Artist profile: Zebra Katz

by | May 30, 2024 | Artist Profile, Blog

Zebra Katz, the genre-defying alter ego of Ojay Morgan, has carved a path in the music industry with his audacious style and provocative sound. On Friday, June 1, this one-of-a-kind talent will join JETLAGGED with a DJ set and live vocal performance at Control Club.

Born in 1987 in West Palm Beach, Florida, Morgan’s creative journey began early, heavily influenced by his Jamaican-American heritage. From an early age, Morgan immersed himself in various forms of artistic expression, from dance and acting to visual arts, encouraged by supportive parents who recognized his innate talent. His time as an undergrad at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School was creatively transformative. It was here that Morgan developed his senior thesis, Moor Contradictions, a theatrical art piece that laid the groundwork for his future work, exploring identity, culture, and performance.

But Zebra Katz officially burst onto the scene in 2012 with the viral sensation Ima Read. With its raw minimalism and potent energy, the Mad Decent release was an immediate hit, setting the stage at Rick Owens’ Paris Fashion Week show. This searing piece of commentary wrapped in a hypnotic beat introduced the world to Katz and highlighted his knack for blending fierce lyricism with pulsating rhythms.

Following the seismic impact of Ima Read, Zebra Katz continued to defy genre conventions, releasing a string of powerful singles, mixtapes such as DRKLNG, as well as EPs like Winter Titty and Nu Renegade. Tracks like Tear the House Up with Herv√© and Hello Hi showcased his ability to blend elements of hip-hop, industrial, and electronic music. High-profile remixes for artists like Azealia Banks, Tricky, Gangsta Boo, and Busta Rhymes would also find their way into Zebra Katz’s discography. His work during this time defied easy categorization, challenging conventional norms within the hip-hop genre. Katz’s refusal to be pigeonholed is evident in his disdain for the oft-used label “queer rap,” which he finds reductive and limiting.

In 2020, Zebra Katz released his anticipated debut album, LESS IS MOOR. Written and produced between Berlin and London, the album features collaborations with a host of talent, including Sega Bodega, Shygirl, Tony Quattro, and Torus, a fellow Red Bull Music Academy graduate. LESS IS MOOR would become a seminal statement on the experiences of Black artists in a world that often demands more with less. Tracks like ZAD DRUMZ and ISH are perfect examples of Zebra Katz’s ability to turn personal and cultural critique into high-energy anthems, oscillating the album between moments of biting social commentary and sheer sonic exhilaration.

Beyond his solo work, Zebra Katz has made significant contributions to other projects. His collaboration with the Gorillaz on their Humanz tour brought his unique style to an even wider audience. Tracks like SexMurderParty and The Apprentice feature his distinctive voice, adding a further dimension to the Gorillaz’s already eclectic sound.

¬†Zebra Katz’s live performances are where his artistry truly comes alive. Each show is an immersive experience, blending music, performance art, and raw charisma. His performances are full-bodied artistic statements, reflecting his deep-seated passion for theatre and culture. These experiences have been felt in an array of venues, from underground parties to arts institutions, such as SXSW, Lollapalooza, Berlin Atonal, Rewire, the New Museum in New York, MoMA PS1, Brooklyn Museum, and Art Basel.

Despite his growing success, Zebra Katz remains committed to his independent roots. Operating under his own label, ZFK Records, he maintains complete creative control over his work. This work, marked by its doomed future and left-of-center nature, continues pushing the boundaries of what art and music can be.

Zebra Katz

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