NEW YORK — I was in the birthplace, where it all began. A friend of mine had hooked me up with a seat on ‘Hush Tours’. A mini tour of the Hip Hop spots in NYC run by those embedded in the culture itself, I highly recommend if you are ever in the city and an avid fan of Hip Hop such as myself or even just curious about the culture. This is where I first met RayZa, one of the Hush Tour hosts. Instantly I blown away by Rayza’s energy, his high spirits were infectious. His passion for the love of Hip Hop was strikingly evident, and it later emerged his MC skills were just as fierce as enthusiasm. Known to be sharp at everything he does had people calling him, ‘Rayza’ from an early age, and this also transpired to his art of MCing.
Of Black & Native American heritage, born in Queens, New but raised participating in battle raps throughout the city, it was nice to meet a newer generation of MC and get an insight into how the culture has influenced him and evolved him into the artist he is this present day, with the influence of various boroughs of New York. The official Prodigy of Grandmaster Caz and honorary member of the ‘Legendary Cash Crew’ lead by Reggie Reg, RayZa knows his history and is respected by those who came before him, I was interested to find out more about the man behind the artist. Releasing his new mixtape, ‘Zero Gravity’ in 2018 to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop on August 11th, it was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with RayZa and find out more about his latest project on his own record label EBE (Every Body Eats), named so because everyone on his label both rappers and producers get looked after.
Rayza, it’s been a minute since we last spoke, I was excited to hear your new mixtape and I had to hit you up. Firstly, I loved the concept of, ‘Zero Gravity’, which you explain on one of your skits as Gravity being a metaphor for negative energy and keeping it Zero Gravity is all about not letting negative people, things or negative thoughts control you by pulling you down. One thing which really stands out for me is the positive affirmations throughout your mixtape. It’s refreshing and really sums you up not only as an artist, but also as a person, someone who keeps very positive, spreading good vibes. How do you keep that mind set in this day and age?
Word it’s been a min! But it’s always good to hear from you, glad you reached out for this interview. If you’re like me and you study your life and everything you go through you’re going to constantly take yourself to the next level if that’s your goal. Anything I ever go through whether positive or negative I always study the situation and myself as far as how it made me feel and my actions as a result. It took a while for me to get my shit together and I’m still not perfect (laughs) but I’ve been through a lot of ups & downs to get to this point. One thing I’ve learned is that there are two type of people in this world, people that have things happen to them that can cause them to go to a negative place as a result which can end up holding them back from evolving, and people that make things happen regardless of what life throws at them by trying their best to stay positive. It’s all about focus. We live in a world full of good, bad, ugly and beautiful and it’s up to you where you allow your focus to be held. People and life situations will either push you forward or hold you back but the choice is yours even when it doesn’t seem like it. That’s the whole point of living in ‘Zero Gravity’, it’s not letting anyone, or anything including yourself hold you down. Sometimes it’s easy to keep your head up and sometimes it’s not, but the harder it is to pull through the stronger you’ll be when you overcome the situation and you have no choice but to overcome what life throws at you because that’s how you survive. I’ll be the first to tell you that we are born to be great, I feel like greatness is a choice you either choose it or lose it but it’s always in you and the more you go through and overcome the greater you become. Its ok to slip and feel like you fell face first into some shit you weren’t ready for, we all fall sometimes but the key is to pick yourself back up in due time no matter the situation because that’s what makes you great.
I feel you, that’s real deep and really does come across on this mixtape, it’s quite reflective and thought provoking. The mellow instrumentals really compliment this notion and when I put it on I wanted to take a minute out of my busy day to actually stop and think about the direction my life is moving in. At the same time your flows switch up to keep it dynamic, as a reminder to keep things constantly moving forwards. The Jazzy flow on the title track, ‘Zero Gravity’ has a nice vibe to it, and that smooth flow hints at that outer body experience, possibly from levitating. ‘Smoke Session’ just reminds me of those 80’s flicks like Karate Kid! Possibly because that’s part of my happy childhood memories and it’s all a part of being reflective and going back to those places where we felt good.
Wow 80’s flicks like karate kid that’s dope as fuck! Yea you was levitating fa sho! Music can make you feel high even when your sober and I’m a king pin when it comes to that type of music. That’s because I’m a king with the pen you feel me? Whether I freestyle a track off the top of my head or write it down if I’m going to kick some shit it’s definitely going to make Mr. Miyagi proud (laughs). I love your comparison to movies because I feel like a lot of my music is just that. A motion picture that sets a vibe through the flows I use to paint over a beat. We are all Kings or Queens living out our own movie and it’s up to you how you wear your crown just make sure you put it on before you do whatever you choose to do.
I think it’s a real nice touch you have skits of your conversations, real life happenings which make the mixtape more authentic. The skit with Hush Tours took me back to getting hyped on the tour bus! You even have a skit of you playing the piano showing your diversity as an artist. The sample of Tupac from the on the track ‘Juice’ from the movie with the same title, made me smile. Resurrected memories of that movie for me but also reminded me of how much of a rare character Tupac was and a unique artist. You have many references to 90’s Hip Hop and artists who came before you, which I think is very respectful, but at the same time you do you and don’t try to emulate them. How important is it to you to pay homage to those artists before you?
