Zack Fox’s Nostalgia Mixtape. Hosted by Sama’an Ashrawi.
The Zack Fox Episode
The internet’s most irreverent intellectual instigator, Zack Fox, stops by to tell the tale of a heist that could only happen in Edgewood, Atlanta, Georgia. In Zack’s own words, “It’s a hood version of a Guy Ritchie flick.”
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Zack Fox: This is Zack Fox. I’m a comedian, artist, and hologram from Atlanta, Georgia. And the good news, is we can only really go up from here.
Sama’an Ashrawi: Fair. And what song are you going to talk about today?
Zack: So the song is “No Hook” by OJ da Juiceman. And the year that this takes place is in 2013.
Sama’an: What up y’all. Welcome to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. I’m very excited about this episode because it’s one of the wildest stories I’ve ever heard. Our guest this week is Zack Fox who is kind of like an oracle of going viral on the Internet, and he does it in such a great way — in a way that like punches up. He’s like the people’s champion of going viral. I love his stuff so much. And the way Zack and I met was during my time living at Brainfeeder headquarters in Los Angeles. He and Thundercat used to come over and hang out with my roommates Paul and Adam, and I was living there so I would get to be there and we would put some wood in the fireplace, and throw on some YouTube videos on TV and we would have our own version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Just roasting whatever we could find whether it was like some old video of one of our favorite Ethiopian singers, or like even one of Zack’s old videos. It was it was a very fun time in my life. And so when I reached out to Zack to do this episode, he was very very down because he has truly a crazy story, it’s a story that he described as, “A hood version of a Guy Ritchie movie.” And that’s the perfect description. It’s a heist, but it’s a heist done by some ragtag friends from the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta, and it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever heard. So without too much further ado let’s let Zack set it up.
Chapter 1: “Don’t Go Past The Red Store”
Zack: Wow. Zack in 2013 was a pretty angry person. I was just, I was like freshly dropped out of school at a college (art school) where I had, you know I met a lot of great people but I was just like I was so over it and the debt that I was putting myself into I was like, “Man this is so whack.” And I had like a huge desire for community and like getting back to I don’t know. Just like, I’d been so in this stuffy Soviet ass weird environment of art school kids that I hated. And I was like, I just want to go back and hang out on the streets. I don’t really care where it leads. But that’s exactly what I was doing. I was essentially squatting in East Atlanta in the Edgewood neighborhood with a few people who had come to be at the helm of Awful Records. And I think there were like six people in this house on Hutchinson street. And yeah, I was a dude squatting.
Sama’an: Did you grow up in Edgewood too?
Zack: No. I kind of grew up everywhere in Atlanta. You know, I lived in Atlanta from the age of 12 to just last year. And I mean I saw everything from a teenager, I was you know, being like poor as fuck in South Atlanta and then me and my mom had to move to Gwinnett County for a while which is on the North Side. For a second I lived in Midtown, for a second I lived in the Auburn like Edgewood Avenue area… Kind of just everywhere. We hopped around.
Aerial view of Edgewood, Atlanta, Georgia.
Sama’an: Can you kind of describe Edgewood for me a little bit? Like if you’re if you’re driving through Edgewood on a regular day like what are you seeing? Or if you’re walking through Edgewood…
Zack: Edgewood is a little bit like — it’s way more like that now, because like just neighborhoods being gentrified and being changed. It’s like happening so rapidly in Atlanta. But during this time, it’s kind of weird because, I mean this is like 2013, but circa…like, man… Even when I was in high school in like ’09, when I moved to Atlanta ’03. Like this part of town you just didn’t go, like dilly dally around. You know what I mean? Like really poor black part of town. Even during the time that we were there like the housing projects around the corner, you know every night there was like just another thing, another reason for for sirens. But there were also like a lot of working class black families around us. So you had like this real genuine honesty about you know who was who was sticking there and who was sticking it out to just be a part of this neighborhood. And and you also saw the people who were kind of just like, slowly creeping in and you could even back then I could see I was like, “Man in a few years, this is not going to be what I see now.” And I need to just like, cherish this shit even if it’s tumultuous and I got like PTSD from it. But it wasn’t that bad, but still like the things that I saw there I was like man it’s not going to be the same. Because I remember around the end of 2013, you know those like mansions? Or those houses that kind of just look like someone just like dropped Legos onto a plot of land?
Sama’an: Very angular.
Zack: Yeah. One of those popped up literally right on the outskirts of the little pocket of Edgewood that I was staying in. It was literally like white people like I’m like I’m “On your shit! I’m not touching you!” But but they were dipping their toe, and you were just like wow this is the beginning of it. I mean it’s crazy because during this time there were so many weirdos and just so much youth and energy in Edgewood and it just felt like the place where you could go have the best night or the worst night depending on factors. But yeah that was Edgewood 2013.
Sama’an: Are there any rappers we would know about who are from Edgewood? Who’s from Edgewood?
