Monday, July 18, 2011

SOUND CHECK: Elemental Zazen INTERVIEW


Fake Plastic's very own Fr. Jones shoots the breeze with rap artist Elemental Zazen about the importance of clarity, appreciating the message, and the current state of the Hip-Hop genre.
FR: When listening to Nothing to Lose but Change, I immediately took notice of your phenomenal gift for diction. In your opinion, how important is enunciation to both a rap artist and a performer in general?
EZ: There are a few ways to approach this question. First of all, a lot of rappers use a lack to enunciation to cover up mediocre skills. On the other hand, different styles necessitate original ways of saying things. I guess what matters is the target audience. If the artist is trying to spread a message, a lack of clarity can ruin everything.


FR: Your lyrics are far from disposable. They are often charged with meaning and socio-political commentary. How did you prepare yourself to write this material?

EZ: Each song is basically a freestyle, only I am writing it down instead of saying it. Before I record I edit my verses, but they are almost always taken from freestyles. I think that I can be more honest and introspective if nothing is planned.


FR: It feels like Change is a very personal album. Will this be a running theme with your future output?

EZ: I don’t think I can make impersonal music. The lyrics have serious undertones even when I try to make tracks that are more accessible.


FR: How long was the recording process?

EZ: It’s really hard to pin point how long it took to record the album. I wrote stuff for a while and then flew to Boston to record. I couldn’t afford to fly out very often, so it took me a lot longer than I wanted it to. That being said, it’s been finished for a while now. It was really frustrating waiting for the album to come out. I’m happy that it is finally out of my hands.


FR: You have assembled a healthy list of supporting artists for this album (including Fashawn, Canibus, Gnotes, Jean Grae, and Toussaint). What was it like working with these other artists? What was your most memorable experience from these collaborations?

EZ: That would have to be filming the “Kill Em With The Beat” video with Fashawn. We had like 2 hours to finish it and we just went to an abandoned school and walked around. I’m pretty happy with how it all ended up.


FR: Do you have a favorite song from Nothing to Lose but Change?

EZ: I’d say that my favorites are “Hello Goodbye Never” and “Kill Em With The Beat”.


FR: Rap concerts are notoriously hit or miss. I’ve seen some mind-bogglingly awesome shows from mediocre artists and some borderline god-awful performances from popular stars. How do you think your material will translate to the live circuit?

EZ: Well, I guess that depends on who is in the crowd. I don’t just stand there and rap. I jump around and scream. I do crazy spin kicks and swing the mic around. And I play with a live drummer, who is a fucking beast. It’s ridiculously fun.


FR: You toured Europe in the summer of 2008. Is there any real difference overseas as to how fans respond to your music?

EZ: I think that the fans overseas are most receptive to my style of hip hop. They don’t stereotype as much, and generally appreciate the message more. Fans in the US are less energetic and often dismiss anyone but the headliner.


FR: Who are your main artistic influences? Who is your favorite artist working today?

EZ: My main influences are Treach from Naughty By Nature and Chuck D from Public Enemy. My favorite artist working today is probably Bonobo. He’s an amazing producer, and the live show is crazy.


FR: How do you feel about the current state of the Hip-Hop genre?

EZ: To be honest, I feel like “Hip Hop” isn’t a category anymore. There are so many different scenes and types of styles etc. that you can’t fit it all under one genre. That being said, some scenes (Das Racist, Blue Scholars) are killing shit, while others (backpacker rap) are almost dead.


FR: Any advice to artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?

EZ: I say save your money. There is no reason to invest a lot of money in your music, at least until you make it to a place where you can afford it. You can do everything yourself. Just find friends that are good at different aspects of the industry and go from there.



- Fr. Jones

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