The Australian hip-hop network continues to get a shake-up each week. The pool of talent continues to rise and spill over - its reach infectious, attempting to permeate the ears of everyone from boom-bap aficionados in South-Brisbane, to pop-oriented kids in wealthy Vaucluse. The common theme is adaptability, and musical consciousness - something that Brisbane based artist Z. LEWIS is aware of, and possesses.
He's taken the time to debut - and bless us - with his own remixed version of 'Levitate' - a Kendrick Lamar original of Untitled Unmastered fame. Feast your ears on what the man has brought to the table.
We thought it only right to take a moment out for the young don, to ponder his trajectory and pick his brain about what hip-hop means to him.
Firstly, tell us about who Z. LEWIS is. Where are you from, and in your own way, describe to us what you think your name means for hip-hop culture?
I am originally from London, England. I was born in Hackney and spent most of my time in East and North London. We have a big Hip-Hop culture in the UK so it was always a given that I would be exposed and inspired I guess. I have to pay homage to the impact of BNE on my becoming the artist I am right now in a big way. If it wasn't for this city and my move here, I wouldn't have half the drive I do. So I guess you could say Z. LEWIS is an Englishman in love with Australia.
I want to impact this culture in an irrecoverable way and so my name in Hip-Hop will come to represent innovation... I aim not to be remembered fondly, rather to be impossible to deny. Z. LEWIS is an example of what a cultural melting pot can produce and so I hope to shine light on not only my own perspective but those of our brothers and sisters worldwide. Mostly I want to give listeners life-changing music. If my name is mentioned with the greatest songwriters, I'm more than happy.
You’ve carved your own sound out, and one that is relatively unique to the hip-hop scene here, and welcomed. What are some of your earliest inspirations for making music?
My earliest inspiration in music is my father. He would play guitar and sing for me all throughout my childhood and he taught me to play as well. He was a real blues man, and a rocker - Zeppelin, Floyd, Johnson, Clapton, King. My mother was a real Motown/Soul girl and introduced me to the King of Pop. It was a live recording of one of Michael Jackson's tours that made me want to perform on stage. I used to sing and dance to his music blasting from my sister's big old vinyl player. Yeah, we had CDs but it wasn't the same. I was lucky to have been surrounded by a family who had great taste but were also exceptionally cultured as people. They passed that on to me.
My first Hip-Hop album was Eminem's Slim Shady LP. I remember my parents bought it, heard it, then put it back. Haha, I guess I was too young for that one. I got it anyway of course. Eminem was who made me want to rap.
Speaking of inspiration, you’re set to support UK supergroup The Four Owls in a weeks time. Do you study acts like that, and feel yourself gravitating towards the more intellectual, conscious type of rhyme creation? How important is that for you?
I can't wait for that show - it's gonna be huge vibes. I definitely enjoy making conscious records and am a thinker - I love to philosophise, however I wouldn't say it's the be all and end all for me when creating. I love making music just for the feeling it gives the listener so I don't always put a huge emphasis on them internalising a message or moral. In my opinion, there are many outlets for getting heavy points across such as essays or articles and while songwriting can be utilised as tools for awareness sometimes, musicality is key. We as music makers should not forget that the sonic impact is most important. I really do have a lot to say though and it will all come in due time.
In your eyes, as someone about to back themselves on a platform beside other up-and-coming artists in not only Brisbane, but the entire country, what do you think the scene has lacked in recent years that you’d like to see done differently?
I feel that the scene lacks a hunger for international recognition. I am excited because there's a wave happening right now of wide minded creators hustling for props on a world stage. I am really not trying to stay underground because I want to shape the world we live in on a large scale. I also feel that Australia is unfairly isolated considering the sheer amount of talent overflowing from our nation. I want to change that. Our trajectory as artists should be greater than our back yard - if we really have something to offer, then offer it to everyone.
In your opinion, which crew – or which individuals – are bringing the most heat musically in Australia right now?
Midas.Gold, IAMD, Tides, Gill Bates, Camouflage Rose, Gallus. It's undeniable.
Dead Caucus/Champion Sound team on the up and up!
In Sydney I really mess with Tyrøne - I think he is one of the hardest workers in Aus. Miracle kills it too, he just signed my boy Travy P to his label WVS. I'm sure there are plenty others but that's who comes to mind.
Who would be your dream collaboration and why?
Z. LEWIS ft Kendrick Lamar & Eminem prod by HARVEY & Z. LEWIS. This song would be dynamically potent as a record but the two heavyweights would push me to write the best song I'd ever written. Both their work ethic and ability make me so hungry for personal success that I probably wouldn't ever release it. I think I'll say 'I made it' when that happens.
Eminem and K Dot both had huge impacts on me as a growing rapper, dismissing language boundaries and pushing the envelope in our craft.
HARVEY is a producer I work with closely at the moment and I have no doubt that we would cook up the tastiest instrumental together. I get an instinctual feeling of future greatness when I am around HARVEY and that's something I trust. Plus he made Midas.Gold's "$$$" and "Work.It.Out" so his work speaks for itself.
What’s your next move on the board – tell us what we can expect from Z. LEWIS in the near future in terms of releases, projects or collaborations?
I do this constantly so I'm just gonna keep making good music. I am excited to release some original singles and videos real soon - I am glad people have a taste of what to expect with the Levitate remix. Aside from that, just gonna continue to channel good vibes and play dope shows. I really love playing live so that's what's got me most hyped at the moment. I have a set plan for the next couple years but it's fluid, so taking it as it comes and keeping my eye on that world stage. I am working alongside some really talented individuals so collabo's are inevitable. Mainly I am gonna keep striving to give people life changing music.