Mike Zombie isn’t “fake humble” though he has plenty to boast about at the age of 24. The Grammy-nominated OVO producer captivated mainstream airwaves with Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” in 2013. One year later, he scored another hit with DJ Khaled’s “They Don’t Love You No More” featuring Meek Mill, Rick Ross and Jay Z–yet, he isn’t infatuated with his success.
“Being humble is being aware that you’re good, but you don’t have to walk around saying it all day,” he tells VIBE as “Underdog (The Trilogy)” off his latest album Humble Genius draws to a fade. The New Jersey native’s third project emerges as a proclamation of his greatness where his mastermind makes its presence felt track by track, piecing together a grand notice that he’s just as talented in the booth as he is on the soundboard. “Your work should show for itself,” he continues.
Sporting a red and white “New Jerz Natives” hat to match his outfit of the day, the artist is fully conscious of his home base in Willingboro. The small suburbs, which dons the nickname “Little Motown,” cultivated his love for variety in sound so it comes as no surprise when the 609 ambassador reveals he didn’t turn to trends for the direction of his album, opting to pull samples from unconventional sources, like anime, instead. “I feel like artists are going to work with what they got at the end of the day if people keep making the same beats over and over again,” he says while musing on the lack of innovation in music today.
He pays respect to culture pushers, such as Beyonce, who deviate from the status quo after acknowledging that artists aren’t clear of blame in keeping the cycle of repetitiveness going either. “When ‘Started From The Bottom’ came out, it got so annoying to get in the studio with somebody who’d be like, ‘I want something just like [this].’ Why? ‘Started From The Bottom’ is already ‘Started From The Bottom.’” Humble Genius, released just in time for the summer on July 1, is a testament to Mike Zombie’s commitment to challenging his artistry as a rising rapper and self-sufficient producer through creating fresh yet cohesive music. While he reveals that his success as an independent artist has outpaced his expectations, Zombie is completely set on making bigger waves in the industry with a year-end move to “California” on his mind à la the fourth track featured on his album.
He’s also unopposed to taking his talent to the major leagues of hip hop as long as fair play is etched in the game plan and creative freedom is uncompromised on the field, a combination he believes makes G.O.O.D. Music an ideal record label for him. “[Kanye West] treats Big Sean as if he was Desiigner or Desiigner as if he was Big Sean. He’s promoting everybody the same way,” he observes. “You don’t want anyone to fall short.”
VIBE caught up with the rapper and OVO hit maker about earning Drake’s stamp of approval, growing as a lyricist on Humble Genius and pushing music “the right way” in the slides above.