Czar*Nok: Ziplock

For the last decade, groups like Mood and Five Deez have given Cincinnati its place in Hip-Hop history. But perhaps Hi-Tek’s work with Snoop and G-Unit isn’t the only thing that’s gangsta about Southern Ohio. Czar*Nok is a duo ten years in the making that aims to shed light on the Nati’s underbelly, while still […]

For the last decade, groups like Mood and Five Deez have given Cincinnati its place in Hip-Hop history. But perhaps Hi-Tek’s work with Snoop and G-Unit isn’t the only thing that’s gangsta about Southern Ohio. Czar*Nok is a duo ten years in the making that aims to shed light on the Nati’s underbelly, while still giving expressive messages to the youth.

Along with DJ Quik and Chingy, Czar*Nok has become a focal point in Capitol/Priority’s return to the raw Rap records we saw in the late 80’s. Kanye West, Three-Six Mafia, and others have contributed to the group’s debut album, That

One Way. discussed civic responsibilities with HayCzar and Enok, along with just how they see themselves in the big picture, and beyond. A new group or artist will always be lumped with their first collaborations. You guys are coming out with Hypnotized Minds doing some beats, as well as other people. How do you foresee the public reaction?

HayCzar: I know we got a confusing name. Right now, we just trying to work past that and just get the public to listen to us. We street n***as, but we polished. We just want people to understand us and respect this vibe. We grown up in this world, feel me? I mean, we got Gucci Mane, we got Spider Locc – everybody’s got confusing names now. If it’s good, it’s good.

HayCzar: People constantly be asking us, “Czar*Nok. What kind of a name is that?” All we did was put our names together. * and , feel me? That name don’t really make you understand we from the street. When you hear that name, it ain’t just Czar*Nok, it’s Locdown. We got a whole family. This is the birth of a dynasty right here. Going to back to this record “Throw Me That Pack,” do you think that Juicy J and Paul’s presence on the album will bring you the fans you want?

Enok: I mean, yeah. That’s slick. We got Kanye on there too. We got a beat from Needlz, he f**ked with the G-Unit [producing “Piggybank”]. Our vibe is all over the place. We polished, so we can get down with anything. Right now, I ain’t really hearin’ nobody say, “Y’all sound like this group or that group.” To me, we on some Eightball & MJG s**t. Word. Personally, I thought UGK. Nobody would mind that comparison. You’ve got very musical songs, but very street. Being the first rappers from Cincinnati to get onto Rap City and such, a lot of lil’ kids in your area will make you their next heroes. What responsibility are you taking in that when you got all these ruthless songs?

Enok: It’s reality for these kids. We got a responsibility. But the people in they neighborhood and they family got a bigger one. We just sheddin’ light on things. These kids got it f**ked up, bottom line. It’s f**ked up for the kids. Tell me if I’m wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be a track at least that I’ve heard that may speak to the kids and that situation?

HayCzar: The “Can’t Get Out the Game” is a perfect explanation for ‘em. Why is that song the message?

HayCzar: Because, it’s like – if you goin’ to the hoods and the streets, and you see all these kids doin’ all the ballin’ and drug dealin’ – they really can’t get out the game. You gotta get it how you live. We call it that “one way.” When you out there and you f**ked up, you gotta get it that one way! We tryin’ to lead by example. You see us comin’ out, doin’ the music. We can’t save the people – the people gotta save they selves. You gotta look at us and see what we doin’. A big part of leading by example will be staying around. As you guys blow, are you committed to staying in Cincy to really build the city and feel visible?

Enok: It’s important. You got a lot of people tryin’ to do the same s**t. That’s an important way of giving back, by coming around and giving ‘em that kinda hope. I can’t put money in everybody’s pocket, so I lead by example. Nobody else done blew up outta the ‘Nati. Everybody be gettin’ at us too. We blew up, already. We be here, going to the schools and s**t. DJ Hi-Tek blew up too. I’mma say that.

Enok: Yeah. But several of my people in Cincy told me that when he blew, he kinda turned his back on the city. I don’t know if that’s true or not – but you guys can go to New York or LA, but you really intend to hold it down? That means a lot.

Enok: Locdown Records is based out of Cincinnati. We gonna branch out, but we grounded here. This is where the empire is built from. The “Hercules” video was nice local flavor. The hood didn’t look like the typical hood. I swear that was the first time I saw freight trains in a video…

Enok: Yeah! They got railroad tracks runnin’ right through the hood! Them was houses, the projects are around the corner. Too many people still ain’t seen the vid. [] Those who have, love it though. How long have you been doing this? It must’ve taken some time to resonate with a label like Capitol/Priority?

HayCzar: Me and Nok been doin’ this since high school. We had chances to move around all through the South. Finally, we realized we had to start takin’ this s**t seriously. It’s been a ten year thing of getting groomed, and seasoned, and polished for this game. We ain’t no stand-in type dudes. Let’s keep it gutter. In the “Hercues” the Reds caps were a sea, and everything’s spelled kinda funky. Is Czar*Nok backed by the Bloods or any gang for that matter?

Enok: Nah, nah. Now Cincy has always been described to me as a very racially segregated place…

Enok: Yeah, it is. What can be down to knock down some of the walls?

Enok: I think they like it like that. It’s like that for a reason here in the ‘Nati. Why’s that?

Enok: S**t! The White folks are on they side. You’ve got your mixed communities, but it’s like one or two. The ‘Nati is mainly segregated. You saw how the election went [in Ohio]. There is some real powerful old-fashioned type people here. Billionaires be here. Old-fashioned motherf**kers. It’s sounds like the way people describe the South. I know Kentucky is spitting distance away.

Enok: Yeah. S**t, some of these cats still got they ways. If you was a billionaire in New York, and you was around when n***as had to look at the ground, you’d still feel like that – you ain’t trippin’. Priority Records brought N.W.A. to many people. Priority helped the Geto Boys early days. Many say that moniker’s ship sank ten years ago. Can Czar*Nok help restore that legendary name?

HayCzar: Right, right. I feel like Locdown is definitely restoring that Priority piece back to that building, ya feel me? The whole street vibe is back. Before we got there, there was no street vibe. We was goin’ up in that building, and they didn’t have no artist that was coming through, keepin’ it real like that. We got some counterparts that signed with us. But as Locdown, we restoring that Priority Records as a street label, that villain s**t. Those counterparts are DJ Quik and Chingy. Did the label put either of those on the album?

HayCzar: Nah, they didn’t have a hand in the project. We get along fine with everybody at the label though. Again, not to knock what DJ Hi-Tek or anybody has done. But folks tend to associate the city with him and Five Deez or Mr. Dibbs. People think that ‘Nati is all incense sticks and backpacks, tell me otherwise…

Enok: [laughing] Man, no offense to those Hip-Hop guys. We get along great with them guys. This is the bottom line – you got Hip-Hop, then you got ziplock. We ziplock.