When a conservative talk show host like Michael Berry plays a song by The Mo City Don Z-Ro, it’s almost a guarantee that a completely different audience is hearing Houston rap.
And that’s kind of the point.
“Z-Ro’s the man,” Charles 'Big Angry' Adams says. His Angry Justice radio show, which runs on a sister conservative talk station (KPRC 950 AM ) to Berry’s syndicated program, has featured Z-Ro as co-host since at least March.
“I wanted to bring in a different voice. If you sit down and talk enough with Z-Ro, he’s a very cerebral cat. And he’s not beholden to any ideology,” Adams says.
“I never thought he would be the guy who shows up every Saturday.”
Despite having to hit the road for shows, as he tours for his final album, No Love Boulevard, Z-Ro keeps his commitment to the airwaves.
“For me personally, as a working rap artist I get to touch a whole different people that wouldn’t know a damn thing about Z-Ro or what he represents,” he says. “And on a personal side I get to come in here and vent about issues in the news. This is another outlet for me to get out my thought process to not just my people, but to who I would consider the other people.
Who in the hell would think Z-Ro would be up in here, talking about something other than I’m gonna knock you out?”
This radio odd couple has been a partnership that’s benefited both personalities as they sip beer together, exchange jokes and points of view on the newsy topics of the day. They also get to poke fun at Z-Ro’s notorious stalker, a female fan who calls in every week.
It’s a show that talks about everything from Ronald Reagan, to immigration and criminality, to the latest civilian-shot-by-police story. And always, there’s a depth to the Mo City Don that not everyone gets to know, especially when you try to peer through his trademark black shades
The first meeting between Adams and Z-Ro came about just over a year ago, when super-producer Mike Dean brought the two together at his New York City restaurant Belle Reve.
“Mike Dean was like hey, this is my partner, he’s a trial lawyer and a judge,” Z-Ro remembers. Adams’ demeanor and openness struck Z-Ro, he says. Besides you never know when you’re going to need to know someone with a Harvard law degree.
Adams originally met Dean some time ago through their mutual friendship with Bun B.
The group happened to be meeting on the same night as the Dallas police shootings, and they got into a deep discussion over food and drinks. Dean and Z-Ro left the dinner to record “No Justice No Peace,” and they sent it to Adams in the wee hours of the morning. They were looking for feedback from him since he was a former South Houston cop. He loved the song.
That night in New York led to occasional lunches in Houston between Z-Ro and Adams. It didn’t take long for Adams to convince the rapper to join him on the radio.
“I like to hear the sound of my own voice,” Z-Ro says. “But then, I like talking about real issues on a different platform. For the last 20 years I’ve just been rapping. They don’t care about what I’m saying, they’re worried about what I’m making rhyme; they care if I’m singing.
Now, it’s just, ‘OK, well what do you think about this?’ I’m like damn someone wants’ to know what I think?”
Listen to the show enough and from time to time you get the off-the-cuff Z-Ro. He opens up as he’s done numerous times on his records.
On one recent show a chat about high school performance gets directed towards Z-Ro, and he leans into his microphone. In the softest growl he tells a quick story about how getting shot in his back with a .357 magnum ended his lifelong dreams of joining the NBA, and eventually led to him dropping out of school. “You cannot pass a physical with a bullet lodged into your back when you’re 16,” he says.
Adams takes the moment and spins it back into the theme of the day’s show, which is individualism. It’s the making of something out of yourself, bootstrapping and hard work.
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At many points the show can verge off topic, not always serious, and usually in a hilarious back and forth between Adams and Z-Ro. The rapper deadpans his responses to whatever Adams can throw at him.
With his deep background in law, Adams also gets to expound gloriously on legal-related matters of the day. When the topic switches to the Philando Castile case, something Z-Ro wanted to discuss, Adams first asks the Mo City Don what he thinks about the jury acquitting Jeronimo Yanez.
“I think it’s the norm. You were an officer,” Z-Ro says to Adams. “You put your life on the line every day. If anything ever comes up between an officer versus a civilian, that officer is going to be held in such a high regard just because of the job that he is doing. I think that plays a major role,” he says.
In a lot of ways it seems like Z-Ro enjoys the feedback he gets on his social media from people whose minds are boggled by the idea that Z-Ro can articulate his thoughts. “I don’t want to say that people take me as a dumb n-word, but I mean, a lot of people probably do,” he says.