If you remember XXL’s inaugural Leaders of the New School cover from 2007, Gorilla Zoe was one of our future MCs to watch. One fourth of Boyz N Da Hood, the 27-year-old Atlanta rapper caused considerable buzz with his debut single “Hood Nigga.” He was also featured on labelmate Yung Joc’s “Coffee Shop” and “Bottle Poppin.’” Still working on building up his résumé, Zoe is currently on Lil Wayne’s I Am Music Tour, which kicked off in December and runs through mid-January. With his single “Lost” gaining traction, Zoe is prepping his second solo release, Don’t Feed Da Animals, the follow-up to 2007’s Welcome to the Zoo. Here, he talks about the trend of singing rappers, trying to maintain in a screwed up industry, and what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.

XXLMag.com: Let’s talk first about your single “Lost.” You’re straight up singing the whole thing, and I know your flow is more melodic than a lot of other rappers. What do you think of this whole trend of rappers singing—T.I., Wayne, Kanye…

Gorilla Zoe: I think if you don’t catch up with the times you’ll be left behind… If you ain’t in the clubs every night, you ain’t in the streets, you don’t come out the house, you ain’t gon’ know what music going on. Some folks try to copy music, still on that Snap, like [makes noise] “doom doom.” It’s a whole other drum pattern coming. It’s a whole other wave of music. My whole album sounds nothing like anything you’ve ever heard before.

XXL: Everybody says that. What’s on the album that we haven’t heard?

Zoe: You haven’t heard anything on the album, except for “Lost.”

XXL: [Laughs] Can you explain that a little bit? Talk about the album.

Zoe: It’s gon’ be revolutionary. I’m on tour now and a lot of the time I’m in Atlanta just working on music and I just realized that a lot of the stuff that they playing on the radio in Atlanta hasn’t even made it to the rest of the world yet. It’s so many programs than Auto-Tune, it’s crazy, and when the rest of the world hears, it’s gon’ freak them out. They gon’ start scrambling. It’s ’bout to be 2010. If you really think you could get on the mic over some beat and freestyling is gon’ make it, then…

XXL: You have to be more creative.

Zoe: Oh my God, it’s gon’ be a sad ending to a lot of dudes. That’s why a lot of these great rappers can’t get no shows. They just don’t know how to switch. You gotta be out there in the element to know where the music going. ’Cause you gotta feel it. You gotta take it there. You can’t copy off nobody else and beat them.

XXL: In the lyrics to “Lost,” you’re like “I’m lonely, I’m just a loner.” It’s… not a depressing song but in that direction. Is that something you’ve been dealing with?

Zoe: I mean, after not being everywhere and then making a whole bunch of money and realizing what the world really is, you go through that once you make that first… A lot of artists don’t talk about it and they doll it up and they end up faking, and you’re like “I don’t like him no more.” They try to come out with the same single twice. That ain’t real. You ain’t doing that no more. You went to jail and you riding around in your hood? [Laughs] You on the road. You working. Keep it one hundred. That’s what make you unreal.

XXL: Do you feel like you’ve gotten enough of a buzz with the first album that people are excited about this project? What kind of reception did you get?

Zoe: I definitely didn’t get the reception I’m getting now. Everybody was like “now I fuck with you” or “I like the hook” but now it’s on some other shit. I can’t really go nowhere without being recognized and that’s a good thing. They already on my second single in Atlanta. They started playing it like three days ago and my phone is blowing the fuck up and it’s like’ man, I [still] got five more singles. “Lost” is now creeping out to the rest of the world. So wait ’til they hear “What It Is,” “I Got It,” “Echo.” It’s gonna be amazing.

XXL: How much harder is it to get support for this project from the label with the declining economy?

Zoe: My economy ain’t declining so when I wanna do something I pretty much just do it. The label show me so much love and support it’s crazy. I be hearing a lot of people talk about that but I don’t see it. And really, I been so successful I support myself, too, in [other] ways.

XXL: As far as Boyz N Da Hood, last year you replaced Young Jeezy. What’s the status of the group right now?

Zoe: Big Gee locked up so free Big Gee, first off. He’s been locked up since right before the last album. So until he gets out we can’t really work on that project. Zoe is working on his own thing and Deuce is working on his own thing. Everybody’s working.

XXL: So you guys haven’t been recording together? Do you see each other?

Zoe: Yeah, yeah we see each other, we record together, for different mixtapes and solo projects or whatever. We ain’t working on an album right now.

XXL: Can you talk about joining the Wayne tour? How did that happen?

Zoe: Me and Wayne been working together. He fuck with me and I fuck with him, musically. The thing is my fan base is bigger than what muthafuckas know. If you look on paper you wouldn’t know how big my fan base is.

XXL: How has the recession affected you? Have you had to cut back on anything?

Zoe: It hasn’t. I came in in a recession. Ain’t like I been rapping for 10 years and it just change up. Hell nah. I came in, it was a recession. I signed the end of ’06 so it was already going in.

XXL: But in your personal life have you had to cut back on anything?

Zoe: Nah, I get a lot more calls though. For stuff.

XXL: For collaborations?

Zoe: Nah, to collaborate on helping out with the recession. [Laughs]

XXL: Outside of music what are the things that make you happy?

Zoe: Nothing makes me happy right now. There’s nothing on this earth that should give anyone complete happiness. You live, you do the best you can and be the best person you can be, but as far as just completely happy, you can be happy for the moment, happy for the day, or happy for a couple hours. Shit change up and goes up and down. I look at life as what it is. I’m happy to be alive but this ain’t heaven, man. This shit is close to hell. Like, I’m riding through San Antonio, man, and it’s so empty. It’s raining, it’s cold. And this lady on the bench in the cold. I ain’t got enough arms to reach out and help these people. A lot of these artists think they living in some kind of wonderland. They wake up in the morning and wake up in a loop. This shit real out here. -Clover Hope