Studio Campfire Stories: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “The Train” (feat. Sy Smith)

Me and Sy just before hitting the stage for the first show at Blues Alley in DC. (June 2012)

Me and Sy just before hitting the stage for the first show at Blues Alley in DC. (June 2012)

I’ll just say this, first and foremost so that I can go ahead and make it very clear… Sy Smith is one of my favorite people to work with. PERIOD. And I don’t have to run down her mile-long resumé for you to understand why she is head and shoulders above everyone else. Beyond sitting kats down with her vocal ability, the woman is about her business. Both of us are very experimental and free when it comes to recording material as well as the live presentation of it. I think it’s just a matter of not wanting to miss out on coming up with dope musical arrangements by becoming too “scripted” because that’s not what great artists allow themselves to do. And she is just that… A great artist and an even greater person for those who know her up close.

Anyway, let me wrap that on up before y’all start droppin’ streams of thug tears and shit…

Instead, allow me to drop this fun fact of the day… Take a guess at who completed the very first song for each of these four releases: …just visiting too, SunStorm, …just visiting three, and NOW ManMade. If you guessed “Sy Smith”, you sir or ma’am are smarter than the average person who posts and misspells shit regularly via Twitter! (Weeell, technically she AND Phonte were on the first joint completed for JV3 (“Black Cow”), but it still counts).

I can remember very clearly how I came up with the music for this one. I was messing around with different drum sets or “patches” and came up on a set that reminded me of some Ghettotech or Electronic sounding music from back home. Being as though I had never really gone that route musically before, it then became a “self-dare” to create a Ghettotech/Electronic-inspired drum pattern JUST to see if I could come up with anything that would make it work. So instead of using thick, gritty basslines to define the song’s concept, I decided to dress it up with a piano line, a pad that continues throughout the piece and a sparse, yet kinetic bassline that moves in and out of the drum pattern itself – Pretty electronic music. Once I finished, I sent it to Phonte and when the “Who’s gonna be on this one” conversation took place, we said almost simultaneously, “Sy…” It was very much a no-brainer. The bright and quirky feel of the song fit her perfectly.

I’m sure I have said this before, but Sy is one of those artists who I can send some music to with NO instructions outside of, “check it out” and she’ll send something back to me laced fully… The same thing happened to set the tone for SunStorm when she sent me back “Greatest Weapon Of All Time.” I get Sy the music and keep it moving onto something else without any worries whatsoever. At the end of May 2012, I remember getting a text from Sy saying that she had sent the new joint through – Checked my email and sure enough, there was a new one from her engineer Grant Nichols and the typed out lyrics from her… DOPE. The subject heading of Grant’s email read, “Hashtags & Do-Rags.” At first glance, I was like, “The hell does that mean?”… After realizing that was part of the hook for the sont, I kinda shook my head laughing while thinking, “Man, that line is Sy as hell.” Even with a short wait, the anticipation was killing me while the attachment downloaded and iTunes opened up and run it. She had already told me how much she loved the music, but I was completely on the edge of my seat to see what she ended up creating with it. So finally, the song started…. Immediately Sy opened up with a bit of vocal gymnastics, almost a quick ‘warm up’ to tease the listener before the music kicks in fully. They way she phrased and enunciated words like,



and “in-spi-RA-tion,”

I heard her personality come to life in that first verse and prehook. As a producer, that is priceless recording in my book because now listening to this song you know off the break that it’s nobody but Sy and it was your music that brought it out. But once that hook came in… the only thing I could think was, “Oh…. She done made this a jam.” I placed a synth line in the hook that she followed perfectly:

“Let’s….take….this….train…as far as it will go”

