Z-Ro: An Even Darker Version of Drake
Drake catches plenty of slack for being "emotional." It's an odd thing. Some of hip-hop's brightest moments have come from a place of catharsis and authenticity. When considering the Drake discography, it wouldn't come as a surprise if the word Drake was actually Latin for "catharsis" and "authenticity."
With that considered, Houston's own Z-Ro and the No. 1 Nothing Was the Same rapper bear a lot of similarities. Both have perfected the sing-rap flow and are intensely brooding characters who tend to treat the listener like a recommended therapist -- except you're really the one shelling out cash for these sessions.
Z-Ro and Drake are analogous characters in rap. Drake is an uplifting emotional figure who digs up old wounds from a place of triumph. Z-Ro is a gloomy figure who speaks to a dejected soul and taps into present melancholy. A large portion of Z-Ro's music grazes over a present introspection of struggle, whereas Drake's content derives from retrospective thoughts of perceived hardship.
"Started From The Bottom" takes us back to Drake's troubles as a young adult in Toronto. Here -- not that it completely matters -- it is important to note that as a youngun Drake was a child star, but this is Canadian television and he was the breadwinner for himself and his disabled mother. During the bridge toward the song's end, Drake sings "fuck a fake friend, where your real at?", a message that people can be snakes in the grass that rumbles through his monotone schoolgirl-chantish crooning.
A similar sentiment is found at the start of Z-Ro's first verse on "One Deep," where he proclaims "don't have to come around my way, 'cause I don't want another fair weather friend with a trick up his sleeve." Both rappers express trust issues with those telling lines and are an indicator of their parallel mindsets. However, the surrounding content of the songs reveal where and why they differ from one another. "One Deep" is Z-Ro's cynical manifesto, an oft-expressed philosophy of being able to do bad all by himself. Z-Ro finds solace in his solitude.
"Started From The Bottom," though, is a victory lap, where Drake decides to bring his whole team along for the ride. He's being triumphant, hence why he decides to reveal that he "wear[s] every single chain even when I'm in the house," a telling line about both his vanity and a realization of clamoring onto a tangible representation of success.
Z-Ro, a hometown hero, hasn't found a wild amount of success outside of Texas. If he had a Sprite commercial at some point, he too might say ridiculous thing in song like Drake. However, he's still making music in his backyard. He's still in sync with the reality that most of us live in.
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Z-Ro and Trae Tha Truth (left, background) at the November 2012 ABN Reunion, House of Blues
Photo by Marco Torres
On "Respect My Mind," Z-Ro sings "losing the way that I lose, I get gray hairs/ Take a bruise in the way I've been bruised and you'll see why I don't care." Z-Ro brings us to a place of melancholy and despair. His apathy plays opposite to Drake's chest-bumping.
"The Language," again finds Drake speaking of his unimportance in the past, but finds the man resilient in the end. "Motherfuckers, never loved us," Drake raps, only to add in "remember?" for some extra punch.
Drake has often mentioned past relationships he's had women in a positive light, a reason he catches most of his criticism. Z-Ro's "I Hate U," which chorus so eloquently states "I never thought I'd say, I hate you, bitch" brings an opposing viewpoint to the table. Both Drake and Z-Ro find love or something close to it, but tend their wounds in completely opposite manners. Drake often thinks of his exes and wonders what wrong and maybe what he could've done right. Z-Ro, though, looks back ambivalently, wishing he could have a mulligan.
The manner in which both Z-Ro the cynic and Drake the optimist present themselves make them two of the most genuine rappers alive. It's the way they purge their souls, rather than rap innocuously with no aim. It isn't humane to excessively think of excess. So if you're in the mood to feel like a champion or intensely bask in your feelings, both Drake and the Mo City Don have got you covered.
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