Muzique Magazine caught up with LA-based artist and producer ZEE to find out more about his tasty ‘90s-flavored sound and how his just-released debut EP, Summer 98, came together.
Having amassed more than a million streams, along with advocacy from Power 106.1 and iHeart Radio, ZEE’s infectious sound merges smooth elements of R&B with the muscle of hip-hop.
What three things can’t you live without?
I would have to say Family, Music, and Money. Family is important to me, I definitely value their support throughout the years. I don’t get to see my family as much as I want to, but they’ve kept me grounded. Music has got me through some of the toughest times in my life. I’m an introvert so music has always been my escape when I need it. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I know if you work hard for it and understand the value of it, you can do everything you want. With music, it takes money to make music, so I’ve always been focused on side hustles all my life to be able to invest in myself.
How did you get started in music?
Coming from a background of oppression of thought and expression, I saw an opportunity to freely express myself while inspiring others from similar backgrounds to do the same.
What’s the backstory there?
Coming from a Muslim background, it’s tough to inform your family or friends that you want to do music, especially western style music genres. Everything you do or say in most of these countries depends on whether it’s socially correct, religiously correct, or politically correct. There’s zero room for discourse or discussion out of established orthodoxy.
Which artists are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Pop Smoke. It’s sad that he is gone, rest in peace. I love his sound and style. There’s this dope artist from Los Angeles named Blxst that I’ve been listening to as well. It really depends on how I’m feeling. I have a lot of current and older music in my playlists. Sometimes, I’ll wake up and put on some classics like Bobby Brown or even 112. Other artists that I’m always listening to are Khalid, Belly, Fabolous, The Weeknd, Drake, and Ty Dolla Sign, to name a few.
What’s the story behind the name ZEE?
ZEE was my nickname growing up, it’s just a shorter form of my name. My sister gave me that name when I was young.
What inspired the EP?
The EP was inspired by a couple things. I grew up on music from the late 90s/early 20s era and even as a young kid I would be listening to my older brother’s music. The title was inspired by a CD that I found when I was young. It said “Summer ’98” written in permanent marker. I remember my brothers used to burn CDs during that time haha. That’s how I got put on to Hip-Hop and R&B. There are some samples from that time on this EP as well, so it all just clicked. The project is also inspired by a past relationship that was a ride of different emotions. I wanted to take people back and to feel something.
Guilty music pleasure?
I would have to say Trap Music. When I need some energy or need to get in my zone, I know what I’m listening to.
Why make music?
I make music to express myself. That’s my voice and outlet to be able to share what I’m feeling or what I want to say. I want to leave a legacy that I can be proud of and something that people will appreciate for years. A collection of music that’s unique to my style. I want to have a platform so large that it will allow me to do great things in the world.
My greatest challenge recently has been trying to maintain and be true to myself. It’s easy to get lost in LA, you really have to phase out all the negatives and just keep pushing through.
My greatest attribute when it comes to my work-ethic is patience. If you want something you should go get it, but patience is important. You can’t force things to happen, but you can work so hard that it gets you through the door.
How are you handling the coronavirus situation?
I’ve been handling the situation pretty well. I mean it’s different and I know for Artists it’s not the same as far as touring or doing promo. For me, it was nice to reflect and just focus on some things I felt I was losing in my life. I definitely made some of my best songs and I have a lot that I’m ready to share in this upcoming year.
Thanks and shout outs?
I just want to thank anyone who has supported me throughout the years. My family, my friends and all of my fans. That’s why I’m able to do what I love.