“What works for another artist may not work for you and in fact may actually hinder your progress, and you can’t predict what will happen in the industry, the industry as a whole is slow and reluctant to adopt new changes so you have to get ahead of the game.”
Check out the interview with Kwazzie exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
SKILLY: Tell us where this all began. What is your history in the music scene?
K: The writing first began in elementary school because I was terrible at English classes, which I was teased over and over for, and eventually I became motivated enough by spite to do something about it. However, the application of writing and pursuit of music really came when I was 12 years old, addicted to drugs, experiencing flashbacks, severe anxiety, and depression. I was going to attempt suicide but when I put the knife to my wrist Changes by 2pac came on the radio and I was lost in the music. When I finally came to I realized there were people out there in worst situations than my own and I owed it to myself to take responsibility for my life and push through.
As far as my history in the music scene goes, I have had plenty of experience with writing lyrics, recording, mixing, and editing as of now but that wasn’t always the case. I started recording when I was 16 on and off at home studios in various trap houses and while I was determined and dedicated, I had a lot of trouble dealing with mental illness during this time and was addicted to several drugs so I always had a choice: re-up or record music. I’m not going to lie, most of the time I would opt for drugs but I managed to battle the urges and addictions enough to keep myself in the game and grow as an artist. From there I kept grinding and pushing, learning more and more about my craft, production, editing, and mixing, all the while battling my demons and focusing on my mental health recovery. Over time I learned how to make each level of production my own and developed the techniques, sounds, and approaches that I utilize today to make up ‘my sound’.
What are the best ways to promote yourself as an artist? Any tips you can give us?
You HAVE to find your niche. It’s not enough to just throw your music out there, even if you’re advertising. Learn more about who your music is speaking to in the world and determine the demographics and psychographics of your fanbase/potential fanbase and use that to create more bang-for-your-buck.
That being said, the best and most important step in any marketing/promotion is creating/finding a product that is ready and worthy to promote. Take the time and effort to create quality music. This will, in turn, do a few things: 1. Give you a sense of pride and accomplishment which will further motivate you to succeed, 2. Influence/motivate others around you to rise to the occasion, again, creating more bang-for-your-buck, and 3. Give you a higher success rate with any marketing and promotions because not everyone who sees your music will give it a listen and even less will give you a follow, like, share, etc. so make sure it’s ready to be viewed/heard by the world!
What do you ultimately want to become in your career?
Honestly, I just want to be able to support myself and make a change in the world. I don’t need to be the GOAT, I don’t need to make millions and millions of dollars and I don’t need to be hugely famous. Dealing with the abnormal and often severe mental health problems that I deal with makes it really difficult to exist in society, let alone function or function well so I would be overjoyed and blessed just to be able to support myself doing something I love and even more so to be able to give back and affect change.
What is the hardest thing about being in the music business?
For me, the hardest thing about being in the music business is breaking out of the woodwork. What I mean by that is most artists trying to make a living from this aren’t really viewed by the rest of the world (including industry professionals) as being legitimate unless they’re really making money and have a large following. Now, that’s a whole different topic of discussion but just being considered a “serious artist” is incredibly difficult. You can be incredibly talented, skilled, dedicated and have everything you could possibly need but if you can’t break out of that “just an artist” perception that people generally have, then it’s seemingly worthless. The tricky part of it that most people don’t talk about is the fact that it’s not a universally measurable thing so you can’t just follow someone else’s lead; you have to find your own way.
What is it like in your city? What is the music scene like, and how is it like living there overall?
It’s an odd time in Vancouver right now. There’s been surges of development in recent years as well as the opioid crisis so it’s a transitional time right now, not to mention is just a nightmare to get by since prices of everything are so damn high.
As far as the music scene goes, the Hip-Hop/Rap scene is dismal at best. Really the only artists I’ve heard of doing really well are singer-songwriters and the odd band here and there and I think anyone who cares to look will tell you the same thing more or less.
What are some of the advice you can give and share with other artists who are still trying to come up?
First of all, I would advise other artists to learn themselves, know your strengths, weaknesses, talents, skills, personality, etc. and most importantly, the extent to which they apply to you and others; it’s paramount to be able to measure what you’re looking at in order to apply/use them because otherwise, you’re just mudding up the works. This will also help you immensely with branding and marketing which is now such a serious aspect of the music industry with social media and online presence.
