SOCIAL STUDIES: An Interview with Musician, Producer and Educator, Zo!

Special to Informer | 6/11/2012, 3:52 p.m.

Zo!: I was doing it full time, I was at a special education high school in DC called Rock Creek Academy from '06 until this past August when the school shut down. You know what, I don't know where the time came from, I guess in that sense I guess I'm lucky that I'm a night owl, because I can actually function off of three or four hours of sleep. Because that's pretty much what it took to try to even maintain any type of balance in your life. Since the school shut down I'm giving private piano lessons, either face to face or via Skype. So, I'm still finding time, I still enjoy making a difference in people's lives. I really think that whatever gifts that I have musically, I want to pass it down. I think that, it would be really selfish to take that stuff to the grave with you.

Washington Informer: So teaching isn't just a "day job" for you?

Zo!: Absolutely, absolutely. You can find me sometimes, even at 2 and 3 o' clock (in the morning) just going through ITunes. I'll put a playlist on shuffle just to challenge myself, whatever comes up you gotta learn it and you gotta play it. A lot of times, it doesn't even really feel like work.

Washington Informer: Yeah, that's when it's good [laughs]. Doing something you like.

Zo!: Definitely, definitely.

Washington Informer: Going back to the teaching, in your opinion how important is music education in schools?

Zo!: I think its huge man. I think it's really messed up because as long as I can remember the arts and things like that have always been shunned and kinda pushed to the side and kinda looked at as not really important in schools. And of course, when the budgets are cut, (the arts) that's the first thing to go. Folks, who are typically inclined, normally do better in core, their core classes. There's so many different ways in your core classes; math, English, reading and social studies and things like that, you can incorporate the arts to help your kids to excel. I've personally seen kids that I've taught do complete 180's, not only in the classroom, but in their lives, because they're able to latch onto something that they do well. So it, really carries over man. I don't think a lot of people, even those who call themselves educators, really understand and don't realize how much of an impact, the arts period can have on a child's life.

Washington Informer: How did you start working with Foreign Exchange? Before you answer that, I know it kind of started out as a joke but that Love the 80's record you did with Phonte was great. Seriously, just on the strength of the album cover you guys had me with that one.

Zo!: [Laughs] I met Phonte back in December of '05, he was touring with Little Brother at the time. I was living in Michigan and I went to see them at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Basically, what ended up happening was before we even met, I came out with an album that year called Re:Definition, Re:Definition was basically a remix project and on the album I remixed two Little Brother songs. On their message boards at the time, the justiceleague.com message boards, one of the dudes on there was like "Yo, I think Phonte heard the joint" or whatever I was like word? When I went to the show, I was like, let me see if I can catch him real quick and just, you know? Just dap him up, I had that whole little thing mapped out or whatever. We end up running into each other after the show, we introduced each other and he, and he was like "Yo, I know who you are" And I was, like, word! And he was like "Yeah, I got your album in my iPod". So we ended up exchanging information and a couple months later we were working on "Stepping Out" from ...just visiting, the vinyl joint. We started working on the 80's album and like you said, it was as a joke at first. But then I was like shoot, there's about to be some serious music. There's a studio chemistry, we're basically cut from the same cloth of music and listening to diverse stuff. While we were working on the'80s album, he was saying with the next Foreign Exchange record he wanted me to be involved in the live aspect of it.