When analyzing the artistic progression of Atlanta MC and Bad Boy South rep Gorilla Zoe, a quick recap of his album covers is very telling.
On 2007’s Welcome to the Zoo, the Miles Davis-inspired cover featured a very simple, black-and-white extreme close-up of Zoe’s menacing ice-grill. It seemed totally natural for Zoe; like a picture he might have taken even if it weren’t for an album. Similarly, the music on Zoo, while far from groundbreaking, seemed very organic, with Zoe flowing about things like how nice his car is, life in the trap, money, bitches – you know, the usual. The album’s lead single, “Hood Nigga,” is, to this day, the perfect Gorilla Zoe song: a bare-bones track that banged but still allowed Zoe to put his most valuable asset – his deep, gravelly voice – on full display. Zoe stayed in his lane and drove his debut straight to gold certification.
His second album cover featured a flossy and very posed Zoe sitting at a desk with a glass of what is assumed to be cognac and smoking a cigar, with several stacks of money, an open briefcase and a money counter in front of him – all in an obviously computer-generated office environment. For an album titled Don’t Feed the Animals – which is usually a warning that, if ignored, might get you fucked up – this cover seemed kinda… tame. Maybe this was the “Bad Boy” beginning to emerge from the hardnosed Southerner. Beat-wise, the music didn’t stray too far from that on Zoo (hard, club-friendly, trunk-worthy) but the use of the autotune effect definitely took the grit and grime we’d become accustomed to out of Zoe’s timbre, making his already mediocre rhymes even harder to listen to. It’s almost like he put a shiny suit on his vocal chords.
Obviously, we’re headed in the wrong direction here. Which brings us to his latest release… Released on June 14 of this year, the King Kong cover looks like the guy from the Zoo cover doing his best Flo-Rida impression – and much of the music does nothing to prove that notion wrong.
The album starts off strong enough, as the Drumma Boy-produced title track snatches you by the collar with an electrifying hi-hat and snare while Zoe gets in your ear to remind you just how beastly he still is. Great punch-in. Unfortunately he follows that solid opener with a series of similarly-tempo-ed records echoing the all too familiar “money, cash, hoes” ethos of Zoe’s previous two albums. Honestly, things get boring very quickly as he experiments with ill-fitting melodies (“At All”), stumbles through a corny and clumsy attempt at rapid-fire (“My Shawty”) and uses WAY too much autotune and other voice modifications. Maybe he doesn’t realize how dope his natural voice is.
What’s most surprising (and maddening) about King Kong is the totally unexpected and uncalled for techno turn the album takes around track 10. This song (“Twisted” ft. Lil’ Jon) is the harbinger of what is surely the most unusual deviation I’ve ever seen a “hood nigga” take.
“Twisted” and the three songs that follow it (“Turn Me On,” “Main Thing,” and “It’s Over”) are so far from what Zoe is good at that listening to them might make you angry (unless you’re into electronic music, in which case you’ll be absolutely giddy). Zoe’s no stranger to party record – but they’re usually made for dark, goon-filled clubs full of weed smoke, not weird-ass raves full of ecstasy and twirling glowsticks. The latter is more Flo-Rida’s terrain.
It seems that Zoe has abandoned growling and beating on his chest in favour of hopping around and pulling lame stunts. Quite frankly, a Gorilla shouldn’t be doin’ such monkey shit. So if Zoe’s covers really say a lot about the album behind it, hopefully he puts his unhappy face back on for the next one and leaves the flashing lights and stunner shades to the other guys.