Friday, March 16, 2018

3 Feet High & Rising: Brett F. & ZIPRHED of Off The Meat Rack Talk Cold Rhymes Records Debut It's Not Okay (The Witzard Interview)

Lord Finesse braggadociously rhymes: "as long as the beat phat, my sh*t'll be off the meat rack" on Handsome Boy Modelling School's "Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Part 2 / Knockers" from Dan The Automator & Prince Paul's 2004 album, White People. Unbeknownst to Lord Finnesse, that very line would go on to inspire Mike "ZIPRHED" Mattox and Brett "Brett F." Fullerton to form their own genre-eschewing Hip-Hop group, fittingly called "Off The Meat Rack." While It's Not Okay is Off The Meat Rack's proper full-length debut, it's far from ZIPRHED & Brett F.'s first time working together... but I'll let them get into that. Lyrically, ZIPRHED's delivery personally, reminds me of a stylistic mix between Atmosphere, Darko The Super, and "Clint Eastwood"-era Del The Funky Homosapien; while beat-maker and producer Brett F. honestly, has a style unlike anyone else's beat-chopping style I've ever heard before, effortlessly sampling "House of The Rising Sun," Mazzy Star, Placebo, and PJ Harvey. Off The Meat Rack's It's Not Okay is currently available to stream, download, or purchase on cassette from Cold Rhymes Records. If you would like to learn more about the formation of the group, making-of the album, and much, much more, scroll down to read a comprehensive 12-question interview with Brett F. & ZIPRHED.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Hip-Hop/Cry Rap Enthuiast

I. Would you both mind briefly getting into you separate musical backgrounds?

Brett F: When I was young, my parents put me in piano lessons. I wasn't really into it. I stuck with it for a while. I wish I would've stuck with it. I really got into Underground Hip-Hop in the mid 90's; early middle school through high school. My senior year is when I really started wanting to get into making music, but never really [jumped] the gun and did anything about it. Fast-forward to the early 2000's: I met Mike [ZIPRHED] through my younger brother. One day, he hit me up and asked if I wanted to play keyboard in a Hip-Hop group he was starting [called] Oral Punishment. I was definitely down. We played some shows recorded a couple songs and then, the group broke up. Half the group moved to Cincinnati and the other part stayed in Michigan. From there, I started teaching myself how to use DAW's and how to use different types of beat machines and continued making music ever since!

ZIPRHED: I've been playing cello since age four. Also, picked up piano in high school and college, but never really mastered. I can play, though. I started rapping in high school but just freestyling at parties and sh*t never actually writing songs. My homie, Ian AKA Nameless Face got me into Underground Hip-Hop, when I was 18 and he was the best emcee I had ever heard. He really inspired me to start trying to writing raps. So, I wrote my first Rap song in 2004 when I was 20. Didn't have a beat, nor any knowledge about bar structure. I started Oral Punishment in Kalamazoo, MI with Choreboy AKA 20mg; I went by Cerrated C-SECTION (yeah, I know it's spelled wrong, but Google wasn't prevalent in '04 and by the time I found out, it was too late.) At that time, he played bass and piano. We added our homie, Dennis on drums and Thomas Gray on coronet and guitar.

We recorded four songs on a 1-track tape recorder. We hung a microphone from the ceiling of Choreboy's basement and all stood in a circle around it and played live. It was pretty inaudible, but we didn't know any better. In 2005, I followed the love of my life to Ann Arbor, MI and shortly after, Choreboy moved in with me in Ann Arbor. We reformed Oral Punishment. Choreboy was using live drum programming, playing synth, and piano. We got booked for a Basement Punk show with The Manginas and needed another piano player. I knew Brett played piano from seeing a piano at his house, so I taught him the parts an hour before showtime and he was officially in Oral Punishment. Afterwards, we added Brett's brother, Nameless Face as the other emcee and DJ Frate-One on the 1's and 2's. in 2008 Choreboy and I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. We decided to change our group name to 20ccs. Around 2012, me, Choreboy, and Grill Cheese started Unholy Trinity. Brett provided a lot of co-production on later 20ccs tracks and Unholy Trinity. When Unholy Trinity broke up in 2015, I was ready for something new.

II. How did your musical paths co-align to form Off The Meat Rack?

Brett: Mike and myself have always made music together. Once he moved to Ohio, I would send him random beats. We put out a couple tracks together here and there. Then, a couple years ago, I went to Cincinnati for a music festival! While I was there, I brought some gear and we made "Self Medicated." From there, I would email Mike beats, he would pick ones out he liked, and write to them!

