Con Brio’s Ziek McCarter takes lessons in rap

Soul singer collaborates with Lyrics Born

Attending ho-hum high school in Houston, Ziek McCarter had grown fairly fixated on far-off San Francisco. “It was always a dream of mine to live here. I was just drawn to its energy and culture,” says the singer, who relocated to The City immediately upon graduation and soon assembled the sax-and-trumpet driven old-school funk band Con Brio. “Plus, my mother was born and raised here, so I have a lot of family in the Bay Area.” At only 18, he nevertheless had relatives to stay with, songs in his head and solid day jobs at Target Serramonte, then Lucky supermarket in SAn Francisco while he found his soulful sound. Now, after two socio-political-minded albums, 2016’s “Paradise” and 2018’s “Explorer,” he’s working with longtime heroes like Lyrics Born, with whom Con Brio just cut two new singles, “Sundown” and “Mistakes.”

You seem to long for a bygone era of Parliament/Funkadelic, Graham Central Station.

I love the classics, that’s for sure. Especially considering the influence that it had on the culture here in the Bay Area. It’s so rich, from bands like Sly and the Family Stone to Tower of Power, who we opened up for not too long ago. And that was amazing, truly a dream come true. And we’ve covered “What Is Hip” before, and to actually be among the greats, the pioneers of Bay Area funk and R&B music, was an honor. We had a great time. And we played a festival with Larry Graham before, and I got to sing onstage with him.

Who was your biggest retro influence?

I would say that the artist that struck me the most when I moved to the Bay Area was Sly and the Family Stone. I saw the Family Stone at Stern Grove, and I had heard “Everyday People” and how other artists sampled it, but when I heard the music live, it just impacted me so much, I just became immersed in the whole catalog. It had a lot of firepower and soul in it that really inspired me to move. And we also got to play a Sly tribute show through Undercover Presents.

When you first met Lyrics Born at a 2017 show in Oregon, he said he wanted to work with you. And he meant it.

Yeah. We actually made it happen. We just finished touring with him and now we have two singles out. He’s a great guy, very skilled and talented. And I learned a lot about the craft of songwriting from him. Him being a rapper, I really studied his wordplay and how he’s able to paint a picture with words. It was an amazing collaboration.

IF YOU GO

Con Brio

Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31

Tickets: $55 to $60

Contact: (415) 626-4455, bottomofthehill.com

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