One Track Mind: Zo!, ManMade via The Washington City Paper

Source: Washington City Paper
Author: Marcus Moore

One Track Mind: Zo!, ManMade

Standout Track: No. 11, “Body Rock,” an eight-minute slow burner that sounds borrowed from Prince’s sex-ballad songbook. Over light piano and drum taps, Sy Smith gently coos, “I don’t need another love, you make my body rock.” It’s the final track on Lorenzo “Zo!” Ferguson’s new album, ManMade, which finds the Silver Spring composer experimenting with dance music, varied time signatures, and traditional soul.

Musical Motivation: Zo! wanted to create an ode to ’90s R&B. He chose Sy Smith for the vocals after conferring with collaborator Phonte Coleman, frontman of the North Carolina-based Foreign Exchange, who wrote the lyrics. ManMade is Zo!’s first album as a full-time musician; the Detroit native made his last one, the 2010 LP SunStorm, while teaching music at Rock Creek Academy in Van Ness. “I had more time to give to this album,” Zo! says. “That gave me more time to push the creative envelope.”

On the Grind: “Body Rock” is an “adult-time joint,” says Zo! “When you wanna have your quiet time with your significant other, you don’t wanna hip-hop ’em to death, you wanna slow grind,” he says. “That’s what we’re giving them with this record.”


Studio Campfire Stories: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “Making Time” (feat. Phonte and Choklate)


“Making Time” was the LAST piece of music I completed for the ManMade album. It came at perfect time too… I was at a place where I was really happy with the output and the songs that were completed for the album already, but I felt that it needed just ONE more undeniable joint for me to be 100% pleased with it. So in mid-January, I went into the studio while feeling an absolute MESS. I can remember walking in there with the chills… and I didn’t have much of an appetite. I was sipping on a grapefruit and ginger concoction that I had just juiced and the heavy ginger root content was burning the shit out of my mouth and throat ….so I figured it was working. Despite my feverish symptoms, I wanted to go to work with a totally new approach, just in case this was, in fact, the last song for the album. The first thing I did was grab some records and sampled all new drums. New drums in the arsenal usually means, new feel… or even a refreshed feel as a producer. All types of newness can come out when you feel refreshed in the studio. What ended up being created that day was an instrumental that I played over and OVER, AND OVER…. I had done so much playing with different time signatures on the album that I needed a straight-up “head nod” joint …and this was the one. It was appropriately titled, “Fever”. Once again, I sent it on over to Phonte…..


Phonte and I already had a scheduled recording session in North Carolina with Choklate the week after the “Fever” instrumental was completed (“Out In The World” was recorded during that particular session). So when we talked about what the personnel of the song would look like – a male vocalist singing lead with a female vocalist on the hook, I pretty much knew going into it who would probably find themselves singing that hook. Sure enough, the last night Choklate and I were recording at Phonte’s studio, I decided to try and rest up for the drive back to Maryland so I forced myself to crash on the couch for a few hours…. When I woke up, I heard them working on the “Fever” joint….. So, I sat up on the couch in slooooow motion like, “Oh shit!! Wait a minute!! The joint has lyrics on it now!!!” I got myself together enough to stagger into the studio to listen to what had been recorded. Phonte laid down his partial lead vocal (which at the time was meant to be a reference for another artist) and Choklate came with her “A” game on that hook. I loved what I was hearing and actually got a nice boost of energy to take with me for the 4am drive home I had ahead of me…

Now, if you listen closely to the song you may be able to hear a soft lead synth tucked behind Chok’s vocals… I placed that in the instrumental as my interpretation or an idea of what the hook melody could potentially sound like. Since kats are damn near on the same musical page most of the time anyway, when Phonte wrote the hook he utilized that same synth melody to put words to it….

“Slow it up just keep it niiiice and steady, yeeeah!”

After working with Phonte for damn near eight years now, I didn’t even have to verbalize the fact that I heard the hook in that particular melody… The music spoke and that’s what it became. When things like that happen in the studio, it is ALWAYS DOPE. Once Phonte re-recorded and completed his lead vocal on the song combined with Chok’s already infectious hook??!! We KNEW we had a jam on our hands…. It’s always crazy how the LAST song of the album usually becomes somewhat of a crowd favorite. I clearly got the “one more undeniable joint” I was aiming for… and then some with this one.

