Interview By: Shod Harris
Media By: Shod Harris, Korey Johnson + Joey Colon
Here in Virginia it seems like the music scene has been bubbling for awhile now. There were some greats that have come from the area such as Missy Elliot, Timbaland, The Neptunes, The Clipse and many more. Since the heyday of the late 90s and early 2000s, the area has been trying to find its own way out of the shadows of those stars by trying to develop its own sound, and just develop its own industry overall. It seems like over the past 5 years or so there has been a growth in the industry. There has been some major acts that have building their names in the area ranging from Dout Gotcha to Intalek to D.R.A.M. to Laron Bishop to newer artists such as Sunny and Gabe to Young Crazy to Era Hardaway. Some of those names have been building up their catalog with great songs, creative visuals, and magnetic stage presence and are now ready to take over. One group that comes to mind that has all of those attributes is the DFG collective that is made of singer Kori Nicole and rappers Amir Driver and Zack Morris. I’ve personally known Driver for the past 5 or so years and have seen him grow tremendously. Now we have Zack Morris, who is the “rager” of the group. We also have Kori Nicole who would be considered the free spirit of the group. So if you have checked out projects from them before or checked out their videos or even if you have never heard of them a day in your life, this is something you want to continue reading.
The Rebel | The Outcast | The Rager
An Avid Soccer Fan & Player
Has A Master’s Degree In Psychology
Doesn’t Listen To Mainstream Radio
Addicted To Rock Band T-Shirts
Sees Colors When He Hears Music
How did you originally get into music?
Ummm… initially as a kid I used to sing around the house and rap to Snoop Dogg hoping my Dad didn’t catch me. Over the past couple of years I started to take it serious and started to develop my own sound. I just made a conscious effort not to sound like anybody else.
You went to Virginia Tech right?
Yeah I did my Bachelors at VT and just finished my Masters at University of Phoenix. So I’m trying to gross 6 figures a year doing something.
How has going to VT affected you as a person as well as your music?
Ummm… I would say Tech really didn’t affect me. It just helped me maintain the person I was growing up. I grew up playing soccer. I’m from downtown Portsmouth and went to a black high school so there were different dynamics in my life. Everybody in my neighborhood was black but I played soccer so I was the only one in my neighborhood that did that. I was exposed to a different set of… different culture with my white teammates listening to Metallica or Nirvana. A lot of people I know idolized the dude on the corner. But Kurt Cobain was one of my idols. So VT just helped me continue to be the person I was when I might not have been comfortable if I didn’t go to Tech.
“A Lot Of People I Know Idolized The Dude On The Corner. But Kurt Cobain Was One Of My Idols.”
What was your mindset when creating your latest project Zack vs. Rage?
Ummm…. I would say I wanted to make sure that it was original and stood alone from my first project. I never want anybody to say that I sound like somebody else. Or I’m trying to fit in with a particular sound. So with the Zack sound it’s very melodic a lot of party up-tempo stuff. It’s like the soundtrack from my early twenties when I was just partying and raging the whole time just doing whatever. The Rage half is essentially some raw and aggressive, in your face, if you don’t like it fuck you type shit. That was my mindset coming into that and just continuing to be me.
We know that T.I created T.I vs. T.I.P, what made you go with the name Zack vs Rage?
To a certain degree yeah. At first Zack and Rage were going to be two different projects. When recording I couldn’t focus my mind on doing just one type of music. I would be recording a party track but the energy would be completely different. And I would end up recording something else. So before you know it I would end up having four of each type of record. I just went with it. I thought it would be cool to pretty much combat myself and just see which side would win. I have a personally favorite for which side I like but I’m not going to disclose that. You can make your own opinion about it.
What are your thoughts on the VA music scene right now?
VA music scene, it’s… I would say it’s almost like a double edged sword. On one hand you got guys who are doing great things and who are developing the culture but on the other hand you have individuals who don’t want to see other people prosper. It’s not something I really participate in. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have a lot of music friends either. So I tend to stay away from those circles. But I have mad love for everybody that does their music around here because just to put your music out to say this is my work and I hope you like it, That’s a hell of a step. So everybody needs to show love to people who take their craft serious. But it’s definitely moving forward like leaps and bounds from where I thought it would be at this point. I would like to see somebody that gains a name from here and just garner some type of notoriety from here and put the spotlight on themselves and this area.
What is it that you feel Zack Morris brings that is different from the music industry?
I would say the content in my music is a bit different. I have never been a proponent for doing or saying things that are different from me. So in my music I’m not going to talk about things that I don’t do. I have two degrees; both of my parents were police officers growing up. I wasn’t in the streets. Never sold drugs. Never been arrested. Of course I’ve dabbled in drugs on my own. I was never the street dude or never considered to be a thug. I don’t feel like I need to create music to fit in. My music is authentic to me. So you know if people take to my music then they take to it. I don’t feel like the Zack Morris character is never going to do music to fit in to try to appeal to an image.
