Review Summary: An un-kept secret of Hip-Hop is that Joseph Wayne McVey is one of Americas' more underrated rappers.
Since the summer of 1998 Z-Ro released thirteen solo albums, starting with 'Look What You Did To Me' and the latest being 'Cocaine'*. After starting his relationship with the dastardly Rap-A-Lot Records**, the Houston star was able to garner a little acclaim with songs such as "THUG (True Hero Under God)" and "I Hate You Bitch", the former coming off of 'The Life of Joseph W. McVey'. People found there were many things to get out of Z-Ro's music. Most importantly it is 2009's 'Cocaine' that shows a culmination of growth where he flawlessly used many talents to their greatest strengths.
Hard to come across in Hip-Hop/Rap is an emcee who can back up their well executed rhymes with equally well performed singing hooks and Z-Ro just happens to contain a distinctly soulful voice. With this he can lay down a chorus for himself quite easily, thus eliminating any potential need to smother the album with guest appearances. The track-list could seem daunting, but Z-Ro makes sure to put all seventeen tracks to their proper use. He produces eleven of the songs as well as creating the beats himself. A portion of the exquisite sample selection includes Maze, Anita Ward, Jodeci, The Crusaders, and Air Supply.
This melodic South side record features exceptionally laid back beats and vocals with enough tough guy songs to keep the album excitingly fresh. Plenty of fast paced gangsta segments back it up, but these songs aren't club bangers because they're simply a more intimate affair. Z-Ro usually keeps a conscious mind-state, offering a lyrical repertoire in which he uses both free-style and written verses. The man isn't afraid to show his opinion of the world and what goes on in it. He can also take a look at the effects of his life choices and other circumstances, making it a big part of his style. He can branch out even further if he wants to, which can effectively cause some tracks to become much bleaker.
"They say my music won't make it cause I don't rap cars or dancin
I rap pain, poverty and fraud romance.
Who gona represent for tha brother on death row
And let him know whether he did it or not God had his back from the get go"
A lil mama that's hustlin riskin her freedom, house full of kids.
None of the baby daddy's around
And she just tryin to feed 'em
Even if she's layin on her back for bread
Instead of talkin about her
Show her how to earn it without opening legs
Why my people rather point fingers and turn up they noses"
Showin love then strikin a match
Yeah ain't that so explosive"
And I'm guilty just like everybody else
Cause when I'm talkin to ya'll I'm talkin to self."
-'I Don't Give A Damn'
Compared to ninety-percent of more prominent rappers Z-Ro could've had a much better influence on younger listeners, but his popularity never fully took off. The beginning of 'Cocaine' immediately covers some of Z-Ro's outtake on his life, what he advises. He stands out easily from others spitting what could be something miniscule only an imprisoned man would think of, or what a person influenced racially may feel about him, or what he believes religiously. As said, Z-Ro usually keeps a conscious mind-state in his lyrics and this certainly stays prominent throughout the course of 'Cocaine'. He clearly displays the fact that he is empathic of others and can view situations which haven't directly affected himself, but also that he is human just like everyone else.
I suppose spinning this record on a long drive with some kind of Mary Jane would go by quite smoothly, especially if you have a doobie to smoke too, but there are also lessons found throughout 'Cocaine'. Ultimately, in order to advanced beyond an ignorant lifestyle, we must begin by not judging things or people by their cover. Yes, people have bad stigmas attached to their lifestyle, sometimes in plain sight, but we are all capable of being better people, so judge not lest ye be judged. That's what I get most out of 'Cocaine'.