Joint was just…. catchy and exactly what this fun ass song needed…. a FUN ass chorus. Of course, later in the song she manages to jump through more vocal hoops and harmonies that usually welcomes a small bit of jealously into the hearts of the singing-challenged *clears throat* …such as myself. I ended up calling her after a few listens and the the thing that got me was, she was just as hyped up about the new joint as I was! The first thing I told her was… “Hashtags & Do-Rags?! That’s so damn YOU!” I remember her telling me, “I knew I couldn’t write anything ‘regular’ over that music, kinda like when I heard “Aquarius Rising” The randomness of “Hashtags…” was semi-inspired by the way that Sheila E. used to give her songs these titles that when you would check out the back of the album, you were kinda just left scratching your head with sheer confusion – “The Belle Of St. Mark” and “Merci For the Speed Of A Mad Clown In Summer,” are pretty solid examples. We later shortened the title to a more simple, “The Train”. …I mean, it’s not like it’s gonna stop people from calling the song “Hashtags and Do-Rags” ANYWAY. If I know my people the way that I know my people… I am fully aware that we could give not a damn about a song or a movie title. For example, can you please tell me the last time you heard someone refer to the Tina Turner biopic as What’s Love Got To Do With It and NOT “The Ike and Tina Movie”…….. I’ll wait.


…………I rest my case.

Seriously though, when I really think about it this song kind of embodies our “Sy Smith + Zo!” live performances. The joint is upbeat, fun, and randomness always equates to good music being made. Being as though we were making appearances in different cities cuttin’ up on stage throughout the majority of 2012, this was the perfect joint to set off ManMade with. Sy has now hit lead-off for my FOURTH consecutive album… Talk about consistency!!

Purchase ManMade HERE • Or on iTunes

One For the Road: Zo! + Sy Smith in Atlanta (May 5, 2012)

Photo by Angie Keilhauer

I’ma tell you som’n straight outta the gate… See Smeet (Sy Smith) and I were happy as hell to have even arrived in Atlanta on our correct flight being as though we almost missed our 3pm plane leaving from LaGuardia in NYC…………….. *sigh* I took a cab, she was picked up late, etc., etc., Long story. But once we DID land at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, I was informed that all of the tables for our show the next night were sold out. Now that’s the type of news you like to receive upon arrival to a city that you’re about to play. We got off the plane, rented our cars and rolled the hell out. I dropped my stuff off in my newly checked in hotel room and then stepped right back out so that I could hit up Moods Music in Little Five Points to go and holla at my man and owner of the store, Darryl Harris. Walked up in that mug and saw that +FE Music was a bit deep in there, which is what I like to see… I got caught up a little bit on my CD collection (I am STILL way behind on newer stuff), which I knew would happen because I can never go into Moods without dropping all my damn money in that place…

+FE Music… Stocked up in Moods Music

After leaving Moods, my only focus was to take my hungry ass on a mission to find the nearest Zaxby’s. Normally when I’m traveling in the south, I’ll make it a point to hit up either Waffle House or Zaxby’s. Now, for those of y’all who aren’t familiar with Zaxby’s and their Chicken Finger Plate, this used to be my CRACK while in college at Western Kentucky Univ., the joint changes lives man. Funny thing was, when I finally tracked one down, ordered my usual and sat down to eat… I got to about the third chicken finger, started stalling a bit and thought to myself, “How in the HELL did I used to eat so much of this back then?!??!!!” 33 is NOT the new 21. My body is smarter and has been spoiled with better food… It now has an unhealthy food quota. Honestly, I was just ready to go to sleep after that. Instead, I stopped off at Kroger to grab a few SmartWaters on the way to rehearsal to meet up with Sy, guitarist Brandon Thomas, and drummer Quinton Robinson. We ran through the entire set, Brandon and I linked up on chords and the entire crew synced up changes, breaks, vamps, etc…. Even after ending rehearsal at midnight, I still deemed it necessary to keep going and meet some friends at Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles spot directly up the street from my hotel on Peachtree…. and I did have the sweet potato cheesecake, which was damn RIDICULOUS (I ate it entirely too quickly to take a picture of it…. Sorry).

I decided that I would use the day of the show to finally catch up on some much needed REST. My plan was, well… to do absolutely NOTHING until soundcheck. But first, I found a Jimmy John’s that was relatively close to the hotel and as I walked in, I encountered a man already inside the store attempting to purchase 24 bottled waters, ok that’s already weird………BEST of all, trying to “negotiate” a wholesale price for them. From what I understand, I think they have places like Costco and Sam’s Club for that… No negotiations required. Anyway, I got my food and took it back to the room…………. And fell out for some hours.

