gorillazoe.jpgBlock Entertainment has proven to be an entity that can break new artists. The label made Boyz N Da Hood hometown heroes and molded potential one-hit wonder Yung Joc into a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated, Forbes-list rapper. Now, after a year-plus of mixtape training, BNTH’s newest recruit, Gorilla Zoe, looks to add to that lineage with his solo debut, Welcome to the Zoo.

On the Drumma Boy–produced “Do Something,” Zoe wastes no time making his stance clear, when he blasts, “You don’t like me? Like what I say?/Fuck ya, I’ma say it anyway.” In a recurring theme, the ATLien does a good job masking cliché with grown-man sensibility on the string-heavy “Real Motherfucka,” featuring fluid performances from his Boyz N Da Hood brethren. He does the same marching on Dee Jay Dana’s military drumrolls for “Battle Field,” using street-life-equals-war-zone narratives to make up for the faux T-Pain hook.

Unfortunately, Gorilla throws a monkey wrench in his trap jam with a barrage of frivolous fare. The Yung Joc–assisted “Juice Box” is a stale vagina monologue draped in crassness, like, “Ménagin’ with ya boy, tryna drink my unborn/Lickin’ on each other, acrobatics with they tongue.” And the synth-filled “Lil Shawty” suffers from beat dyslexia and an atrocious hook.
Zoe returns to his natural habitat on “I Know,” where he delivers notable parables that evoke memories of Biggie’s “Juicy” (“When I was young, we shot ball in the milk crates/Now we full-court press on my own estate”). Then, on “Last Time I Checked,” the gravelly voiced rapper goes apeshit on Hollywood rappers who “hide behind a chain and a nickname.”

Although dope-selling capers like “Money Man” and “Tryna Make a Jug” don’t offer up anything new lyrically, Zoe is a bona fide movement by himself. Proof lies in catchy street odes such as the Jody Breeze–guested “Crack Muzik (This That Muzik)” and the bouncy “Hood Nigga.” Based on Welcome to the Zoo, Block is gonna stay hot. —MAURICE G. GARLAND