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Hip Hop

Interview: ZAK!

We recently sat down with NYU student and up-and-coming rapper ZAK!, who recently released his new Stuck To The Sidewalk mixtape (download here). He talked about his tour with Hoodie Allen, his sound, his friendship with Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, and more. Check out the interview below.

LitS: Who’s your favorite rapper? Who would you compare yourself to?

ZAK!: I don’t really have a “favorite” rapper. There’s some I listen to more than others. I also really don’t like making my own comparisons. People can make them themselves. Even though I definitly grab influences from other rappers I like to think at the end of the day I’m doing sometime unique to myself.

LitS: What producer do you really enjoy working with?

ZAK!: Right now I’ve been working with my DJ / Engineer / Producer DJ Fresh Direct. He basicially does it all. And on this next project were really going to sit down and create some serious stuff. Its good for me to able to help him create the music, and vice versa when it comes to the song lyrically.
Also my good friend Astro Raw has produced multiple of my tracks and really has a solid New York vibe.

LitS: How was your recent tour with Hoodie Allen? Any memorable stories?

ZAK!: Those were my first two real shows. And I got to say the crowd at U of Mich was pretty nuts. Honestly wasn’t expecting it. Otherwise the whole weekend was kind of a blur I unfortunately had thew flu. Pretty sure I vomited a few times.

LitS: How did the whole Joakim Noah endorsement come to be?

ZAK!: Joakim is a long time friend of mine. Him and my brother went to highschool together in the city. He basicially was another older brother to me. He heard my music at a early stage and told me he liked it and was on of the people who egged me on to really pursue music. He’s a really worldly dude so his taste in music is of a wide variety. He was down to support me and help out.

LitS: I was really surprised, in a good way, how unique and natural your sound came out on Stuck To The Sidewalk. What advice would you give to budding musicians about getting inspired, yet maintaining their own sound?

ZAK!: I think as an artist you start out by emulating what you like. I’ve experimented with a lot of different sounds and I think I’m still recognizing what my own sound is. But I just keep it as real as possible, when you start trying to create things that other people want is when you fuck up. I was raised in NYC but didn’t just listen to hip-hop. That’s why my music has the NYC rap vibe infused with all types of goodies.

LitS: Stuck To The Sidewalk has a pretty wide range of beats and samples. What music do you normally listen to or what have you been listening to recently?

ZAK!: I like to listen to everything from dance to hip-hop, old shit whatever. Recently listening to Odd Future, Theophilus London, Kanye, the Strokes… George Michael….

LitS: How do you get inspired to write your lyrics and music? What motivates you to put down a track?

ZAK!: Anything. I wrote most of Stuck To The Sidewalk literally walking around the city. I walk everywhere here so I have time to just listen to my iPod and work on stuff. I’ve also been caught many times by my boys while we’re out at night, sitting there writing shit down in my Blackberry. I write all the time.

LitS: In the track “Here is Fine” you talk a lot about your past, and while it seemed to be difficult you also talk about being content with who it made you. How would you like your lyrics to represent you?

ZAK!: It’s tough to say. Sometimes I like telling a story, autobiographical. I think people enjoy when you can hear real emotion in song. Whatever the emotion be. But sometimes I like to just go in and have fun on a track. Really depends how I’m feeling. Sounds kind of bipolar or something? But I just like to record whatever I’m feeling and how the music inspires me. I don’t think about it usually.

LitS: Stuck To The Sidewalk is overall about your life growing up in downtown NYC. How was your childhood and growing up for you?

ZAK!: Love this place. Grew up, still live here, and probably always will. I legit go away for a week and get home sick. Should make things interesting when I go on tour. Growing up was awesome. The only thing is that when you grow up here, you grow up pretty quick. My parents took great care of me but I was doing a lot of stuff on my own at an early age. I love this city. Shout out to Reason Clothing… Go Love Your Own City!

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