Soundcheck was at 6pm, so I headed up the way to Apache and met up with Sy who was already in front of the venue ready to go. Oddly enough, the soundman was there about 10 minutes later (I say oddly enough because this rarely happens). So wait… The soundman was on time? The weather was excellent? AND the chef who was already there let us know where we could park for free and for how long?……Atlanta seemed to be treating us pretty well so far. We went in, set up, did our line check real quick and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the show. While back in the room, I began receiving texts saying that there was a nice sized line out in front of the venue waiting to get in… that was GREAT news. PLUS, the fact that we knew that we had a nice surprise set up for the show…. The brotha Anthony David was set to perform our version of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game, Baby” (from …just visiting three). This was gonna be dope for a couple of reasons: 1. AD and I had not met face-to-face yet. We had worked together, conversed on the phone a few times, reached out to each other via text… but never met in person. 2. We had never performed this song live before in ANY city. The crazy thing is, we weren’t even gonna do the joint!! I hit up AD a couple weeks prior to the show to see if he was gonna be in town so we could get up for a drink or meet up in the studio or something. I was just happy that we were gonna be in the same city at the same time for ONCE. But the Monday before the show he sent me a text… “Wait, did you want me to do the cover at your show?” …And I basically told him not to worry about it because I hadn’t asked kats to learn it and I wasn’t gonna ask him to perform it if the joint wasn’t ready. But AD asked me for the song parts and talked about lining them up in Abelton Live and performing it that way. So I was thinking… “Oh damn, he WANTS to do the joint!!” Sheeeeeeiiiit, in THAT case…!! I hopped on de text to Sy and was like, “Ayo, what’s up with Anthony David doing the Barry White joint for Saturday?”   ………..Sy: “HELL to the YEAH!” ….And there it was. I hit Brandon up and sent him the song to learn and we were then good to go for the show…

We went back over to Apache Café and made our way through a nice crowd who were waiting patiently for us despite the fact that it was Cinco de Mayo and there was the Mayweather-Cotto fight scheduled that night. The chef who took our food orders at the end of soundcheck “cooked up some marvelous shit” (© Raekwon) for us… A brotha had some baked salmon atop of some steamed and seasoned spinach alongside a pillow of mashed poe-tay-toes – ‘Twas quite appetizing. You see, I had to used the word “atop” when describing a meal  that was so eloquently tasty… Soon after we ate, Anthony David came on through the green room and we FINALLY met and got to chop it up for a bit before the show… This time around, the host (Pearl) was completely on point giving a thorough and accurate introduction, which is always appreciated. We walked back through the crowd and applause and got started. Now when I tell y’all that the musical chemistry on stage was on 10 the ENTIRE night….. Maaaaaan, lookahea. Brandon was camped OUT in that pocket. I would turn around and look at him and he would be in a ZONE – concentrating on rhythm riffs that weren’t overpowering the music, soloing when he needed to and locked in so ridiculously that his playing helped you put that “extra nod” in your head nod. Quinton was setting the tone on the kit, that dude was going IN and it gave everyone on stage a boost to where it was almost like, “Oh, you’re gonna play THAT?! Well shit, what you know about THIS then?!” Musical competition at its finest a/k/a Everyone making everyone else play and sound better on stage.

Once we ended the set and finished on up, Apache Café applauded loudly and gave us a helluva standing ovation, which in most cases is always a little crazy to take in because it’s an ultimate show of appreciation after a performance and I’ll never forget it. We came off stage and I got to kick it with one of my homeboys that I grew up with from 2nd grade on, also DJ Jon Doe of Prophetix, Carmen Rodgers who came through after the show to see us, and I finally got to meet a kat who I have been communicating with off and on for damn near 11 years, Count Bass-D. And he introduced me to Dionne Farris who was also at the show… DOPE. Kats chatted it up until it was damn near time for the spot to close down… We walked out of Apache Café in full agreement that this was not only our BEST show, but our SMOOTHEST show in terms of travel, soundcheck, treatment by the staff at the venue, accommodations, performance, etc… UNTIL…………..

