In 2005, Boyz N Da Hood’s debut was overwhelmingly eclipsed by the success of breakout member Young Jeezy. Two years later, a new version of the gangsta-rap boy band assembled, with gravel-voiced Gorilla Zoe filling Jeezy’s considerable shoes. Once again, the group found itself struggling for attention, while Zoe went on to establish a solo buzz with his surprise hit “Hood Nigga.” After releasing the Atlanta native’s forgettable debut in 2007, Bad Boy South is doubling down on Zoe for his sophomore disc, Don’t Feed the Animals.
Despite Zoe’s appearance on Yung Joc’s cartoonish single “Coffee Shop,” kid-friendly trap rap is not his strong suit. Rightfully so he gets X-rated on the 21-and-over affair “Talk Back,” a duet with porn star turned rapper Roxy Reynolds that would make Trick Daddy and Trina proud. The album is filled with similar boozy tales of the fast life, like the Drumma Boy–produced, Auto-Tune-friendly standout “I Got It” and “Helluva Life,” where Zoe reviews his itinerary: “Went to sleep in Michigan, woke up in Miami/South Beach sleep with a bitch in my pajammies.” Behind his cocky sense of humor, there’s a dark underbelly that surfaces on “Lost,” a brink-of-insanity cry for help that’s filled with booming 808s and sing-along digital harmonies. “Give me a cigarette, smoking my cancer/Drink the pain away, but I still have no answers,” he croons.
Sometimes Zoe can’t resist returning to his hustle-hop impulses, as he makes a lame attempt to recreate “Hood Nigga” for the Chuck E. Cheese set on “Hood Clap,” instructing, “If you’re hood and you know it, clap your hands,” over a nearly identical beat. Still, the trapper comes of age on Don’t Feed the Animals, finding his comfort zone somewhere between singsongy rap and electro R&B, proving that this boy from the hood is finally starting to man up. —BRENDAN FREDERICK