This is thagreymatter’s 100th piece and I can’t but help to think that the best way to share that is to dive into an artist’s world more than just listening to their music. I want to not only write about upcoming artists but also learn how they do what they do and why. So I recently took the time to speak to rapper Saz.É. He is an artist from Jersey that currently resides in the DMV where he is pursuing his rap career. I was able to chop it up with him about his latest album, Sundown Therapy, his background as a rapper/ producer and what he plans to bring to share with world through his music.
Who are you as a rapper/ artist?
I am Saz.É, pronounced Sah-zay. Rapper, producer, song-writer, occasional vocalist, rebel.
How does that differ from you as an individual or does it not differ at all?
To be honest, the line between music ‘me’ and reality ‘me’ is a lot thinner and a lot more blurred these days, which I love because as an individual I always looked up to my musician self and I always wanted to be him in real life. Saz.É was like a superhero I created and now I am fully the hero I wanted to be. I basically use music as a vehicle to push my real-life principles and ideas. My real life personality is very much intertwined with how I approach music. I mean, hell, my real name is Osaze, rap name is Saz.É, not too different. The only difference really is Saz is a little more brash and outspoken than Osaze, but only by a little bit. Saz is a bit cooler than Osaze as well. Haha.
Who inspires you musically the most? Are there artists that you look up as far as sound or to their level of success?
Kanye West has always been a big inspiration just given his level of vision, musical ability, and he’s never been afraid to be creative and push boundaries and break away from the pack; the fact that he was wildly successful with that is very inspirational. I’ve always applauded the late Amy Winehouse for her level of honesty, she was in a constant state of anguish and she held no punches about bringing that to our ears. Arcade Fire always made me feel like I can use my voice to speak on issues close to home for a lot of people and really be vulnerable with my ideas and content, they helped me embrace my contemplative, reflective, self-aware side more than any other musical act.
Dope that you recognize different artists as inspiration since they can deliver different sounds and type of messages to the audience. I’ve noticed you have a very eclectic sound, especially on Sundown Therapy, what was the process like choosing the beats and overall production for the project?
I mean, as I mentioned earlier, though I only named three artists, my inspiration and influences fall across a lot of different genres, because good music is good music, regardless. If you check my iTunes the diversity is nuts. And that ideology has definitely made its way into my own music. I don’t know if you knew this, but I produced all of the records on my album. Becoming a producer allowed me to really flesh out my own sound and style. I could be freely inspired by all of the kinds of music I listen to and love. So the sound is diverse for sure but its unified and cohesive because I’m the captain, I am always sitting in the cockpit. I think diversity in sound is a great thing. I can’t fuck with that monotonous shit. My music is definitely hip-hop rooted but it was interesting to see that three of the most popular songs on the album were ones that showcased my indie rock sensibilities and sung-vocal style. Hell, “Brooklyn” ended up being one of the most acclaimed joints on the album and that was the one I was most nervous about putting out, because its so rock tinged and because I sing majority of it.
Wait, weren’t you nervous producing the entire album yourself?
I knew I had the ability, I was just wondering how people would respond to the experimentation. The album doesn’t try to sound like more contemporary hiphop. The samples range from orchestral classical to indie rock to 80s soul disco etc etc. So I knew the album was going to separate itself from everything else, and in that, I felt it would be extremely refreshing. It was deliberate yet natural. Me, as an individual, as an artist, am not like everything else or everyone else. I’ve always been the “different” kid, so I knew the album had to embody that same individuality. Music should showcase the uniqueness of an artist’s respective identity. It paid off though, definitely. People applauded the identity of the album, an in turn, the man behind it. I also wanted that prestige and distinction of molding my own sonic universe. I look up to Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala work so much because I have to respect it; it’s a special kind of vision to produce entire body’s of work. So yeah, this does kind of feel like being a one man band.
Definitely an accomplishment. How long did it take you to finish Sundown Therapy? Did you experience any major setbacks during the process?
Took roughly a year and a few months to really finish the project, though there were beats, lyrics and some song concepts I had before I locked in with my engineer Jay to really begin the process. At this stage of the game, being an indie artist with no type of backing…you’re prone to some setbacks. Life happens and knocks you off of your trajectory to finish shit. Financial troubles can halt things, family matter can cause delays. So these were all obstacles we had to navigate.
That’s understandable as an artist and just a creative person so I get it. Switching gears a bit, the artwork for the album is sick. It kind of reminds me of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Who designed it? What’s the meaning for you?
