Quirky, comical and endearing -- not exactly customary adjectives used to describe a rapper but for 17-year-old Chris Zuffranieri, they work.
A Buffalo resident and recent contestant for After Dark Entertainment's Artist of the Week, Chris uses the stage name "inZanity." Unbeknownst to most, Chris began rapping in middle school.
"Sixth grade was when I started writing stuff down, but I didn't record anything until junior year," he said.
Chris, a senior at Clarence High School, says his first official song was about President George W. Bush.
"It was like sixth grade. I wrote a rap about President Bush -- but I didn't know anything about him. So, it was just made up facts ... they were completely fabricated President Bush disses."
Chris' pursuit of a music career is not just a hobby for him, it's a passion and a lifestyle.
"I'm applying to college, you know, like Buff State, but ... college is just a really low priority."
His philosophy about success goes like this: "I have no backup plan ... but the only way to make sure Plan A doesn't fail is to know that there's no Plan B. I know what I wanna do, so it gets me up in the morning."
His road to becoming a rapper spawned from something as simple as observing who inspired him.
"The first rap song I ever heard was an Eminem song. So that was a big thing," Chris said.
His taste in music resembles something eclectic; among the many musicians he credits as inspiration are Nirvana, Big L, Tupac, Nas, Beck, Wu Tang, Rae Quan, Snoop Dogg and Mobb Deep.
What Chris values in his music is originality.
"... I don't care about mainstream, but originality. Anything original is really cool," Chris said. "You gotta be inspired. Basically, what I'm trying to do is get that Tupac-persona -- like as far as he puts out hard stuff, he puts out sensitive stuff. He doesn't have a gimmick, you know? He's versatile. He puts down party songs, puts down chill songs, puts down every sort of genre of rap. I wanna be an artist, not just a club thug or whatever."
Chris' music is not necessarily a description of his lifestyle, rather an outlet for fun -- something he values.
"I mean, a lot of it's just funny lyrics," he said. "Exaggeration. It's just like funny punch lines and stuff."
Although Chris' trademark may be his humor, his music offers a variety of content and as a result, it exudes an honest quality.
"There's two songs on like the one tape I put out that are right from the heart -- you know, that are completely vulnerable," Chris said. "Truthfully, my life isn't that interesting. The songs that are about me and what I think are generally gonna be sad, very emotional songs because I have nothing going on yet that's like super cool. But there's gonna be fun songs."
Chris explains his songwriting process: "What a lot of people do, that they're making the mistake on, is they just sit down with a beat, and just go, 'I'm gonna rhyme on this beat.' Here's what I do: I have a generic theme for what the song is gonna be about. Some sort of backdrop that I want to create. It's gotta have a big theme so everything can be incorporated into it, otherwise ... just rhymes on paper don't make any sense. Once you get the theme down; once you get what you wanna have the song about, then you can figure out punch lines and stuff that you wanna incorporate into it. It's a lot like writing an essay."
Though Chris does use some controversial language in his music, he embraces it in both his own music as well as other musicians'.
"I love it. Most of the time I'm just having fun and goofing around with it, making funny punch-lines and voices and such -- being 'edgy' for the sake of being 'edgy,' he said. "But when I write a song that I tear myself apart over, I use it to express the raw emotion that eats me alive inside. When a lonely kid beats himself up over something, his thoughts aren't in a 'Disney Channel' mind-set. Nobody thinks in radio-edit format. Why should music, the only outlet for anger that is 'socially acceptable,' have to be sugar-coated and watered down?
"That being said, too much profanity is just lazy. I'll be the first one to throw my middle finger at a greedy politician or something, but when I'm talking to my grandma, you can bet my attitude is gone and my pants are pulled up."
Perhaps one of Chris' quirkiest traits is his stage fright.
"I have a lot of anxiety for stupid stuff. I can't go to a football game -- I get all freaked out. I can't just walk in, and be like, 'What's up?' It freaks me out. I don't go to those. Same with dances and stuff."
He uses rapping as a way to overcome his phobia.
"I want to be a stage rapper!" he said.
Chris' mix tape, "Puddle of Scuzz," is available for free at www.hotnewhiphop.com/inZanity. Stay tuned for Chris' demo, "The 9 to 5" EP, and a collaborative mix tape, "The Villainz."