Gorilla Zoe: Keeping It One Hunned

By: Todd Davis

Georgia’s very own native son, Alonzo “Gorilla Zoe” Mathis, unleashed on the masses his first solo outing Welcome to the Zoo nearly a year ago to date. Spawning four singles; ‘Tryna’ Make a Jug,’ ‘Money Man’ ‘Juice Box,’ and his signature hit, ‘Hood Nigga,’ the set landed at number 3 and number 8 on the Top Rap and Top R&B Album charts respectively, eventually peaking at #18 on the Billboard Top 200. Although Welcome to the Zoo sold 35,000 units in its first week of release, the momentum soon slowed way down and the project quickly crashed and burned. Zoe, who names, in no particular order, 8 Ball & MJG, Outkast, Too Short, Tupac, and Biggie, as his strongest musical influences, is already hard at work on his anticipated, follow-up LP, Don’t Feed Da Animals.

Rap Industry Dot Com recently chopped it up with the resident Atlantan, who also moonlights as a member of the Bad Boy Entertainment collective, Boyz N Da Hood, via cell-phone, to find out just what exactly he has in store for his legions of fans in the coming months

Coming off of last year’s Welcome to the Zoo — Were you somewhat disappointed in the overall performance of that project? 

No, I wasn’t disappointed. Coming from the street, to having a major single like ‘Hood Nigga’ and being in Boyz N Da Hood, was a great experience for me. It really taught me a lot about the music game, and I’m going hard for this next album.

Didn’t you expect it to do bigger numbers sales-wise?

It reached #3 on Billboard Hip-Hop and R&B charts, so I’m proud of that. I’m learning and growing, and just putting in the work for this next album to do even better than the one before.

Your forthcoming sophomore release has been titled Don’t Feed Da Animals — Tell me why?

Well, on my first album, Welcome to the Zoo, I compared “the zoo” to the streets and the ‘hood. I had a chance to taste success, so now I want to continue being fed by the industry to turn into a beast. That’s where Don’t Feed Da Animals comes from.

What’s the biggest difference between this new album and your debut?

This time around, I know what I’m doing and definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone to give the fans something new. Like my record ‘Lost’ with Lil’ Wayne, that’s crazy, and (it’s) climbing (the) Billboard charts. I still have those ‘Hood Nigga’ records for the streets, too!

In addition to the Wayne record, are there any other highlights?

I have production on the album from The Runners, Luney Toonz, Jazze Pha; to name a few. And, cameos by Lil’ Wayne, Diddy, (and) Gucci Mane.

Tell me how this whole rap thing first jumped off for you…

Well, I started off getting into trouble in the streets, and decided I wanted something different. I had this natural gift to rap, and having a raspy vocal tone really catches people’s ear. (Russell) “Block” (Spencer), CEO of Block Entertainment, put me onto Boyz N Da Hood, (and) then I became a solo artist with Welcome to the Zoo. 

What made you really want to take the place of Young Jeezy in the second incarnation of Boyz N Da Hood? And, is the group even still intact? It seemed as if you all really didn’t even promote Back Up n da Chevy…

I wasn’t there to really take Jeezy’s place. Jeezy had his solo thing going on, so it was just an open door for me. It’s still Boyz N Da Hood all day — Free Big Gee! B.N.D.H. set me up for my solo career, so I really can’t complain.

What has given you the staying power to remain a recognizable force in Hip-Hop?

I stay open to new sounds, always working with new hungry producers, and I stay in the studio. It’s a daily grind! I’ve been touring and working non-stop since Boyz N Da Hood. 

Are you planning on branching out into any other areas of the entertainment realm?

Right now music is my focus, but I wouldn’t mind getting into acting, (and) maybe opening a few businesses. The sky’s the limit.

How do you view the current state of Hip-Hop music?

Hip-Hop is global now, so I can’t be mad at that. I try to focus on the music I’m putting out there, and making sure I’m giving my fans the best quality music.

On a personal note, tell me something about Gorilla Zoe that wouldn’t necessarily be revealed through any of your records…

My friends say I’m funny as hell. (I’m) always cracking jokes and laughing. I’m down to earth, and with me what you see is what you get.

What do you like to do when you are not making music?

I have the new Dodge Challenger, and I ride around the “A” and just chill out. I really don’t get a lot of spare time though.

What has been the biggest moment for you career-wise?

My highlight is seeing the success of ‘Hood Nigga.’ That record really represents me as an artist. 

What exactly does Gorilla Zoe have in store for the future?

I see myself in the position that God would place me. I definitely want to be wealthy of the mind and the wallet. 

New single and video, ‘Lost,’ due out soon? Second solo album, Don’t Feed the Animals, scheduled for release when? 

The (official) single is ‘Lost,’ featuring Lil’ Wayne. I got the video for ‘Waddle,’ featuring Gucci Mane, and records ‘Dope Boy’ and ‘I’m Dumb’ flooding the streets.

I hear you will be going overseas soon, too?

(Yeah,) going to London in October for the MOBOS [Music of Black Origin Awards]. 

And finally, what’s up with the guys {Jody Breeze, Duke and Big Gee} from Boyz N Da Hood? Will you all do another group LP? 

I see Jody often, and Duke from time to time. Free Big Gee! Not sure if and when we will do another, but it’s definitely a possibility.

Thanks for taking your time out with me today, good luck with the new album, and continued success to you! 

Go pick up Don’t Feed Da Animals January 13, 2009!