Don’t Talk About It, Just Do It—An Interview With Zachariah Musiq

By Isaac Fox, Feature Photo via Ryan Chong Photography

Toronto native Zachariah Musiq (formerly Alize. S) is a multi-talented rapper, singer and songwriter, who, with more than fifty songs, has developed a style truly all of his own. Layered over thumping hip-hop club beats, Zachariah imbibes his music with animated punchlines, left-field references to everything from pop culture to food, and stories about his life. What’s more, he breaks the stereotype of the over-promoting rapper. Instead, to use his words, he “keeps his lips locked”, maintaining a low-key social media presence while constantly pumping out new tracks. In person, however, his charisma is undeniable. During our interview, we dissected his bars, discussed the origins of his musical pursuits, went in depth on overcoming the stigma he saw associated with being a Toronto rapper, and much more.

Demo: One line that really stuck out to me from your Check Remix was the line where you sung “I’ve gotta keep my lips locked”. What would you say you were getting at with that line?

Zachariah: I was talking about a couple of things there. For me personally, I’m the type of person that gets so excited about my work, and I have a million and one ideas going on at any given time. And I always used to find when I was younger that I’d tell my friends “oh, I’m working on this” or “I’m working on that” and I wouldn’t follow through. Then I read up on it and I found that if you tell someone about something you’re excited about, you get the same dopamine rush as if you’d already done it. So with my last EP (under my old alias Alize S.) I didn’t tell anyone I was recording it, I just released it once it was done, cause it’s easier for me to just, like I said, keep my lips locked and move in silence. Let the music speak for what you have to say – don’t talk about it, just do it.

Demo: Right now you’re performing under the alias Zachariah Musiq, but you recorded as Alize S. for quite some time before that. What prompted the name change?

Zachariah: Well, I started music under that name when I was 16, and obviously, I felt really differently then than I do now about it and for one, a lot of people mispronounced the name. I’d go to performances and people would have trouble saying it and then besides that, I honestly just grew out of it. I always told my friends that if I was an R&B artist, my name would be Zachariah, cause that’s my real name! And now that I’m making music that’s more R&B-esque and personal, I thought to myself: “why am I still not using my real name?”. So I made the change and I’m so happy about it.

Demo: So like you just said, you were 16 when you started rapping, but what was your history with music before that? How’d you end up where you are now, as a rapper/singer?

Zachariah: When I was a kid, I was always singing, like just for fun! Both sides of my family have musically inclined people – on one side, a lot of my family sung in choir, and in church. Then on the other side there were people that were in productions. But nobody was fully in the music industry, to the point of being signed to a major label or having their own label, so growing up school was the focus and music was more in the background. And I really liked singing, but I wasn’t confident in my voice yet and then when I was 16, my brother got an iPhone and it had a recording app. One of those really basic ones, with a couple multi-tracks, and I just thought it was so cool! I was just making these little raps, and they were a hot mess, but that was a good starting point and I went from there.

Demo: And now you’re hooked.

Zachariah: Oh, for sure. There were all these ideas and old 90’s songs I wanted to remix, beats to rap on – I felt like a kid in a candy store. I think I knew it was serious when I started putting out independent mixtapes and doing original productions – not remixes anymore – and I’ve just kept at it.

Demo: That’s the best part – realizing you’ve got all these ideas and the excitement of making them a reality. And I mean, right now Toronto must be such an interesting city to be a rapper in – it’s like an ecosystem with all these different movements coming up. Do you think the way people see Toronto rappers has changed in the last few years

Zachariah: Definitely! I remember back when Drake was just starting to blow up and everyone was bashing him and it’s changed so much since then. Back then people looked at you like “oh you’re a Toronto rapper? Girl, everyone’s a Toronto rapper”, but now with so many internationally successful artists putting on for the city it’s a lot easier to get taken seriously. In my early performances – my first show was at Hart House a few years ago – I was really nervous to get on stage. It felt like I wasn’t being taken as seriously as my work deserved. And now it’s way different. It gets way more hype now. So yeah, there’s way less stigma around being a Toronto rapper in 2016. The whole world knows our city’s full of talent.

Check out Zachariah’s music here and stay tuned for his new web series The Zachariah Experience coming soon.

Interview condensed and edited for publication.

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