What are your top 3 albums of all time?
Man… Dylan, Dylan, Dylan. My favorite 3. Uhhh man. Three off the top of my head that have done a lot for me were probably Michael Jackson, BAD. Because he really came into his own on that album and just he was the person he wanted to be at that time. N.E.R.D, Seeing Sounds. From start to finish that shit was unique each track was different and had its own message. Third…. shit…. I would have to say Nirvana’s Greatest Hits. It’s just a mood that those types of records put me in. I can’t go a week without listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit like 5 or 6 times.
The Songtress | The Free Spirit | The Dreamer
Favorite Show Is Greys Anatomy
A Military Brat
Could Eat Pizza Everyday, For The Rest Of Her Life
Learned How To Sing Through Imitation
Hates Dirty White Sneakers
How was life growing up as Kendra in Portsmouth?
Um. I think for awhile i was afraid to showcase my talent. I’ve always written music. Music has always been apart of my life. But growing up I didn’t really sing out loud a lot. I was the shy person. And not to say that I was funny looking, but I was funny looking. You know we all go through that awkward stage. I just kind of sat back a lot and it wasn’t until I got to high school that i got the confidence to get in the studio and sing out loud to let everyone hear me. So Kendra was Kendra in Portsmouth but Kori Nicole is when it really began.
Who were some of your musical inspirations growing up?
I think one of the first albums that I ever bought was Monica’s album when she came out with The Boy Is Mine album. And Brandy growing up I used to people like that, Destiny’s Child. With my parents they used to listen to older music. I loved Anita Baker. I loved Luther Vandross. I probably listened to Anita Baker too much as a young child. Yeah those were some of my musical influences when i was young. I think that now singing has taken a backseat in a lot of people’s careers.
For people who haven’t heard of your music before, how would you describe it?
I stick to that rhythm and blues formula. Like people like Anita Baker. She really embodied that blues element. I’m not Super bluesy. but I do stick with that traditional blues sound. I feel like my sound is still evolving. So that means in a little while i could describe it a little bit differently but right now its definitely soul.
What is #TasteTestTuesday?
Ummm #TastetestTuesdays is something I came up with to kind of get music out there. I really just want people to hear my music. I haven’t really saturated the sound waves with a lot of music. So I want to give myself the opportunity to put out music, allow people to hear different sounds and kind of taste test. My checking the analytics of each song I can kind of tell what people are feeling and what they are not and then go from there when it comes to putting my project together and put my sets together. I think it’s been interesting so far. And I haven’t just been dropping music. I might put out a vlog or something of that nature so people can see what I am up to and get to know me a little better.
As one of the main R&B singers in the scene, what are your thoughts on the R&B scene in the area?
I think R&B in itself is fading away. I know that people are into; I think R&B had adopted different sectors. Like I was just talking about vibe music. People are into feeling a vibe now. I think your traditional r&b artists (there aren’t a lot) that sing their asses off and they still put out a different type of music. They are still soulful but it’s just different. There are still a lot of people to check for. But when it comes to traditional R&B it’s just a lot smaller.
What do you have in store for people that love your music with your next project?
You know I think people are going to realize that I can very versatile as an artist and a singer. If you have ever heard of anything from me before I’m always evolving and always changing my voice and vocal cords are always changing and getting stronger. I have surprised myself recently with some of the stuff I have recorded. People should expect growth. And really I don’t think people should expect anything. I don’t know what is gonna happen next. I get influenced by places I go and people I see. I listen to country music a lot lately and some of those influences have rubbed off on me a lot lately. People expect too much just expect to be surprised and pleased.
I see that you are creating more content around yourself lately, what was the thought process behind that?
I feel like people enjoy getting to know the people that they listen to. I feel like in this era of reality TV we know the people that we listen to. We know them so well. We get to see them on Snapchat we see them on social media. With that being said i want people far and wide to be able to say that i clicked on her link on Soundcloud to go to her website to watch her vlog and watch her talk about her son or watch or talk about the photo shoot she did last week. And you can follow me on Instagram, you can follow me on twitter, you can follow me on Snapchat you can see somethings, but the look that you can see when someone is looking in on what you are doing. My videographer comes in and checks out and he gets these bomb ass shots of what I’m doing and he makes me more excited. And I think its dope that people get to follow my journey. People get to see me grow from this caterpillar into this butterfly. Who wouldn’t want to display that.
How much of an inspiration is your son when creating your music?
My son is very inspirational because he is very musical. He makes beats.
How old is your son?
