I was introduced to Zilla Rocca by way of PremRock. You remember PremRock, right? We caught up with him a year ago. About ten months later he came back into town, stopped by for a meal and brought along some of his crew. One of the members of this impressive collection of talented individuals that he brought along on The Roland Biship Memorial Tour was Zilla Rocca. You’re in for a treat if you haven’t heard of this cat.
How often do you meet people, exchange names and courtesies, and walk away not knowing the name of the persons you just shook hands with? Happens a lot, right? Well, that’s not the case here. This dude you remember. Yo, did you meet Zilla? He’s cool. Lemme introduce you. A great conversationalist who just happens to make some fresh music.
We shared a pre-show meal and talked about the important things in life. But I know you just wanna know if Zilla can cook, right? Does he have a recipe for us? Well, continue on for food and music talk.
TKM: How would you say that food relates to the creation of music?
Z: I think each artist is affected by what they put into their bodies, from food to drugs. If you put a lot of garbage processed food in your body, you get cranky, tired, and sick. That’s going to effect how much energy you can put into writing, recording, and performing. It kills your endurance. Your health is 80% diet 20% fitness. The artists that have made decisions to eat healthy, often times they get more prolific, cause the fuel they’re putting in their body is giving them more energy to work. When I was on the road only getting by on beer, coffee, water, protein bars and the occassional cooked meal, I remember thinking how all those musicians did it just living off of drugs, cigarettes, and cheap booze for years.
TKM: Do you get around the kitchen pretty good? How would you rate your kitchen skills?
Z: I used to be pretty solid around the kitchen, where I’d rank myself about a 6.5, maybe a 7. I was making pork tenderloins, I might bake a crumb cake pear cobbler or something. But my fiance is the master chef of South Philly. She’s a vegan as well, and we’re both allergic to gluten, so it limits the amount of stuff we can BOTH eat together. It’s like being in a maze within a maze. So I’ve been lacking in the kitchen due to her overall excellence, my laziness, and our joint struggles without gluten.
TKM: What are you trying to gravitate towards and what are you trying to avoid?
Z: I’ve been gluten free since I got back from tour in mid-November, and I’ve noticed my energy levels skyrocket. However, not being able to drink regular beer is a serious bummer. Not having bagels or waffles — I don’t wish this life on anyone. The good thing about being gluten free though is that it forces you to try new flavors and dishes. You get exposed to more tastes and foods because you can’t have the vast majority of food that is a part of the American experience. So I’m gravitating towards more fish than ever, more avocados, kale, spinach, berries, and eggs. I have a serious sweet tooth, so I’m trying to avoid sugar because I’ve noticed I’ve been eating more of it now that I can’t do carbs.
TKM: What’s the eating situation like when you’re on tour?
Z: I thought I was going to gain crazy weight on the road, but I was only eating two actual meals a day, then getting by on gas station stuff like bananas, protein bars, pop chips, water, and some little candies. I did notice that I only drank three things a day: water, coffee, and alcohol. That was it. So I was constantly tired, because two-thirds of whatever I drank was dehydrating me. The times we could set and eat a meal, I would load up on protein to give me energy and to keep me full for hours. I remember when we had brunch at Millie’s in LA and PremRock commented that I order a real man’s breakfast – steak and eggs. That was a food highlight for me on the Roland Bishop Memorial Tour right there.
TKM: If you could have anyone make you a meal who would it be? If you could make a meal for anyone, who would it be?
Z: I’m not a big foodie like that, but whenever my fiance puts on the Food Network and the cooking shows, I find myself chewing on my hand cause the food looks so good! But I’m not up on chefs and stuff like that, so I’d want my fiance to make me a meal because even though she’s vegan, she doesn’t shy away from cooking meat. And she can put a great twist on any ol’ thing. Cooking is her art, and she makes masterpieces. I would like to cook for her more often. That’s something I need to improve. It’s intimidating though — it’s like getting in the booth with Nas.
TKM: What are the best and worst things about food in this country?
Z: The best things about food in the US, right now, is the amount of options you have. You can eat healthier. More places, at least in the cities I’ve been to, offer vegan and gluten free items, grass fed beef, hormone free chicken. It takes more effort and more money, but it is available. The worst things about food in this country is the regular food that most people eat. It’s chemically designed to make them addicts – it gives them that rush of pleasure in their brain and in their bodies, then makes them feel awful later on, until they get the next fix. And the food is cheap and accessible. Trust me – I don’t like THINKING about what I’m going to eat, then taking the time to prepare it. I wish I could knock back a $2 hamburger or a doughnut. That stuff tastes so damn good that it’s hard for Americans to let go of the stuff that’s actually killing them in order to extend their lives eating healthier. But I think the babies being born now will be more educated and their parents will be better at shaping their eating habits. When I was growing up, TV dinners and Ellio’s Pizza was the norm because my parents didn’t know any better. Now we do.
TKM: Do you have a recipe that you could share with us?
Z: I worked in a pizza restaurant for fifteen years, so here’s how to make a South Philly Classic Pizzazz Pizza:
1-ball of fresh dough
1/4 lb of sliced american cheese
3 large red tomatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
garlic to sprinkle
banana peppers (optional)
Prep time (30 minutes)
Cook time (10 minutes)
Preheat oven to 500 for 20-30 minutes.
