Houston, Texas rap singer Z-Ro is just that, a rap singer. Affiliated with the late DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click collective and signed to H-Town’s longstanding Rap-A-Lot record institution, Z-Ro, or Joseph McVey, combines down South r&b singing with hard, aggressive rap bars for a sound like nothing else, even when juxtaposed against all the hybrid performers of the modern day. The Mo City Don, as he’s called in homage to his suburban Houston stomping grounds (Missouri City, Texas), was once labeled one of the most underrated rappers in America by The New York Times, for a good reason. His flawless, relentless delivery of soulful, gruff singing vocals and punching, quality rhymes made him an unmistakeable favorite in cult circles and brought greater approbation to rap’s Third Coast, which was already on the map when Z-Ro hit the big time.
In the past, Z-Ro has typically been very good with his music and in the limelight for longer than any rapper in the game could hope to be. Recently however, particularly with this Melting The Crown album and its direct antecedent The Crown (2014), Z-Ro’s material has become somewhat predictable, very much what audiences have gotten used to from him for some time now. Melting The Crown has no technical flaws, but it is once again a redundant inventory of Z-Ro’s stock-in-trade activities: money-making, snitch-hating, women-reviling, pimp-celebrating and weed-smoking. The greatest strengths are a few fresh new rhymes and a more uptempo Z-Ro, seemingly faster than ever before with his flows at parts. The strongest song on the album is “Miss My Mama.” This lovely ode to good mothers everywhere seasons an otherwise bland, street album with in-depth heart and soul. The production, which is standard stuff, consists of disco beats, frantic drums, anthemic drill, electro-strings and more, sometimes easy-going, other times fast-paced. Rick Ross is featured on “Keep It Real” and a naughty Kirko Bangz on the risqué “Porcupine.”
Z-Ro probably meant to renounce labels and media-given kingship when he named his eighteenth studio LP Melting The Crown, but with mediocre music and worn concepts like this album, he’s not going to be able to keep the crown as a result either way. Z-Ro will always have his legacy and good name because the fact remains he’s done so much for the hip hop culture over the years, period. If you’re not very familiar with Z-Ro’s music, you might enjoy Melting The Crown, but if you’ve heard all his previous albums, you won’t be missing much if you skip this project.