ZIP: Brett came to Cincy for a music festival and we decided that we were going to finally take music seriously and start a group together... and Off The Meat Rack (OTMR) was born. We sat in my living room for an entire day and wrote "Self Medicated." I had wanted to sample "Meds" by Placebo for a long time because not only is it one of my favorite songs of all time, it truly is a really beautiful song with amazing lyrics. That's why I decided not to change the original lyrics that I sang in the chorus. The chemistry was so good that Brett just started banging out beat after beat and I started writing and we got our initial five songs done and started playing shows. That was the beginning of OTMR.

III. Would you mind briefly describing your "Cry Rap" sub-genre? How exactly did you go about coining and effectively, implementing it into your sound?

Brett: I'll let Mike explain the whole "Cry Rap" thing. Cry Rap's his thing!

ZIP: I started describing our music as "Cry Rap" because of the very sad content of all the songs; my struggles with addiction, teenage fatherhood, depression, and a very traumatic break-up with my girlfriend of seven years. A lot of the songs made me cry writing them and that didn't change when I performed them [live]. The bluntness of the term is for comedic effect because with every feeling, every situation being real it can be a lot for people to watch live. It's really nerve-racking crying in front of people, so I needed to cut the tension with roasting myself for crying. For the longest time, I did the whole "Bragging Rap" thing, which is cool, but definitely no longer where I was at mentally.

IV. What might you likely, list as your primary sources of inspiration and influence, while recording It's Not Okay?

Brett: Biggest influences, I'd say for me, was Mike. Once we got some songs done, he started booking tons of shows. This really motivated me to keep making music. Plus, seeing the response we were getting from this material was awesome! I'd say, Mike was my biggest influence for this project.

ZIP: First and foremost, my beautiful daughter, Annette, has been my inspiration my entire Rap career. Personally, Nameless Face and PTheEmcee inspired me to not give up on making music. While recording this album, I was listening to Lil Peep and Cage almost non-stop. Anytime a girl is referenced on It's Not Okay, it's referring to my ex-girlfriend. And of course, Brett's music has always inspired me because of his really sad synth style. He doesn't always bring that style, but he is the best that I know at it.

V. Now, what exactly do your artist names, Zipperhead/ZIPRHED, Brett F. and Off The Meat Rack mean or signify?

Brett: My stage name stems from my actual name. Mike used to call everyone their name, but would always say their last initial. It just kinda stuck! I put out an instrumental project under "Pusha Breaks." I had someone I really look up to in the Detroit music scene tell me to stick with my real name. I went back to Brett F. We got the name Off The Meat Rack from a Lord Finesse line.

ZIP: I'm glad that Brett acknowledged me for coming up with his artist name (lol). Me, Choreboy, and Nameless Face called him Brett F. because it was funny and we love nothing more than to roast Brett. "Zipperhead" is my response, as a second generation Korean American, to the casual and generally accepted use of racial slurs against Asians in popular culture; from that S&M shop in Philly to the main character in the video game Bio Freaks, "Zipperhead" was used and no one batted an eye. I'm not mad, I'm just taking it back. "ZIPRHED" is my homage to "Trap Star" by Young Jeezy.

VI. How did you come about the about choosing the album's title, It's Not Okay, as well as the primary cover image?

Brett: I'll let Mike explain. The first imagine that he wanted to use, I said no.

ZIP: I came up with It's Not Okay because after shows people would always ask me, if everything was okay... and I'd be like, "nah." It kinda became the re-occurring theme of all the songs. The cover image was the spawn of a selfie project I started when we released our first run of T-shirts. My good friend, Eleanor (@ElliePB48) took an amazing selfie that I wanted to use, but the image was too small, so she re-created her original selfie with a hand tie-dyed Off The Meat Rack T-shirt. It was a perfect image and sincerely explained our entire album.

VII. What do you currently have planned for Off The Meat Rack's It's Not Okay roll-out? Are there any particular plans for a tour, singles, a vinyl version, music videos, etc?

Brett: Plans for the album: we definitely plan on doing a couple short tours this year! Tapes and digital downloads. Video is in-the-works and will be shot in the next couple weeks.

ZIP: The cassette release of It's Not Okay is available now through the Cold Rhymes Records Bandcamp and in-store, if you live in Cincinnati or Detroit. We will be doing album release shows in Cincy and Detroit next month. We also, have a tour with our friends, LIQUIDx420 in the Fall. Also, planning on doing a short run in the Summer, as well.

VIII. What exactly was the It's Not Okay writing/recording/producing/mixing/mastering process like? Did you two record everything in the studio together or was it done via email, Jaylib Champion Sound-style?

