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Interviews

Zed Kenzo gets personal on ‘Zechariah’ EP, talks inspiration, sobriety and message to fans

todayOctober 7, 2022 1

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“Zechariah” cover; Courtesy: Zed Kenzo

On a first listen to Zed Kenzo’s new EP “Zechariah” my first thoughts were, ‘this is dope’; ‘this is Milwaukee’ and ‘hold up, why isn’t she on?’

The production; the rawness; the playfulness; the experimentation. Wow.

It’s been three years since Zed released a full project. Her talent is still there but her growth and clarity are wildly apparent. She’s been through things (heartbreak, substance abuse), and she’s ready to talk. She’s ready to inspire, and to really be seen.

HYFIN sat down with Zed Kenzo for an open, honest, fun and brave conversation about her music, her health journey with substance abuse, why she left Milwaukee and the freedom that’s guiding her life now. Zed calls this new EP a re-introduction, and it definitely gives insight into who “Zechariah” is and why.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen to the full conversation, or read excerpts, below.

Courtesy: Zed Kenzo

Kim Shine: You are not in Milwaukee right now. You are far away from us. Where are you and why did you leave us?

Zed Kenzo: I am in Massachusetts. I am in the South Shore right outside of Boston. I left because I needed to get my stuff together and start over. I’m sober and that’s been a huge part of my journey right now for the last six months. Coming out here gave me an opportunity to meet different people and start this journey. I decided to just stay because I really like it.

KS: Well, congratulations on being sober. That’s great. But Boston, you’re an artist and you’re a really great artist at that. No Cali, no Atlanta, no Chicago? Why’d you choose Boston?

ZK: Because of the network that I had built here for my journey, health wise. And on the way to deciding whether or not I wanted to stay here, I did meet people that told me that there is a really thriving music scene here and I believe them. There is a big art scene and big music scene. I’m still kind of creeping my way into that.

KS: What sparked you getting sober? What sparked you just wanting to change and go deeper? Not with just your music, but just with yourself, too?

ZK: Just years and years of feeling stuck and feeling like I was holding myself back. I was just tired and sick and not making the right decisions. It’s progressive. It’s a disease, and then people don’t really acknowledge that when you have any kind of substance abuse addiction. I just was scared and it took the right kind of people coming into my life, really good friends, that actually cared about me and could see that, ‘hey, you’re doing this to cope and that’s not what you should be doing’. I was like, all right, I’m going to go get help.

But I’d been wanting to stop. I was drinking a lot. That was my thing. I wanted to stop and I’ve been trying to stop on my own and I just couldn’t do it. Yeah, do I feel like I could’ve maybe been at a different place than I’m at? Probably, I don’t know, but I just didn’t see myself living like that anymore.

KS: Well, I thank you for just sharing that because like you said, it can be hard to do. Thanks for that and just being honest about it. But how do you feel today? How do you feel right now?

ZK: I feel great, very happy, very healthy, just really focused right now. Music is so important to me and I thought I was going to stop. I was like I shouldn’t do this anymore. And then I woke up and putting this project out is another ignition of what’s to come. This isn’t the moment, this is more of me building momentum up again. I just feel inspired and I’m just ready to keep going.

KS: When you were working on the project, were you doing that in Boston or where were you?

ZK: I had just been wrapping up my recordings right before I came here. That was in March earlier this year. I had been recording pretty much the whole beginning of the year and a little bit last winter is when I was doing a lot of my writing. I wrapped everything up before I got here.

KS: And you self-titled it. Any reason behind that? Are we getting introduced to you? Re-introduced to you?

ZK: Re-introduced. I would say honestly, I was thinking of rebranding myself and then I changed my mind. I’m going to stay Zed Kenzo. That was a part of it, too. But yeah, I guess just as a reintroduction to me. This is who I am. Hi, again. I’m Zechariah.

KS: I think ‘My Time’ probably is my favorite, actually. I put some stars around it. It’s my favorite track on this EP. But I mean you have eight songs on this, which is pretty consistent with your 2019 project. You had about six or seven songs on that one. But I also noticed too that none of your tracks, maybe just one or two, they go over the three-minute mark. You keep it short and you keep it sweet. Let’s talk about how you even put this project together.

ZK: Oh, that’s so funny. I’m not into long songs.

KS: Straight to the point.

