of a genius he actually is in a street capacity could live right next to his ratchet ones. The list goes on.

The city still remains the Wild West and Z-Ro will still be a bit of an outlaw through it all. His music certainly reflects it.

Melting the Crown comes with the same kind of closure his personal "drug" series had some five years prior. The Rap-A-Lot deal, the one he's been personally trying to shed for most of his decade is finally over and he can make the music he's proud of. The efforts that made heroic fronts such as Let the Truth Be Told and Crack favorites not just to fans but critics alike. After last year's rather surprising The Crown marked a return to the Ro who seemingly always had a vendetta against any beat tossed his way, it all continues here.

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Ro's best aspects these days are his snide moments of comedy. He's never been one of the more, shall we say, "softer" rappers when it comes to the fairer sex. He's been shooting for equality between men and women for years. His idea of equality however is that snake dudes and women can get the exact same treatment. "Don't Stop Now" picks up with guitar licks and Ro's voice even more muddled that usually. It could double as a sequel to his 2004 classic "I Hate You Bitch," because he wishes his specific chick gets run over by a METRO bus. He scoffs at her not being able to have a car, child support and the even crueler remark of hoping a bunch of dogs with rabies gang-rape her. Christ.

Production-wise, The Cold Chamber and Beanz N Kornbread handle the bulk of Melting the Crown. Considering how Z-Ro has treated his music for the past decade or so, finding a synergy with both outfits has turned into a blessing. Ro doesn't have to find outside work, Beanz N Kornbread and the Cold Chamber are his go-to's. They trade synth and drum melodies for the album's first four tracks, among them the rugged "Intro," where Ro pretty much outlines the entire album in five minutes, and the Ross moment on "Keep It Real." From there, Crown ebbs and flows between typical Ro topics such as his mother, the streets, women and more. There are no new topics to anyone who's followed Ro ever since his Street Military and Screwed Up Click days, but they still sounds strong.

Ro himself may consider Melting the Crown a bit of a throwaway album. It wasn't heavily promoted and may barely register a bit of a dent in Soundscan because it's ultimately a Z-Ro album. Still, that doesn't move Ro one bit. He may be reluctant to completely call himself a legend but he's happy that he gets to clock in and clock out every single day singing the blues. He's alluded to the idea that A King & A Boss may be on ice for now, but there's plenty more coming from Ro. Out of sheer boredom, he may drop a new tape tomorrow.

Til then, it's Z-Ro vs. the World. As it has been since the "Fondren & Main" days.

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