Who can forget the first time they heard “I’ma Read” by Zebra Katz? Maybe you heard it in the club or went searching for it after the massive swell of online fanfare, which included a major push by Azealia Banks. No matter how you got there, you were likely floored by the deadpan authoritarianism of the track’s ruthless minimalism and shoot-to-kill confidence.

 

The song’s success put Zebra Katz on the map, its ubiquity reaching an apex when Jeremy Scott made it the official song of his 2012 show at Paris Fashion Week. Its impact reached beyond genre with everyone from Grimes to Busta Rhymes jumping on the track. In the time since, the artist born Ojay Morgan has been trotting the globe dabbling with whatever exciting producer crosses his path along the way. His mixtapes and singles in that time didn’t attract the same level of attention as “I’ma Read,” but they did give Morgan a chance to flex different sides of the Zebra Katz persona he had originally conceived of as an identity at art school. pig

 

With the parallel success of acts like Le1f and Mykki Blanco, the press was quick to sell a trend of “queer rap” to the public. It was a problematic and arbitrary distinction that was rightly rejected by most of the artists it attempted to categorize. While Morgan was less than enthused with the attempted pigeonholing, it didn’t scare him away from branching out from his darker sonic material towards classic house music sounds pioneered by other gay artists.

 

Speaking of recent singles “1 Bad Bitch” and “Tear the House Up” Morgan says, “I think the last year I kind of went in a direction that was a little brighter for Zebra Katz and that house-ier sound. They really helped me continue with my visual aesthetic and that’s really what I look forward to really showcasing with those two tracks, really a homage to the ‘90s, or the early ‘80s.”entit

 

While the interview touched somewhat on where Morgan has been in the past, he was largely concerned with projects that were soon to materialize in the future. Specifically, Morgan has just completed a new EP with elusive Warp luminary Leila.

 

“I’ve been honoured to work with Leila because she’s a visionary and just someone I think is light years ahead of her of time in sound,” he says. “We’ve been working on it for the last two years, and after just a lot of listening and just growing, we decided to let it out.“

Entitled Nu Renegade, the EP is planned for a late April release on Morgan’s own label, ZFK Records. Self-release has proven to be an effective model for the artist, allowing him to explore sound and aesthetic in real time without pressures to meet someone else’s targets.

 

On what Nu Renegade will bring after his recent experimental period, Morgan says, “the new EP is a lot more stripped back and a darker world that we’re trying to create. It’s a new folly for both us. I think it brings me closer to where I started with my production and with my vocals and the minimalism of what I’ve been doing. It’s just quite – it’s out there – which we like.”

 

The timing couldn’t be better. With festival season about to hit full swing and a decidedly brighter tint of club tracks oversaturating the web (looking at you, PC Music), this is the perfect moment to take things back to the dark side.
Catch Zebra Katz at Bass Coast Festival this July 10-13 in Merritt, BC.

By Colin Gallant

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