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Gorilla Zoe delivers an unwieldy beast of a sophomore release

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Gorilla Zoe must be nuts.

The ridiculously down-to-earth 28-year-old rapper has chosen to preview his sophomore album, Don’t Feed Da Animals, before critics and tastemakers at the gorilla observatory of the Atlanta Zoo.

But what’s really bananas is the confidence he exhibits by choosing to release a CD, amid industry uncertainty, that dares to break away from stereotypical, Dixie hip-hop conventions.

“If there’s anybody in here that don’t know me personally,” Zoe says before playing “Untamed Gorilla,” the grimy album opener, “come holler at me. ... I wanna know what y’all think about which song is which and what’s what.”

After the album’s first single, “Lost,” debuted on radio last year, most people weren’t sure what, exactly, was what. Should the emotional claustrophobia conveyed in the track be taken as a gimmick or a true gauge of Zoe’s persona? Never had the Block Entertainment/Bad Boy South signee revealed such a dark side on previous solo records or on songs with his Boyz N Da Hood collaborators. But Don’t Feed Da Animals’ “I Got It” lurks in the same murky corners as the hit single. On another track, “Echo,” Zoe speaks of more isolation, but it might be too trippy for most.

For the average listener in the concrete jungle, the CD offers other choice cuts. As Zoe puts it, “Shit On Em” is an “undeniable” street banger. “It’s going to be some of y’all’s anthems, I swear,” he says. And nearly everyone in the observatory goes wild as soon as the jumpy percussion starts.

Flipping from gritty (“Watch Me”) and naughty (“Talk Back”) to timely (with the recession-minded “Hood Clap”) and silly (“So Sick,” “I’m Dumb”), Zoe manages to capture the A-town sound without riding the same old drum patterns and Young Jeezy-like references into the ground.
At one moment during the listening, Zoe motions for up-and-coming rapper Kollosus — who rhymes on “What It Is” — to step to the microphone. When Kollosus bashfully walks up, Zoe chides, “Don’t hide! After this [song] hits the TV, ain’t no hidin’.”

He’s right. With the release of Don’t Feed Da Animals, Zoe is one gorilla in the midst of becoming a certified beast.

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