Zack: So that area of town, Edgewood to Kirkwood. You’re going to a find Future, Young Scooter. Gucci [Mane], Gucci is more like… it’s amorphous. He had such a big span. Custer which is more East Custer and Boulder Crest which is where I like OJ and Gucci made their stamp, but Gucci also had that stamp on Kirkwood and in Edgewood. And I mean, there’s way more. I can’t even say off the top of my head. But anyone that you could think of, anyone that you could find, you could probably find it Googling Little Mexico or Edgewood or Kirkwood rappers. It’s quite a few. And the production is just so on point you have people who are like so prodigious, and so dynamic who don’t get a lot of mainstream credit but will always be my heroes. 808 Mafia, T.M. 88, Southside, Sonny Digital, going back to DJ Holiday and you can go back even further to DJ Jelly. Those are the dudes who made Atlanta important. The rappers are the face, and the lyrics, and the things that we chant, and the things that we know that are so endemic. But without that like foundation, we couldn’t have had that.
Sama’an: Can you tell me a little bit about red stores?
Zack: Yeah. So the Red Store is a really specific landmark and the Edgewood neighborhood that’s literally just a red store. Man, fuck. There’s literally a lyric in my head right now about the red store but yeah, it was nestled right between our street and the neighborhood which is directly behind the red store which was just like Section 8 housing I believe. And it was just a small shitty municipal convenience store that I don’t think had alcohol, and it was just like you know just a city like little corner store and people would be hanging out like all day around there. I almost got beat up there once. I would go there every day and get loosies. Yeah that was my thing I would get on a bike ride down to the red store, get a loosie, ride back, and I would do that like five times a day scrounging for change.
The infamous Red Store in Edgewood, Atlanta, Georgia.
Sama’an: That was life in Edgewood.
Zack: And I was broke as fuck. This was also around the time when I was living there, that Young Scooter was out and coming up. He’s also you know, Edgewood kind of like morphs into the area where Young Scooter is from and where Future is from which is Kirkwood, Little Mexico. I’ve never lived in Little Mexico, but I lived I lived right across from the Zone 6 precinct which is right there in Kirkwood for a second I lived there. But this is one Red Store lyric that I can find for you of many. But it’s verse one in “Jug Season,” it’s “Count Up (Jug Season).” That’s the song by Young Scooter and he says: bricks and duffle dirts/got duffle plugs in Baltimore/My niggas shoot out the corner store/So don’t go past the red store. He rhymes “store” with “store” just so he could get it.
Sama’an: He could do that. Young Scooter’s allowed to do that.
Zack: But literally like that’s the… That’s the only way I can describe to you what the red store is.
Sama’an: It’s part of everyone’s experience in Atlanta.
Zack: Not everyone. But everyone who was in that specific part of town, “Don’t go past the red store,” is the only way I could describe what you feel like when you get to the red store. And right across from it when I was living there and I think still there’s a little community garden. It’s really nice and really quaint, but you know that right down that street is not where you’re supposed to be. So you just go back. And it’s so weird man, it’s like separate by one street where everything’s kind of peachy, and then you hit this street and there’s that intersection where you can make that choice. And it’s like, “Yeah I’m good I’ll go back home.”
Sama’an: Thanks for letting us know, I appreciate that. Do you agree or disagree that you can trace trap music back to Three 6 Mafia?
Zack: That’s hard because…that’s difficult, because Three 6 Mafia and Memphis… I don’t know. I don’t I don’t want to say that you could trace…you could trace bits of the sound back to Houston and definitely some Dallas shit. And definitely Memphis. But there’s just so many other factors that go into it. Like I mean as far as trap like give me a name, or give me like an example of who you’re thinking and then maybe I could say that’s derivative of this or not. But I just I honestly feel like trap was so like homegrown to the situation.
Sama’an: To me it’s like that sound. Like Three 6 Mafia had a lot of those like like those high rollers like that. [Editor’s Note: I don’t know what that was, but it wasn’t a hi-hat roll]Can’t really do it. That I hear a lot in Atlanta music. I was like a kid when Three 6 Mafia’ was first coming out so I can’t say for certain if they were the first people do that. But to me it feels like they may have done that first.
Zack: Yeah. Because I mean even Three 6 Mafia was coming out of a rap environment that was filled with a lot of other people like the Memphis underground which is so vast. Like there’s shit that like none of us will ever hear that came out. And you know you have dudes like Kingpin Skinny Pimp who are making similar music. And then you’ve got to factor in like Miami bass. And you’ve got to factor in New Orleans bounce which heavily affected Atlanta music especially after Katrina. I don’t know. Interesting question. But I do think Atlanta is like the sum of its influences but also just it has that gestalt quality where it’s like Atlanta is that thing, it is that sound. But there’s definitely something like was a mixture a cocktail of those places.
Sama’an: Yeah Atlanta’s got it. No doubt. I just want to get a little bit more into like what kind of mental state you’re in leading up to this story. You said in college that you had maybe the passion for art but there was just something about it you didn’t really relate to. What was it?
