Return of Z-Man
One of Chico’s favorite visiting rappers talks about hip-hop and white girls with booty
It started back in ‘98, when a Bay Area hip-hop crew known as Sacred Hoop was invited to play Chico by poster artist and MC “Aye Jay” Morano of local group the Becky Sagers. In the years since, with every local party or club date, the legend of Zamon Christian (otherwise known as Z-Man) continues to grow.
“Z-Man from the group 99th Dimension is the dopest unsigned rapper out right now,” hypes Luke Sick from Sacred Hoop. And the hordes of young partygoers who catch the San Francisco rapper’s act seem to agree.
“Now I play Z’s music so much, I’ve managed to annoy my wife, co-workers, baby son, random passersby and Jesus Christ himself,” adds Morano from his Tower Records workplace.
The Z-Man’s style is difficult to describe. Suffice to say that he brings a lot of energy and lyrical savvy to the stage while incorporating many Bay Area hip-hop influences. Some tell me that, like Kool Keith, Z has a number of other personas that rap, such as (possibly) the Gingerbread Man, who is currently featured in an interview on the Grandroyal.com Web site conducted by Chico hometown hero and rising star Marty James (a.k.a. Scapegoat Wax).
The CN&R decided to chat up Z-Man before his next gig at Moxie’s on Aug. 17.
Are you looking forward to coming back to Chico?
Hell yeah, I love comin’ out there. That’s like second-home shit. It’s tight ‘cause the love is in the air. It’s all good.
What’s a day in the life like for Z-Man?
Day in the life? It’s like this: Trying to go out and get some work done right, I do a little temp stuff, running around tryin’ to do that, you know? I might get some work, and I might not. Then I’m thinking of lyrics, like 24-7. I’m ridin’ my bike everywhere I go, thinking of lyrics. Then I’m thinkin’ of drawings I gotta do. People calling me ‘cause they want this done. And I’m calling them for the getback or whatever, this and that. Tryin’ to build with people rappin’ and stuff. Trying to record as much as I can just song for song for song, ‘cause that’s what I love doin'. Sometime getting all gurped on the weekends, sometimes not. Just trippin’ on life more. Runnin’ with Ginger, runnin’ with Slim, you know, tryin’ to call my brother, nigga not answering the phone. Dealing with my wife, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s kinda you know. Other than all that, it’s cool. It’s kinda crazy, ‘cause I’m trying to get a lot done now.
How would you describe your style and influences?
Well, Slick Rick influenced me with a lot of storytelling, and I love his flow. Little bit of Too Short. But a lot of other rappers: Big Daddy Kane, Rakim. It was just their flow and their words, they were shockin’ it! The thing that really influences me is that I’m a cartoonist. It’s like, this is where I’m from.
I guess I started rappin’ back in the day, when I was in school. I was just bustin’ it. Then later, people were opening up venues for us, and we would get out and do our thing. At first, I was kinda timid to the mic, but I was ready and I wanted to let people know what I had. Back then I was known more as an artist.
The first breakthrough for us was 444 Daharo, then we started hitting a lot of local spots. The Cactus Club, The Last Day Saloon, the Cocoo Tree. We—me and the 99th Dimension—did a lot of stuff in Berkeley and Oakland.
What do you think of the evolution of Bay Area rap?
Some of it’s kinda cool, but some of it’s the sameass shit. I’m not really feelin’ all of it. On the daily, dude, I get like a dosage of rap every day. … Just bein’ out, niggas is bumpin’ this shit, that shit, you know. But we only have, like, two handfuls that are really shockin’ and are comin’ decent. … There’s a lot of boring shit. I don’t want to hear nerds rappin’ out of the dictionary. … I haven’t heard nobody shock it hard on the nerd shit.
When I’m putting it together, man, the lyrics gotta be tight. They have to be good, and the flow, the style has to be good. That’s what I been perfectin'—I got my style now. Now I gotta just have the lyrics stand out a little bit. You know, it’s gotta be structured correctly to where it sounds good, you know: to you.
How’d you get with Sacred Hoop?
We did a show at Foothill or something college. This is back when my boy Spiderman was still alive; he put the show on. Me and my brother was trippin on ’em, and my boy DJ Quest was digging ’em too. So we gave ’em props and we traded tapes. Later on, I hooked up with Luke up at Q’s and we started building from there. … I came down to Palo Alto to put together Not Our House; that’s the one we’re known for.
Who would you like to work with in the future?
I wanna do some shit with Dre Dog, Outkast, Coog Nut, Damn, there’s a few other fools. Ghost Face Killah. I do a song with anybody I think is dope. If it was all proper, why not? …. I’d work with Badrok [Chico]; he’s tight.
You know who else I’d do a song with, man? I would do a song with Snoop Dog—cause that’s a nigger. Seriously. Hell yeah, you know what I’m saying, that’s my cousin. People tell me I look like him all the time. It’s crazy, since he came out, he fucked my whole shit up. Now I can’t even have an original look. But whatever. I’m rocking the dreads.
Can you tell me about one of your lyrical themes?
Well I got the Bachelors Project coming out [Wine, Women and Song]. … I got a song called, “White Girls with Ass.” I mean, I don’t know if it’s me or just them. But white girls, they havin’ some ass nowadays! It’s not just white ass and woo-woo, it’s booty.
That’s because of Jennifer Lopez.
I guess. I don’t know. But she Puerto Rican, you know what I mean? I seen the Spanish honeys and even the little petite Samoan ladies and Filipinas. But white girls was kinda scarce unless they was from down South or something. But now, these little suburban chicks are havin’ some booty on ’em [laughs].
What would you say to people curious about the Moxie’s gig?
I’m gonna try to keep it as pumped, as raw and as entertaining and fun as I usually do. And hopefully everybody digs it. I may come with the crew, the 99th, or maybe just a couple of cats—can’t promise anything yet.
I just hope people enjoy themselves. I’m glad fools wanna hear me.