BZ is on the come-up. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard one of his songs somewhere, maybe you may have noticed his reload-worthy single ‘2 G’s’ blasting through the speakers of Jaq’s car in the new season of Top Boy. Maybe you noticed the cool Afro-swing vibe ‘No Rules’ pulsating in the kitchen of a student dorm party. If you’re not fortunate enough to catch one of his songs yet, well the day is inevitable, as he gains support from the likes of DJ Target and Charlie Sloth, you may just find yourself discreetly shazaming one of his songs, only to find out it’s BZ.
His discography, consisting of a handful of singles, is small but mighty, demonstrating his curiosity in blending with the experience of living in South East London. BZ wears Croydon and his church upbringing on his sleeve and is a David-like figure in a Goliath industry. When Gen B spoke to the Croydon-based rapper, he made us know he’s gunning to become the Top Boy of the UK music scene, and to make his strides globally.
Gen B: Your song ‘2 G’s’ was on Top Boy, how did that opportunity come across?
BZ: I was with my boy in the studio and he said you should contribute and there were all these big names, I just kinda hijacked one of the sessions and said yo “This is me, I can get in with you?” We had the 2 G’s song done in a hour and I think someone in the studio sent it off to the Top Boy camp and they fucked with it. I’ll say within the past year, that’s probably where I’ve seen myself grow the most. I’ve been making music since I was 13. I only took it seriously in 2020, you have to sell yourself, you have to believe in your music.
You talked about taking your music seriously two years ago. What was the transition that made you take that leap? Was it COVID-19?
Obviously when it came to lockdown, a lot of people their lives distracted. So I was thinking, what can I actually do? What do I want to do? I have a strong passion for music. I found myself working in Sainsburys, doing voice-notes for my flow, writing bars. I got my paycheck and spent it on building a home studio set-up. I worked on my craft and developed my sound. It steps in every part of my life, I think that’s what I’m meant to do.
What’s the recording process like for you in comparison to recording at home to recording in a professional studio setting? Did you feel more at ease?
For me personally, [the home studio] made me do things that I wasn’t necessarily confident with in front of people. I’ve always been good at my craft so I can easily make a song that knows the trends. But for me personally, that didn’t feel right. I think giving the home setting gave me the confidence and the drive to actually make songs that are a true representation of myself.
You can also translate those lessons into a professional music setting as well.
Yeah, now it’s like I don’t care where I am, I do me.
How did Croydon have an influence on your music?
I think experiencing the things and situations in Croydon. I grew up there, there’s a feel to Croydon but it’s digestible for anyone in South London really.
Croydon’s definitely an outlier, you see the jokes about people catching flights over there.
It is very much South London. I think it’s palatable. We have influences over here; Krept and Konan, Stormzy, and then all of a sudden, we’re part of the conversation, we’re part of London.
Let’s say you’re in the next Top Boy season? Who is your character?
If I was someone in Top Boy, I think I’d be one of Sully’s henchmen or something. Actually, I’ll be a break-away character, a one-man team from his own ends where I come from South London and I try to take over East London.
Proper outsider, I’ll be proper jokes as well.
Seems like everyone’s testing out different endeavours? Acting aside, which creative endeavours outside music would you try out?
I’ve done quite a bit of modelling. I’m also planning on expanding my fashion brand, it’s a streetwear thing. It’s going through a rebrand right now. The concept of the brand was eradicating fear from society and what we would do is say, 10% of the profit would go to a charity, like My Brother’s Keeper that helps homeless people who have come out of prison find shelter and jobs. I think fashion can be used as a vehicle to help people.
What music did you listen to?
I grew up in a church and in my younger years I started listening to R&B, Afrobeat, Highlife, Jazz that sort of stuff. It’s important for me to emulate different sounds of black music in my songs.
You see a lot more artists embracing their culture more, not just diasporic elements but also regional, do you have intentions to expand out of the UK?
Yeah, the UK is a small island, it’s amazing but of course I’m trying to be respected and known worldwide, you can’t remove yourself from the world, I want to share my sound, my culture, where I’m from to the world. It’s definitely my goal.
You see artists collaborating with each other: Playboi Carti and Skepta; PinkPantheress and Willow; Fivio Foreign and Russ. They get to experiment with different artists but also connect those respective fanbases with each other. Which overseas artists would you work with?
Obviously, it needs to make sense sonically. I would pick Kendrick Lamar on the fact he’s the best ever but I’m not trying to collaborate with that mindset. It’s not really an answer to your question but I wouldn’t be saying there’s an artist I want to collaborate with, as in “Ok cool, there’s a feature and that’s going to bring me out more to the world.” I’m just focused on building my calibre of music, my development.
So if it comes naturally?
When it comes, it’ll come. I have a song with a French artist, Kun Fu. I’m more of a music person than a business person, I let my manager deal with that. He’s well known in the French music scene. He shouted me on DM’s, saying he liked my music, I had to go Paris to shoot some photos with some brands, we linked up and made a banger which is coming out very soon.
What’s your dream festival?
I think headlining Glastonbury would be crazy, I think just because, that’s an embodiment of the UK for me, so many people from different walks of life; don’t necessarily look like you or grew up in the same ends as you they all go to that same place to listen to your music. If that makes sense, for me, it’s way bigger than Coachella, this is home. It’s either Glasto or the O2 Academy.
It’s a watershed moment for rappers to have their moment at Glasto – Stormzy in ‘19, Jay-Z . Seeing rappers penetrate these barriers, you’re right in saying it’s allowing you to express your sound to different people, people who’ll listen to Arctic Monkeys and it’s cool to imagine them digging your music.
You’re giving your experience, you’re giving your culture – you’re allowing someone else to step into your world and it’s just a beautiful feeling, It encourages you, doing live performances; when you’re in the studio, learning the process, it’s amazing but when you step on stage, you see first-hand the impact your music has on people, it’s a transformative experience.