Gracias. Actually my brother has an art gallery in Washington DC called The Dopamine Clinic and he designed the cover himself. Watching him create the piece was pretty tight, he does collage pieces mostly, so he was cutting up photos from my photo shoot as well as things from magazines and yellow pages and he put it all together like a puzzle. Its essentially second nature for him. As a matter of fact, we watched a documentary on Basquiat that afternoon so its funny you mention him. In terms of what the cover means to me, well, there’s something very chaotic about the cover, I’m standing in the foreground with all of this chaos behind and around me, something about it is symbolic of the kind of internal chaos that comes about when someone has a lot of mental turmoil and clouded thoughts regarding all of their issues. But yet the pieces is beautiful, much like how we as artists must create beauty out of everything, even our issues.
The collage aspect is dope to be honest. It’s very different from what I normally see…You shot two videos from this project for “Forget It All” and “Leather Jacket Music (Nothin’ 2 Do)”. What was the reasoning behind choosing these specific songs?
I think “Forget It All” was very important to bring to the people on a bigger visual stage because, in a lot of ways, it sets the tone for the album’s theme of dealing with stress and trauma. Its a song literally about wanting to forget all of your problems, escapism. And “Leather Jacket Music” is just cold as fuck, haha, and its a very accessible, feel-good record so I figured it’d be fitting to bring that to the screen as well. We got more videos lined up too though. Another popular cut from the album was “Brand New Woman” so we’re shooting that early in February.
You Can Purchase His Album Here.
What’s your favorite song on Sundown Therapy and why?
Hardest question ever. Haha. I’d probably have to say “SEEDS”. I think its the most important song on the record. It essentially outlines my vision for impacting the people. Each verses tackles key shit that I think about, this idea of creating a legacy, concepts of self-worth and self-love, concepts of strength, identity, perseverance and confidence and more. It’s the longest song on the album, clocking in at damn near 8 minutes long but so worth the listen. And not to mention….my man King Pleasure completely murders his guitar solo at the end. Sheesh.
When did you know this was the right path for you? Sometimes, well most times, it isn’t easy to know what you should do so how did you realize rap was for you?
Well, first of all, I think I’m very skilled with the technical aspects of rapping. I studied masters of the flow like Jay-Z and Big Boi of Outkast and more. In addition to that, I think I have a strong conceptual mind, and thats been developing since I was a youth. I’m very much an idea man. I’ve always been addicted to creation and fleshing out ideas and themes. I think I have a flare for presenting ideas. I have a poetry background, I was first published in 2nd grade; I think the way poets approach their pieces is so thoughtful and heartfelt, it struck a chord with me and has helped me write as well as I do. Above all else, I have a purpose that transcends music. I want to at least try to heal depression and low self-esteem throughout the world, I want to instill confidence and acceptance into everybody. I just think my musical gifts provide me the best vehicle to do that.
Do you feel that you will have a harder time using your music to tackle social issues versus artists who rap about trivial things?
Nah, because the music is quality. I don’t tend to get too political in my themes but the content is very relevant. Very relatable. And on top of that its delivered well, so I think it’s easily digestible and beyond enjoyable. I take issue with rap’s reputation, at least now a days. It’s thought of as only being serviceable for turning up and glorifying “trivial” things. I won’t knock all of that kind of music cuz some of it does rock well in the clubs and stuff. But hip-hop should be allowed to breathe freely and have a musical/social purpose outside of just making you want to guzzle henny.
If there is one thing that you can say to other artists attempting to do what you are doing right now, what would you say?
Find yourself and find your purpose.
Move to the big apple in July! And I’ve already begun work on album number 2, which is gonna be sick as shit, it’s not going to be fair.
I find creative energy, or better yet creative souls fascinating. They see the world differently and someone how inspire me or ignite a new perspective that I didn’t already have. So it was only right that I took a few minutes to sit and chop it up with 24 year old painter and artist Elijah. With increasing presence of buyers and fans of his artwork on social media, it is almost crazy that is just the beginning for the painter.
Breona: So when did you start painting?
Eli: Um like February of this year.
Breona: I feel like that’s really hard to believe!
Eli: Nobody believes me but, it’s just how it happened. (laughs) Before that, I was doing colored pencils, charcoal and that was it. And then I started doing __ this year, or last year and got back into it. That’s when I started trying new stuff. First I tried markers and basically what happened was, I was kind of afraid to paint because I felt like I wasn’t going to be as good as I was with everything else. And then my friend passed away so I painted a portrait of him for his mother. That was how I started painting basically.
