Joseph “Z-Ro” McVey, a sadist when spitting, understands the importance of words; they can afflict and they can ameliorate. This Southern MC contradicts the Good-Ole-American-caste system.  ‘Ro, the King of the Ghetto, demonstrates that a have-not is not destined to lead an unfilled existence. Even though he mangles beats, he always works to ensure that he shares a positive insight on each album. In this exclusive interview Z-RO discusses the significance of life and the importance of lyrics.

Z-Ro: I do music—for one— it keeps me from catching a murder case. It keeps me from living off my anger. It lets me express whatever emotion I’m feeling. You know, and the most obvious reason is to get that motherf***in’ money. So, that’s really all it is. Plus, I know I got some kind of talent to keep doing it. I do it because I got people to take care of—lights and s*** ain’t free; dinner ain’t free. And for me to make my living, I just can’t see myself preparing your Big Mac and fries.  I know I would come over the counter and f*** somebody up. I need to stay out of McDonalds and stay in the studio. (laughs) As an MC how do you challenge yourself to ensure that your lyrics don’t wither or plateau?

Z-Ro: Every time you wake up there’s something new going on. All you really got to do is pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you’re Michael Jordan, you’re already good, but you can always be better! You got to just stay at it. Even Farris [Z-Ro’s manager] can tell you, I think I be the studio a whole hell of a lot. I be in that studio and the only way that you’re going to stay on top of your craft is by stay doing your craft. Everything that you do might not be that one. Then, you got a cat like, Farris that knows music and got a good ear for music. But out of the ten songs that you do in the course of two weeks—he might come in and be like I don’t like those, but this is the one that we need to go with. That comes with surrounding yourself with good people. You have to be in this business to do business and not let this business do you! I might have some songs where my plateau is extremely low and not even acceptable for my own standards. But, with a cat like Farris coming in [they won’t make it to the public]. Each year from ’98 to 2010, you’ve released at least one studio album. You’re hailed as being lyrical and influential; why hasn’t that sentiment been reflected in album sales?

Z-Ro: Well, this is where it gets tricky, right here. The truth is always the truth. A lot of times, especially being down here in the South— I’ve done heard different references to this— we’re all from the same place, we share the same demographic and we may came from different sides of town, but we’re all from Houston. But the mutharf***as who excel is the ones who get the hell out of Houston. Houston, I call this motherf***a, “Hate-ston.” Everybody is hating on each other down here; there’s no togetherness. And as far as the labels go, there are certain labels that don’t have the capital to push you right. Then there’s label’s that do have the capital, but they opt to push the next guy and not you. Then there’ll be a lot of personal stuff, too. Like me, I’m going to be a man with it. Whoever likes it or not, I’m going to be me and I’m going to speak my mind.  

Ultimately, I’m going to do what I feel is the best for myself. I’m not going to leave my life in the hands of the next man. A lot of times when you do otherwise of what a big C.E.O. tells you to do, then that s*** will stunt your financial and career growth. Part of being your own man is being able to live with the situations that you make. The funny thing about it is, in the past, any decisions that I’ve made, I would most readily do that s*** even quicker now. I do reality rap. I do gangsta rap sometimes, but most of the times my music is reality rap. If you sit here and tell me that I need to do a song called muthaf***in’, “Now-A-Lata.” I’m going to be like, you lost your rabid ass mind! (laughs)

Z-Ro: I’m not ‘bout to do no motherfuckin’ dance song. Nothing against dance music, or nothing like that. But, for the type of n***a I am, and the music that I do, I’m not going to let my fan-base down and come out moonwalking and cabbagepatching, or doing some s*** that I ain’t got no business doing. When I’m talking about slapping the s*** out of you, or going to church, that dance s*** don’t really fit in with what I got going on. Because you’re a powerful motherf***a, and I tell you that I ain’t fittin’ to do that, the next thing I know, you got everybody out here not f***ing with me. I mean, that’s just how the s*** goes. Like I said, whatever I did like that, I’ll do that s*** again, three times as fast now. So, you’re at peace with everything you’ve done thus far, the way that you’ve reacted to different situations, or opportunities?

Z-Ro: Yeah, I’m at peace with what I did. I might not be at peace with how I did what I did. But, ultimately I am at peace with what I did. Sometimes I underkilled it when I should have overkilled it, and other times when I should have just chilled out. But, every time that I spoke out about some s***, I didn’t speak out about no fictitious s***. It was some s*** that was really going on. If I brought a money problem to a n***a. And be like look, this s*** ain’t right. We can go look at my bank account or the lack thereof, and prove my point. I ain’t never been good at being a b***h. (laughs)

Z-Ro: So, I’ma have to man up when I wake up. I ain’t never had no pap smear before. Like Pimp Coffee.say, ‘I can’t expose my clitoris because I don’t have one.’ (erupts with laughter) I love you. You need to f*** with me.  