Brett: A lot of the album was written by me sending beats to Mike. Some of it was beats I had just sent to him, others were songs he sent me to sample. The recording was all done in Cincinnati. We had some issues with the first recording and mastering. Mike re-recorded the whole album and then, Height mixed and mastered the project.

ZIP: The recording process was a very long one. We started recording last year. Height Keech hit me up six months ago, after hearing our tour demo and was all-in on releasing the album through Cold Rhymes Records. That lit a fire under my a$$ to stop casually recording and really get the album done. Many technical issues later, we are here, today and my first album EVER is complete!

IX. How did you end up linking up with Height and his imprint, Cold Rhymes Records to release It's Not Okay?

Brett: I think Mike had booked a tour date for Mister and Mister linked Mike up with Height! I still have not met Height, only talked to him, via email. I can't thank him enough, [though] for helping us put this [out] properly. Mike can explain more on the subject!

ZIP: I met Height Keech through our mutual friend and Cold Rhymes Records label mate, Mister. Height was doing a "Round Robin" tour, where he brought three acts and each city brought three acts and we set up three stages in a circle and went song-for-song non-stop. It was a pretty amazing experience. Height came through Cincy again, on tour last year, and I gave him a copy of our demo and the rest is history.

X. Are you able to talk about the samples used and re-purposed throughout the album or is that off-limits? I know I personally, recognized a few particular sample sources on "So, How Have You Been?" and "Another Day."

Brett: I like to sample Classic Rock and overseas Psychedelic Rock! I won't get into most of the samples. Some are very popular Classic Rock songs, there's one or two that people will guess, but probably never get. Some of the songs I sampled, Mike wanted me to sample, others were songs I sampled and Mike just happened to like. The Mazzy Star sample, Mike picked. It was one I really didn't want to sample. We were in Mike's living room and I started to sample it. [Yung] Debbie was there, when we started writing it and asked Debbie, if she wanted to be on it. When I'm sampling, sometimes, I purposely pick songs that everyone will know what it is. Other times, I grab stuff off records that an average person would never know what the Hell it is.

ZIP: I wanted to used "Meds" by Placebo, "Happy & Bleeding" by PJ Harvey, and "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star because they are some of my favorite songs by my favorite song-writers. I don't know about the rest. That's all Brett.

XI. How did you fellas and the good people at Cold Rhymes Records go about deciding which tracks to release as singles, prior to the album's wide release?

Brett: With the singles we dropped, we knew "Happily Bleeding" was gonna be the first release. It's are most popular song, when we play live. We really can get the crowd to participate on the chorus. The second song that we released, I think had to do more with Dan [Height] and Mike. I really didn't care what was released first. I just wanted to get this material out for everyone to hear!

ZIP: "Happily Bleeding" was the obvious lead single choice because that's the hype song when we play live. The dedicated Off The Meat Rack fans in Cincy all know the deal and sing along, so we had to do it. It's also known as "The Off The Meat Rack Song." "Broke(n)" is the most personal song that I wrote on the album. It was the first song that I was unable to play without crying. So, naturally, it was the second single because it embodies the aesthetic of "Cry Rap."

XII. Would you mind introducing The Witzard's readership to Eugenius & Yung Debbie, featured on "It's Not Okay" and "Faded Out," respectively?

Brett: Mike can explain more on the features. I know this, [though]: Eugenius is one of the dopest emcees I know, personally. I met him through Mike and had saw him perform a few times in Cincinnati and once in Detroit. He KILLED it here. I was extremely happy Mike got him on the record. Debbie, Mike had talked about getting her on a song and I was totally down. She's the frontwoman for a band named SlutBomb and she's also the lead singer in another Punk band called The Waterheads! There's a little bit more of an explanation on Debbie in Question #10.

ZIP: Eugenius is an amazing musician, singer, song-writer, and rapper. I met him through my homie, Ploughshare when I first started booking my own shows in Cincy. He's been in some pretty big bands his whole life, but was just starting to rap. So, I booked him and was blown away by the highly-emotional lyrical content and insane energy of his live show. Eugenius is, hands down, the best rapper in Cincy! We've been talking about doing a track together for a few years and one day, Brett made the perfect beat and we wrote the title track, "It's Not Okay." Eugenius also did co-production of four of the songs on the album. Forever grateful for him! Yung Debbie is the singer of SlutBomb and The Waterheads, two of the best Punk Rock bands in Cincinnati. Debra was my roommate, so while Brett and I were writing "Faded Out" at my house, I wanted to use specific lines from [Mazzy Star's] "Fade Into You" without sampling Hope Sandoval singing, so I asked Debra, if she could do it and she KILLED it.

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