Rapper and singer-songwriter Shanzyan produced the entirety of his debut EP, Mature, eleven tracks that chronicle a complicated lifetime through the eyes of a resilient artist. But make no mistake, this is a feel-good record, a hip-hop/R&B feat to ease your worries and mellow your mind. When Shanzyan divulges the personal it’s covertly placed, tucked away behind an insistent trap beat or hidden among vocal hooks. Raised between California and Texas by parents of Bangladeshi heritage, Shanzyan currently lives in Austin, a city whose hip-hop scene he describes as “untapped.”
Shanzyan’s Mature captures an impressive, consistently cool vibe, marrying disparate rap elements of Southern hype and West Coast chill to deliver a harmonious vision of both. He raps just as much as he sings, and sometimes the two are indistinguishable, like the soulful hollering of Anderson .Paak or an overly excited Drake. We’re absolutely stoked to premiere this release. Listen below.
Read our interview with Shanzyan:
Indie Current: What was your first formative music experience? When did you start concentrating on hip-hop/rap?
Shanzyan: In middle school, we had this optional talent contest to submit some form of art on something that inspired us. Growing up, all I wanted to do was be like my older brother. He used to make music with his friends, so I stole one of his beat CD’s, wrote probably the sorriest dedication to him ever, and recorded it on his computer while he was still at school. Somehow that song won me a first place ribbon against some really good drawings and acoustic performances from the other kids. I didn’t take it that seriously back then, but I just went with it.
My brother played almost every genre around the house when I was growing up, but rap and R&B was mainly what I listened to. I got serious with music in the beginning of high school, and I just started making what I liked hearing.
At what point did you start working on Mature? Did you have any kind of initial vision of what you wanted to project to sound like?
Before I ever started working on Mature, I knew what I wanted it to be. I saw and went through a lot as a kid that forced me to grow up fast. I didn’t know how to talk to other people about it. I was depressed and creating was my only escape. To me, Mature captures that. I started working on this album with my manager and longtime collaborator Dennis in my last semester of college this past spring. At that point in time, I just felt ready to explore some built up emotions and create the sounds necessary to tell my story.
How important is making your own beats to you as an artist? Where do you find inspiration? What’s your favorite production on Mature?
If I had anyone else produce for me, I don’t think my story would be told the right way. Doing it all myself just helps me ensure purity in my music. All of my favorite artists produce themselves, so I draw a lot of inspiration from their work. My favorite probably changes every time I listen to the album, but sometimes I can’t believe I made “Again.” The stems on that song are so damn minimal, yet they complement each other so perfectly. The piano part at the end gets me every time.
I’ve sussed out a certain Childish Gambino vibe throughout Mature. Has his music or career path helped develop your own vision and goals?
Donald Glover is a huge inspiration to me. I remember running into his Derrick Comedy videos when I was in high school. When I found out he rapped, I thought it was a parody thing until I listened to Camp and was just blown away. You look at his career and he just creates in whatever form he feels like. For me as an artist, there is so much to take away from that.
On that note, have you watched Atlanta? Did the show resonate with you personally as a rapper? What was your favorite song featured on the show?
Great show. I think it depicts the grind accurately, so that for sure resonated with me. I loved how the season ended with [Outkast‘s] “Elevators.” There was also this episode that opened with the sample that was used on the song with Ghostface on Royalty.
Did you have a hand in mixing the finished project? What sort of direction did you give the engineer?
I primarily worked with two engineers on this project: Ross Mayfield and Robert Sewell. When it comes to mixing, I usually give the engineer a rough mix of what I want the end-product to sound like. For this project, Dennis and I would listen to each of the tracks and jot down the different elements that needed to be brought out in the engineering side.
How do you envision people listening/experiencing/interacting with Mature?
You can think, vibe, or just live to it. Each song stems from a particular emotion in my life, and I think people can relate them to their own. I tried painting a cohesive, sonic picture with the production and tracklist, but I also think each song is capable of standing alone. Mainly, I envision people experiencing it with curiosity.