The late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard sadly isn’t with us anymore, that is at least physically. However, as tribute to his legacy, the often troubled, but nonetheless legendary, Dirt McGirt, left behind a complete musical dynasty for his legions of fans worldwide. Comprised of immediate, and extended family members — 12 O’Clock, Shorty Shitstain, The Zoo Keeper, Merdoc, and Buddha Monk, or as they are collectively known, The Brooklyn Zu, have finally arrived, and will continue to press on in keeping his cherished memory alive.
BallerStatus.com: Tell me how it all began for Brooklyn Zu.
Shorty Shitstain: It began with Dirt Dog. It began when Ol’ Dirty made up Brooklyn Zu.
The Zoo Keeper: First time I became interested is when I heard The Sugar Hill Gang, and I was amazed with that. Then, when the first All In Together Now Crew came out with the RZA, GZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, because I used to be the beat-box for all of them. They used to call me the Beat Box Specialist #1. From there is when Brooklyn Zu really came out, and it all started there.
Buddha Monk: I started DJing … I was doing parties all over New York, going down to Philly. That’s when I started meeting, like, Biz Markie and guys like that. Back then I lived on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn. That’s when I started hanging out with Dirty, and the family — On Putnam and Franklin. Dirty had been gone away a little and came back. He had the first single before they got on Loud Records. I started working that record, and giving it to other DJs. Then Dirty came around more and more, coming to check on me. Then one day he took me to the studio, and I told them they should do this, and do that, and RZA was like, “Yo, who is that?” And Dirty said, “That’s my man.” From there, I worked with him on his album, working everything.
Me and Dirty and 12 [O’Clock] would go to all the shows, just hanging out smoking weed. At the time, my name was DJ Master E, and Dirty told me we need to change my name. And he said, “Yo, the name is Buddha Monk.” And, that’s how I got my name. Raison Allah The Zoo Keeper and them were hanging out, and Raison had given the group the name, and then Dirty brought me in. At the time, it was the same five members now, and it was also with Prodigal Sunn, Killah Priest, and 60 Second Assassin. Then RZA split that, and added Hell Razah, and formed the Sunz of Man with those guys.
BallerStatus.com: On the music tip, how did you all really hook up with Ol’ Dirty, and later become Brooklyn Zu?
12 O’Clock: Being born.
Shorty Shitstain: I grew up with him, been with him all my life. He is family.
The Zoo Keeper: That’s my older brother, and then going back with my older cousins in the Wu-Tang and seeing them do that. Then when Dirty got his solo deal, and then from there that is where we came up with the Brooklyn Zu. It was me, 12 [O’Clock]and Dirty watching “You So Crazy Martin Lawrence,” drinking beers, and we said, “You’re Ol’ Dirty.” So, that string came, and that’s how Brooklyn Zu came about.
Merdoc: Dirty is family, so it was already there. It was evident.
BallerStatus.com: There have been talks of a collective project for quite some time now, even prior to Dirty’s sudden passing. Why the delay?
Shorty Shitstain: Because we had a deal with Dirty, and we were about to sign the contracts, and when Dirty passed, they didn’t want to do the deal anymore. That’s why it took so long.
The Zoo Keeper: Because Dirty was the head of Brooklyn Zu, there were plenty of opportunities for us to come out. We were in California when Dirty was doing “Ghetto Superstar,” and someone came up and wanted to give us $3 million dollars, but Dirty turned him down. We were his group, and he wanted to bring us out himself, not someone else. Before he passed away, it just came out that we were about to come out. We had a deal set up. Then, that fatal day just stopped it for a minute. He wanted Brooklyn Zu to come out, but he wanted us to come out on his terms. And now, here we are, and we have fulfilled it.
Merdoc: Well after he passed, everybody turned their back on us. Before then, we were grindin’.
BallerStatus.com: What prompted you all to put the group back into motion after losing such an integral part of it in ODB?
12 O’Clock: It made us want to do it even more when he passed away. Not just for us, but for him, too — to keep his name and legacy alive.
The Zoo Keeper: The group was never broken up. We are brothers and cousins. Me, 12, Merdoc and Shorty, we are brothers. And Buddha Monk, we all grew up together. When Dirty passed away, it was like a devastating shock to us. Me and 12, we the older brothers now, so we took it upon ourselves. I know, me personally, I didn’t wanna live anymore after my brother died. I was drinking and stuff for a year. Then my son was born, and I said, “I can’t let this destroy me.” Then 12 called me one day, and said, “Yo Raison, let’s hit the studio, and do this. Make the world remember Dirty. Let’s go and do this, get this.” And, there it was.
