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Friday, March 18 • 11:00pm - Saturday, March 19 •12:00am
Gorilla Zoe

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Gorilla Zoe Biography By Ben Westhoff Gorilla Zoe is an MC who can sing, a rapper who’s an intellectual, and a commercial artist who pushes boundaries. “People can’t read me,” he says. “They say, ‘Is he ignorant? But, he can’t be too ignorant!’” By combining his true-life stories about growing up in Southwest Atlanta with an avant-garde sensibility for beats and lyrics, he’s proven himself a dominant hip hop force, with his 2007 debut Welcome To The Zoo hitting #3 on Billboard’s rap chart, and 2009’s Don’t Feed The Animals hitting #1. You can expect his latest, King Kong -- out October 5th on Block Entertainment/E1/Atlantic -- to be similarly beloved by critics and the streets alike. Insists Zoe: “I’ve acquired skills over the years that make me a problem.” From the time he was a toddler Zoe, born Alonzo Mathis, traveled around town with his father, an insurance salesman. While pops was inside someone’s house giving his pitch, Zoe and his sister would sit in the back of his ’82 Regal, with nothing to do but listen to R&B radio for hours. All that music helped him learn song structures and how to sing, and the soft rock and disco his mother played informed his eclectic style as well. “I learned hip hop from the streets,” he says. “But deep in my bones, I have R&B and rock in me.” His father passed when Zoe was nine, and before long he was on his own. A standout running back and strong safety for his high school football team, he was forced to quit after breaking his hand in a game, and saw little reason to stay in school. By his sophomore year he’d dropped out and had begun staying out all night with friends. His mother wouldn’t let him come back home, and so he shipped off to Kentucky in a Job Corps program. But he spent much of his time there practicing his own underground entrepreneurship, selling joints for ten dollars and bottle-capfuls of weed for five. Returning to Atlanta, he became involved with the harder stuff. “When I moved to the West side, it was zombie land,” he says. “That was my introduction to cocaine and crack.” But he also held day jobs, loading trucks for a Kroger warehouse, cleaning planes at the airport, and working in a CD store. “That’s how I started learning the music industry, about record sales and how records were built,” he says. “I became a fan and a student of the creation of music.” He pressed up 5000 copies of his mixtape Hoodlum and sold them all within weeks, and later opened a downtown studio with some investors. But when the studio didn’t take off, he began playing around with the equipment and learning how to record himself. “That was the beginning of Gorilla Zoe,” he says, the nickname he was given because of his explosive temperament: “I’m cool as a motherfucker, but there’s a button that when it goes off, nobody can stop it -- please don’t push it. That boy goes crazy. I’m strong as a goddamn ox.” One of his partners was doing production for impresario Russell “Block” Spencer, and the connection eventually led to Zoe signing with Block’s Bad Boy-affiliated label Block Entertainment. Zoe collaborated with label mate (and West side affiliate) Yung Joc on the hit, “Coffee Shop,” and also replaced Young Jeezy in the gangsta group Boyz n da Hood. Zoe says his work with the act has spurred him on in his solo career. “I learned that the world doesn’t owe you anything, that just because you have a deal, that don’t mean shit,” he says. “Being in that group, there was a lot of catering, a lot of five-star hotels. So, I said, ‘I wanna live this lifestyle and I’m ‘bout to do what I have to to make it happen.’ So that’s what I did, I went hard. Every day’s a fourth quarter for me.” On the strength of single, “Hood Nigga,” his 2007 solo debut Welcome To The Zoo surprised many by cracking the top twenty on Billboard’s pop charts, and led to an appearance on XXL’s “Leaders of the New School” cover. Two years later, his Don’t Feed The Animals was even more successful, hitting #8 on the pop charts and quickly selling more than 100,000 copies. Self-produced banger “Hood Clap,” announced that “I ain’t never graduate/ I can’t even spell recession,” and two inventive hits showcased his softer side. Drumma Boy-produced, Coldplay-inspired ballads, “Echo” and “Lost” went outside of the radio hip hop template with their melancholy moods and introspective lyrics. “I’m making this money/ Just to go spend it,” he raps. “Living the good life/ Hope nobody ends it/ But who are you kidding?/ …You know if they want you/ Best believe they will find you.” Earlier this year he further pushed the genre’s limits by releasing an all-new mixtape every single day during the month of February. “I was just lettin’ the world know that this shit is easy,” he says. King Kong will feature even more of his own production work. In addition to future hood classics – “I can do naked girls, cars, and jewelry like most of these rappers,” he notes -- it will reveal even more of the mystery behind him. “You’ll understand that this dude has read a couple of books,” Zoe says. “I know the formula, and it ain’t just with music, it’s with life.”

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Gorilla Zoe

Gorilla Zoe Biography By Ben Westhoff Gorilla Zoe is an MC who can sing, a rapper who’s an intellectual, and a commercial artist who pushes boundaries. “People can’t read me,” he says. “They say, ‘Is he ignorant? But, he can’t be too ignorant!’” By combining his... Read More →

Friday March 18, 2011 11:00pm - Saturday March 19, 2011 12:00am
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