The Philly-born Pakistani's first album, Dope Boy Magick, is a wonder to behold.
Zeb’s mother, “the most mystical person I know,” still believes he’ll be a great religious leader some day. Maybe PO PO is his audition.
“She just wants me to be a powerful Muslim,” says Zeb. “And in some ways that’s been very hard to deal with and in some ways it’s been very empowering, to always have someone tell you that your purpose on earth extends beyond just having money, that there’s much more to this life. It’s exhausting to hear your parents constantly talk about death, but to see two people who got together based on their faith and have never—I’ve never heard my dad raise my voice to my mom. They’re so fair to each other.”
After a long absence, Zeb began attending Friday prayer with his father.
He began to incorporate the melodies, the soaring voice of the call to prayer into his own singing. He brought it to PO PO. It was so perfectly Zeb: commingling the sacred with the profane.
“When you hear the call to prayer, especially in public places in Muslim countries, it’s out of a megaphone and there are usually multiple megaphones, and that definitely influenced me when I started recording music,” says Zeb. “I thought how cool would it be to have that voice—that call to prayer—over a rock track? Those are the melodies that were ingrained in me.”
The ascending and exultant call to prayer is all over Dope Boy Magick. It’s in kick-in-the-teeth opening track “Dnt Wnt U, Jst Wnt It All,” the two-minute fuzzbomb “Final Fight,” the spacin’ electro-pop of “Let’s Get Away,” the sinking, heart-heavy lament of “Holy Mountain,” and the emotive/sexy “Teen Dreamz.” It makes an appearance on many of the album’s 13 tracks.
“It just comes out, and I don’t try to stop it,” says Zeb. “I know it sounds hokey, but sometimes I’ll hit notes and … feel something. I’m totally into it. Especially when people started verbalizing that they could hear it, that was encouraging to me.”
“I don’t want to say the other brothers didn’t have an influence on the direction of the group,” says Mad Decent’s Goggins. “But Zeb has really been the heart and soul of this thing from the beginning. And while I love to have the other brothers involved and I think they’re really cool as a group, at the end of the day, what’s most important is that the vision of the group can be fulfilled. The lineup to me is not crucially important.”
“I don’t take it lightly and I wear it with pride that the first two people who fucked with me are legends,” says Zeb of Reznor and Diplo. “You really do have to pay your dues and come up when the time is right. These last two years, I’ve worked my ass off.”
Zeb hopes, with the coming wave of opportunity that will greet Dope Boy Magick, brothers Hassan and Shoaib will show a renewed interest in PO PO. “Together, we can’t be stopped,” he says.
Until then, Zeb’s poised to go it alone, maybe hiring hands along the way to help out with live gigs. PO PO, no matter the lineup, will remain unique and uniquely American. They are the yin, the yang; the earth, the sun. They are the champions. They are the ones who are flying the plane. No more gas station hot dogs.
Mad Decent Mondays Presents PO PO’s Dope Boy Magick record release party, Mon., March 5, 10pm. $5. M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave. 215.739.5577. mroomphilly.com
PW's Music Issue 2014