I got to my rental car that I parked in a small side parking lot for $3.50 and damn if that mug didn’t have a BOOT on it. Maaaaan, I have NEVER had a boot on a car before… So immediately got pissed because I PAID FOR PARKING via Parkmobile. Now, Parkmobile is an app you can download on your phone for free and it allows you to set up an account where you can pay for parking via your credit card. I actually love the app because it keeps you from having to keep a ton of change in your car for meters, but that night… somebody was on some BS. Sy was waiting in her car for me and I hopped in her passenger seat and called the 800 number that was stuck on my window, gave them the information they needed and they said the person who booted the car would be dispatched immediately – He’ll be there in about 20 minutes. Sheeeeeeiiiiiit. I hung the phone up and dude was pulling up.

I got outta Sy’s car and said, “Y’all don’t honor Parkmobile payments?!”

He said, “Is that how you paid?… Man, don’t tell me you just paid it like a half hour ago!”

Me: “Nah man, I paid at like 9:30p!”

I proceeded to show him a text AND an email that I received with the date, time and license plate no. proving that I paid the parking fee. Dude saw this and took the boot off. I made sure I was good to go without paying anything and I got in the car and headed back to the hotel… The adventures of life on the road are never-ending, I swear… but even that situation was resolved extremely quickly. So thank you Atlanta for a helluva night on May 5th…!!!

One For the Road: Zo! + Sy Smith in New York City (May 3, 2012)

The stare down… Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

The journey to New York City began early Thursday morning when I hopped on the DC Metro and made my way to Union Station. I must have gotten there almost two hours before my train was scheduled to depart (because half of the time, I don’t trust the Metro to get me to my destination without breaking down). I was able to take my time, grab something to eat, pick up my Amtrak ticket and relax until it was time for the train to depart… Our guitarist, Zach Cutler who was also on the same train walked up to the gate, guitar on his back ready to go. We finally boarded the train and everything was smooth sailing… Well, until some lady who smelled like a can of Glade sat next to me and would periodically turn around to her husband and converse loud as hell with him, which turned into no sleep on this train for me! Then, halfway into the ride, the power on the train decided that it wanted to take a break and soon after we began to gradually slow to a stop. We sat there motionless for about five minutes and the train conductor got on the intercom system and announced, “The train is having engine troubles… We are gonna have to reset the engine.” RESET the engine?… Is it WiFi? Call me slow, but I’ve never heard of resetting an engine before. Well, whatever they had to do worked because a few minutes after that announcement, the power was back on and we were moving again (the power continued to cut in and out throughout the remainder of our trip). When we finally arrived at NYC’s Penn Station, I was just happy to be there without any further engine resetting episodes. I got in touch with the promoter as he was en route to pick us up… He got us and took us to the hotel to check-in. I think I had time enough to unpack what I needed for the show and take a quick shower. Not too long after that we had to hop right back in the car and head down to DROM for load-in and soundcheck. But FIRST… We stopped by some spot (I can’t think of the name of the place right now) and I ordered a helluva gyro, it MAY have even been called “Helluva Gyro” on the menu…… Well, maybe not… But maybe that’s how I should have placed my order with the waiter. Lawd, the damn sauce that came with it??!! Once I got it and took it outta there, the thing lasted all of five minutes in the car… I was ignoring texts and missing phone calls because of this food. The joint reminded me of Olga’s Kitchen or Coney Island back home… All I needed was a damn Faygo Redpop with it to make it complete *slips into a detailed daydream*  ……………………… *shakes out of it* Anyway… We hit soundcheck at about 4pm at DROM – walked inside and Sy and flautist Monet Cherise were already in the spot so knowing that we were kinda pressed for time, we quickly set everything up and prepared to run through the set with everyone. Our drummer Brandon Williams came through and set up the kit some time later and we knocked most of the set out during our soundcheck time that was seemingly cut very short. We were also joined by saxophonist LaDarrel “Saxappeal” Johnson who along with Brandon was there all the way from Detroit (they both played with us at our Detroit show), so we were all hyped up and ready to put it on the NYC crowd…

Sy rockin’ the synth bass and Zach Cutler behind her on guitar. Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

