Artist – Zaze
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
How Long Have You Been Rapping?
This can be a loaded question without the specifics for some as some consider freestyling with their friends at parties and such, as actually involved in the Industry. I believe you have to have some type of contribution to the industry and actual work has to be involved in order to say you are “doing” something. That being said I started actually recording music for release around 2007 with a group called 90Nickel entertainment formed with fellow artist Peter Jackson.
My Solo Career did not start until about 2011 when I released my first album “Changes”. In this time I have now toured Canada or parts of it up to 7 times with artists such as Royce 5’9, D-12, Joe Buddens, Classified (Never Say Never Tour); Naughty By Nature; Busta Rhymes (Back On My B.S Tour); and Tech N9ne to name a few. I have done over 250 live shows and I have opened for over 50 different major recording artists. I have 3 albums, 4 mixtapes and 13 Videos available to date.
The Saddest part is that it took me until about 2016 to hone my craft on both sides (music and business). So my revised answer to this question is that I have been doing Hip Hop properly for about 3 years now but it has always been a part of my life since I can remember at 6 years old with Black Sheep and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out!”.
Who Have You Worked With In The Music Industry?
In the beginning, we were booking our own shows, filling busses with people, and packing up the venues ourselves. This turned into us working with booking agencies and bringing down artists from the U.S. ourselves from start to finish. This included picking them up at the airport and booking the hotels and getting to the venues to complete sound check etc. This became our bread and butter towards opening up for dozens of different artists and building relationships. The first we picked up and put on was KRS-One. I even had this man recording a song in my bedroom and just choppin it up for hours with my people before the show. KRS will always have my love and respect and we call “Kris”. The other major show we put on that is worth mention without me writing novels is Wu-Tang Clan. Mind you only 3 members were available at the time so we picked up U-God in moms whip and brought him back to his hotel and then sent the boys in a limo to pick up Gza and Raekwon and met us back at the venue. This show was a resounding success as we did a sold out venue at what is now called “Oshawa Music Hall”. For both shows the artists were brought to Durham College and did a full press conference in front of hundreds of students to promote the show.
Since then I have worked with a number of different people in this business along the way. I have recorded records with a few artists such as Kurupt, Trae Tha Truth, Switfy Mcveigh of D-12, Kid Vishus, Madchild, Peter Jackson, Young Stitch, Flex The Antihero, Michael Mazze, Dallas Cash and more. Not to mention the people I toured with and learned so much from as stated in question 1.
I started out mixing and mastering all of my own material 100% start to finish and eventually moved on as it became too difficult to continue without help while juggling so many balls at once. I then put in some work with Dan Ablack at Shark Tank Studios who recorded my 3rd and latest studio album “Build and Destroy”. Now my studio I call home is the StayKool Studios; home of SK Productions. I have also had production done by many different people along the way such as Redroom Records, Metcalfe Productions, DP City Profit, Chronic Beats, Black Rose Productions and Andy Burner just to name a few.
What Have Been Some Of The Experiences You’ve Had On The Road Or Just In General Involving Music & The Music Industry That Have Helped Your Career Or Helped You Develop As An Artist?
The number 1 thing is time and experience. Nobody is good at what they do the second they start although some have a calling and some do not necessarily it still takes tons of time and work to get to that sound and place you want to be. Even when you get there, your still chasing perfection at every turn and perfection is just something that is unachievable but keeps you consistently hungry!
I have recorded myself and many other artists as the lead engineer in my studio for years until I put that down to focus on bigger things. This experience helped me a great deal with things such as a proper sound, tricks to recording more effectively and ways to make things just generally sound better on top of nailing down timing on any style of beat.
The tours we did with the artists mentioned above (Royce, Naughty by Nature, Busta Rhymes, Tech N9ne etc) were a part of the greatest learning curve I ever had in the industry. Royce was first. He taught us how to entertain and control a crowd so that nobody is ever standing around bored. We took what he taught us in so quickly that by the next time we had him down in Toronto to do a show he had to take us backstage and tell us to stop copying what he’s doing cuz we did it too well. It was a good feeling and a big step.