Purchase ManMade HERE • Or on iTunes

Behind Zo!’s ‘ManMade’ (courtesy of

Next Wednesday, Zo!  performs music from his latest album, ManMade. Featuring Deborah Bond and AB, along with DJ sets by DJ Stylus and Jahsonic. Before the show, we decided to have a sit down and hear from the man himself about his music, his process and his hopes for his sophomore release.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 – Washington, D.C.
ManMade Album Release Show in D.C.
Liv Nightclub, 2001 11th St. NW | Washington, DC | (202) 505-4548
Doors: 8p | 21+

STUDIO CAMPFIRE STORIES: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “New In Town (Happy)” (feat. 1-O.A.K. and Carlitta Durand)


The roots for one kinda goes all the way back to a previous working session Phonte and I had in June of 2010 for The Foreign Exchange’s Authenticity album. When the two of us sat down in my studio to produce the original draft for what was to become +FE’s “Fight For Love”. We first worked out the chord changes and I laid out some “dummy” drums… Or drums to hold the groove together at the time simply for writing/recording or demoing purposes to be thrown away later on. Well…. Fast forward more than two years later  to October of 2012. I called Phonte and told him… “Man, I’ve had these drums in my head for a few days now and I THINK they’re the same pattern as what I laid down for the DEMO version of “Fight For Love”.” This is why I always say that a higher power is with you while creating music simply because it was really unbelievable how that SAME particular pattern was just archived in my brain like that. Things like that don’t happen just because …there’s purpose and meaning behind it. Since the drums were something I did originally and were simply thrown away and never used for anything released…. Of course I had the green light to utilize my own drum pattern. ……..and I did.

Once I recorded the major portion of the drum pattern and got the correct feel of the drums that I was looking for, I then played the hi-hat live over top of it, which really seemed to add some character to the joint. The sixteenth notes every second bar pushed the pattern along a little bit while adding a bit of movement – I wanted that because of the way I already envisioned the album being played live. Now with the drums moving the way that they were, I wanted the chords to take time going through the progression…… BUT when the bassline was added, it moved right along with the drums thus connecting the two effectively.

Carlitta Durand

Interestingly enough, Phonte and I originally heard Jeanne Jolly on this joint ……..that is until I did the music for “Tell Me Something New”…. But I’ll get to that story a little later on. Phonte wrote they lyrics and recorded a reference, which sounded dope… THEN he hit up the studio version of Ms. Johnnie On-The-Spot, the one and only Carlitta Durand who always comes through in that clutch. She went into the studio and smashed her part. Hearing her “response” in the form of a pre-hook and her hook over the music really brought it to life… This was a helluva pleasant surprise to me, because I didn’t even know Carlitta was gonna be on it – Phonte just sent the joint on through to me with the credits. Talk about a vocal “cherry on top”.

Now we had a joint featuring Phonte and Carlitta almost reminiscent of our “Say How You Feel” days from 3-4 years ago, which was cool…. But we wanted a different look for this one – enter mah man from the Bay, 1-O.A.K. I have known this brotha for a few years now. Back in 2009 when I was on the road with PPP (Platinum Pied Pipers), he and one of my favorite producers out of the Bay Area, Trackademicks opened up for us in San Francisco and Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, we recently ran into each other again after the last San Francisco +FE show in October at Mezzanine. At that time, I had no idea that he would 1) Be contributing to my album, which was already in the works at the time, and 2) Have such a key contribution to the album. Hearing his newly laid vocals on the track was the PERFECT compliment to Carlitta’s already recorded parts. It was precisely the type of energy we were wanting to bring forth in this song as 1-O.A.K. brought almost a “youthful” sound to the music that fit the subject matter and duet perfectly…

“’cause I’m giving yooooou!! …Nothing but the very best part of meeee… Feels like I am finally freee-eee!!”

…Throughout the recording process of this one, I always thought that part was dope because he sang that shit like he MEANT it… Then to hear Carlitta follow those verses up with her unassuming yet very commanding tone where words and phrases leave her vocal chords with the same ease and effort as that of a regular conversation. The pairing made for excellent chemistry, in my humble opinion because their communication back and forth in the song sounded authentic and realistic. PLUS… I would LOVE to witness to the two of them performing this song live… Together.

Purchase ManMade HERE • Or on iTunes

Studio Campfire Stories: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “Count To Five” (feat. Gwen Bunn)

Gwen Bunn

The story of “Count To Five” begins in my car while sitting at a red light. The music was turned off, as it often is as I drive… As odd as that may sound for a musician, the quiet in the car allows my mind plenty of room to race. Therefore, when I hear something that sounds good in my head I can immediately pick up my phone and record those thoughts into its voice memo. Well, that’s exactly what happened in this case. For some reason I kept hearing a drum pattern in a 5/4 time signature – meaning simply five counts per measure (see The Foreign Exchange’s “All Roads” for example). This was kinda crazy because at that time I had never composed a joint in five before so I was already excited about what the song had the potential to become. So I ended up putting my phone up to my mouth and literally beatboxed the drum pattern I kept hearing in my head so that I wouldn’t forget it and could work with it later. A day or so afterward, I created the drums to sound completely IDENTICAL to the voice memo I recorded in the car (I still have the voice memo in the archives too – I may post it one day). Musically, I had no idea where I wanted to go with it……. So I proceeded to play around on the keys for a bit. No more than five minutes later, I started playing what ended up becoming the intro piece of the song. It was different, but I loved how it sounded. It reminded me almost of some 80’s New Wave stuff. Once that part fell into place, the piece that wound up becoming the verses and the hooks came instantly. Going from that intro to what became the hook sounded craaaaaaazy – the contrast was huge, but it made SO much sense to me. When I laid everything out and began recording, the sound took an even more interesting turn once the different elements were added. Layering the wah-wah guitars at the beginning over top of the keys, over top of the brand new Moog Minitaur synth bass module I picked up a couple of months prior to recording this music in 5/4 gave me a sound that I had never created before. This was a song that even while laying it down felt like creative growth right there in the studio… Now THAT is a helluva thing.