When showtime finally arrived, there was a brotha onstage who I guess was the host for the night?… Perhaps? He was telling some half assed jokes and seemingly killing time that we didn’t really have. As a matter of fact, he was so busy joking that he failed to introduce the two of us as a duo. We both walked on stage after the introduction and I walked behind dude and put my arm around his neck to choke him…….. jokingly – I was a good sport about it and focused on the task at hand, which was putting on a great show. But the next time a host fails to simply READ or do their research and introduces us as just Sy Smith… Or just Zo!, I’m clowning that individual thoroughly before we begin our show…

Me on keys and Monet on flute. Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

The show began on a high note and remained that way… I was impressed with the New York crowd because they were PARTYING, which was different because I normally see NYC as the cool, laid back kats who wait until AFTER the show to give you proper praising….. Not at DROM, they were IN it and we loved every minute of it. Sy’s good friend, talented vocalist and musician Gordon Chambers came on stage and joined us for our rendition of Sy Smith’s “Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” – and the brotha showed no mercy on that second verse, c’Lawd!! At another point in the show somebody yelled for us to do “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite – random as shit, yes I know…. BUT Sy “You didn’t think I was gonna take your off-the-wall request and put it overtop of some shit you’d NEVER expect and still kill it” Smith obliged by singing it over the intro music to “MakeLuv2Me”. How ’bout THAT for a crowd pleaser?… Just a FUN, fun show. The fact that we had Sax and Monet to sit in with us with the woodwind instruments just added to the musical chemistry that was in place on stage. The feedback that I received after the show was that people left the show on a musical high, which always gets me excited because I feel as though we have done our job… I got to catch up with a few great friends of mine immediately following the show, including my musical brother AB, Darien Dean, and EVEN saw my dude Illmind in the crowd rockin’ with us… That was dope being as though he and I haven’t chopped it up since around 2006. So we packed it on up and got ready to get on down to Atlanta the next day…

Zo! + Sy Smith in Paris… 03.05.11

I’ll start by saying this: I have only been to Paris three times, but in those few visits my adoration for the city increases each time. This past visit and show proved to be one helluva testament to this city’s proper treatment of the artists that come through and play. 

Sy and I were up and out of our London hotel by about 7am to hop on what they called the “tube” (subway train station) at Euston to head one stop northbound on the Victoria Line to King’s Cross, which is where we caught the Eurostar train to Paris. Being as though I purposely stayed up the entire night before, once we found our seats, I remember cracking a couple of jokes here and there……..and then I was OUT. The next thing I remember clearly was stopping in Paris for what turned out to be the quickest two-hour train ride in my entire life. I kind of staggered along and went through the motions while grabbing my bags and walking through the train station. It finally hit me: “Ummm… you MIGHT wanna start looking out for the promoter so you know where the hell y’all are going!” Just as I looked up to see if I noticed a “Sy Smith / Zo” handwritten sign, I noticed someone standing there holding our promo poster! Wow… It was our promoter Manuelle waiting to greet and walk us over to our hotel. When we got there, she checked us in and made sure everything went through without any problems and asked us if we would meet her back down in the lobby to go over the next two days… Impressive. Upon meeting back up, she took us over to the Bizz’art venue so that we were able to check it out. Our posters and advertisements were plastered all over the place. Then she asked the magic question… “Are you hungry?” And to be honest, I wasn’t even that hungry… But dammit, this was Paris… and I wanted something to eat. So I requested just a sandwich of some sort, nothing major… just something small. Manuelle said that she knew of a place right around the corner that would be perfect. We walked over to a small spot around the corner from the venue where the guys working there seemed to know Manuelle fairly well – I saw this as a great thing, meaning they would take care of Sy and I too. With that being said, one of the guys asked me what I wanted and I requested a sandwich. I didn’t know what I was in for… He pointed out a type of beef that he stated was very good… I told him to slice it up!! He then began to list the cheeses they had available… I was so excited that I chose TWO! “Yes! Put mozzarella AND parmesan cheese on there!” The next thing I knew, he started talking about one of my weakness foods… Sun-dried tomatoes. My excitement ALMOST got the best of me as I felt like cussing dude out while ordering… 

“YES! Shit!! Put some damn sun-dried tomatoes on that bitch!!”  