Zack: I think at this time I was just like, no one should go to art school to learn how to be an artist. I mean I learned a lot and I appreciate that. But, if I had the chance to go back, and I hate saying that I would change anything about my past because obviously the factors wouldn’t have led me where I am now. But if I could go back and maybe make that decision, I’d probably just would have done what I was going to end up doing anyway. Which is just be around. You know? And be around the people that I want to work with and be around smart, young, black people like me who want to build things, and who want to make things, and who want to make people laugh, or make people enjoy shit. And it’s not like that time was wasted, but that time was definitely felt like I was in time out. And then I got out and I just I was wildin’ out. There was not a force in the world that was going to tell me what to do and what I was doing right or wrong. I spent most of my early 20s just like completely drunk and a little bit angry.
Sama’an: How come?
Zack: Angry at everything.
Sama’an: Like at the world or like your circumstances?
Zack: Not even that my circumstances. It was more like angry…Like, I don’t know man. I think I had a lot of judgments around that time about just other artists in the city and the aesthetics that people chose to use. I was extremely critical and I still am. And during that time I was just like, “Man. I could be better than all these niggas.” And a little bit of it was like I didn’t have half of what a lot of people had and had to literally hit the reset button on my life and just like go back to the fucking dirt and completely reconstruct again who I was and rediscover like just literally a whole new person. I think 2013 was like that birth where I was like, “Oh shit I’m a whole entire like new man.” I was becoming that. It was a coming of age time. But yes, it was just filled with like a lot of anger and a lot of like sexual energy, and sexual anger, and angry sex, and drunken sex. And drunk and angry sex. Yeah.
Sama’an: And was Lil Nissan Jessica? Was that born out of this or was that before 2013?
Zack: You know it was after 2013, but it was still during that time. This stage of my life definitely covers probably like 2013, 2014, and 2015. I think I started growing up until I was like 25. Like growing up and like being a responsible person and like filling out forms at 25.
Sama’an: Right. Okay. And was a Lil Nissan Jessica was that like also part of the way you were critiquing some of the things you saw in terms of the artists in Atlanta?
Zack: Yeah a little bit, but you know I was mostly just trying to be funny. And I’ve had like four different rap aliases I’ve never like taken completely seriously. But it was also definitely like I just wanted to like fuck with people and that’s where a lot of it came from. That’s where Booty Math came from and where wanting to do comedy came from. It was looking at everything. Looking at how seriously everyone took themselves in this city that was so obviously deprived of a lot of infrastructure to help people make art that everyone was struggling to capture one slice. Or their slice of the clout or their influence in the city and not helping each other. And that’s all I saw in Atlanta during that time between rappers, between artists, between influencers or whatever it just seemed like everybody was just like fighting over one piece of pizza. And I was like, “This is why motherfuckers can’t do nothing.” Because everybody is arguing about over who is the best at something, or who is something where you don’t see that in other cities. LA is now a world class city when it comes to music, and so is Atlanta but Atlanta could be way more important if our legislators and the artists paid as close attention to the city and what it needs for young people as other cities do.
Sama’an: Do you think also like that lack of infrastructure — not to say that it’s good because definitely not a good thing — do you think it forces people to be more innovative?
Zack: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s like the raw material of southern rap and like Atlanta rap. And just Atlanta’s art scene period is like having that light and then people see something like so strange come of it. And you’re like, “How did this happen?” It’s like, well this is what happens when someone has like no help to do something. That’s when shit gets weird. And beautiful and that’s just a part of America’s DNA is like destitution leads to the best shit here.
Sama’an: It’s literally just like the history of American music right?
Zack: You just ask anybody, “So how did you come up with that?” “Well I was broke.”
Sama’an: I was broke as fuck. “Someone handed me this guitar and some shit came out of it.”
Chapter 2: “These Dumb Ass Niggas”
Sama’an: So let’s jump into this story, paint the scene. Set it up for us.
Zack: This is a hot, hot, hot, wet, sweaty night. Summer in Atlanta. Edgewood neighborhood. And during this time I was, like I said just sort of sleeping on the couch — sometimes sleeping on the floor — at a house on Hutchinson Street that was nestled between two other houses also filled with young people. So there’d be nights where if one house decided to have a party, then someone would just go knock on the other two doors and be like, “Hey I’m going to have a party tonight. What do you guys think about that?” And usually nine times out of ten, all three houses were like super okay with it. And it would always be it would always end up being like hundreds of people on this tiny little plot of land between these three little houses. And this ended up being, I think, one of the biggest parties that happened on that strip of street and there was everything that you could imagine at like a young like 20 to 21 year old black party in Atlanta and there’s you know, girls twerking. It’s one of the last years that I’ve seen like young women twerking in environments like that because it kind of died out after a while.
Sama’an: As soon as Diplo caught on.
Zack: As soon as Diplo caught on and like Miley Cyrus caught on. It’s back now. It’s back now because there’s always that reclamation, but we shouldn’t have to reclaim twerking when like we were the ones doing it. Anyway, so it’s everything that you can imagine happening at the party there’s cocaine and there’s more cocaine. I think like there was a bonfire happening in the back where we were like throwing shopping carts in it.
Sama’an: That’s some real Southern shit dude.