Once all of the music was recorded… I hit up Phonte, then sent him the joint. Maaaaan, he turned that shit around in less than a day with all of the lyrics written and a recorded reference. I can remember him telling me in a brief conversation soon after, “Man, I’ve got something for this one already.” He sent that final back to me and we got on the phone buggin’ OUT – The joint was a WINNER. He already had someone in mind to record the final vocals for us and proceeded to reveal who it was via this track from Darryl Reeves’ ridiculously dope album Mercury (which I attempted to buy in May while I was in Atlanta but Moods Music was sold out of it!!!) with a sweet-voiced singer named Gwen Bunn on it. The song was called “Every Time I See You.” I was like… “Yoooooooo, get her on it!” He ended up sending her the reference track, instrumental and the written lyrics and she said that she would have something within a couple of days. …Sure enough, she returned with a raw recorded version that may have even been done via laptop. It definitely wasn’t gonna be the final version, but we knew that she was what the song needed – she sounded dope over the music. About a week or so later, she was in NC recording the final vocals with Phonte. Then to find out that Gwen is only 21/22 years old?! Sheeeeit man, she’s only beginning!!! At the time that this story was written, I still have yet to actually meet her in person to thank her for acting a fool on this joint, but we follow each other on Twitter and tweet sometimes… In 2013, that qualifies as the same thing, right? ….Maybe not? *shrug*  ……Haha.

Purchase ManMade HEREOr on iTunes

“Blue Collar Hustle” Zo! Interviews with Wax Poetics

Source: Wax Poetics
Author: Erin Ashley

Blue Collar Hustle
Detroit triple-threat Zo! prepares for ManMade

Detroit, Michigan, is a region defined by soul, passion and music. It was the launching pad for Motown and its subsidiary labels, has helped introduce music listeners to artists like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, the Four Tops and more. Today, Detroit is known for more than just Motown, the region also has a foot in the evolution of hip-hop music today with artists like the late and great J.Dilla, Elzhi, Guilty Simpson, and more calling the region home.

One consistent theme shown through the music of Detroit is a passion that comes across with the sound, which can be heard in the music of Detroit-bred producer, Lorenzo Ferguson, simply known by music heads as Zo!

“I’m a very passionate musician, so anything that I’m feeling is going to come out through music and I think that’s very important when you create,” says Zo!


Zo! Speaks with About ‘ManMade’ and Working With The Foreign Exchange

Author: Quinn Peterson

Multi-instrumentalist Zo! is best known for his work with Phonte and Nicolay of the Foreign Exchange collective. Even when he’s not working in the background, however, he’s still capable of crafting the same kinds of mature, soulful grooves FE is known for, which is what he does on his latest project, ManMade. While he doesn’t contribute any vocals, he supplies all of the instrumentation. Life+Times caught up with the Detroit native to discuss ManMade, his creative process, working with the Foreign Exchange and more.

Life+Times: Tell me about your upcoming sophomore album, ManMade. How is it different from your first album and what can people expect to hear?
It’s my sophomore full-length album with The Foreign Exchange Music imprint, a follow up to SunStorm, which was released in 2010. With this one, you probably hear a lot more musical growth as far as risk-taking, kind of being able to step out of the box a little bit. On the first single, “The Train“, it doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve ever done. A lot more uptempo, more of a dance-oriented feel. More growth, more maturity; I’m also a full-time musician now, so hopefully you’ll be able to feel that in it as well. I think it really came together and I’m definitely proud of the final product.


Zo! – ManMade


The sophomore release from producer/keyboardist Zo! of The Foreign Exchange’s +FE Music family. Includes appearances from Phonte, Eric Roberson, Sy Smith, Jeanne Jolly, Carmen Rodgers, Anthony David and more.

1. The Train feat. Sy Smith
2. Count To Five feat. Gwen Bunn (VIDEO)
3. New In Town (Happy) feat. 1-O.A.K. & Carlitta Durand
4. Making Time feat. Phonte & Choklate
5. Tell Me Something New feat. Jeanne Jolly
6. ManMade feat. Phonte
7. We Are On The Move feat. Eric Roberson (VIDEO)
8. Show Me The Way feat. Anthony David & Carmen Rodgers
9. For Tina
10. Out In The World feat. Choklate & Phonte
11. Body Rock feat. Sy Smith




• #3 Best R&B Album of 2013 by CentricTV
“ManMade is a complete work — his best creation yet.” -Andy Kellman,