Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:44:52
There's going to be one emerging name you need to know in 2014 and that's Zeale. The Austin, TX rapper possesses some rocking tendencies, incorporating alternative rock sheen and punked-out energy within everything he does. His EP Wake Hell Or Make Peace draws a line between hipster hop a la Chuck Inglish and the sputtering angst of Murs. However, Zeale is decidedly his own man, and that's why you'll remember his name.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Zeale talks Wake Hell Or Make Peace and so much more.
Is there much of a hip-hop scene in Austin, TX?
There's definitely a scene for other genres like rock and country, obviously, but there's a small hip-hop scene. It involves a few cats who have been around for a while. Everyone's trying to create a movement. It's not as huge as New York, Los Angeles, or even Houston.
What ties Wake Hell Or Make Peace together for you?
I wrote all of those songs at the same time so I was in the same headspace when I made all of them. Really, I wanted to make each song have its own stance. At the same time, it goes back into the same general themes I talk about, which are rebellion or highlighting some of the inequalities with the world. Of course, there's some anger. Also, I'm just having fun. I'm trying to capture different elements of my personality when I wrote all of that.
Is it important for you tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
Personally, I'd like to ideally make music people can see those visions with. They can see the picture I'm creating as it's happening. Some of the songs are more about storytelling and creating that vibe and atmosphere around it to make people see the full vision. With "Hope Dies", I got to go on and do a full video with it. That came out pretty much exactly how I visualized it. That's what I saw in my head when I wrote the song and listened to it. I'm more of a visual person and visual learner. For me, it's cool to do that in my music as well for other people. That's how I read things.
What's the story behind "Black Mr. Rogers"?
Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION and I did that in L.A. It was more of an initial idea Aaron had on his way to the studio. He was whistling the melody of the song. He recorded it on his phone, and he was like, "Hey, check this shit out! I like this. What do you think?" I said, "Let's do it!" We took that whistle, rebuilt it, and made a basic loop. I honestly went in and started freestyling. I did three freestyle passes just to throw ideas on it and see what happened. Some really ideas came out. I was almost in this braggadocios nonchalant vibe with a lot of personality.
What's "Womp" about?
It's really about mobilizing your city behind you and rallying the support of the people around you. One of the lines is, "Wear my crown on my head and my heart on my sleeve". Doing music, I want to be a leader. I want to be at the forefront, and I want to affect people. That's a humble way of saying, "I accept the responsibility. At the same time, it's not all about waving a crown, so to speak. It's also about being a human being as well as being emotional and reciprocating that back to people". It's important not to be a dictator though—just a good leader.
Do you tend to read a lot or watch many movies for inspiration?
I read a lot of poetry. Sometimes, it's random. Sometimes, I'll read books. My good friend gave me a Charles Bukowski book, and I started reading that. I like to watch a lot of documentaries and things on Netflix. Sometimes, those things can inspire me. Sometimes, I feel like I've searched for inspiration. It can be right in front of you though. Other times, you just need to dig it out and chase the rabbit. That can yield some really cool things. I stay open to all influences. Any time I'm reading a song, I like to read a lot of poetry and listen to a lot of Nirvana. The word selection and lyrics are so strong and powerful in Nirvana. That's my goal. I want to say as much as I can with as few words possible.
What artists shaped you?
I'd say Mos Def and Talib Kweli. I'd also say Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine. I always go back to that. Now that I'm older, I've had the opportunity to dig back into some artists I didn't really pay attention to when I was younger like The Clash. I'm really fond of them. Joe Strummer is one of my favorite artists. I watched a documentary on him, and I thought, "Man, I love this guy!" That's some of the music I go back to. I listen to all of the new stuff like Jay-Z, Kanye West, AWOLNATION, of course, and other folks like that. I use that to take a sample of what's going on right now. The source of influence is always older artists. As far as rappers go, it was The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Wu-Tang Clan. I was a huge Wu-Tang fan. I'd say those are my favorites who were most prominent to me.
If your EP were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
It'd probably be something post-apocalyptic or Blade Runner-style. It'd be dark and heavy, man! I love Blade Runner. The soundtrack and the use of light and dark in the movie are insane.
Have you heard Zeale?