Depending on the size of the dough, 2-3 tomatoes should be enough. Slice the tomatoes with medium cuts – you want to be able to pick them up after you slice them and not have the middle of the tomato fall out entirely.
Get one ball of dough, pour a tablespoon of olive oil on it, and bang it out. The part that is round and smooth should be face down. Start from the middle of the dough, and use your knuckles to push the dough outwards. The key is to use the excess dough in the middle so it doesn’t tear or get holes in it. This should take about 30 seconds to start making the dough look like a round pizza. Once the dough is spread evenly from the center outwards and forms a round shape, pick it up and toss it back and forth between your hands. It’s almost like your slapping it back and forth — don’t start twirling it in the air and behind the back. This ain’t Little Italy. By doing this, you’re stretching out the dough and letting air loosen it up. The more you do this, the softer the dough should get. Once it gets looser and longer, put it on the baking sheet and start stretching it out to form edges for a crust. Again, don’t stretch it too far to where it starts tearing. You might notice air bubbles pop up – don’t pop them, just smooth them out.
Next, take the slices of American cheese and lay them in a circular pattern on the dough, starting from the crust then moving towards the middle. The bottom corner of each piece of cheese should touch — let them have some space between them because when they cook, they’re melt and expand into each other on their own. Then lay the slices of tomato on top of the American cheese. You can lay the tomatoes next to each other. Sprinkle some banana peppers sparingly for taste on top. Then sprinkle some salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic on top, then drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the entire pizza to keep the american cheese from burning.
Put the pizza in the baking sheet on the top rack inside the oven. Cook for 10 minutes at 500 degrees. Depending on how crispy you like your pizza, you might want to cook it for 15 minutes (the dough on the bottom of the pizza will be dark brown). And there you have it- a South Philly pizzazz pizza.
TKM: Tell us about your upcoming projects?
Z: My new record “No Vacation for Murder” is dropping April 1, 2014. Physicals drop April 8th. It’s the newest Shadowboxers album, the proper follow-up to the 2009 LP “The Slow Twilight”. It’s a concept album about revenge. I feel like we’ve all been betrayed at some point and once you’re in that spot, the way your mind operates usually takes a darker turn. This album takes a peak into my mind during that moment and how I end up making a determination to go another direction. It’s very insular – it’s a great cold weather album. I got friends and heroes on the album – Open Mike Eagle, Curly Castro, Roc Marciano, Has-Lo, and Geechi Suede of Camp Lo. You can pre-order the digi version now on my bandcamp, and you can still grab my mixtape Neo Noir on cassette – there might be about 15 of them left.
TKM: Where do you find inspiration? What do you draw from?
Z: I read everyday, whether it’s books or magazines. I watch alot of TV too. I work out 3-4 times away to feel right. I’m drawn to stuff that is written incredibly well though – that makes me want to write great. So I’m always taking notes and stealing little phrases and slick sentences from stuff I read or hear. With music, I go through phases of what I want to hear. Last week, I listened to old De La Soul everyday and felt like I had 100 new ideas for beats. Then I listen to old jazz records when I’m washing dishes and I get vibes off of that. I listen to music everyday, probably too much, so the times when I’m just listening to it for enjoyment, I get the most from it, not digging for samples or studying other peoples’ flows. And I have a strong spiritual path of Buddhism that I apply myself to for about three years now. It helps me have a loose, chill mind so ideas can flow much easier. And it helps me not be a dickhead like I was when I was younger.
TKM: In a perfect world, what would your next project look like – no limitations.
Z: I feel like now I know what kind of records are the easiest for me to write, and what kind of sounds I like to explore fully, so my dream project would be a contrast of hard, contemporary beats with sparse, somber beautiful beats. With guests, I know how to use people’s best talent, so this list might look odd, but I know what I’d want from each person: Serengeti, Boldy James, doseone, Denmark Vessey, Frank Ocean, Ka, Raekwon, Shabazz Palaces, Curly Castro, Prem, Has-Lo, Aesop Rock, Armand Hammer and Thundercat. And I’d want my friend Noah Goldstein to produce the whole thing. He produced half of Yeezus and we came up together working in the studio for years. The stuff he was doing on Yeezus, he was doing in 2005.
TKM: What makes Hip Hop relevant in 2014?
Z: Big Body Bes.
I could pinpoint a few more highlights and points of interest on the Zilla Rocca map and timeline. I could tell you about the projects he’s been involved in as well as the numerous features that he’s checked off his to-do list. But most of the fun is in discovering your favorites for yourself. Instead, I’ll direct you to his Twitter page, his Bandcamp page, his Facebook and his Soundcloud page. I’ll remind you that he’s got a project dropping in a few weeks (that you can preorder down below). I’d recommend copping some of his projects on cassette and popping those in your tape decks. But more than anything, I’d ask that you take some time and discover something great that he’s been a part of that you didn’t know about before today. Because what’s better than adding new additions to your life’s soundtrack?