BallerStatus.com: Who came up with Brooklyn Zu? And, how does your moniker relate to the group’s overall sound?
12 O’Clock: We are from Brooklyn, New York, so that’s that. When you hear us, it’s just like the late, great Dirty. Our music has so much soul. It’s soulful music. That is the best way to describe it — it’s real. It’s real street music.
Merdoc: Brooklyn Zu originated when Dirty first did that track, and we took it and ran with it. Our style is classic hip-hop. We say sh** that stays straight to the roots.
BallerStatus.com: Chamber #9, Verse 32. What does the name of your debut group project represent?
12 O’Clock: We chose the name because of Dirty. Dirty said it in his rhyme, and we wanted to use that as our title. It’s from his song on his album.
The Zoo Keeper: Chamber #9… to me, is like bringing forth life and that adds onto being born into existence. That’s a very good question, because that is bringing forth life. Also … Verse 32, you have 3 and 2, which is 5. 5 to us is taking something that is old, and making it new, making it better. Anything we do or anything in life, because what goes around comes around, we take it and refine it. And, that’s the whole thing. We are that Chamber #9, out of the Wu-Tang 36, and Verse 32.
Merdoc: The name for the album came from one of Dirty’s verses, “Chamber number 9, verse 32, only speaks about Brooklyn Zu…” So, it’s like a tribute to him as well.
BallerStatus.com: What are your favorite things about Chamber #9, Verse 32?
12 O’Clock: We have RZA, GZA, Masta Killa, Killah Priest, the Sunz of Man, Prodigal Sunn, 60 Second Assassin, Shyheim, System Of A Down, and our whole Cuffie Family. It’s loaded.
Buddha Monk: My favorite songs on the album have to be “Baby” and “Pass the Mic.” Also, “Do It For” and “Pour My Liquor.” The producers are Lucky Skillz,and the RZA. DJ Woool came up with some bangers, too. Playboy-Chi gave us single material. He is one ill motherf***er. To me, he has the hottest joints on the album. All the producers on here, we basically walked in their room, and as soon as we thought it was hot, we were with it.
BallerStatus.com: So, it seems like most of the Clan returned for this ODB tribute CD…
12 O’Clock: Yeah, we have pretty much all of them. Wu-Tang gave it up for us, and participated in this movement 100%.
The Zoo Keeper: All for one, one for all. Even if Dirty was alive, Wu-Tang would be on our album. We all grew up together. We are like the youngest out of the crew, so they are gonna be there for us. Like Method Man said, “If we there, he there.”
BallerStatus.com: What was it like working together with all of those guys again?
12 O’Clock: I have been doing it for 15 years, since I was a kid, so it’s the same. It’s beautiful. It’s my family, so that’s what that is. I just love making music.
Shorty Shitstain: It’s very fun. It is spiritual, and a good experience.
Merdoc: It’s real. They are family, so we have been around them since we are kids. It’s just normal for me being with them.
BallerStatus.com: Take me through a typical studio session.
The Zoo Keeper: Go into the studio, someone calls you up with some studio time. There is always, always someone with studio time. We just listen to some beats, and the first time you hear that beat, you know, ’cause you just start rhyming to it. And then, there it is.
Buddha Monk: Everybody comes in ready to do vocals, all of a sudden the computer can’t work, and we lose vocals. Some n****s is in the back f***in’, and then some of the n****s go home with dry d***. I used to be one of those motherf***ers to go home with dry d***. Matter of fact I still am … I am still married.
BallerStatus.com: Are you all planning on involving yourselves in any other outside business ventures?
12 O’Clock: I want to own my own record company. With me not rhyming, just being a part of the business part.
Shorty Shitstain: Hopefully I could act. I want to really just make beats, and be a producer.
The Zoo Keeper: Oh, yeah, being a director of movies. I love the idea of making movies. There aren’t too many black filmmakers. I want the opportunity to branch out and learn making movies, and being in the television industry. I see my future steering off in that direction. I will always make music, but I see myself going into movies because that is something that I really want to do.
Merdoc: Me, personally, I want to get into real estate, and go behind the scenes on the music tip. I have some clothing ideas I want to dabble in, but I want to be all the way in with that — the design and everything, not just the name.
Buddha Monk: Yeah, I am a singer, so in the R&B field. I love lots of singers. I am working on an R&B album right now.
BallerStatus.com: How do you all feel about hip-hop in 2008?
12 O’Clock: No, hell no. It’s bullsh** now. It’s watered down. It isn’t hip-hop no more. It’s just the clap-clap, stomp your feet music. We are gonna bring it back.
