How Miami's Bizerk Went From Locker Drums to iTunes No. 1 With Shaggy
Bizerk was a 13-year-old kid when he started fetching water for rappers at Circle House, the North Miami studio where artists from Pitbull to Rick Ross have laid down some of their first major verses.
At the time, Trick Daddy was smashing the world with hit after hit, iTunes didn't exist yet, and CDs ruled the music biz.
Today, Bizerk's a formidable artist in his own right, with a new reggaefied mixtape available for free, and an EP with foundational reggae artists Inner Circle on its way. Here's what Zerk had to say about where he is, where he's been, and where he's going.
Crossfade: Wasup with the new mixtape?
Bizerk: The mixtape is crazy. It's like a reggae vibes mixtape. Not pure reggae, but heavy reggae swag, a big influence.
What's it called?
Good Vibrations Vol. 1
How did it come about?
Well, actually, Abebe Lewis, Circle House owner was telling me to try out that style. I was just in the studio and that's what I was working on. And after a while, I had ten songs done, and it was like, "Let's put 'em out." I'm also workin' on an EP that's fully produced by Inner Circle, so this is gonna start to let people know about what I'm doing with that.
Hell yeah, dude. What's that gonna be?
We don't have a name for it yet, but it's gonna be an EP all produced at Circle House and Circle Village. We got about four songs done so far. I work in Circle House doing marketing for Abebe, and every so often, Inner Circle call me over to their studio. They be like, "Zerk, come drop a verse!" It's not a slow process, but there's no rush. They're helping me write all the concepts. They have all these ideas. Like, we flipped over this "Money in My Pocket" record from Dennis Brown, but for the new generation. I got the influence of the classic sounds, but for the people of today. The young and the old at the same time.
What have you learned working with them?
It's crazy. Inner Circle's understanding of music is amazing. They hear a song, and they know the key of it and how to play it right away. In the rap game, most of my peers, people in my generation, don't understand music like that. They know words, and they know beats, but they don't know music like that. It opened my mind a lot. Inner Circle can pick up an instrument and play anything right there. It's a very creative thing. I think that's dope.
How has that influenced your sound?
It helped me grow as an artist. Every song made me better. It made me want to sing more and rap less. I think after doing those songs, they taught me how to sing. I still rap, but it changed my whole style.
Tell the story of how you got that song, "Like to Party," with Shaggy.
I never knew it was gonna happen. I did a verse for Don Corleone. We were upstairs at the Circle House, and he wanted to work. We have a mutual friend, the Professor, who was tellin' Don about me. I knew who he was, but at the time, I didn't really know that he was the biggest producer in Jamaica. I didn't know that he had done all those hits for Sean Paul. I wasn't like, "Wow, this is the biggest dude in Jamaica." So I didn't feel the pressure, which was good.
So I did a verse, and Lunch Money wrote the chorus. We worked on the hook, took about a month to get it right. I tried like three different singers on the chorus, different singers from different reggae bands. Stampede Movement is like true Ras, so he wasn't really with the party vibes on it about drinking and smoking. So we got Scatta who's now the lead singer for Inner Circle. We felt it was good, so we sent the session to Don. Later on, he hit me back like, "Zerk, check your email. I got Shaggy on the record." And next thing I know, it was number-one iTunes reggae in the U.S. and Canada.
How did you start out over at the Circle House?
Originally, I was never a rapper, but I used to do the beats on the lockers and drum on the tables at school with the pencils. I'm talkin' like 7th grade. This is back when Al B. Sylk was on Power 96 and he would do the Roll Call, so that made everybody wanna rap. I was goin' to Northwest Christian Academy on Opa-Locka Boulevard. I remember Lunch Money started goin' to school there and he was always rappin'. He was like, "Yo, I need somebody to rap with," so I started rappin' with him in school. He's the one who gave me the name Bizerk. I rapped for Abebe on the phone, and he was like, "Yo, bring him by the studio." So I started goin' there when I was like 13, bringing people water and doing whatever I could.
You and Lunch had a group right?
Yeah, we were actually signed to Universal Records. Our first show was the Y100 Wing Ding, which was huge for a first show. I was the hype man. People loved us. We were autographing their arms and everything.
How'd you get with Slightly Stoopid?
They were at the studio doing a Jacob Miller record with Inner Circle, and I was supposed to be on it and write a verse. But when I went to the studio, I got a call that my homeboy got shot, so I left to go make sure everything was alright with him. Give thanks he didn't die, but I didn't get to write the verse. That was gonna be my first big chance to write for somebody, but I love the way it came out anyway.
A while later, I had the session of the track and I got with the engineer to chop it up and made my own remix. I was in there with Jah Rog, and he told me, "Yo, Zerk get on there, and change this part to say Convertible Burt, just to make it a Miami song," they loved it and showed it to Slightly Stoopid, and then I got on stage at the Nine Mile Music Fest and did the verse and they got to see me perform, and that's kinda how I got cool with them. They seen me rap, they were like, "Yo, you killed it." They actually grabbed the record and did a remix with Capleton, and then Vans grabbed it and they did a new video for it. What's some other shows you've performed on?
With Inner Circle, Soja for a sold-out show at Revolution. I've opened for Redman and Method Man. I opened for Bone Thugs. Me and Lunch toured with the Marley brothers all over Florida. Jacki-O, we went on a small tour with her and Ross. We were real close with Iconz, they schooled us, they showed us a lot. What's the track you got with Robbie Dreadeyez and I-Octane?
Robbie does music in Shuttle Life. Robbie's from Jamaica. They were actually featured on National Geographic TV show Drugs Inc. But they make conscious music, they not drug dealers. They're in the marijuana section. But they're for music, not for drugs. That's the homies. They're real close with Ruben Slikk and Metro Zu. Dreadeyez talks that real reggae patois. He really helped me get that conscious reggae vibes in the studio. That's the homie. How'd you get with Magazeen?
I linked with Mikey T the Movie Star. He's like the main blogger at AllHipHop. He done all the interviews with Yo Gotti and stuff. He also works with Maybach Music. He took a liking to me and he linked me with Magazeen. We got in the studio and banged out a lot of tracks. I lost one, but I captured a good one with him. He's all over the Ross albums. He's on that "Yacht Club." I told him he should start a Maybach Jamaica. He goes in. There's no discrepancies. He just goes in and does track after track. I'm a fan. Magazeen is stupid with it. What do you do with Abebe?
He's got a company called Abebe Lewis Marketing and Branding Group. He does a lot of big marketing for major alcohol companies like Rémy, Cîroc. He runs all the clubs on South Beach, not like owns them, but they go to him when they wanna blow the club up. He puts on artists and gets them in the studio, in the clubs, he gets them everywhere. He runs Miami. He works with Ne-Yo, Flo Rida, does major events. I work with him on the email blasts. We have a database of, like, 100,000 people. We have it all demographically organized. We have major people linkin' with us.