Rz Shahid is an Alternative Hip-Hop artist based out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota! Known for providing smooth flows with ear catching and even catchy lyrics over unique production. Being Vulnerable and being free is what’s provided into the groovy tunes. Rz is also one of the seven founders of the people’s protection coalition that runs a mutual aid service in Minneapolis. Plus his company Art Of Xanadu where he releases his music under and has his AOX clothing line. Rz has a hand in many creations, whether it’s his day job as a personal trainer or working on his clothes and music, he brings a delightful and magnetic energy into anything he touches. Rz gained some eyes in the Twin Cities after dropping JTTX May 2018 https://fanlink.to/RZJTTX and went on to rocking stages all over the cities including his famous art shanties performance where he performed on a frozen lake in February of 2020 (before quarantine hit). Within those years he’s dropped a 4 track EP titled the LeadFoot EP https://rzwoke.fanlink.to/leadfoot back in August of 2019 which was a treat for the supporters until he finished and released the latest album Ahh Shii. Ahh Shii, Rz’s latest release is a discussion of multiple “ah shit” moments that were combusted into 7 songs. Grabbing his production mainly from local friends such as Andre Mariette, Ackronem, and Tony Swing this has been some of the best sounding music ever https://aox.biglink.to/ahh-shii . Rz Shahid is an artist to be on the lookout for!
- Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
Rz Shahid: I’m from the Twin Cities of Minnesota! My life was spent back and forth between St. Paul & Minneapolis + some surrounding cities, so I just rep the Twin Cities. I got started by just being a writer, in middle school I spent a lot of time writing poems and listening to a lot of Hip Hop & RnB. It was my form of therapy, I’d say like early high school is when I really started writing to beats I found on Youtube and was practicing rapping. Originally I wanted to be a songwriter, producer, engineer and ended up linking with a friend of mine at the time and started messing around rapping in this studio we made out of their closet. My first official introduction to the world was being a featured artist, I never really seeked the spotlight it just sort of came my way as people gravitated to me and I eventually started releasing tracks on my own. I decided I wanted to be the one to tell my story.
- Do you handle both the songwriting and beats on your songs, or do you collaborate with others?
Rz Shahid: I do the songwriting. I have a handful of producers that I tend to work with on the regular basis, one of my favorites being Tony Swing which you can catch on a couple of my projects. But I do have some skills in the production game, I’ve just yet to make a song over my own beat yet, but that will come in time for sure.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Rz Shahid: First people that jump to my mind are Kendrick, Scarface, Ice Cube, Michael Jackson, and Donnell Jones, and my parents.
- What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
Rz Shahid: My vulnerability, the way I can find the pocket or even make an out of pocket flow work, my production choice, etc. I guess you can label me alternative hip-hop. I like to groove, but I also love to spit. Lyrics that’ll catch your ears, a flow that’s soothing, and production that will make you feel like you’re on another planet.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
Rz Shahid: For sure, for me it started out with just looking up “type beats” that resembled my favorite artists at the time haha. I spent a lot of time studying my favorite artists from their interviews, to listening closely to how they flow, play with words, and hit certain pockets, and I’d always think to myself “what is it about this artist that keeps me here, why am I so gravitated towards this person?” And through time as I grew up and began to develop my own style trying to make sure I become the best me that I can be. I used to fixate heavy on what’s “in” and how other artist did this and that. After a while I realized that sh*t doesn’t matter, just uniquely be you.. stay true to you.. and that’s what I did and that’s what has helped me organically grow the supporters I have now and it helped grow my confidence to continue to try my ideas. All this game is is trial and error.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Rz Shahid: It plays a heavy role seeing as there’s typically a spotlight on the artist. Whether we want to believe it or not, words matter and have huge influences. So when I create I try to refrain from saying things that don’t align with my morals and I don’t speak on things I’ve never done, seen, or know about. I think it’s important to be vulnerable and to tell your story authentically for sure. And sometimes you gotta shake the game up with a heavy message. For me it’s important to uplift my people, uplift women, be someone that folks can relate to because I’m human just like the rest of the world, any way that I feel or think I try to find a way to creatively put it on wax. I’m all for spreading love, keeping it real, and having fun with it in the process.
- Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize with your sound?
Rz Shahid: Honestly, I just focus on my own personal vision. I’m a firm believer in the folks that want to listen to me will, and those who don’t, won’t. Music is timeless. So when that trend is said and done what do you have left? I want to leave forever lasting memories and for my music to be something you can listen to years from now and not get tired of it.
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?
Rz Shahid: It varies. I like to live life, experience things and let myself be inspired. Usually throughout my time I’ll find myself maybe writing 4 bars or a verse and just sitting with it and then revisit it later on when I find production that is connecting with what I’m going for. As for when I’m getting into project mode, I already have an idea for the sound I’m going for and the message I want to put out so I’ll seek production that fits the vibe and triggers my inspiration and will go from there. Sometimes I write first, sometimes I write to a beat, sometimes I just freestyle whatever’s on the heart. I think about music so much that I just have melodies chilling in my head and the lyrics I think of that stick with me I typically remember and practice to my own without writing them and then perform later on.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career so far, and how did you overcome the event?
