Multidimensional producer and performer Zebra Katz (aka Ojay Morgan) personifies the maxim ‘timing is everything’. Only recently sending the internet into a tizzy with the menacing bounce of vogue inspired track ‘Ima Read’, he’s been around for longer than Google history will have you believe. In fact, the aforementioned track has been gestating for five years, ever since Morgan laid it down in Garage Bands from his bedroom, adding friend and collaborator Njena Redd Foxx’s complementary lines a couple years later and finally blowing up on the catwalk of Rick Owen’s Fall 2012 collection. Since then, there’s been a European tour support with rising ‘rap brat’ Azealia Banks and this, one of a handful of UK performances at Shoreditch House in London.
You wouldn’t know that ‘Ima Read’ is a track that’s been doing the rounds of the New York ballroom scene for half a decade and there’s been a recent surge in interest in voguing spearheaded by the re-release of Jennie Livingstone’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning and the subsequent homages of Azealia Banks’ ‘Fierce’ and DJ Mike Q’s ‘My Vogue is the Shit’ (not to mention Lady Gaga’s blatant appropriation in Haus of Gaga &c). But as a performance and theatre graduate with an interest in visuals and design, there’s much more to Zebra Katz than being part of a hype-driven trend. ‘Ima Read’ sounds as fresh as ever and its performers equally as happy to play it. In fact, Morgan comes furnished with a black and white cap saying ‘READ’, opening their set with the now notorious track opening ‘Zebra Fuckin Kaaaaaatz!’ before launching into his brilliantly affectionate rhyming tete-a-tete with friend and collaborator Njena Redd Foxx.
Despite the menacing tone of the mixtape that made him shoot into public consciousness, Champagne, there’s only fun to be had this particular night. As Njena sings “Like a slaughter house, I’ll bleed that bitch”, wide grin applied with the occasional scissor headstand, a dark sunglasses-wearing Zebra Katz throws himself into the heaving throng to count “duck, duck goose!” The fun and good will is infectious, even if Morgan uses ‘bitch’ more times over one set than a person might use in a lifetime. But then it’s all about context and his is about changing the power of what is a commonly derogatory word and taking it back for any form of ‘other’ that it might represent. By the end of the trip there’s a faux-furred model climbing a pot plant for a better view, others with their face planted through latticework around the side and the occasional unprepared onlooker who originally came for the The Invisible and stayed for the the primal beat and bodily rumble of Zebra Katz. **
Zebra Katz and Njena Redd Foxx performed at Shoreditch House November 1, 2012.