The H-Town Countdown, No. 11: Z-Ro's Let the Truth Be Told
Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Z-Ro Let the Truth Be Told (Asylum, 2005)
This is our second entry from Joseph McVey. He landed at the No. 20 spot with The Life of Joseph McVey, which, as we described in our write-up, "was important for one big, big reason: it represented the budding of the artist that Z-Ro eventually became." Let The Truth Be Told, which immediately followed The Life... in Ro's discography, is a natural continuation of the maturation process he began on that album. And because Let... is the album that saw Ro blossom into a genuine thoroughbred artist, it is (and likely will remain) the most important of his career. Dissecting the appeal of Z-Ro is simple, really, because you can only like him for either one of two reasons: 1) he's just like you, in which case he presents your struggle and day to day hardship in an artistically integral manner that not only empowers you, but emboldens you; or 2) he's nothing like you, in which case he presents someone else's struggle and day to day hardship in an artistically integral manner, and thank God you don't have to deal with all that shit. Of course, both of these are the exact same thing.
Because you're a smart person, we'll assume that you understand there is a foundational difference in the premise of a relationship that develops between beings that are alike and one that develops between beings that are not. We can skip right past that. So we're sitting staring at the problematic "How can Z-Ro have the same relationship with someone who has no personal experience with what he's talking about as he does with someone who has lived under very similar circumstances?" thing. It's big picture stuff. Z-Ro is so much not like you (street certified, genuinely depressed, woefully star-crossed) that he's exactly like you (completely lost in his own skin). He's the rare tough guy rapper that wholly understands the futility of being a tough guy rapper, and that realization tinges everything he does with an amount of desperation that endears him to seemingly everyone without allowing him to personally connect with anyone. The disfranchisement doesn't solely affect one fan base any more than it does the other, because it affects them both completely.
It's madly ironic that he's talked about his heartbreak and loneliness so perfectly that it's provided a level of fame that has only magnified each. This is a variation of the "I'm So Good At What I Do That I Inevitably Trap Myself Into The Very Position I'm Talking About Not Trapping Myself In" principle that undercuts and empowers K-Rino. Ro's music is wildly reactionary, which humanizes all of it, particularly the obvious contradictions in it. At one moment, he's a True Hero Under God who's done nothing more than scribbled in a pad; at another he's shooting at women. Cocaine might melodically go front to back better, and Crack might have been more expansively produced, and Look What You Did To Me might be realer, but from the legendary "Mo City Don Freestyle," which is Z-Ro's equivalent to drawing a perfect circle freehand, to the ghostly "Help Me Please" to "Auntie & Grandma" to the Luther Vandross-inspired "1 Night" that he tag-teamed with Trae, Ro has never has he offered a more conceptualized representation of that incidental grit than on Let the Truth Be Told . References 12. Street Military, Don't Give a Damn 13. DJ Screw, 3 N' Tha Mornin' Pt. 2 (Blue) 14. Trae, Restless 15: Chamillionaire, Mixtape Messiah 16: Bushwick Bill, Little Big Man 17: SPM, Never Change 18: Swishahouse, The Day Hell Broke Loose 19: Chamillionaire and Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct 20: Z-Ro, The Life of Joseph W. McVey 21: Ganksta NIP, South Park Psycho 22: Big Hawk, H.A.W.K. 23: K-Rino, Time Traveler 24: Pimp C, Pimpalation 25: Big Moe, City of Syrup Read the rules of The Countdown here.
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