"As far as the trap life goes, everyone knows you either end up dead or in jail," Zacc tells Billboard about his time running the streets with his friends. "It was either going to be that or go get a job, and I knew I wasn't going to get a job."
Realizing what needed to be done, Zacc left the trap life behind to showcase his skills on the microphone.
Zacc's long and arduous journey through the independent market led him to a breakout moment in 2019 when he signed a deal with Interscope Records via South Music Group. To celebrate the signing, Zacc released the fan-favorite Trappin' Like Zacc later that year with features by DaBaby, Stunna 4 Vegas, Key Glock, and more.
Today, Zacc continues his mission of becoming a rap superstar with his debut album, Carolina Narco. Released in March, the 11-track project is an ode to the narco lifestyle Zacc and his friends admired while hustling in South Carolina. With his lyrical agility and impressive storytelling skills, Zacc brings to life the tales of the gritty street life he lived firsthand in his hometown. Carolina Narco has features by DaBaby, Stunna 4 Vegas, Yo Gotti, and Moneybagg Yo, with heavy-hitting production by Young Kio, OG Parker, 808 Mafia, among others.
"I want to get a Grammy, platinum records and get other artists from my city or other places on too," Zacc reveals to Billboard. "But I really want to show people in South Carolina that it can happen for any one of us. It's our turn now."
Billboard spoke with Blacc Zacc about his latest album Carolina Narco, his transition from being a trapper to a rapper, the best advice DaBaby has given him, shining a light on South Carolina and the legacy he wants to leave behind.
Talk about your stepfather’s home studio and how that helped you lock in on rapping.
We lived in an apartment and it was right in the kitchen so I couldn't help but hear the bass and the music that they were putting out. It made me want to get into it and try to make a song. I think I was like, 13, when I made my first song and it was about my mama or something like that. That really influenced me to make music, period. I didn't even know what studio equipment consisted of, but I just knew what was going on in that kitchen.
You’ve had a long journey to get to this point in your career. How do you feel getting this recognition now?
It's a good feeling because I've been doing this s--t for a while. Where I come from isn't like Atlanta or anywhere else where you make some music and people are going to embrace it. In Columbia, you have to really grind and d--n near get popping somewhere else to where they'll accept you back home. I'm kind of like in that stage now because at first, I felt like everybody was against me, but now, even when I know it's fake love from somebody, I will still rock with them. I just know it came from grinding and being strategic with this s--t.
With someone that has shown love to the Carolinas as much as you do, does it make you look at your city differently because you have to get popular elsewhere?
Not really. I don't try to have an excuse for anything because I don't do that at all. I used to get frustrated with DJs that wouldn't spin my music or people who weren't rocking with my music, but you have to realize, DJs are probably getting thousands of songs a day. You have to make people want to listen to you so it's like I don't ever use anything as an excuse. The city isn't known for music, so you have to go somewhere that's known for that. Atlanta is, like, two or three hours up the street. North Carolina is doing its thing now too.
When did you know you had to leave the trap life behind and pursue music full time?
With rap, you can make so much money off it that you'll probably never have to experience being a drug dealer. Not everyone can be a Pablo Escobar or El Chapo, so if you're not them, you're not making any real money in the trap. But you can really make that money by being a rapper. So it's like I always had it in my mind that I couldn't live that lifestyle forever.
Once I started taking rapping seriously, I had to learn it. I spent so much money and ran into people who said they can do this and that for me, but they couldn't and I never had a team. It was always me and brother just moving around, but once I got with a team, that's when everything started picking up and going the right way.
Talk about the relationship you have with DaBaby and Stunna 4 Vegas.
I learned a lot from them, especially DaBaby. Stunna, that's my brother. We clown and talk on the phone all the time. DaBaby is a goat and you have to learn from that s--t. I tell artists from the Carolinas: If you don't sit back and watch Dababy, Stunna or even me, then you're really not trying to do it. We're putting the recipe out there from how much content we put out there, how to move, how to do videos. You can learn a lot from it. I never saw anyone perform like DaBaby, so I learned a lot from that.
What’s the best advice DaBaby has given you?
Never be scared to step outside the box and always stick to the s--t that you were doing to make people pay attention to you. When you get into the game, a lot of people give you advice, and some s--t could work and some of it could be bulls--t. At the end of the day, you have to remember what got those people in front of you. You have to stay doing your thing.
What’s the inspiration behind your latest album Carolina Narco?
It was inspired by how I was feeling at the time. When I was in the studio with Young Kio, he came with a Spanish type beat, like a real Latin feel, so I recorded the song "Carolina Narco." Then from that song, I thought to do a whole album called Carolina Narco. I wanted all the beats to sound like some Latin s--t. As far as the music videos too, I wanted it to sound and look like some narcos stuff. I wanted everything to be based on like El Chapo, but in my own way.
Can you talk about the short film you released?
That was another idea I had for the plans I wanted to do. It was one way to step out the box because I know some people who won't listen to certain music, but they'll go check out a movie. That brings a different audience to you right there.
What would you like this album to do for your career?
I want it to have people respect me as a rapper now. My core fan base always respected what I was doing. I feel like a lot of people just expect me to be a trapper versus being a real rapper. Now I want them to know that I really do this s--t for real. Respect me as an artist at this point.
I appreciate the love on the other tip, but this is what's going on. People always saw me with all the jewelry like the rappers, and I always looked like I had a platinum song, but I never did. People had their opinions on how I was doing certain stuff and they associated that with my past life in the trap. So I was like, I want people to know that I'm a real artist.