ZK: That’s the thing these days is songs that are about two minutes long. Part of it is intentional, but the other part of it is that’s just how my brain works. I feel like when I first started writing, I went crazy because I was so excited about producing and I would make these tracks that are six minutes long and I’m like, Oh, my God. You’re going to run out of breath. But how I put this album, or this EP together was, some of the songs are old.

KS: Really?

ZK: I had already recorded them years ago. “Rudy” is older, “Atomic” is older. I think I recorded that in 2019. “On My Way” I recorded in 2018. And then the last song I added that “Loose Lips”. That’s also from that time period, which is more like I added as a bonus track to really just throw everyone off.

Courtesy: Zed Kenzo

KS: That’s what it felt like. When that came in I said, what is this? And then the beat changed in the middle of it, too.

ZK: Yes, it was meant to kind of throw everyone off but also go with the theme of my last project because that one is produced by Immortal Girlfriend and Baby Swag, the last track, is also produced by Immortal Girlfriend. And that song is a metal hiphop fusion. This song is a punk hiphop fusion. I am eclectic and I do want to do cross genres and I do want to bring in audiences that like punk music, that like hip hop music, that like metal. Even “Rudy Huxtable”, that song is an ode to System Of A Down.

Otherwise, as far as putting it together, everything else I recorded and wrote earlier this year. I just was like, ‘how do I fuse this all together and tell a story’? That’s why it starts off the way that it does. “Fed Up”, I’m talking about being fed up and just my journey and how I’m feeling. And then “Atomic”, I’m like, but I’m back! How’s it going, y’all? It’s me. Yeah, let’s turn up and then go back into storytelling. It’s telling my heartbreak and people that have been talking down to me. I went through a lot of bullying earlier this year online. “On My Way”, here I am talking my talk again and just telling you guys I’m not giving up and I’m still going to keep pushing. And then I just threw in “Loose Lips” at the end for fun.

KS: For your fans, your fans are still in Milwaukee, you’re building fans in Boston. What do you want to say to your fans here in Milwaukee?

ZK: Deadass, I love y’all. If it wasn’t for my fans in Milwaukee, I wouldn’t be here. That’s where I built everything. I’m never going to take that away from Milwaukee. I wouldn’t be Zed Kenzo if I didn’t go back to Milwaukee. If I would’ve tried to stay in LA doing that, I don’t think I would’ve had the success that I’ve had. Milwaukee people have really supported me. I don’t know what’s going on now because I’ve been so M.I.A., but I know that there’s still love and support there and they’ve seen me through it all. I just appreciate anyone that stuck around and I’m never going to take that away from Milwaukee at all. I’m always grateful for everybody in Milwaukee that made Zed Kenzo, Zed Kenzo, because it wouldn’t have happened without them.

KS: One track that I wanted to point out actually, ‘My Time’, you say something to the effect of ‘be careful who you let taste your flavor’. I wanted to ask, have you felt, or do you feel like you’re overlooked? Just with those lyrics themselves, ‘be careful who you let taste your flavor’. How deep are we going with this?

ZK: Deep. I don’t want to say I was ran out of Milwaukee by any means, but there was a lot of drama that happened at the beginning of the year and just some other things that I had been noticing with patterns of people that I had let in my life. And I feel like people get close to you for the wrong reasons and they have the wrong intentions and they don’t want you to shine, they don’t want you to do well. They want you to suffer and they act like they don’t and they act like they’re there rooting you on.

But the moment that something bad happens, they either take it and run with it and kick a dog while it’s down or they don’t want anything to do with you. And I just feel like I’ve let a lot of people around me who didn’t want me to win. I’m not trying to be negative. At the base of my core, I am a positive person. And even throughout my struggles and stuff, people, now, that know me they’re like, ‘you’re so vibrant’. That’s because this is who I’ve always been.

KS: There’s a saying, if the seed doesn’t grow, you don’t throw away the seed you change the environment in which it’s in.

ZK: Exactly.

KS: That seems like what you’re talking about. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you? Anything else you want to add? Anything else you want to say?

ZK: I just want to say thank you for your time and asking me about this and talking to me about this. And yeah, I just also want to thank my engineer, Eli Stamstad. He does a lot of work with a lot of artists in Milwaukee and I don’t ever want people from Milwaukee to feel like I don’t appreciate them. I think Milwaukee as a whole is overlooked. I don’t think it’s just me that’s overlooked. We all just got to stick together. As corny as that sounds, I love to see it. I just love to see my people winning and that’s all I want. Literally, there’s no shade. If you’re from Milwaukee and you do music, I want to see you win. That’s it.

Written by: Kim Shine

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