Heavy Is the Head That Wears Z-Ro's The Crown

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Photos by Marco Torres
Z-Ro lookin' sharp at the Arena Theatre, January 2011
When your eye catches Joseph McVey, they immediately pan towards his stature. It's cold, most of the times draped in blue and hidden behind a pair of Loc black sunglasses. You could jokingly say he hasn't shown anybody his eyes since his "I'm Alive" video, or whenever he was officially crowned a legend in the city of Houston. But the man known as Z-Ro's demeanor as Houston's hook assassin and unflinching destroyer of worlds hasn't changed in the almost two decades since he first began appearing on Screw tapes.

This past Monday, he found himself at 97.9 The Boxx, a sort of home base for him. The station was the first to show him any considerable love in terms of radio play and remains the most consistent avenue for breaking new Z-Ro records to the masses. He was at the station to discuss an incident that had happened at his home between Z-Ro, an overzealous fan and the police.

"A woman that looked like Yaphet Kotto," he told the Madd Hatta Morning Show to uproarious laughter. "Talkin' bout she broke in."

Z-Ro confronted the woman like an intruder, naked, and wound up in police custody.

"I couldn't really WWE her," he told the DJs.

The police, however, saw Z-Ro with blood on his hands, and before deeming him the victim of a home invasion believed it had been a domestic incident. Eventually the woman was charged with trespassing, and Z-Ro was later released on bail to his management. The story may seem wild, but to Z-Ro it's just another star-crossed moment in his career.

His latest album, The Crown, comes with little to no warning -- no massive promo run, no tour, nothing. It arrives under a cloud of darkness apart from the tag line noting that it was produced in its entirety by Houston's venerable Mr. Lee. Another project, the long-awaited collaboration between he and Slim Thug titled A King & A Boss, was slated to arrive last year but no solid release date materialized.

It hasn't deterred Ro from making appearances left and right, first at Free Press Summer Fest's "Welcome to Houston" set, then as the final guest at Drake's star-studded Houston Appreciation Weekend concert at Warehouse Live, and last week at 93.7 The Beat's H-Town Beat Down. Whenever there has been a minute for him to solely focus upon music, he's been in a zone.

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The Crown is representative of that. The album is not available through Z-Ro's usual label home of Rap-A-Lot, but can be purchased on boutique Web site SoSouth.com. It's also been up for streaming for the better part of a week on streaming audio site Audiomack.com. More than 29,000 plays later, it sits as the 11th-most played album on the site this week.

No matter what, Ro is like 2Pac in this sense: if something new has his name on it, fans will gobble it up and sing its praises. A synth-laden drum creation called "Keep Shining" officially opens the album, with Mr. Lee flipping Tela's "Sho Nuff" into something futuristic and Z-Ro channeling the Gap Band's "Yearning For Your Love" with the same passion he's been utilizing on hooks since 2009's Relvis Presley mixtape.


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