Zack: Yeah we were just throwing anything that we could find into it. Across the street there were a few girls who lived in a nicer condo building that was literally right across the street. And they had boxing gloves. One of them was in nursing school and she had boxing gloves. So she would always come and get the boxing gloves and bring them out when we would have parties and it was almost like just throwing gasoline on a fire when you do that because everyone wanted to box in the middle of the street, so the street is a boxing ring. One guy shows up with his pet beetle. I remember specifically, he was a train kid named Sam and he smelled like ass and pennies. And he came and he had a pet beetle that he just sat on his wife beater. And he was covered in tattoos and you could tell he just smelled like someone who was coming down from heroin. He had his pet beetle and I remember my friend — this might have been the same night — I was really drunk. He showed up, my friend Nagasi showed up with his baby, like literally showed up with an infant. I’m trying to paint the picture for you. Like just people outside like showing off guns. Because what leads us to the next half of the story is that my friend Mike had just purchased a 357, a Taurus 357. So he’s showing it off outside. People are showing off like just all types of shit. Man it was such a beautiful landscape of young fuckups. And there’s sex happening in people’s rooms.
Sama’an: What was that like?
Zack: Man during that time? Some of the weirdest sex that’s happened in my life.
Sama’an: You don’t have to go into detail.
Zack: Probably shouldn’t. But anyway so there’s this crazy, just magnetic, pulsing part of the town where you could probably feel the energy all over it because people kept pulling up. It’s growing, and growing, and swelling, and swelling, and swelling where you can’t even really recognize who’s coming, and who’s going, who’s hot, who’s ugly, who’s dangerous, who’s not. This thing just keeps growing and I remember when it finally snapped, like you almost felt like a rubber band just break. My friend White Mike who goes by White Mike. We don’t just call him White Mike to be like I don’t know weird. He likes being called White Mike. He comes out he comes out of his room and he’s like yelling and he’s like sweating and frantic and like almost the tears and he’s like, “Someone just jacked my laptop.” Which he had just bought along with that pistol that he just got. He’s like, “Someone got my laptop, like what the fuck . What’s going on?” He runs outside. He’s asking. I mean there’s hundreds of people outside, there’s no way that anyone is going to know if they do, who’s going to say yes? And I remember this car pulls off almost you feel like the car pulls off in a certain way that feels like a reaction to him in the street like screaming. “Who the fuck has my laptop!” And I go and look at his door and it’s been kicked in from the door knob. Like someone probably kicked it or punched it through his door knob and just unlocked it and ran in and ran out. And in the chaos no one saw it. So he literally tries to chase this car barefoot. Going down the street. And I mean there are girls like “Oh my God, like what’s going on?” One girl is like trying to like help me out to find the person. It’s such a like terrible thing to see someone like lose something when they have so little. So everyone was just like really disappointed and sad. So we’re just like kicking people out, and kicking people off of the yard, and kicking people into the street and then down the street. I remember specifically Mike going in the backyard and I go back as soon as he’s doing it, and he’s like, “I want all these motherfuckers off my shit. Like I want them all of my shit.” And he raises the gun up like starts busting it in the air. And man that gets rid of people.
Sama’an: That’ll clear a party.
Zack: So that’s kind of how the night ended and we kind of all are just like the sweaty ragtag group of people sitting in the living room like really sorry for this one guy. But we were all having so much fun that it’s kind of hard to like get rid of the energy, but we’re angry. And I remember a Ethereal, who’s a good friend of mine and an artist on Awful Records and really like he is oddly sage-like and smart in terrible situations sometimes. And this one specific time is when that sort of came out, and he turns into this like the 90’s hacker character who just looks like they’re banging their hands on the computer and go and they’re going, “I’m in.” [typing noise] “Oh there’s a firewall, I’m in. [typing noise] They just say, “I’m in,” over and over again. And he’s kind of like leading the charge to figure out who was it who got the laptop, and who was with them, and who was around. And I’m sitting, I’m like listening to people talk about who was there and I’m like, “How the fuck did y’all remember that?” Like all I remember is the music that was playing. One of those songs being OJ da Juiceman, “No Hook”
So this spans into the next day, and the next day is when the climax of this happens because it’s… I don’t know, the only way I can really explain it is, like I was telling you earlier, like a Guy Ritchie movie. It felt like “Snatch” because it all sort of happens in this one day, and everyone kind of sets out on a mission to do something, and all of it’s centering around this one item, and this one thing that is the epicenter of it. So fast forward. Next day we’re all sitting in Mike’s room and he’s just like trying anything to find out who it is. We’re all making calls we’re all trying to figure it out. And Obie is literally now on Instagram and he he finds a picture of a girl on Instagram that he — Mind you this is 2013 — Instagram was getting to a sophisticated place but it wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. And he finds a picture of a girl who was at the party, who will go unnamed, and he’s like, “This is shorty. I know this is shorty who was with the guy that I think took it.” And I was like, “Why do you think that?” And in that Instagram it’s a picture of the dude that he thinks took it and the caption underneath it she writes, “These dumb ass niggas.”
Sama’an: Oh my God.
