Zack Fox looks right into the camera, with that all-too-familiar I’m here for you empathetic glaze on his face. He’s telling us that it’s OK to be scared or depressed. “For me, there’s a song from my childhood that would always help me out when I feel that way, and I want to share that with y’all,” he says. Then he clears his throat and looks lost for a second, then raises his eyes back up to the camera: “Slob on my knob like corn on the cob.” For the next minute or so, various famous friends recite the lyrics from Tear Da Club Up Thugs’ cheerfully disgusting 1999 song “Slob On My Knob.” We’re not even one day out from the Gal Gadot “Imagine” debacle, and Zack Fox’s Instagram clip joyously skewers that particular brand of sanctimony. It’s exactly what it needs to be.
This is what Zack Fox does. Fox is one of those blessed few, like Desus and Mero before him, who have translated “being funny on Twitter” into something like actual fame. Fox doesn’t have any particular job. He’s more famous as a rapper than as anything else, but he only officially has three songs to his name. His main job seems to be stand-up comedy, though he’s probably better at rapping than he is at stand-up. More than anything, though, he’s great at tiny gestures like that “Slob On My Knob” video — trolling the shit out of a vacuous cultural moment that deserves to be trolled.
Fox is 29, and he’s from Atlanta. Once upon a time, he was known as a funny Twitter guy, and one of his initial claims to fame was coming up with the format for one of the original “Bad And Boujee” memes. (Fox has since been banned from Twitter for hijinks-related reasons.) Early in 2016, he starred in an extremely bleak short film that Atlanta’s anarchic Awful Records crew posted online. He also co-wrote and starred in Kuso, the Flying Lotus-directed body-horror film from 2017. That same year, Fox also designed Thundercat’s Drunk album cover. And then “Square Up” happened.
Fox came out with “Square Up,” his collaboration with the producer Kenny Beats, in 2018. It’s got a premise so simple that it doesn’t even really qualify as a joke. It’s just a song about how fighting is great. Atlanta rappers have been making songs about how fighting is great for literal decades. Consider Hitman Sammy Sam’s 1999 classic “Knuckle Up,” which is assuredly not a joke. “Square Up” is a joke, but it’s made in the same spirit. I don’t even know what spirit led to Fox’s other big Kenny Beats collab, the utterly absurd “Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression).” That song was the product of the single greatest-ever episode of Kenny’s YouTube series The Cave, and it’s a beautiful piece of irreverent stupidity: “I take the condom off and drunk my nut, it’s delicious/ I wanna get a whip and crash it into white-owned businesses.” The sight of Kenny melting down with laughter at his computer is priceless.
“Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression),” unlike most of the freestyles from The Cave, became an actual song and went up on SoundCloud. It went viral, getting tens of millions of streams, and led to a whole lot of labels offering Fox money. Talking to Rolling Stone shortly thereafter, Fox said that the song was supposed to be a joke and that he hates it. He used the song’s success to indict the entire music industry: “This song is not special. I’m not some sort of sage. I’m not even a rapper. This popped off because of how monotonous and how saturated rap has become in this viral-Spotify-TikTok environment. The whole barometer on this industry is completely wrecked.”
Maybe he’s right. I don’t fucking know. But everytime Zack Fox shows up on something these days, I’m happy. The Father collab “Awesome Jawsome,” where Fox briefly breaks out singing “Imagine”: Happy. The airy Hook song “Crashed My Car,” where Fox opens his verse talking about blowing his rent money at Petco: Happy. Next month, Thundercat will release the new album It Is What It Is, and Fox shows up on one song, playing a pilot making landing announcements: “Winds are getting a little bit choppy, and there appears to be a shiny black man up there in first class getting some sloppy toppy.” He doesn’t even rap on that one, and I’m happy to hear him anyway.
I’m especially happy about “The Bean Kicked In,” the single that Fox released at the end of last year. It’s an actual good song. “The Bean Kicked In” isn’t a sign of encroaching professionalism or anything; it’s less than two minutes long, and it has Fox yelling about wanting to fuck Michelle Obama. But with Fox’s gruff and staccato bellow contrasting with the gasping cloud-rap beat from Lil Peep collaborator Nedarb, “The Bean Kicked In” begins to sound like the work of an actual musician, not necessarily just someone demanding attention online.
But Fox is also extremely good at demanding attention online. It might be his great gift. I don’t know if he wants to be a rapper — to pursue that as any kind of career. He has other avenues; last year, for instance, he was one of the hosts of Vice Live, a Viceland show that was cancelled after less than two months. (Later, Fox said that the show was “a fucking pile of shit.”) But I hope Zack Fox raps more. It’s not that the game needs him, exactly. But it’s fun to have him around.
1. Jasiah – “Break Shit”
I love two-minute SoundCloud-rap mosh-tantrums, almost as a rule. But very few of those songs are funky. This one is.
2. 30 Deep Grimeyy – “Grim Reapa Flow” (Feat. NLE Choppa)
NLE Choppa has been making mainstream-pop moves, as on the new Roddy Ricch collab “Walk Em Down.” That’s fine, I guess. It’s probably the smart move. But I would rather see Choppa become the new Waka Flocka Flame that “Shotta Flow” promised. A fun and deranged song like this one shows that it could still happen.
3. Guapdad 4000 – “Greedy”
Guapdad was rapping about cartoonish scammer stuff long before Teejayx6 became online-famous. Here, he makes it serious, talking about the desperation that leads to it. But the real draw here is the wormy, eerie beat, which Guapdad produced himself. I want more beats like this.
4. Lil Durk – “Chiraq Demons” (Feat. G Herbo)
Is there such a thing as traditional drill? Because if there is, this is that.
5. Sada Baby – “Outside” (Feat. Trap Manny)
The streak is unbroken. Long live the streak.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
I’m mad mixtapes ain’t around anymore, I would have look forward to admiring a mixtape cover on which Kay Slay slaps the mask out of Big Mike’s face.
— αμμΩ™ (@ammofr) March 19, 2020