Vinny and Treach (Naughty By Nature) was my 2nd time touring across Canada. In the words of Vinny “Batman doesn’t come unless you put his logo big in the sky”. Meaning the people aren’t going to come back for you or know who you are if you don’t have some type of signage on stage. Whether a banner or sign or whatever it is, there needs to be some type of back drop for the people to reflect upon while you perform. This was somewhat of a “duh” moment for us because it makes too much sense but it was something I had not fully thought about until this conversation.
Busta Rhymes and Tech N9ne were both a combination of learning how to perform like no other on a stage. To this day in my opinion, Tech N9ne and Busta Rhymes are by far the best performers you will see in Hip Hop. I pride myself on being an exact product of what I learned and saw from them and it all start with energy! If you do not have any energy then why should your fans? The second and most important thing is to know your stuff like the back of your hand. Knowing what you are going to say and do without ever having to think about it. Thinking destroys the flow within the show. This comes with practice and rehearsal. Until a song can be performed so well you feel you “destroy it” on stage, you should not incorporate it into your set. The Last thing to always remember and is almost just as important as the first two is to interact with your fans and the crowd throughout the performance. Free giveaways always help bring people close and stay close and reach out and slap some hands and pour some drinks etc. Be somebody that the people want to be around as opposed to the opposite. I am now shooting and editing my own music videos so the learning curve never stops especially when you stay hungry for more.
What Are Your Plans For 2019?
2019 is going to be a year of continued growth in the right direction. My music is now up on all major digital platforms and I track my stats daily to see what is working and what is not. Seeing your music hit the ears of thousands of people worldwide has been the most gratifying feeling I have ever had since starting out all those years ago so the motivation for 2019 is high.
I now release minimum 1 single per month but the overall goal is 2 per month. Each single is released with a full DJ pack including a clean version and instrumental and this is sent to multiple blogs and DJ pools etc upon being released. I plan to shoot at least 1 video for 1 of these singles released about every 3 months. According to this new mapped out plan you should be hearing 12-24 new songs from me per year and seeing at least 4 new music videos as well. I am always doing shows in my area when the opportunity arises but I would like to get back into some touring this summer. I am also in a new phase of trying to engage with fans like never before. This involves taking videos daily just talking to the people about what is up and coming and posting little excerpts from my daily life to give people a little window into who Zaze is. 2019 is the year I would like to be able to say I quit my full time job because of the success of my music.
Is It Hard Being An Artist From Canada? Do You Feel Like You Have To Work Harder To Be Heard In The Industry?
I wouldn’t say it’s hard. Being an artist is not measured by your level of success, it is measured by your level of dedication and passion. If you are an artist that is passionate about creating art and spend a portion of your time doing so, you are an artist. It does not really matter where you are from.
Being a successful artist is another story. (See what I did there?) Being a successful artist is definitely far more difficult in Canada as success is all about numbers. Numbers in Canada are 1/10 of what they are in the U.S and 1/100 of what they are in China. According to these numbers by comparison if I could sell 10 albums on my block in Canada, you could sell 100 in U.S and 1000 in China. Population is potential listeners. Your music is not going to ever go anywhere without being heard. No matter how good or bad it may be. So getting my music upon more listeners is always the number 1 goal and this hasn’t always been easy being Canadian. This is what I love about these new distribution deals through all major digital media platforms. Now I get to watch my music grow to new heights while expanding to new places all around the world. Having 10 people from 10 different countries listening to your sound is far more satisfying than 10 people from your neighborhood because of the reach your record had to have to get there. All people have my love and appreciation for the support but for once being on Canadian soil is not the worst disadvantage you can have. I personally feel that if I would have spent the past decade in New York or California I would be on levels I could not even see right now but that is neither here nor there, so I just continue to keep climbing in any way I see fit.
You Have Worked With Some Big Names. Joe Budden, D12 and Many More. Did These Experiences With The Artists Help You Build As An Artist As Well? Did They Give You Advice On What To Do?
I feel that I have more than answered this question and then some within the previous answers provided. As you can tell I ramble on and give far too many details but sometimes it works to my advantage like for this question. All in all. Tons of lessons learned through the words of others and through experience itself. I am still learning to this day. Last thing above all else that had us sharing VIPS and partying with all artists we toured with is respect yourself enough to look at yourself on a certain level. The second you put somebody else on a plateau you have become way below them so avoid that but at the same time and most important of all. Stay Humble my friends.