Zack:And he was just like, “It’s gotta be that because the dude had on a book bag.” And he was just like, “It had to be that.” The dude also took — probably should’ve mentioned this — took the box of bullets that Mike had bought along with his gun. So there’s only one. This is a 357. So it’s 6? Yeah. So the only bullets that he owns are the six that are in the gun. So that’s something I should’ve mentioned. But anyway so, the caption, “These dumb ass niggas.” And we were just like, “Is that really what you want to want to go off of?” He’s like, “One hundred percent. I know it was him. He was acting weird and he was in the car that drove off.” And we’re like, “Man..this is weird, but okay, we’ll go for it.” So. I go. Where we lived was by a shopping center with a bunch of restaurants in it so I go with a guy who should also go unnamed. I’m going to leave everybody unnamed. It gets weird. I go to get something with to eat with my friend who is a blood, who would ride bikes around town. And he sold me my first fixed gear bike. And we would ride around town and I would ride specifically with him because he was a licensed gun carrier and he would always wear like really loose fitting tank tops and shorts and he would always have the gun in plain sight. So he would take over entire lanes of traffic because no one wants to know what he wants to provoke a dude with dreads, on a bike, in a red bandana and a Springfield 45 on his hip. So anyway, we go and we’re chilling in and we get a call from another guy who was at the party who has information. And we’re like, “OK like this is weird.” And hits me up and he’s like, “Look. I know where that girl lives.” And we’re like, “Oh OK. So, what does that have to do with it?” And he’s like, “I know that that’s where she is. And I know that’s where that dude is. But you can’t let anyone know that I know that. But I know that’s where that dude is. So, if he’s there the guy’s laptop has to be there, right?” So we’re kind of like, ok this is starting to come together. So we say, “This is this is weird.” We go back to the house. By the time we get back to the house, this is only like half an hour. We go to the house. They have also heard this information and four other guys that I know have showed up to help us find this one person’s laptop.
Sama’an: This is amazing.
Zack: Yes. So they all show up and I mean these are people that I know who are nerds like me who are not tough but who are this weird way. You know everybody has that like scary nerd kid who watches a lot of anime but can beat your ass in high school. Imagine that person but grown up. So a little bit more professional. And they’re like, “Look man here’s what we need to do. We just need to go over there and get his shit back.” And I’m like — now looking back at it — I was so quick to say yes.
It’s almost comical how stupid the idea was. Because these are multiple people with firearms. Some registered some not. So both of those things are stupid in the first place. And we end up all crunching into a car. There’s like three people in the backseat. And it’s getting to dusk now. And so we’re riding over a ride and going North up towards the Lennox area of Atlanta.
Sama’an: And are you hearing OJ da Juiceman on the radio as you’re driving around?
Zack: By this time OJ da Juiceman, this song wasn’t even out long enough to be on the radio. But there’s two songs happening on this ride over, it’s “No Hook” by OJ da Juiceman which is our subject and “50k” by Waka Flocka
I remember riding up to the Lennox area and we get to this apartment complex and we get a call my friend had geotagged down to the the actual apartment that they were in. And it was just so crazy, and I don’t know stuff like this doesn’t happen. you never really find the person who stole something. And we go up and all of us are in this hallway and I’m like, “What are we about to do when we knock on this person’s door.” Like what if we all die right here in this hallway over like a piece of technology? And there was that side of my brain and then there was the other side like, “I don’t really give a fuck about my life anyway.”
Zack:So we go and I had on just a regular T-shirt everyone else looked a lot more suspicious than me. So they all crowded around the other side to the door. It’s like an apartment breezeway where it has stairs at either end. So you can kind of just be on the side of the door and no one’s going to see you through the people and all they see is me.
Sama’an: Why did you get volunteered to be in front of the door?
Zack: I volunteer myself. So yeah, I knock and this girl opens the door and she’s like, “Who are you? What do you want?”nAnd I was like, “Look I’ll just get straight to it. You were at my house last night. And something went missing while you were there.” And she’s like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know who you are.. And you should just like get away from my house.”
And the guys that I’m with hearing that then proceed to come into the frame behind me. And one of them says, “You better start knowing some stuff.” And that’s the moment I think where it hit and I was like, “Oh, no, no, no this is not how this is supposed to go. No this is not it.” And she immediately starts crying like CRYING. Like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry I’m so sorry.” Super apologetic and then I hear a door open. And I freak out instantly. My heart drops. And two more girls. College age girls. Two more girls come out and see her crying and see me just sort of standing there awkwardly. Like a fucking nerd. And they start crying! Because they all knew what was going on, because you see all these guys. And it immediately it just got so funny so fast man. When I tell you it it turned into like, “Yeah we’re going to go in and if we see that nigga man. Imma bang his hands with a hammer, and Imma beat that niggas ass. And fuck it I’m gonna put a screw in his dick. And Imma be like where my laptop at.” Mike was there under a pseudonym. And it goes from that and in five seconds to five dudes comforting three college aged girls. I’m rubbing one’s back and I’m like, “I’m so sorry we didn’t mean to be a threat. We just want our friend stuff back. We thought we were going to come over here and it was going to be house full of niggas with guns like protecting a laptop.” And she’s like, “No when I wrote that caption on Instagram I wasn’t talking about y’all. These dumb ass niggas… I was talking about him and the dudes that he was with who helped take your friend’s stuff and he just so happens to be my friend so I let him hide out here. But I want him out of course because I can’t have this energy around me.” And I’m like in her kitchen like getting her water. It turns into like a fucking episode of Maury or something. And she proceeds to just snitch 100 percent on him. She drops all the dimes. She’s like, “This is where he is. This is where he hangs. This is where he’d be around.” The whole nine yards.