Rz Shahid: Constantly having to be on social media believe it or not. I hate social media, and as an up and coming artist I don’t quite have the privilege to go ghost until I drop music/content. Although I kind of do it anyways, ole well. But I just limit myself to keeping it business and engaging with my friends and supporters. But otherwise the difficulty is just being heard.
- On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?
Rz Shahid: This Album Ahh Shii https://aox.biglink.to/ahh-shii that I dropped 10/9 was huge for me. I helped build the studio it was recorded in, gained a close relationship with the engineer and man who produced Blue Pit (Andre Mariette), and got to experiment with some marketing practices which I got some praise for. And I’d say earlier in the year when I performed on a frozen lake for the Art Shanties Project Festival, what an experience.
- Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?
Rz Shahid: What excites me is doing whatever I want without someone telling me I can’t and just the ownership in itself, what discourages me is just being able to fund all my ideas and marketing. It’s a slower rise, but it’s worth it in my opinion. I’ve learned a lot through my studying and the trials and errors.
- Can you tell us something about the Art Of Xanadu, and your AOX clothing line?
Rz Shahid: Art of Xanadu is an LLC I got June 2020, revolving around the idea of the word Xanadu meaning a great place of beauty, luxury, and contentment. It started with me finding that word in a Stephen King book and looking up the meaning and it sticking with me because thats what I desire. I eventually made a project titled JTTX https://fanlink.to/RZJTTX which was my first tape I’ve released (Journey To The Xanadu). So being independent I work for myself and I strive to maintain that feeling within my company and my brand. I’ve always been into fashion so it was a no brainer to step into the field and provide stylish yet comfortable clothing. Matching the feeling of my company. Will be providing more music, clothes, digital content, + more in 2021 so be on the lookout! @artofxanadu
- What is the purpose of Peoples Protection Coalition?
Rz Shahid: To come together as a community. The government and the authorities aren’t taking care of people like they should. In the midst of the uprising after the tragic loss of George Floyd (Rest In Power) that happened in my city we originally wanted to find a way to become a mobile ambulance and then shifted our gear to helping out the homeless community since they have needs and get overlooked a lot. We just want to be able to provide supplies to those in need and to stay connected and provide support to the Twin Cities community.
- With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Rz Shahid: I don’t care. Opinions are opinions, if you don’t like my music then it’s not for you simple as that. I love constructive criticism, it’s what I need. I appreciate those that don’t act as a yes man and tell me I could’ve went harder on a verse or just on my delivery. It’s much appreciated. I just want to be the best me, and I understand that not everyone is gonna like me and that there will be those who hate just to hate, and that’s life.
- Could you tell us something about your latest project “Ahh Shii”, and what the highlights are to watch out for?
Rz Shahid: 7 songs, 20 minutes, different Ahh Shii moments being described throughout the project from love, to the grind, to finding yourself, etc. The production is crazy, I sound most confident here than I have before, and the mixing by Andre is crisp. Relatable and a fun project to groove to.
- Do you have a personal favorite track amongst the tracks on “Ahh Shii” that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you?
Rz Shahid: Thats hard, I think Come Home is the track that’s pretty special to me because it’s all about personal growth and I remember the emotions I felt as I wrote it and recorded it. It’s a smooth vibe and we get to take a dive inside my mind and how I’ve grown through these years.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most?
Rz Shahid: I’d say interacting with a live audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good studio session. But being able to perform live in front of an audience, seeing people sing along to my lyrics, looking folks in the eyes, etc. It’s a dope feeling. Being on stage is where I get to unleash everything, I’m a pretty laid back dude & a flip switches when I touch a mic where my energy is just released out to the audience. I love being able to talk to my supporters, gain new ones, and just be free on stage.
- What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?
Rz Shahid: Be water. Flow with the universe. And don’t force things.
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
Rz Shahid: It’s pretty essential, you get to see me, get a taste of my personality, and see some of my creative ideas visually come to life. I’d say my recent visual I’m Gone that was shot by Connor aka @mistercreates with @drivendreamsmedia would help see how far I’ve come with my ideas. As well as I need ft. Kaleem the Dream shot by @Mattwales.
- What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?
Rz Shahid: The therapeutic aspect of just releasing and expressing how I feel and turning it into a piece of art. The fact that my music helps others get through their day or even me just being an inspiration and influence to my community and audience, honestly creating just brings me so much joy…it makes me feel free. And that’s what I desire is freedom. In the future I’d like to create an R&B project, do some voice acting work, continue to grow with my fashion, some comedic work, traveling the world, and just expand my audience. I just want to live off what I love to do and help those around me do the same. I have so much in store for the future that I can’t wait to tackle. And I can’t wait to do so.