Music

Zack Fox Isn’t Giving Up At Rap

Zack Fox doesn’t give up – except when it involves Elden Ring. And that’s why he’s one of rap’s most exciting new lyricists, even if he’s hesitant to consider himself a contender for rap’s throne.

But more on that later. Back to Elden Ring — the notoriously difficult role-playing game that’s become the best-selling release of 2022 since it dropped in February. Playing the part of a banished person that’s coming back to become a king, gamers around the world have been getting their asses kicked at every turn by the RPG’s many bosses.

Fox is one of those players who, up until a few weeks ago, was tweeting about the progress that he was making in the game. Once he made it to its first boss, Margit, the Fell Omen, he shared a video of him getting pulverized. When I ask him about it over a phone call, he first sighs, then reveals a decidedly un-Zack Fox-like philosophy.

“Sometimes, it’s about quitting,” he says with a genuine, sheepish laugh. “Shouts out to the n****s who built like that. It ain’t me. I play Animal Crossing, f*cking Katamari Dynasty, and Pokemon. I had no business and that’s totally on me. I’ll take that L.”

As far as stories go, Fox’s is one of perseverance — and genuinely being the funniest person in the room. The 31-year-old, Atlanta-born comedian found an early Twitter audience for his unique brand of deadpan-through-tweets jokes under the alias of “Bootymath” back in 2013 and, years later, joined the Father-led and Playboi Carti-featuring collective, Awful Records, where he often contributed a unique brand of illustrations to its projects.

As his popularity grew through both his tweets and other projects like stand-up comedy and the Bruh podcast for Red Bull Radio, Fox made the jump to music in 2018 with the release of “Square Up” with producer Kenny Beats. The track, which sounds like it’s about to steal your lunch money, is built around Fox’s unique humor through ridiculously funny punchlines. It immediately found favor with fans of his jokes as well as, surprisingly, fans of rap. While its release may have seemed like a spur-of-the-moment drop with a rising producer, Fox says now that it was an organic step into the next phase of his “creative wheelhouse.”

“I think [rap] has always been right there, on the table,’ he says. “I grew up basically with musicians, and I was a part of Awful, and being in proximity to it for so long, music never felt like a drastic departure from anything else. It was time to step out into that creative wheelhouse of what I’m building.”

Fox’s decision to keep going musically didn’t just stem from fans who showered him with praise, admitting that he “hates everything after I put it out.” Instead, it came from some of his favorite artists. “Seeing Lil Jon and Mike Will Made IT [give their approval]made me push further because it gave me a little boost due to the fact that some of my heroes were taking notice of it,” says Fox. “I wanted to just dig further into it.”

The following year, Fox broke through the mainstream when he appeared on Kenny Beats’ freestyle series The Cave in which the producer invites artists to his studio to rap on the spot. In an episode where Fox pulls up to have fun, the two hopped into the booth and gave birth to “Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression).”

What can be said about “Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression)” that would make sense from a strictly descriptive sense? It’s “What The F*ck” flavored ice cream, sprinkled with bits of truth that make it a delicate dance between absurdity and a breathing diary. Fox does everything on the track from drinking his own semen, crashing into white-owned businesses, and making the claim that his show was canceled because “white folks don’t trust me” (he’s probably referring to Vice Live, which aired for two months in 2019 before being discontinued). He rants and screams, but it never delves into ridiculous territory. It’s an intoxicating listen — one that shot to the top of Spotify’s Viral chart soon after its release.

Hearing the track leads the listener to ask one thing: how the hell does he record something like that with a straight face? There has to be a writer’s room in the same way that Jimmy Kimmel and other late-night hosts develop content to air on a daily basis. But, it’s actually quite the opposite. Fox doesn’t even really believe in getting to the studio, instead describing what he does as being “just a n**** with back pain in his house talking about germs.”

“When I’m with my guys Jak and Alex, we throw basketballs at each other in the studio,” he says. “Music is like drawing and doodling, and that’s like a big thing that I’m into. I treat both the same by sitting at a desk because I don’t really need to be in a studio with n****s ashing out backwoods on me.”

Fox’s approach can be heard across his debut album, Shut The F*ck Up Talking To Me, released in 2021. It’s a battalion of punchlines, insults, and missiles in the shape of dick jokes. It’s not made for critics — just the fervent fanbase that devours his jokes like the first meal after a day of fasting. “I was a poor-ass kid who had all this time to be imaginative, f*ck around, draw, and make beats on my mom’s furniture and be silly as a kid so I don’t try to force myself out of that now,” he says about the LP. “I’m a big-ass kid.”

Now, it’s 2022. With Fox’s debut album firmly in the rearview mirror, the world’s getting that itch for new music from Fox now that he’s firmly in the running for rap’s throne. Except, that’s just the thing — he firmly makes it clear that he’s not purposely running for anything. “I don’t put out music to be a contender,” he says. “I’m not making music to get anything out of it aside from this just being fun to me.” Besides, he’s been plenty busy with other aspects of his multifaceted career, including his recurring appearance on Quinta Brunson’s sensational sitcom Abbott Elementary, and writing on the Peacock original comedy Bust Down.

With that being said, there’s hope for the future for Fox’s 2022, he’s just not putting a timetable on when something else is coming. “I have no idea when I’m dropping a new project,” he says. “I’m always working on stuff, but I’m never going to burden myself by saying ‘this is the time when you’ll get this.’ I think it’s important for artists to go into their dungeon and then when I’m ready to drop something, I’m just going to put it out.”

While he’s locked in the dungeon, Fox is being inspired by classic shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Ren And Stimpy for his music. “I’m making songs from the perspective of a cartoon character, but also just being myself and finding the balance between those things,” he says. “I like to make sh*t that’s kind of silly, but I also want to be able to listen to it in the car for long-ass drives.”

Judging by his own checklist for good music, Fox has found success in his musical endeavors and will continue to do so. And when he thinks about his younger self and his goals, it looks like everything’s going according to plan. Well, almost.

“I didn’t succeed with having sex with Vanessa Williams like I wanted to when I was a kid,” Fox admits. “But I think that the other stuff, especially the music, is working out really well.”

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