So I’m continuing to talk to her and the box of bullets just so happened to be there, but his book bag and the laptop were not to be found because he took it with him wherever he left to. So I’m continuing to just talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. My friend who I rode bikes with comes up and he’s like, “Yo, we got to go.” And I was like, “Well I’m I’m talking to her about where we could find like this guy.” And he’s like, “We have to go now.” And I was like “What? Like why are you rushing me and stuff?” And he grabs me by the arm and he’s like, “I’m sorry, my bad. We’re all sorry but we got to leave.”
We did. We go back and we go back to the car and I’m like, “Why are we leaving?” And he’s like, “There’s a guy back at your house who says he just fought the dude who stole Mike’s laptop at a MARTA Station,” which is the train system.
Sama’an: Oh my God.
Zack: So we’re riding back talking on the phone and he’s like, “Yeah man. I saw him and I just ran up and starting punching that nigga in the head, man. I saw him because I know that’s the nigga who stole your shit man. I know that’s the one.” And it was just so weird that like while we were there someone was trying to get it back in that exact moment. This thing was happening in two places in the city at the same time. And we end up going and we pick up the dude who will go unnamed who got in the fight. We take him to West End MARTA station and there on the ground is Mike’s laptop. Sitting on a bag and the only thing that’s wrong with it is that the screen is cracked, but then this MARTA cop comes up. And looks at the guy who was in the fight and he was like, “You have the nerve to come back here?” And he was like, “Look, let me explain it. These are the guys who I was fighting for this laptop.” And the MARTA cop starts explaining how he was like about to arrest him, he was about to arrest both of them. But the guy who actually stole it was getting punched in the face and they’re fighting at the MARTA station while we’re at these girls’ house, and they’re crying, and the laptop drops on the ground and the guy who stole it just runs into a train as the doors are closing. Never to be seen or heard from again. He just like kind of left town. Back to Florida. Yeah so that all of that happened from about noon that day. I think it ended around 10 or 11.
Sama’an: That’s amazing that the — which was a friend who who saw the picture on Instagram?
Zack: Yeah I still to this day I’m like, what psychic weird search tags — what were you tagging to find that? And how are you finding people? He was literally like hopping from one Instagram account. He would go through all their pictures on one person who was at the party go through all their stuff, find another person with them who was at the party and he did that so many times that he landed at this girl’s Instagram page. He didn’t know her name, didn’t search for her at all, he just knew that she had on a Supreme shirt. And ended up her thing. And what’s even more lucky — I don’t even want to say lucky — but what’s even more uncanny is that she took a picture of the guy posted it. And I was like, man you don’t understand how fast you can get caught up just by using your phone. And just being like, “Ha, ha look at this dumb shit.” And she hit that post button, and she had no idea that she was just like throwing smoke in the air and giving a signal. And then to have her location on, and all this other stuff. Until this day, I feel so bad about whatever you know residual trauma happened from that day. But we go there thinking like she’s there with all those dudes, because he was with like a bunch of dudes who probably could all fuck us up. But we go there and there’s no one there. Just like three nice ladies so just not trying to be a part of the drama. They just gave it all up.
Sama’an: This is like a 2013 Atlanta, an almost like a noir movie, a detective movie but like…
Sama’an: Stupider [laughs]
Zack: Yeah. Way, way stupider and way less sophisticated, and a lot more drunk. Because you got to you’ve got to imagine, we’re waking up that day after a party hungover. You can’t go staking people out and interrogating people hung over. So you’ve got to start drinking again. Get your edge back. So I remember I was in the passenger seat and there’s three guys in the back, all of who I know today to still be on some wild shit. But yeah like a 40 on my lap, like just riding around town like whoop-dee-fucking-doo.
Sama’an: On a mission though.
Zack: Like I’m a cowboy or something. Yeah man. Good old days.
Chapter 3: The Bad Bricks
Sama’an: A little bit more about the song, so “No Hook” OJ da Juiceman. Are you listening to this off an aux cord? On a CD? How would you be hearing this song throughout the story?
Zack: So this we were riding around in my friend’s mom’s car.
Sama’an: What was the car?