…But I held back and just decided to order them in a civilized fashion. What I took back to the hotel with me was too worthy of being called just a sandwich… That joint was a SAMMICH. I grabbed some cheddar and chives chips, me and Sy split a bottle of red wine at the hotel and lunch was served.  …Pardon the bite, taking the picture was SECOND on the priority list next to my wanting to take care of the food.

After completing an interview, we had good cry laugh listening to a Bizzy Bone interview that my boy Asylum 7 and I used to listen to and quote rather regularly. After that, the rest of the day was ours to do whatever with. So later on that night, we grabbed dinner at a spot right across the street from the hotel called Le Chateau Landon. Our waiter looked like a French Mario Brother… Dude had the handlebar mustache and everything. For me, he recommended the ribeye steak, which I ordered with a pepper sauce, cheese sauce, and a small salad. ALL of it was good. I even ate some of the fish off of Sy’s plate and knocked out some those fries…

The day of the show began with me going downstairs into the hotel lobby and taking advantage of its free breakfast, which included… Croissants!!! I went down there and took care of about 4-5 of them and being that my sleep schedule in Europe is always ridiculously off, I went to bed after my meal and ended up waking up late to meet Manuelle and Sy for lunch at 1pm. I got myself together in record time after receiving the “where you at” call from Sy at about 1:15 or so. After rushing down to the lobby, Manuelle walked us to a spot on the way to the venue where she treated us to wine and some great food. I had a dish that combined whitefish with mashed potatoes, which I had NEVER seen before… The fish was mashed in WITH the potatoes with peppercorns on top of it, it was kinda crazy… but tasted wonderful. From there we walked over to Bizz’art where we were to meet up with the musicians and get a rehearsal in with them before the show. Now, I had already heard great things about these kats from N’Dambi and her manager, but to hear how good they sounded at that rehearsal as well as witnessing their preparation… I was thoroughly impressed. Kats had iPads with their charts in them, the keyboard player had all of the sounds he was gonna use for each song pre-programmed in his laptop. The drummer took the time to make sequences of EACH SONG just in case we wanted to have a backing track to play over. It is rare to find players who get this far into playing your work. It was just as impressive as it was appreciated by Sy and myself. After running through our set with the fellas, we ventured back to the hotel to change and get ready to give Paris more than their money’s worth of a show. …And then I got a knock on my door…. It was Sy. She looked a bit distraught as she explained to me that she just received word that she lost a good friend of hers who just happened to be Jeff “Fuzzy” Young lead singer of the group Something For the People (“My Love is the Shhh”)… So from that moment on, our two shows were to be a dedication to his life and music. The way that Sy was able to take her grieving and transform it into positive energy used to perform without a hitch was a testament to her talent and extreme professionalism… And THIS is yet another reason why I will forever mess with some damn Sy Smith.

Performance-wise, the show was excellent, particularly for it being our first time performing as a ‘duo.’ We opened with “Nights Over Egypt” and the night continued to improve and progress from there. After absolutely going IN on Sy’s music, we started in on some joints from SunStorm and …just visiting too – Including a piano intro of “Greater Than the Sun,’ which rolled directly into “Greatest Weapon Of All Time.” We were joined on stage by The Roots’ keyboardist Ray Angry during “MakeLuv2Me” which turned out to be One of my favorite moments of the show came when we played “Flight of the Blackbyrd.” Excellent times… The Paris crowd NEVER disappoints as they were once again enthusiastic during the show and excited to meet with us after its completion. Matter of fact, they damn near bought up all of our merchandise leaving us with a limited supply for the next day in London! My only question is… So WHEN CAN WE COME BACK?!

Zo! + Sy Smith @ The Jazz Café in London!! – March 6, 2011

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be co-headlining the Jazz Café in London on March 6th, 2011 with one of my favorite people… the immensely talented Sy Smith. I’m really looking forward to making my Jazz Café debut as I have been told for years that it’s one of the historically rich spots to play in… aaaand my pulse rate spiked as I just typed that.

UK, it looks like I will now see you in January AND in March. Have some good food waiting for me please….!!

SoulBounce Names Zo! Their 2010 Producer Of the Year!