What Was It Like To Work And Tour With ICP? Was it a lot of work to get them in Canada? Overall Experience?
I saved talking about this one earlier for this question. ICP was the first Major Tour I did as a solo artist. The previous ones we always hit the road as a group (90Nickel). This tour was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Minus the fact that I continued to work my full time job in between shows and put in the grind like most aren’t willing to, it was an amazing experience as a whole.
The crowd was showed up to support and have a good time and it reflected throughout because my crowd control hit a new level and I was singing whatever people handed to me and taking lots of pics with fans. Every single show was packed, if not sold out and the energy inside every building was like no other. I gained a great deal of respect for ICP throughout this tour and seeing the way they performed with props and stage shows like nothing I had ever seen before. I believe they became the most entertaining performance I have ever seen and that is saying something.
One of my booking agents Peter Jackson was responsible for bringing them across the border and although I was not involved in this specific process I know it took a great deal of paperwork and time just to put the decision in the hands of the government. Thankfully they approved and the tour was a go and became such a great success.
Overall I would have to say I took one main thing away from this tour. Tech and Busta taught me how to throw down on a stage like no other. ICP taught me how to put on a show and realize that you can include a lot more than just yourself within your set to add major entertainment value. Added craziness coming to Zaze shows soon!
Who Was Your Inspiration Growing Up? Who Is Your Top 5 Favorite Artists?
I was inspired by one person after another growing up. For me it started with athletes. Michael Jordan was the first person to have me in awe of greatness. What it must be like to live in a world with such immense talent and be recognized for it in the process.
The first cassette tape I ever owned was bought for me by my pops at our classic Flea Market at 6 years old. I had a choice between LL Cool J and Black Sheep. I chose LL so I could yell “Mama said knock you out!” to everyone I confronted.
My first CD I ever owned was Kris Kross Totally Crossed Out. This was the first cd that gave me an exercise in tongue twisting lyrics and I would like to think helped set me off on my path of where I am today.
In High School I started to get heavily into Mobb Deep. It became the sound track to my crime riddled teenage years and Prodigy was my go to emcess to get me ready to start a night off. By about 2005 I started to take in Tech N9ne. I became quickly obsessed with his music for about the next 10 years of my life and the influence he had on my flow and style cannot be said about anybody else.
I eventually get sick of things because I heavily overdue them but I just have to put them away for a bit and come back to them at a later time because they hold a place with me forever. By the time I got to this point with Tech N9ne I needed a complete style change and spent the next 2 years on Big Krit. I love the fact that the man does every step of the way by himself and I know how much work you have to put in to do that which gets nothing but my respect. Jedi Mind tricks have also always been a huge part of what I listened to and Vinnie Paz is now my favorite and go to artist. I am a direct product of all of these sounds put together.
Top 5 would have to be 1. Prodigy 2. Tech N9ne 3. Vinnie Paz 4. Busta Rhymes 5. Big Pun
Do You Have A Message You Would Like To Say To The Youth?
Always. Stay Humble no matter how good or successful you may get. Don’t expect anything to ever come easy and if it does than just know that it could have been even better with work. Work is the best habit to have. The ability and willingness to put it in whenever you have to to achieve your goals. Only you can stop you. Practice is a part of work so practice everything you want to be good at and never stop practicing no matter how far you go.
Invest in yourself. Not just with money because we all have different budgets and reach but believe in yourself. Put yourself out there as much as possible knowing that if you get the opportunity, you will not disappoint because of your work ethic.
Don’t give up if it’s something that makes you happy or helps you get a release. If I made music for the success of it alone I would already be done but that is the least of it. I am an artist. Be just that if that’s what you claim you are. Make art to express yourself and/or release yourself from something or someone that is holding you back/down. Do it because you love to do it and it makes you feel good and not because of some potential return. You can always tell who the real artist are and who are using this industry a business opportunity based on the longevity.
Be Yourself. Nobody wants to start getting into to someone or something to only later find out that it is not what they thought it was and they have been lied to.
Thanks For Your Time and check out all my media platforms below.