Zack: The car was like a newer Camry. It was like a smoke gray color. And you could tell it was like a nice mom car. But yeah I had it on the aux and I remember I was the 48 hours previous to that song, not when it came out, when I found it on Datpiff. I mean it was it was like a wildfire going through through Atlanta like OJ is like that dude he’s back. This was at a time when OJ was kind of on a downward curve of his career and this song, this one song turned everything — in my opinion — all the trap music that was coming out of that time was either pre or post “No Hook.” And I still feel that way about it. I feel like “No Hook” was like… I don’t know man, that song is just really amazing and an important, and important to me. And when I think about that yearthat’s the song that I hear in my brain and I remember I had this old really terrible Android phone with like a cracked screen and and you’re just like, “What is this?” And I was playing off of that just riding around with a bunch of dudes.
Sama’an: Do you have a favorite line on “No Hook?”
Zack: “Took her for some calamari/bitch don’t order cheese sticks.”
There’s many a great line. That’s line, that’s my number one. My number two line that’s so honest from OJ. And that’s why I love OJ as an artist. He has this ability to be so…it’s almost like when he’s not trying to craft a clever line the thing that he says is so much more poignant and powerful. And so much more deep than trying to have a pun. That’s why I love of a lot of people like I love 21 for that reason I love Future for that reason. But this one line where he’s like, “I done had a lot of bricks/Some were good and some were bad.”
Sama’an: But it’s so honest!
Zack: So honest! He’s like, “Look, I’ve done this a lot of times. Sometimes it was, the quality was amazing. And other times, you know it just smelt a little off.”.
Sama’an: That’s a whole chapter of his memoir: The Bad Bricks.
Zack: The bad bricks, the good bricks. It’s almost turned into this cheesy like, “Live not for only the good bricks, but appreciate the bad bricks. As the seasons doth change, so does the quality of the bricks in one’s repertoire.”
Sama’an: And on that song too, to me it almost has like the same — I don’t know if there are other Atlanta songs I’m not familiar with that have this— but like the little melody in the background sounds like “Trap or Die.” Jeezy, that [makes sound] are other Atlanta songs like that?
Zack: I think that arrangement of the horns is like — and I can’t name anything off the top of my head — but that horn arrangement on there. The way that like [Drum sounds] like that MPC Cartel, it’s like a signature thing you can hear it in so many songs. It’s like infectious. It just get inside you. That creates a whole other world. I don’t know.
Sama’an: “50k” by Waka Flocka is the other song.
Zack: Yeah that was the time I was listening to Waka pretty tough, the whole Brick Squad movement was just so amazing and so important to me. And at that time, you kind of this this older guard of Atlanta rappers who were like so connected to Gucci Mane. And he still is like the epicenter of Atlanta rap music and you can’t talk about Atlanta rap without talking about Gucci. And it was during a time when he was still like in a volatile stage of his career. I remember specifically like the song “Scarface” by Gucci Mane which I don’t think made it onto a mix tape. But it was not it was not the same song. There’s two songs named Scarface by Gucci Mane. I remember I would listen to that and watch him, and just be like, “Oh my God like young rappers can’t even exist in this.” Like a young dude who is not about what he’s talking about can never undermine what was happening a few years ago in Atlanta rap. They were and they were coming out, but it wasn’t until you saw this absence of Gucci that all these SoundCloud dudes start to pop up, you know? And even though when he was out of prison ushered in a lot of these guys like Yachty and The Migos. But that was back in 2013. Man “Bando!” when “Bando” came out, was that 2013 also?
Sama’an: You know better than I do.
Zack: Alex was that 2013? Yeah, right before Yeezus.
Sama’an: Yeah that was 2013.
Zack: Yeah. “Bando” coming out in 2013. And then you immediately see like Migos under Gucci’s tutelage. Yeah, I just felt like that was such a great time it still felt like how the 90s felt with wrestling. You had like these heavy hitter dudes in physically — and in their music — who were just like the braggadocio and the hubris was honest. And it was a little bit frightening, but it was more endearing than anything else because Waka is just a great guy but he was also during this time, like rapping about hitting people in the head with Grey Goose bottles and you know, I miss that time. I miss that moment right before everything came became about fashion. Because that was it.
Sama’an: How do you feel like those experiences make their way into your art?
Zack: Into the art, definitely. It’s way more into the jokes. The stories I want to tell and the jokes I want to tell definitely inspired by that time of just not knowing what I was going to eat. And not knowing what was going on. Atlanta. Being poor in Atlanta is a huge well of inspiration. A lot of things that are like, you know you move from there and you start to forget that grittiness and hot like bubbling sensation of like, “Wow I’m like in this shit right now. I’m here and it feels safe one second and then the next it’s not.”
Sama’an: Let’s say before you travel outside of Atlanta for the first time, what was your idea of outside of Atlanta?
Zack: You know I don’t know what I really thought. I think the first time I went to New York was when I was kind of like whoa. Like you know because growing up I never really had any opportunities to travel, until my early 20s when opportunities started to come about my life. And you know, I get to New York and I had this big realization of how many young people are were in the professional world, and how many young people owned entire companies already, and how many young people — young black people —were really running shit and doing really brave and really big things in their craft. I think that was that was one big thing that I realized. And also the certain assumptions that I had were pretty true where I was like I’ll never like anything as much as I like it here, at this at that specific time. I don’t think I’ll ever like a city more than I liked Atlanta between 2013 and 2015 when I was just kind of — I mean and it’s biased because I was in such a formative stage — so that time will always look more fun than anything else. But yeah this is true.
