Among the various jazz and fusion drummers who have influenced The ZYG 808, the style and career of John Blackwell, Jr had a considerable influence on the child prodigy's own development.
One night while performing with The GroovaLottos, The ZYG 808 took to the drum kit to perform "Baychester Ave", and instrumental jazz piece that he co-composed with his father, Mwalim. Before rolling into the up-tempo, Latin-influenced groove, he announced that he to dedicate this performance to the late John Blackwell, Jr. who had passed away this past summer.Blackwell, who was best known as Prince's drummer in the New Power Generation as well as the touring drummer for D'Angelo among other R&B, Jazz and Hip-hop acts.
The ZYG 808 first became familiar with John Blackwell when he was ten after his percussion teacher -The GroovaLottos drummer, Eddie Ray Johnson- suggested Blackwell's instructional DVD to supplement the lessons. The ZYG absorbed the DVD like a sponge and even began looking up his live performances on YouTube with various jazz, r&b, and hip-hop acts. He was also drawn by their mutual admiration of Art Blakey, Max Roach and Clyde Stubblefield. "The DVD definitely helped me with technique," said The ZYG from behind his drum set. "He also had footage of many of the old jazz greats on there too." After a year of coaching from Johnson and Blackwell's DVD, The ZYG was featuring with The GroovaLottos at shows (he is now a full member of the band) and headlining at the Boston Fest.
The ZYG 808 confided that he was very sorry he never got to meet Mr. Blackwell as he was a true fan. Another place where The ZYG and Blackwell indirectly crossed paths came on The ZYG's 13th birthday when he had the opportunity to play with legendary jazz saxophonist -and Prince band alum- Jay Rodriguez at a LaGuardia High School alumni cabaret.
Some of The ZYG 808's jazz drumming techniques and styles will be featured on his upcoming Hip-hop album, slightly departing from the traditional drum machine, common in contemporary hip-hop. An MC who can literally make his own beats is rare to find. #RealBeatz and #SoulPoets on Twitter.
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