Second, I would advise artists to adopt an entrepreneurial approach to their business/career (depending on how you look at it). What I really mean by this is you can’t just follow what others are doing in the industry for two main reasons: what works for another artist may not work for you and in fact may actually hinder your progress, and you can’t predict what will happen in the industry, the industry as a whole is slow and reluctant to adopt new changes so you have to get ahead of the game.
Thirdly, I would advise other artists to keep pushing themselves and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Look at a career in music like a career in anything else. There is always room for improvement and you owe it to yourselves to keep striving. If you write lyrics, keep expanding your vocabulary and studying other writers’ styles, approaches, etc. to better understand your craft. Everything and anything you learn can help you, even if you don’t realize it. All the time nowadays you see different things from different genres being utilized. There’s reggae song structure and instrumentation in some pop music even, so the more you know, the more you have at your disposal. You never know, it could make or break a song!
And finally, I would advise artists to define what ‘success’ means to you, to an individual song, and to any album/mixtape release and keep that in mind THE WHOLE TIME you’re working at it. Whether or not your music goes diamond, platinum or gold is irrelevant if your goal with a release is to break into a new market or build/develop a deeper connection with your fanbase. Define your goals and make them measurable so when all’s said and done, you can definitively say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whether or not you accomplished what you set out to do. And if you haven’t accomplished everything (which is almost always the case) you can look at what you did and didn’t do and figure out what worked and what didn’t so next time you’re all the more efficient and effective.
What is the best thing that’s ever happened in your career?
The best thing that’s ever happened in my career is when I figured out how to aptly use my music to actually aid in my recovery with my mental disorders. I’m not talking about having a place to vent or anything like that because the reality of my situation is, talking about doesn’t make it better and not many people realize that. My life pretty much consists of my career in music and dealing with/recovering from my mental disorders so it’s great that I can now use either one in a therapeutic relationship to the other, especially since there are times when I am not healthy enough to be focusing on a career or more accurately, anything other than my mental health. So that really gives me even more motivation and determination to keep improving my mental health and keep pushing in regards to my music because they go hand-in-hand in my mind.
What is your inspiration?
Uhm, this is a tricky area for me. I never really hard artists that I looked up to as a whole, instead, I would relish in the ability or abilities that drew me to their music. Now, that being said, I would say my chief influences would be Edgar Allan Poe, Dante and Ice Cube (specifically War & Peace, Volume 1: The War Disc).
Most of my inspiration comes from what I set out to do with any given song. Sometimes it’s to affect the association my brain has with certain events, whether it be splitting the association between the event and the song which helps to undercut the severity and extreme distress that comes when those memories are again brought up, or taking something that’s particularly brutal, horrific, gruesome, ugly, or whatever and making something beautiful out of these things that still, even now, seem impossible to do so with. Then again, sometimes it’s an avenue, or rather parameters that let me really dive into the depths of my mind and keep me from getting lost in there because that’s actually a very serious problem I’ve had. It’s not something I can really explain but if I can’t pull myself out of my head/mental state then I end up exacerbating certain symptoms and that can lead to some very, very, very unpleasant times.
Do you feel anyone can be successful now in today’s world of music?
It really depends on how you define success, I can’t emphasize that enough here. I’m going to assume that you mean ‘successful’ in the traditional sense that you’re making good money and it’s a full-time job so with that being said, no, I don’t feel like anyone can be successful now in today’s world of music.
People always look at the music when defining success and unfortunately having great music is not the only requirement to be a successful artist; there’s so much more to it than that. You have to have a good team behind you, publicists, radio trackers, managers, agents, and the like as well as knowing how to navigate the industry, knowing who to target, knowing how to expand, etc. On top of all that, you have to be disciplined and ready for everything that comes your way. If you make a superb album and it takes you 10 years to do so, labels may love it but they are a business and if it takes you 10 years to create something that brings in income then they’ll pass on you. On the independent/unsigned side of things, if it takes you 10 years to create an album then you better have a lot of money saved up to get you through those years. Obviously 10 years is a very long time and I’m exaggerating to make my point, but you see what I mean, there’s much more to it than just making good music and that is seldom touched on by people in the industry so you’re really in the dark when it comes to a lot of it.
Where can we find you on social media?
You can find me on social media here: