Lemzi is a hip hop rapper/MC from Leytonstone known for his mixtape series “LemziFreeBies”, radio appearances and live shows. We spoke to Lemzi about his music, including new single ‘That’s the Code’.
A lot of people will know me for my jazzy, bluesy music so ‘That’s The Code’ is a different direction with the same narrative.
First up, tell us a bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
Funnily enough my earliest memories of music were when I was between 6-8 years old and I was being made to learn Piano, and I hated it… quit twice, only getting past Grade 1. Subsequently to that point though, at around age 9-10, I heard hip hop music properly for the first time (obviously it was in the background at family parties or on the radio, but I wasn’t receptive for a while). I heard and saw rap music videos, my favourite being Eminem - ‘Lose Yourself’, and I was just captivated. The mix of beats and bars, the lyricism involved, the grittiness and characters of hip hop in the early 2000’s was dope as well.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from to form your musical and thematic style?
When I first put pen to pad (literally, not on a phone like nowadays) it was emulating people like Eminem, Tupac and 50 cent as I thought they were the best. From the early 2000’s, at grime’s genesis, everything changed from conceptual song practice to just writing bars that would emulate the radio sets that were prevalent in grime. It was all about just writing lyrics and trying to keep up with the other artists at the time in the scene.
How would you describe your style?
Developmental. Progressive. A lot of people know me for being a jazzy/soulful hip-hop artist, which is accurate. However, I have roots in grime, I work with trap sounds occasionally and currently I’m working with a myriad of producers and other artists all with their own styles. As long as I feel the production and I have space to propagate my concepts and ideas, I’m happy.
What drives you to write?
I have a number of external influences, good and bad… anything that I care about can be written about. That includes family, my relationship, social dynamics, politics, love, parties and good vibes, etc. I also get inspired by certain production, I used to just write words and I was more poetic than I am now, currently I write more to particular beats and sounds that inspire me. Probably a skill I need to pick up again…
Your new single is ‘That’s the Code’. What’s it about?
My perspective on moral and ethics. the “code” that I try and practice and spread as a person and as an artist. As the lyrics it the song itself “is an ode to those who chose the road to grow, disclose their soul to show that it can glow, but know that foes corrode and take their toll…”. If you’re someone with aspirations, if you follow a narrative of love, acquiring knowledge, spirituality in any sense, keep pushing and pursing your goals. There will be opposing forces, but “stay on your toes, you’re told that’s the code”.
How does it build on your style?
Big shout out to Vividree the producer on this track. A lot of my previous records have come around by me just finding a great piece of production online and creating a song to it. However for ‘That’s the Code’ I was blessed to sit down with Viv and we created the sound together. He made the beat and I helped produce the overall structure and sound as, as soon as I heard the sample and drums, I knew roughly how I was going to approach this song. As I said, a lot of people will know me for my jazzy, bluesy music so ‘That’s the Code’ is a different direction with the same narrative.
What are your hopes for ‘That’s the Code’?
Let’s just hope as many people as possible hear it. The reaction of people that have heard the tune and seen the video (big shout to Cresco SMG for the video as well) has been really positive so I’m looking to push it as much as I can.
When and where can we expect to see you live next?
I’ve got a couple gigs but I’m looking to recharge the batteries this month. Next show is on Friday, April 20th in Leytonstone and then Friday, May 11th at Camden Assembly for EE presents. If anyone wants to watch any of my upcoming events, you just need to check lemzi.com/events and subscribe for constant information.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Probably the Roots, I don’t listen to them all that much but anything I have seen/heard sounds like I need to be involved.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
Keep taking risks and trying to prove yourself. Work towards aspirations twice as hard as you think you need to. Understand that with accomplishment and fulfilment also comes disappointment and failure, but it doesn’t last if you continue to focus on the goal.
Watch the video for ‘That’s The Code’ on YouTube below. For news and tour dates go to lemzi.com.