How Miami's Bizerk Went From Locker Drums to iTunes No. 1 With Shaggy

Categories: Local Music, Q&A

Photo by Daniel Carter

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.

See also: Ten Best Miami Rap Anthems Ever

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.

Photo by Daniel Carter

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.

See also: White People in Rap Music: A Five-Part History

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