Z-Ro: Already, that’s what’s up. (laughs) Your last solo album, Heroin, was released through Rap-A-Lot records. What’s your current situation with them; have you fulfilled your contract with them yet?

Z-Ro: Well, you know, we’re going over that s*** as to whether the stipulations and all that had been fulfilled. But, I mean, actually, to tell you the truth—Heroin is a bunch of old s***. The first time I heard Cocaine—it went so hard. It sounded like an album. Then when I heard snippets from Heroin, it sounded like you just remixed songs from the Cocaine mixtape. What happened with that?

Z-Ro: We are on speaking terms right now— [but] at that time during the Cocaine era and the Heroin era [we weren’t]. That was the era that I quit submitting songs. I was like, man, the financing ain’t right, the business ain’t right. I was like, we need to get our s*** together. Ultimately, when you’re trying to get your business right, you’re not going to do no new business until you can fix your existing business. So, what they had to do was just work with what they had which was a whole bunch of the same songs. I decided I wasn’t submitting anything until I could at least get a sit-down. I had to do it like that. In what ways are you hoping to use the lessons that you’ve learned at Rap-A-Lot records to assist you with your business and creative decisions at your imprint, King Of The Ghetto Entertainment?

Z-Ro: I’ve been doing that throughout my whole career and with anybody that I had ever got with. You respect the pros like a motherf***a and you take heed of the cons that go on. A lot of times, you find out—you might be in hate with a certain person and you find out that this person ain’t got nothing to do with why your situation is like the way it is. You learn how to differentiate what’s good for your situation and what’s not. That’s the very exact thing that I’m doing with King of The Ghetto Entertainment. I will use the good that I learned at Rap-A-Lot, when I was over there f***ing with D Rick, [and] over there at Wreck Shop. I use the good s**tI learned with J&J. Are you actively looking for a major distribution deal, or are you still erecting the foundation?

Z-Ro: I’m going one step at a time. I’m going to load my gun up all the way before I shoot it. Let’s discuss perception versus reality. In our community, many of our men have circumvented the law in order to earn a living. It seems like a lot of these rappers are glorifying something that they’ve never done. What are your thoughts on the rapper glorifying the d-boy lifestyle and the d-boy yearning to become the rapper?  

Z-Ro: Any time that I say something about d-boying, or anything that’s not positive, it’s always a reflection; it’s not no, right now s***. Now, I will tell you, if you run up on me wrong, I will slide you up under something. And that’s now and any time. Right now on my songs I’m not fittin’ to sell no key or a dime. These n***as they don’t care about what they saying. They just trying to sell their records. You got kids out here that are listening; they hear what’s going on and they’re going to gravitate to what’s in their ear, or to what they see every day. It’s already bad enough that they pass the dope house up to go get on the school bus. Then at the same time, when you get in your car you got a n***a saying this and saying that. And then, the coldest part about it is that this motherhaf***as don’t even know how much a cookie weigh. These motherf***as is out here saying that they cookie weighs 19 [inset proper measurement]. I’m like, n***a, you’re off by so many. They just really trying to get that money up out of you. They don’t really see the genocide that’s taking place.  

As far as me, I’ll tell a muthaf***a, ‘Man, I ain’t sold no work since about the time that [DJ] Screw went into the ground [2000].’ I stopped doing that right about when he went into the ground and then got right back on the shit trying to get some motherf***ing money together. And then at the same time I got right back off the s*** again. That’s why you don’t hear me saying too much about that. I don’t say too much about that, because at the same time everything changes some type of way. You have to take some type of responsibility for what you say. That’s why every time that I say something on a song I’m always gonna throw something positive in there to let you know that I came up out of that. I came up out of that and the Lord’s got me doing something else. You can’t write just the introduction to the letter. You know, you got your heading, your intro, you got your body, and you know you got your conclusion of the letter. And motherf***as is just saying they intro.  

And to go back to one of your questions that you mentioned earlier—God don’t get too much favor on the radio, or in tape decks. On every record that I put out, it’s going to be something about the Man. And a lot of people are scared to promote the Lord. Because the Lord ain’t jamming, the Lord ain’t coming through on swangas, the Lord ain’t packing no pistol; so, you know, all that plays a part. When I talk about me doing that to the days of what I’m doing now, certain powers that be, they don’t like that. You know, I don’t care if they don’t like it. The Lord says if you’re acting like you don’t know Me, then I’m acting like I don’t know you. That’s the worst thing that can happen, right there. I agree.