ZEBRA KATZ IS THE STAGE NAME OF OJAY MORGAN, AMERICAN RAPPER BEST KNOWN FOR HIS 2012 SINGLE "IMA READ”. WE MEET OJAY AT THE REDBULL MUSIC ACADEMY AT SONAR THE DAY BEFORE HIS GIG. PART OF A WAVE OF "QUEER HIP HOP" ARTISTS WHO EMERGED IN THE 2010S, HIS SINGLE "IMA READ" TOOK OFF WHEN FASHION DESIGNER RICK OWENS USED A REPEATED LOOP OF THE SONG TO SOUNDTRACK HIS 2012 SHOW AT PARIS FASHION WEEK. THE TRACK EXPLODED: MINIMAL, MENACING AND INTOXICATINGLY REPETITIVE – THE WORD "BITCH" IS USED 87 TIMES. WHEN HE SPEAKS IT’S AT THE THOUSAND-WORDS-PER-MINUTE RATE OF AN ARTIST HIGH ON IDEAS ADRELINE: HERE’S WHAT HE TOLDS US
Zebra Katz, hello. Pleasure meeting you here at Sonar. Where’s this nickname coming from?
Hello, thanks for having me today for this interview! Regarding the name, I was living in NYC and always had fascination for making characters and it was the character of this rapper that i coined for myself whilst i was at college. I subsequently worked on songs and videos as a hobby while working as a manager for a catering company and began to pursue music more actively when i started garnering wider attention following the Owens show. Zebras all have stripes but none of them are alike. I wanted his name to be something very animalistic. They also blend together to disorientate their predators, it’s like dazzle-camo: you never know where they’re going or whether they’re coming for you. That’s something I play with a lot with tracks. Zebra Katz enables me to explore the darker sides of myself that I don’t necessarily understand.
How long have you been doing music for?
Officially 3 year but i would say 8 years if you consider me experimenting with garage bands, recording weird things that i thought other people would never had the chance to hear.
How much did Miami play a role in your music style?
Well Miami yes but also New York. I think that all the places have been very influential to me. I was lucky enough to have the chance to present my work to a larger audience, I really want my music to be listened to and I want my audience to find it and figure out what I’m doing.
We are really fascinated by your last video ‘You Tell Em’, amazing photography and costumes. Can you tell us more about it?
That’s one of my favorite video. I shot it in Iceland and it was just me and a fantastic crew. I had so much fun shooting that video that you can’t even imagine. The photography by Hrafn Garoarsson is stunning and we have been able to create a content that is constant reinformation and rebranding at the same time in a lava-encrusted landscape littered with the burning husks of old desktop computers. This song is part of my new Nu Renegade collaborative EP with Leila, an Iranian born recording artist, producer and DJ based in London who has worked with prominent European musicians such as Bjork and Aphex Twin.
Any favorite showcases?
I would say ‘no’, because each one has a different energy, crowd, location. My audience is evolving more than my performance at the moment. And so far i love what i’m doing.
Hip hop and fashion go along very well. What’s your style?
I’m very conscious of fashion and design: I use my style to go in and out of character. It’s not something I think about, but the opportunity to work with designers, even just to soundscape their shows is a trajectory; the continued opportunity to design and collaborate.
Have a great show at Sonar!
Photography by Fabrizio Consoli – instagram @fabconsoli