Source: SoulBounce · By Ivory

While here at the SB headquarters we don’t always see eye-to-eye in terms of music, one thing we do agree on is that 2010 was, indeed, the year of Lorenzo Ferguson better known to all as Zo!. Many of the Detroit-bred, D.C.-based multi-instrumentalist and producer’s melodies provided the soundtrack to our 2010. Let’s face it, he seemed to be everywhere this year. Zo! managed to hit us off with stellar production work nearly every season this year, making him easily the SoulBounce Honors 2010 Producer of the Year.

Zo! kicked things off in the spring, when his fellow Foreign Exchange Music labelmate YahZarah released her highly-anticipated album, The Ballad of Purple Saint James. He lent his production talents to her single “Cry Over You” featuring Phonte. The funky, upbeat track provided the perfect backdrop for YahZarah’s sassy rebound tale.

By the time the summer release of his own full-length FE Music debut, SunStorm, we were practically foaming at the mouth with anticipation of the musical delicacies our ears were about to feast on. And boy, did he not disappoint. Drawing comparisions to Stevie Wonder‘s Songs in the Key of Life, SunStorm served up a delicious composition of musicianship and artistry. As previously stated in our review of the album, “While some producers may stumble when their musical ambitions find them dabbling in different genres, Zo! expertly navigates vast musical terrain.” Nearly six months later, this album continues to amaze with his wide-range of talents, sprinkling in a dash of jazz here, a spoonful of broken beat there and a whole lotta fun, spirited soul and hip-hop ingredients in between.

In with the cool weather of the fall, came the equally-cool third group project, Authenticity, from The Foreign Exchange. While most production was still held-down by FE co-founder Nicolay, Zo!’s fingerprints still remained all over this album. Picking up where the group’s previous project, Leave It All Behind, left all, this album was melancholy and slightly-experimental, where LIAB was hopeful and soulful. Zo! even took a turn on the mic–albeit a talkbox mic–on “Don’t Wait.” Whether he was leading us through the highs of love or guiding us through the dreary days of heartbreak, Zo! consistently used his musical prowess to help bring the vivid emotions to life. Through his fingertips, we were able to feel sentiment just as clearly as we could hear it.

And to think, Zo! managed to deliver a crop of good music all while holding down a full-time gig as a music teacher in Washington, D.C. By showcasing us such a versatile range of musical portraits in 2010, we can only imagine what Zo! has in store for us in 2011. If next year is anything like this past one has been, then you better make room on your iPods for more phenemonal music.

‘…just visiting too’ Has Been Making Its Rounds…

I decided to put this list of sites and blogs together mainly for my mother so that she has everything about the album in one spot. Please feel free to add to the list, or hit me up and let me know of any more …just visiting too sightings…

2 Dope Boyz

Blind I

Confessions Of A Collector

The Couch Sessions

Enriched and Focused


Getback Army

Grown Folks Music

Indy Week Blogs

The Inner Soul


Jenny Marie PR

Kevin Nottingham

Mikey McFly

Nah Right


Potholes In My Blog

Put Me On It

The Real Frequency

Shook Mag

The Smoking Section

So So Sef

Soul Afrodisiac

Questlove Takes ‘…just visiting too’ and Passes it Around

I REALLY planned on going to sleep last night at a decent hour (for me, that means before 1am). BUT, I just happened to be wrapping it up on Twitter at about 12:30… and saw a tweet from the brotha Questlove on my timeline that said:

meet Zo @Zo3hree5ive, your favortistist producer. the evidence?http://www.theforeignexchan…!
12:40 AM Nov 4th from web

So I’m looking like, ‘Maaaaan, that’s dope! He just shouted me out along with the album…’ But then, it was brought to my attention by a friend of mine that the link he gave out was messed up and didn’t work… DAMMIT (little did I know, this was probably the best thing that could have happened). I sent him a DM (direct message on Twitter)… thanked him for the shout and provided a working link. The next thing I know, not only did he retweet it… but ended up passing the link to individuals making sure they downloaded the album and listened for themselves…

?uest sent the JV2 album link that I sent him to about 14 individuals to begin with…

And even started ‘introducing’ me to a couple of his people…


He apparently was hit up by a few people who wanted him to do the same for them… lol


Finally shutting it down…


A few folks responded…


Teedra Moses – music lovers get involved with @zo3hree5ive extremely refreshing music (MUSIC!!!!!!)

