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The Underrated: Z-Ro

By @JustKels88



A conversation regarding underrated artists would be incomplete without a lengthy discussion on Z-Ro. Not only has the Mo City native sustained an active and profitable career in the industry despite some ridiculous hurdles, he has a body of work that can hold its own versus almost anyone. Of course being a Houstonian and avid Z-Ro stan, my opinion could seem biased but, facts are facts. I understand that the music Z-Ro creates simply doesn’t appeal to some people and his callous demeanor keeps even his biggest fans at a distance, but he holds an importance in the industry that too often goes overlooked. Be it measured by body of work or career impact, Z-Ro continues to be one of the most underrated artists in the game.



Eighteen. The number of studio albums Z-Ro has released since 1998. Twelve of which found their way to the charts. As well as nearly 20 compilation and collaboration projects with just as many mixtapes. The man is consistent. Despite record label and personal woes, he has put out music that fans flock to for almost 20 years. In a fickle industry, Z-Ro is one exception to what seems to be a time limit on rapper's successfully releasing new music, even recently announcing the release of yet another album in July 2015. Not to mention, Z-Ro’s body of work contains some of the most popular songs to ever come out of the south. Maybe "June 27th", "From The South", "Get Throwed", "No Help" or the "Draped Up Remix" ring a bell. Then there’s the "Mo City Don Freestyle". Released in 2005, it is now what I would go as far as saying has become the best known freestyle in the city and even places nationwide. The sheer quantity of releases from Z-Ro is something to speak of. Then, once you consider the impact his work has had on fans and the industry alike, his “underrated” title is undeniable.

For a minute I tried to think of an artist to compare Z-Ro to career wise. It’s impossible. In the late 90’s, Z-Ro was a key component in the initial movement of Houston music to the forefront, sound wise. Z-Ro is a Houston rap legend, one of the very few that are still living, and you can’t name another Houston rap legend that hasn’t worked with him in some capacity. Since then, Z-Ro’s extensive collaborations, especially his never miss crooning on hooks, have made a huge impact and offered plenty of inspiration for other artist’s sounds. After all these years in the muddy Houston rap game with more than his fair share of industry disagreements, Z-Ro is still present. And successful. He can still sell out a show a week. He can still get a feature on some of your favorite artists’ albums. I could go on and on, but the video below is an amazing and accurate example of Z-Ro’s career influence. It features the aforementioned "Mo City Down Freestyle" being played at a Drake concert and Z-Ro isn’t even performing, but it’s necessary for this discussion.



Whether you like his music or not, Z-Ro has played an irreplaceable role in rap music. Throughout the last 20 years, he has been present and important, consistently. Despite all this, he somehow gets overlooked in conversations about pivotal artists. Perhaps it’s the fact that he is unapproachable. Maybe it has something to do with his notoriously uncompromising personality. Whatever it is, the facts don’t back it up. Underrated, unsung, slept on, whatever term you want to use- Z-Ro is the epitome.

-Kels

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