ARTICLE KEVIN MCGARRY
PHOTOGRAPHY AMY TROOST
AFTER “IMA READ” SERVED AS THE SOUNDTRACK FOR RICK OWENS’S FALL RUNWAY SHOW, ZEBRA KATZ AND NJENA REDDD FOXXX ARE NOW TOURING TO “TEACH” THE MASSES
Whether hammered into your head via Rick Owens’s runway show or RuPaul’s Twitter feed, the cold throb of hip-hop’s leanest and meanest banger, Zebra Katz and Njena Redd Foxxx’s “Ima Read,” is unavoidable. Hurling lyrical knives in rapid succession, the two Brooklyn rappers reclaimed the snarky style of Paris Is Burning with a refrain that promises to “read” the world asunder.
The duo (aka Ojay Morgan and Njena Jarvis) squeezed in this interview before embarking on a European tour. But who/what/why is Zebra Katz? It’s a question that the man has heard before. “People are spelling it with a C or putting an apostrophe on it, the whole thing is just a play on words,” says Katz about his stage name and lyrics. “Pop music today is all lingo-driven, you need to keep up or get lost in the puns. People are asking me on Facebook, what really is ‘Ima Read?’ It’s all there in the history and subtext, it just depends how deep you want to go with it.”
To lay at least one misconception to rest, Zebra Katz is not a plural entity. The duo met through mutual friends in Brooklyn, and Reddd Foxxx came onto the “Ima Read” track as a collaborator. She has since found herself on her own trip to stardom. She’ll be releasing her first single, “Silly Bitch,” this summer on Mad Decent, the label which also signed Katz’s “Ima Read” and “Hey Ladies” tracks. “I wouldn’t say it’s an accident, but it’s serendipitous. What’s an accident any- way?” she says. “I’ll say this wasn’t planned for, but it’s feeling like it’s meant to be.”
The talented twosome’s meteoric rise took place the new old-fashioned way—not with a recording contract but with the “Ima Read” video lighting up YouTube for over half a million views and counting. Fittingly a string of dates opening for the poster child of the Internet-sensation-to- signed-artist movement, Lana Del Rey, followed. “This is a story, and it’s building,” says Zebra. “Down the line I think it’s going to be a blanket story, the same copy, and that’s why I want to keep doing new things.”
What’s next is a lot of touring and then making time for a lot of recording. “RuPaul and I are doing a show together, Reading University,” Zebra jokes. “Not really—but I’m putting that out into the universe. There are a lot of surprises coming that you can’t really talk about because it takes the fun out of the reveal.
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