Shorty Shitstain: I love the way it was back in the days, but they have some nice cats coming out now. I like it, some of the music. It is different now.
The Zoo Keeper: Nah, I am not as happy with the current state because this hip-hop now is very, very watered down. The lyrics, the intros, the whole thing about this music thing right now seems really fake to me. I am glad I am here. I see it as the evil is being spread around, and here I am; the good. And, the good is coming to destroy the evil, and their stupid-ness kind of rap. This has no backbone to me. It’s just glorifying negative things. It’s out there, and we talk about it, but we don’t live it like that. We are here to take down this corny rap. It’s bullsh**, so we are here to change all that.
BallerStatus.com: Tell me something about you all that won’t be discovered in your music?
The Zoo Keeper: Our personality behind the scenes, the lovingness for the music. The idea for who we really are. It isn’t until someone interviews you till they can see, “Oh, wow, he is different than he is on stage.” Then, they can see the real makings of you. I am all for that.
Buddha Monk: You won’t get us trying to disrespect women to appreciate our music. We want them to like us because of what we say, and what we are doing. We want younger people to respect us.
BallerStatus.com: Buddha Monk, you have already had an ongoing solo career. Will you continue on this path still? And, will there be any solo efforts from other Zu members as well?
Buddha Monk: I have two albums coming out. One is called Brooklyn Zu Presents: Buddha Monk, to be released on Koch Records on August 5th. My main album that I am working on is called Buddha Monk Beyond, and that will be late September on Universal Austria.
12 O’Clock: Yeah, while we are on tour, my whole sh** is writing my solo songs. Look for a 12 O’Clock solo album.
The Zoo Keeper: From everybody. 12 keep doing his solo album. Shorty Shitstain and Merdoc formed their thing (The Hunger Twins), and are doing that. I have a couple of tracks myself for a solo Zoo Keeper. Buddha Monk is doing his thing, too.
BallerStatus.com: You all have a documentary film in the works. Can you tell me anything about this planned release?
12 O’Clock: We did a documentary on the life of ODB, Our life, and our family life. Things you didn’t know about him, and things you didn’t know about Brooklyn Zu. The whole Clan is in it, and a bunch of other celebrities. The story is interesting. It tells you everything.
The Zoo Keeper: It is going to let everybody know who was really Ol’ Dirty Bastard — Mr. Russell Jones. It will show you where he came from, and what he was really about behind the scenes. He was the realest, and everybody knows that. It shows them what he is like behind the scenes.
BallerStatus.com: And finally, last but certainly not least, take some time out to speak on the tragic, and unfortunate, loss of Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
12 O’Clock: I don’t really want to get into too much of that, but it was a loss. Still hasn’t really hit me. I don’t like to talk about that, it was tragic.
Shorty Shitstain: I was with him. It is a day I will never forget in my life. Never forget it.
The Zoo Keeper: It was a tragic loss. Life is precious, and you can’t get it back once it’s gone. But, you can always remember and live for that person. A piece of me went away, too, but I think a piece of him is still inside me, too. He is not even gone. He is still here with us. So, we are going to keep moving it forward, and keep it going. He is with us.
Merdoc: It was sudden, unfortunate, and we miss him and we love him. R.I.P. ODB.
Buddha Monk: There isn’t even any words that can even explain how I feel. When I found out, I was crushed. And, ever since that day, certain days I can’t even function or think. I look for him to talk to me, and tell me if I am doing right.
BallerStatus.com: How has his untimely passing affected, not only you personally, but hip-hop in general?
12 O’Clock: Dirty was a real dude. Everything he did. That’s what hip-hop is missing — someone who just did what he feel, not what they think people wanna see.
The Zoo Keeper: Hip-Hop will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, never, never, ever have another artist like the Ol’ Dirty Bastard … Ever.
Buddha Monk: Can’t nobody ever f*** with the greatest man of all in show business. He has no father to his style. He did stuff that people couldn’t even imagine. He inspired everyone. People that use his type of styles, they need to give him his credit. Missy Elliott always gives Dirty his respect. He is incredible in every way.
BallerStatus.com: Is there any final message for our readers?
12 O’Clock: Yeah, please support our record. It’s important to us, it’s important to Dirty. He is a part of Brooklyn Zu. We will be there to see you all real soon.
Buddha Monk: Please stay in school. To become a great MC, you need to know how to spell. You can make up words, but you need to know how to spell. A good rapper learns from the streets, but also learns from books in the school. You need to know right from wrong, and you need to know not to walk down a dark alley ’cause yo ass might get robbed. I wanna thank everybody and ask them to take the time to really listen to the album. Hip-hop is real, and we cannot outgrow it.