He is three. Right. He doesn’t need a TV or a radio to come on. He always beating *boompt, boompt, boompt* [beat boxing sound] all the time. His brother and his uncle make beats as well. So and his dad raps, I sing, so everybody is musically oriented. He is just always coming up with something. He raps but he doesn’t say words so it’s weird loll. He is just always making music. So if my son gets to be bigger than me. I know you always want your child to be successful. I just want to be able to give him a good platform to stand on. So mom has to be a huge superstar to nurture that and be a colossal superstar so that is what inspires me.
What are your top 3 albums of all time?
Uggghhhh. That’s a tough one. Now this is tough. Top 3 that come to mind. Ummm. I would say one of the albums that come to mind and one that taught me a lot about vocals are the writings on the wall by destiny’s child. Another favorite is my dark twisted fantasy by Kanye west. And another favorite……. its Beyoncé, I’m not sure on which album. Beyoncé’s 4. Because I feel like in that album she hit on so many different types of songs. Like she was very creative on that album. Even though I know, no offense to Bey, and please Beyhive don’t tackle me but she didn’t come up with all of these songs. But she really branched out on that album. So… those would have to be my three…. for now.
What else do you have in store for the rest of 2016?
I want to get on stage. Be on stage for the remainder of the year. I really want to get on stage and let people see me. When I get to perform and people see me, that’s so bomb. That is where you gain the fans and capture people’s heart and soul. So that is what I want to do, get into scary situations and do shows I normally wouldn’t do. So that is what I want to do for the rest of 2016.
The Rapper | The Mayor | The Showman
First Rap Was A Song About The Devil
Used To Wear Clothes Backwards Like Kriss Kross
Former Expert Painter & Drawer
Coach Youth Basketball When Not Doing Nigga Shit
Learned How To Write From Mother Who Is A Teacher
You have recently dropped your latest project Over Everything, what makes this project different from other projects that you have had before?
For me it’s just progression in the music. I just want it to be better in sound. I feel like now the artistry is much more mature, the sound is much more mature, the content, the structure of songs is much mature. It’s just a deeper body of work and it is more cohesive. I’ve always done cohesive projects but this one feels really good. I’m not going to say it’s much different because I’ve always feel like I do quality work. But it is just a different feel of me…pause.
How has the VA music landscape changed over the past couple of years?
It’s a music scene now. It’s a music scene now to an extent. One of the things that I have looked at is how many people are trying to do things on a quality level. Initially I could say that it was like 4 of us that were really like pursuing it taking it seriously on a quality standpoint. Making quality music and shooting quality videos. But now it’s a lot more cats and females out here that are trying to really make a name for themselves. A lot more open mics. At first when I was out here 7 or 8 years ago there was a lot of poetry open mics. You know what I’m saying, singer open mics. Now there are rap venues. Besides people like Double XL who had a show that he was doing but other than that there were singer open mics. But now you can find one Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with some quality talent. Not all….. Hahaha….. But some with quality talent. There is a lot of diversity also.
As somebody who has been doing this for a while and with a great fan base, what do you feel like separates you from all of the other rappers out here?
Honestly, I think what it is man is quality and understanding. This shit is real. This shit is real my nigga. For everybody that raps for their homeboys that’s cool, that’s all well and gravy. You have a couple of hundred people retweet your shit on Facebook or whatever but this shit is real. I’m one of those people who were out here before the social media age. When you really had to have talent and project your character. I think with me you get more of the actual artistry. I pride myself on that. Being able to rap and perform. Making sure the videos look good. Making sure these interviews are fluent and shit. Man I think now a lot more of my peers in the area are starting to get it. But with me being a lot more vested I think I just think about it and approach it from a different perspective. So people respect it differently and see how I try to approach it. That’s about it.
You have been known to be the best rapper out here for a while; do you think you get your respect as being the best?
No. because it’s disposable and things happen so fast and I don’t really play into how the social media age works. I’m really from a time of having really really quality work. So I try to put together quality work. And let it sit and work it but that’s not how it is now. So I might put a project out 3 or 4 months go by and I’m still working the same thing. Somebody else might have done 4 or 5 low quality records and videos. But you see them doing a whole lot of shit so people feel like its taking precedent. The quality is something different. I feel like we need to go back to that, taking pride in quality shit. By time and making everything moving so fast and social media making everything so accessible. I don’t feel like we actually take pride and appreciate quality shit as we should since everything goes so fast. That is one of the reasons that people don’t see me in that light around here because I pride myself in doing dope shit. I pride myself on taking one dope ass shot instead of taking a lot of small ass jabs that don’t amount to nothing. That’s just me. It’s all different. When they see it they know. When I’m around a lot of these rap niggas they know and I can feel it if they don’t say it and that’s fine. It’s all love.
What was the goal that you had in mind when creating Over Everything?