Breona: My condolences man…so it seems that you tried a few different things before really getting into painting.
Eli: Well for five years I didn’t draw at all. And then I just got up and quit my job and started doing it in November of last year.
Breona: So did you draw and paint before those five years, did you take a hiatus?
Eli: Yeah—well I took art class in high school and I would be in all the art shows but that was just class really. After that I went to school for finance and dropped out twice (laughs), and I have like a semester and one class left basically.
Breona: Would you want to go back to finish or are you focusing more on your art?
Eli: I just don’t see a point of finishing because I can’t stand working jobs, so it feels like—you usually end up doing what you spend most of your time doing anyway so me going to school for another year would be me stepping away from being a successful artist.
I see so many people complaining about confederate flags on social media. In my opinion, all American flags represent racism. The 14th amendment was never ratified so slavery was actually never abolished. To make matters worse, the CIA was found guilty of MLK's assassination in 1999. My point is, if you have a problem with the confederate flag but no issue with the American flag.. your logic is questionable.
Breona: So now that you’ve started painting, what are the tools that you use?
Eli: I paint with acrylic paint—I’m really still learning. It’s actually funny, at the last art show, there was a more experienced painter, Albert Joseph, I think that was the name. But he basically taught me how to use all the brushes right before the live art. It probably wouldn’t have happened like the same way if he didn’t explain to me before. The fist two I messed up, I kept messing up and I got really frustrated and I didn’t finish. Then he explained to me how I was using the brushes wrong. I didn’t even have the right brushes. Apparently for acrylic paint, you’re supposed to have the long brushes.
Breona: Is there a specific way you’re supposed to be painting or do you feel as if it is technique?
Eli: It’s all different techniques. I’m glad I didn’t get taught how to paint because the whole process of me messing up over and over again put me in a situation where I learn the techniques that were considered messing up. I do it sometimes just because I’ll learn.
Breona: I understand what you mean. Do you have a favorite type of artwork you like to create?
Eli: My favorite, uhhh. I don’t really have a favorite thing to paint, but when I guess I do love galaxies and universes and stars, stuff like that. Because it’s kind of like if you try to look at something and then paint it, it won’t come out right. So it really it is dope to make it up. I get nervous when I’m creating stars.
Breona: So I was looking at some of the commissioned work you did—specifically the Michael Jackson piece, how long did that take you? That was a huge piece and I always look at it like how did he do this.
Eli: You know what’s funny about that—well before my last art show, after I painted the picture of my friend that passed, that was my first commissioned piece. After not getting paid the entire winter, I quit my job and drew everyday, but no one bought anything, except some cheap tattoo designs so I was struggling. So I did this piece, I under charged for it and it took me like a month. It took me a month, only because—well actually it took me over a month. I was learning the whole time, under the face you see, there’s like 3 faces that I messed up on. The body I basically did that in one setting—it was me all learning. That’s the thing about painting, you can just go over it except when you’re on your last layer.
Breona: (laughs) So how did you get the commission for this one?
Eli: Every single commission I have received has been because of social media or someone that I knew and they just watched my progression and wanted something.
Eli: We’re lucky because social media helps a lot. It used to be that you would be a starving artist and now it’s actually a really good path or gig if you can do it right.
Breona: Yeah that’s true, is there anyone that you look up to when it comes to art?
Eli: That’s ironic because there was three people I was looking at every day when I was drawing over the winter and that’s Marcus Prime, Paper Frank and Sheena Love Art. She’s from Jersey actually. My friend was supposed to do a show but didn’t want to for his own reason so they asked me if I wanted to do the show and it turned out that she was the one doing the show. So I met her, I learned a lot from her actually. Honestly to me, Paper Frank is the most inspirational one of them all because he’s only been painting for 3 years. It’s kind of a similar kind of story, probably a little different. But as far as him being my age and just starting. He’s painted live at AfroPunk on stage, he’s big.
Breona: That is kind of big. I’ve noticed that artists like him have definitely moved to using different mediums to create like graffiti or tattooing. Have you ever considered doing that?
Eli: I have but I don’t know. I kind of just want to explore, like I don’t want to make average money doing it. I want to make a lot of money (laughs) but with the intent to give it back. And you can’t really do that if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else. So like, when I come and do or try something, it’s going to be something nobody’s done.
Breona: How would you want to give back?
Eli: I don’t want to go into too much detail but basically I want my art to uplift the community and expose artists and I don’t know. As an artist you can literally put an idea into someone’s head. It’s almost a different way of inspiring or controlling someone.