Volume 6, Issue 1 University of Houston
Rapper V-Zilla's 'Lockdown Sessions' breaks away from stereotypical Houston sound
By Zach Lee
Across the hip-hop world, Houston's reputation is tightly associated with one name: DJ Screw. His slowed-down music combined with the 'drrty' vocals of the South form the quintessential sound of H-town. But not all local rappers allow that stereotype to dictate their style, though. V-Zilla (aka VG Skillz) proves just that in his December release, The Lockdown Sessions.
The title "stems from the overwhelming feeling of being pigeonholed, trapped and in a genre that has too many 'labels' for its own good,'"Zilla said. He wastes no time before proving that he transcends the genre limitations set before him.
V-Zilla breaks through stereotypes with his new CD, The Lockdown Sessions, proving that Houston rap isn't just about slowed-down beats and 'drrty' vocals.
Photo courtesy of Ill Dyalekt Records
His production is done for the most part by Robert 'Moonshine' Martensson, of Swedish hip-hop group The Narcissists. The beats are heavily influenced by the old-school east-coast sound. Piano progressions appear in almost every song, and even casual listeners will recognize a sound similar to older Nas records. Vocal samples also play a prominent role in the music, like in 'Classic,' a track featuring the talent of the whole Narcissists crew. Bavu Blakes makes a guest appearance on 'Imagine That,' and the track is highlighted by vocal samples, something that sounds like a xylophone and an infectious bounce.
Lyrically, Zilla is head and shoulders above the majority of the rap crowd. He deftly bounces from insulting the music industry and telling interesting stories to professing his love for hip-hop and his hopes for the future. His dexterous storytelling ability makes 'Unfaithful''one of the best songs on the album.
The first verse explains how a friend fell in love with a girl that took advantage of him and how the relationship came to an end. "October twenty-second, nineteen nine four / my man caught a stray bullet, lay dead on the floor / and I don't know what really hurt me more / knowing he's gone or that he died thinking his girl really loved him for sure' he raps. Legendary locals K-Otix make a guest appearance on 'Lockdown Pt. 2,' and Zilla again impresses with his lyrics: "Regardless, I stay regarded as a starving artist / So now the hardest part is being a hidden target."
Zilla broke onto the scene after doing the intro for the Krakker Nuttz on 97.9 FM and is proud to walk the line between underground hip-hop and mainstream rap. It's not that he doesn't like the popular sound, "it's just the way they treat the artists -- old men in an office while the artist is killing himself."
And Zilla has been killing himself. After a successful
European tour, he has been immersing himself in the underground hip-hop
scene. In Austin, The Lockdown Sessions has been picked up by eight
stores, including Tower Records, but retailers around Houston have refused
to sell the album.
Zilla will perform Saturday at Walters on Washington, 4215 Washington Ave., with DJ Chicken George, Lower Life Form, Work, The Killer for Hire DJ's, and Studemont Project, recently named best local rap/hip-hop group by the Houston Press. All proceeds from the show will go to Morgan Trapp's family. Trapp is a six-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with leukemia, and the money will help her family pay medical bills. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8. The show is open to all ages.
The Lockdown Sessions
Ill Dyalekt Records
The verdict: Zilla's just too big for the H-Town mold.