Sama’an: Ok I got one last question for you. Do you think that birds ever die mid-flight? Not like being shot or whatever, but do you think they’re like old people? One day you might be walking around, you get a heart attack and you die. Do you think that happens to birds? Why or why not?
Zack: I do think it happens because I’ve seen a couple birds that are dead that don’t they don’t look like it’s happened from any other trauma. And they are too far away from a wire or a tree to have been dying at rest. You know what I mean? I remember I was in Austin and I saw a bird that was just kind of like in the middle of the street. But it wasn’t hit by a car because its body wasn’t like fucked up. It was just gingerly laid, like someone just like gently placed it there. And he had this kind of like, you could tell his head…he must have hit something. So I was thinking either this thing hit a building or like a window. But I look around and there’s no window clean enough to have made that stupid mistake. So yeah I was like, yeah this guy was just old I didn’t think about that then. But now that you say it, he probably was just like on his last little fly.
Sama’an: Wow, I’m really glad we could share that moment together. That’s beautiful.
Zack: I need a drink.
Sama’an: Thank you so much for being on my podcast.
Zack: Thank you man. I really appreciate it.
Sama’an: I really appreciate you.
Zack: Yeah thank you. I appreciate you just let me like say more than I probably should have. You know it’s not so often that you just have someone who lets you just incriminate yourself.
Sama’an: That’s really what I’m here for. That’s what a good friend does.
Zack: Thank you man.
Sama’an: Yeah, I got you.
Zack: Yes. Having someone I know I can always depend on to help me snitch on myself. True, true friendship.
Sama’an: By the way, how much truth is there to that meme, that’s like, “When you from Atlanta but you haven’t danced at a gas station in eight minutes
Zack: [laughs] Oh my God. I haven’t even seen that. It’s true without seeing that at all. I can tell you it’s 100 percent true. Wow. The gas station, just you know I shouldn’t even say this on a recording. But I would love to make an installation club that’s like a pop up, where it’s just built like the outside of a gas. You can’t even go inside.
Sama’an: That’s such a good idea.
Zack: Can’t even go inside. But you go in this this sort of like big room that’s the size of a parking lot and there’s the pumps. And I’d pick four cars to be parked at some of them. And yeah I’d hire some crackheads to be out there and there’s no there’s no DJ, there’s just the cars in this room playing whatever songs their parking lot pimpin’ with. So there could be like three songs playing at once. But you kind of hear all of it, and you kind of go to each pump, and have a different experience. Maybe one you get slapped, maybe another one you buy some weed, maybe another one you get forced to buy some weed. That’s a thousand dollar idea right there.
Sama’an: That should be in the Smithsonian dude. I truly believe that.
Zack: It’s like some MoMA shit.
Sama’an: Thank you for sharing. Okay well I’ll see you at some point.
Zack: Yeah maybe.
Sama’an: Yeah you know we’ll figure it out.
Zack: Just hit me up.
Sama’an: This is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard. I felt like I was there when he was telling it. I don’t know if you could tell that I was like getting lost, like transfixed in his story. I had to like snap myself out of it a couple of times. You know we need people who make us think from new perspectives, people who force us to look at society through different lenses. Zack is one of those people. One thing I really related to, was Zack saying that he just he wanted to be around people he wanted to work with and I feel that a lot because when I first started out, you know my little handheld camera was the key to another world just like Zack’s humor was his key to go places outside of Edgewood. My camera got me to be around the people that I admired and you know the feeling that I got when I would finish up one of these bucket list interviews. It was like one of the most exhilarating feelings. It was like pure adrenaline, but after I had done enough of them, I started to realize that those little five minute interviews that couldn’t be it. That was getting old quick, I guess I should say. What I realize was that I actually like wanting to be friends with some of these people, and like truly collaborate with them as friends do. And in that way it’s been really amazing to watch Zack’s friendship with Thundercat blossom. You know we just see it on Twitter but in real life too it’s it’s amazing to see their friendship bloom. You know I think Zack and I are both at this point in our journey where I think we realize that we’re doing things our younger selves never could have imagined. But we also realize that we’re just getting started, and we’ve only seen like a sliver of our potential you know. And I just hope that people with a lot of money realize that for both of us sooner than later. So yeah.
Thank you so much for listening to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. I’m your host Sama’an Ashrawi. This episode was recorded by Jasmine Chen at Forecast Recordings and produced always by Jason Crowe. And if you really liked the music that you heard on this episode or any other episode you can always find our playlists on Spotify, on Apple, on Tidal, and jump in and discover some new favorites or maybe revisit some old ones. Do your thing, basically. And if you really, really liked this episode please head on over to patreon.com/nostalgiatapes the handle just like all the other social media, and throws us a few bucks. It will help keep the lights on. So thank you so much. And we’ll catch you next time.
If you want to hear the songs mentioned and used in this episode, check out Zack Fox’s Nostalgia Mixtape playlist on Spotify,Apple Music, and Tidal.