@Zo3hree5ive @questlove blessed me with ur beautiful music… just wanted 2 let u kno i luv it…

@questlove i kno im sooo L8…. but thanx 4 that refreshment u sent. GOD… that blessed my ears, heart n soul


Jody Watley – @questlove Downloading now. Really digging them, heavy rotation with me..I wanna do bv’s (background vocals) on next one! Thx


Bevy Smith – @questlove What a lovely soundtrack 2 wake up 2, thanks for hipping me (I’m 43,I can say hipping)! @Zo3hree5ive divine music, merci baby!

@questlove since you’re probably sleep or having a morning dalliance I googled Zo! He’s giving me Roy Hargrove & “Babies Making Babies” HINT


Rachel True – Super groovy, wanna hear more!!! why would i doubt @questlove & countless others!

Stephen Hill – @questlove || appreciate this, my MJ shirt partner!! love good listening!


Huge shouts to Questlove once again… He didn’t even have to do this…. but he DID.

Zo! – ‘…just visiting too’ + FULL Album Credits


…just visiting too

01. Perfect Angel featuring YahZarah
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Vocals by YahZarah
Vocals Recorded and Mixed By Phonte at the Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

02. Nights Over Egypt featuring Carlitta Durand
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Vocals by Carlitta Durand
Vocal Production by Phonte
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Khrysis at Chopp Shopp Studios, Durham, NC
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

03. Crazy You featuring Sy Smith
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Vocals by Sy Smith
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Grant “G-Nick” Nicholas at Rumbo Studios, Winnteka, CA
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

04. Holding You, Loving You
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

05. My Flame featuring Phonte
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Lead Vocals by Phonte
Background Vocals by Carlitta Durand
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Khrysis at Chopp Shopp Studios, Durham, NC
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

06. Somethin’ Special featuring YahZarah
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Lead Vocals by YahZarah
Background Vocals by Phonte
Handclaps and Fingersnaps by Phonte and YahZarah
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Phonte at The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

07. Highways Of My Life (Parts I & II) featuring Darien Brockington
Produced by Zo!
All Instruments by Zo!
Electric and Acoustic Guitar by Omar Hunter-El
Vocals by Darien Brockington
Backing Vocals (Part II) by Phonte
Vocals Recorded and Mixed by Darien Brockington at Chopp Shopp Studios, Durham, NC and by Phonte at The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC
Music Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD

…just visiting too: The Originals

01. Perfect Angel
Written by Stevie Wonder
Originally Performed by Minnie Riperton
From the Album “Perfect Angel” (Capitol Records, 1974)

02. Nights Over Egypt
Written by Cynthia Biggs and Dexter Wansel
Originally Performed by The Jones Girls
From the Album “Get As Much As You Can” (Philadelphia International Records, 1982)

03. Crazy You
Written and Originally Performed by Prince
From the Album “For You” (Warner Bros., 1978)

04. Holding You, Loving You
Written and Originally Performed by Don Blackman
From the Album “Blackman” (GRP Records, 1982)

05. My Flame
Written and Originally Performed by Bobby Caldwell
From the Album “What You Won’t Do For Love” (Sin-Drome, 1978)

06. Somethin’ Special
Written by Rod Temperton
Originally Performed by Quincy Jones; Lead Vocal by Patti Austin
From the Album “The Dude” (A&M, 1980)

07. Highways Of My Life (Parts I & II)
Written by Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, Ronald Isley, O’Kelly Isley, Rudolph Isley, and Chris Jasper
Originally Performed by The Isley Brothers
From the Album “3+3” (T-Neck, 1973)

“…just visiting too” To be Released on November 3rd / Cover Art

And finally y’all… My next release, …just visiting too will be available for $free.99 this coming Tuesday, November 3rd. First, I must give you a look at the cover art for the album…….


…just visiting too

features vocals from…

YahZarah, Phonte, Carlitta Durand, Darien Brockington and Sy Smith

Get ready.