Photo: Carlo Cavaluzzi
We can't stop laughing. No, seriously, this is mosh, giggle, and groove music.
Comedian Zack Fox has always been on the periphery of the music industry. He's worked with Thundercat, albeit by drawing the musician's inlet for his Drunk album. He's worked with Flying Lotus, albeit by way of co-writing their horror-comedy movie Kuso. Fox hadn't stepped into the limelight until he befriended hip-hop's favorite producer Kenny Beats.
Fox and Beats linked up the first time for "Square Up" back in late 2018. Beats injected some serious Black Airforce 1's energy into that one. It went micro-viral, soundtracking numerous WorldStar fight videos. Jeez. The pair went on to make a music video themselves, portraying restaurant workers on a rampage dueling all of their coworkers onsite. Feeling all-powerful, Fox embraces the joke the song is and goes off singing for three minutes about how he can knock a man out with only his hands. We really all only knew Fox because of his legendary, now-defunct Twitter account, Bootymath, so this was nothing short of a surprise. Even though it was a seeming joke, folks, including Chance The Rapper loved it.
At the top of 2019, Fox came closer to actualizing his rapper persona. Fox went to SXSW with Vice to see how far he could get pretending to be a rapper and you guessed it… didn't get super far. So who would have thought by the end of the year, he'd have a viral hit with millions upon millions of streams on Spotify? You can't make this stuff up. Now Fox's very real-life stand-up shows couldn't sell out faster. What the hell happened?
As soon as Kanye's Jesus is King dropped, Twitter users flocked to the forum insisting if had Kanye done the gospel album correctly, it would have sounded like this. "This" being Zack Fox and Kenny Beats' accidental meme single "Jesus is the one (I got depression)," which was made in Beats' The Cave on YouTube. With each listen, the song gets funnier and funnier. Fox used his comedic timing to execute the most hilarious bars of 2019. Being a stand-up, he knew exactly where to place the jokes, how to build something up, and precisely when to drop it. Everything on "Jesus is the one" was improvised, because Fox wasn't even supposed to be there.
On 'The Cave', Beats brings in real rappers and the duo creates an actual song, and Fox was never even supposed to be in the booth. Beats told Genius during their lyrical breakdown,
"I never decided to have Zack on The Cave. It wasn't something I wanted to do. I didn't think it was going to be funny or worthwhile. And he came and my camera-man was there, and they were like, 'Oh, let's film Zach. We'll do a fake one with Zach.' It's ruining my career slowly. I get to the studio with artists I've dreamed about working with my whole career, and they're like, 'Hey, you got something like that depression song?'
The song alone, Beats' 'The Cave' video, and the Genius piece have amassed over 15.6 million views on Youtube. On Spotify, it's been streamed 17 million times. And it was supposed to be a joke. But now here we are! Maybe it's proof we really all just want a well-produced laugh.
The comedian told Rolling Stone, "I'm a huge fan of hip-hop, but it's so broken right now I bet someone could literally troll their way to the top. I did it." But I ask, did Fox's music become a hit because it was a joke? Or was it the perfect joke because despite all odds it became a hit?
Fox's comedic candor and background in stand-up make him the most unlikely but most perfect rapper. His lines are uncannily memorable because they are also hilarious. It's almost no wonder "Jesus Is The One" became an Internet smash. It's everything we on the Internet could want. Memeable and brimming with a dark sense of self-afflicted humor. There's not one line in any of Fox's songs that couldn't stand on its own. One of the iconic lyrical moments in the song, commonly pointed out by Twitter users, was when Zack said,
"Bitch, you better praise God or I'ma shoot, and that’s on God.
I ain’t playin’ ‘bout my Lord and Savior, I’m on my job.
If you ain’t a Christian, I'ma stab you in the face.
If it ain’t 'bout Jesus, I'ma hit you with this K."
His next single, "The Bean Kicked In," produced by Nedarb made its way onto the internet at the tail end of 2019. It's his first track that lacks overt aggression. It's filled with metaphorical cracks for total weirdos. In "The Bean Kicked In," Fox raps about taking care of his mom, Michelle Obama, and watching a glowing sunset right when the high kicks in.
All in all, Zack Fox could make anything hilarious. But his hip-hop career, if he chooses to actually pursue it, could be the joke that turns him into a legend.