The first song I did was Slick Rick or The Ruler, legal shit. It just felt really good, the beat came together really good, the record the hook came together really well for me. With making this project it was just about making good music, quality records. One of the things that this area tries to hold me to is the Sneaktape which is fine because that was a dope body of work but it is deeper than just sneaker rap. So I just wanted to give people quality records. I’m rapping but its mainstream hip-hop because I am rapping on every song. I’m not trying to do anything outside of the realm of what I do. I know I’m a rapper; I put bars together that is what I do. But I did it over great production for a great vibe, a great feel. So you get good songs from a rapper, if that makes sense.
As the unofficial Mayor of Norfolk, what is it about your city that makes you put it on your back the way you do?
I mean from besides having 20 something years of being here and being vested, I have always been truly active in my city from different perspectives. So I see it from so many different lanes and avenues it makes me appreciate my area as you should if you are from wherever you’re from. You should take pride in that. So that is a lot of why. At one point there wasn’t nobody rapping saying they are from the city. That you could really take pride in. So I wanted people to say Driver is from Norfolk and he is really nice so everybody from Norfolk got to be nice. That’s what I really wanted it to be. I wanted people to think about Norfolk the same way people think about Brooklyn when it comes to Hov [Jay-Z] and shit. When people think about Virginia I want people to think about Norfolk, VA. I want it to be on the forefront of your mind when you think about VA. So that is why I carry it like I do.
What is your favorite song on Over Everything?
My favorite song would have to be the title track. I really like it because it is so strong. Outside of that would be “Spread Love” with Billy Mercury it’s definitely one of my favorites too. For me it’s just content and I just felt like we needed that. It’s been a lot of wild crazy shootings and crazy in the way things. So for the spread love record it just came together so strong. And it’s a musical record and Billy came through and put some soul on it. So out of the 9 songs “Over Everything” and “Spread Love” are my favorite two as of right now.
“So I Wanted People To Say Driver Is From Norfolk & He Is Really Nice So Everybody From Norfolk Got To Be Nice”
What do you feel you have to do to finally get to that next level?
To get to that next level I think to me the talent and the quality is right there. I feel like it just comes down to getting the project seen by a wider audience because right here in VA that’s something we don’t have is the outlets to get it seen. I really believe that’s what a few of us are missing, me and a couple of my peers honestly. The quality is here and the talent level is here we are just missing that other eye. I tell people all the time we are in a different era. A retweet can change a nigga life.
A retweet for quality work can change a nigga life. A retweet or a repost, look at this nigga from the 7, or my man from Norfolk, whoever they may be can do those things, they are in position to. That’s what it is right now, just more eyes to be able to see that. Avenues like this opens up those eyes. It gives people other outlets to see things.
What are your top 3 albums of all time?
Top 3 albums…. Reasonable Doubt. These are going to sound cliché; I have reasons for all of them but Reasonable Double, Ready To Die and The Blueprint. I’m going to tell you why. Reasonable Doubt came out on my 8th birthday. June 25th, 1996.
I have two older cousins, my cousin Nicki and my cousin Anwar. They were big into hip-hop since forever. My cousin Anwar is a bit older so he was big into Wu Tang. So when Jay[Z] album came out he only got it because she wanted it and he had to get something else in order for him to get what he wanted. So that’s how it worked. So he got the joint and gave it to me instead of giving it to her. So I had Reasonable Doubt at like 8 or 9 years old on some wild shit. But the sound of the music was something that was very familiar to me. My mom was big into soul, Isley Brothers, Earth Wind and Fire. So the sound was very familiar. Ready To Die was because Hov was so into big that you had to get it. It had to make sense. And when I listened it was very theatrical like crazy theatrical as far as the way that it comes on. And Blueprint was because it was one of the first albums that I had bought personally. The first album that I actually bought was the Dynasty from Walmart but that shit was edited. So that and Rule 336 but they were edited but them shits was so hard. My Grandma actually took me to Target to get Blueprint so she actually was riding down the street listening to Blueprint with me. That’s an awkward ass story now that I think about it. But me and my Grandma went and got Blueprint in 01 after 8th grade and she was fucking with a nigga. Those are my three. Hahahaha.
What else do you have in store for the rest of 2016?
For the rest of 2016, Over Everything is out now. The first video the ruler is out and it’s on All Def Digital. We got a grinding video on the way, over everything, slow down, shorty wanna and what means the world to you. So we are getting the videos out over the course of the year. We also got Super Stylish. Man I shot so much shit so it’s going to be dope when everything comes out. but we got SET TV season 2 coming which is just chronicling me and my homies trying to get it, Malc, Fresh, me, Flee, Zack, Kori. We all make appearances. We got some shows planned too, not sure on dates just yet. Zack got a project coming June 7th. Kori got some music coming too. We are also planning a DFG show. An Amir Driver show later on this summer with a live band since I like the unplugged shows a lot. So just work. ♠