One of the best ways to go far in life is by not forgetting where you came from or who paved the path to get you where you’re going. I love everyone and anything that has to do with Hip-Hop and rap music because I see the culture as my family. Whether you’re a lyrical rapper, mumble rapper, producer etc. whatever lane you choose I got nothing but love for you and what you do because it’s a part of who I am. I may not agree with everyone’s views or lifestyle choices but that doesn’t change the fact I see them as a family. Having respect for the artists who came before me or after is having respect for myself because without them there is no me. It takes an army to conquer the world and I feel that’s what we’ve done. There are many soldiers who fought the battle before I stepped a foot in the field we call “Hip-Hop” who deserve nothing but the same respect I would give to myself because without them there would be no RayZa and there would be no us. So I pay homage and salute those who dropped bombs on the mic before me as much as possible because they are the reason I’m even able to do what I do. If we treat them like they never existed that would eventually lead to the downplay of what they did it for and that’s what our enemies want right? For us to hate on each other rather than push the hip-hop & rap movement forward when we are all kings & queens. If we don’t preserve our history through respect for our pioneers, peers and successors in this culture then we become temporary moments within the culture and hip-hop is forever. Through music we become immortal so let’s do this the right way and push our people forward and not in the opposite direction. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s cool to treat people in our culture like a joke just because your different than them because you’ll eventually become that joke and aint shit funny about that when it comes to your legacy. So in my opinion there’s nothing more important than paying homage to the artist before me, and even after.
Having heard some of your earlier music you have definitely come a long way as an artist and developed your style, the production sounds pretty tight on this mixtape. You are in a great place to be amongst pioneers such as Grandmaster Caz and Kurtis Blow… how did this come about and how do you think that has affected you as an artist?
I’m always making sure I evolve as an artist because even though I see the culture of hip-hop and rap as my family it’s still competitive as fuck and rightfully so, that’s what makes us great. Put it this way when me and my fam have get togethers me, my brothers and cousins always play street basketball. I’m not about to come on the court with the same moves from the year before I’m coming for the win so I’m making sure I take my shit to the next level and keep my game sharp because that’s just how we do. With rap for me take that scenario and multiply it by ten thousand and that’s how I feel about developing my style on the mic. Im always leveling up and learning new tricks to show niggas I ain’t come to play games even though we fam (laughs). I use to battle rap in my hood all the time and even came in first place when they threw a rap battle competition at my school where all the rappers came out, that’s because there would always come a point where I would tell myself time to take this shit to the next level and that’s’ never changed. Being amongst pioneers such as Grandmaster Caz, Reggie Reg, Scoob etc. there’s no way it’s not going to affect you as an artist I mean they are pioneers and have knowledge for days. But to me they’re not just pioneers they are friends who’ve taught me shit not only in hip-hop but outside of it. I’ve always followed my energy when it comes to hip-hop and for some reason it always puts me exactly where I need to be and it’s probably because I know who I am and when you know who you are God takes care of the rest when you’re willing to put in the work. Being a part of the Hush Tours family is priceless and that’s where I originally met these pioneers and many more, from there we became friends because that’s just what happened and its always been love ever since and I got nothing but love and respect for my big bros. Their just dope as shit man, whether you talking outside of music or in it they are great friends period. I always thank the CEO of Hush Tours Debra Harris for believing in me since day one, she’s amazing and what she’s created and built makes her a hip-hop legend in her own right through what she does for the culture. She’s just a super dope person and a business genius and I’m grateful that she believed in me to make me a part of the Hush Tours family. She’s had over a million people on the tour like yo come on! That’s over a million people that have learned the roots of the culture thanks to what she’s created and above all she’s not only great at what she does she’s a great person. Being around these type of people can only make you better at whatever it is you do whether you’re talking your craft or just life itself.
I didn’t really know which angle you would be taking with this mixtape but you found that perfect balance between that nuskool sound and those strong 90’s principles of conscious thought, so someone like me can get down with it! It just works and I think it will be received very well around Europe, it has a universal vibe to it. You must be looking forward to performing outside of the US, how did that come about?
That’s dope as fuck man love is love it’s great to get feedback like that, especially from people such as yourself who keep the bar raised high for what you expect from an artist so that means everything to me. Since I meet people from all around the world every week who always ask me to come where they’re from and perform and I finally got my passport (laughs) I’m making it happen. The mixtape is dropping so it’s the perfect time to go around performing it and London, Paris and Amsterdam are three places I’ve always wanted to go so that’s where I’m starting! I’m blessed to have international connections and I’m putting them to great use. Ill also be performing in Australia very soon with one of my producers Sadiva from Melbourne who is a fucking beast at making beats so Australia look out I’ll be there soon.]
That all sounds really exciting, I wish you all the best with your performances and I look forward to hearing your future projects and seeing you in New York soon!
You can check out Rayza’s mixtape, ‘Zero Gravity’ out on Datpiff.com available for download or Sound cloud now or catch him at a show near you in London, Paris and Amsterdam soon. Make sure to follow him on Instagram @RayZa_Eb3 for live updates and information on where he’ll be Performing!