Delhi-raised and Los Angeles-based artist ZZ‘s new album GHOST is out now. Daily Chiefers caught up with ZZ while he was back home.
My name is Mustafa Abubaker. I’m here with ZZ. I’m with Zefaan, Zefaan Kanwar aka ZZ. Raised in Delhi.
Wait, is this recorded?
Sick, let’s get it.
You’ve been in the game since 2017. You got a track called Icy that went crazy a few years ago. GHOST is out now. 19 tracks.
19, broski. 19.
I know your earliest memory of music was Eminem, 50 Cent, but I wanna ask you, how musical is your family? Where did you get your musical talent from?
So, my mom, actually. She used to be a pop singer in Bollywood. You guys have Hollywood, we have Bollywood. If you go on YouTube and search, you’ll see her music videos have millions of views. That’s where I get it from.
So, your cousin who you collaborate with most often, is he on your mom’s side too?
No, that’s on my dad’s side. Just a coincidence.
That’s interesting though, you kind of got it on both sides.
Yeah, I guess.
So if you got it from your mother and she had an illustrious career in Bollywood… do Bollywood singers make a lot of money?
I mean, I’m sure they do. She didn’t really pursue it though. She performed a lot and made hits for the radio but then stopped and decided to focus on the family instead.
Did she give you advice?
Yeah, always. She tells me the most critical stuff. It’s annoying but it’s good feedback.
Do you find yourself following a lot of her advice?
Yeah. I find that everything she says is right.
What do you remember about the very first track you recorded?
It was probably some trash song I made as a joke. It gave me a feeling of wanting more. I just knew I could be the biggest and become the biggest and continue this, find my sound, discover how to make amazing music, and just keep going.
Who was the first person to give you the artistic alias of ZZ?
I don’t know. It was like Yeezy. My name’s Zefaan. People would call me ZZ back in 2013 and stuff, that was just my nickname.
As an artist very firmly coming up in the Internet era, when did you first start using it to capitalize on promoting your music?
Honestly, from the beginning. I’m not a TikTok or IG Reels guy. I don’t want to be that guy either. I want the music to speak for itself. Everything on the web is super temporary. Kids don’t have attention spans to listen to a song that’s longer than three minutes. I know if you focus on good music it’s going to shine anyway.
Is that something you and The 6am Company agree on?
The 6am Company is my label. Other than me, there’s an artist from the UK named Bill. It’s definitely what we believe in. We believe in making good music. No gimmicks, no fake shit. Just a genuine feeling.
Is that genuine feeling a result of artists having different personas in real life than they do in their music?
Whenever I write a song, it’s me. I don’t lie about shit. I give myself to the fan. They’re not just tuning into ZZ’s music. They’re tuning into ZZ. I can only do that if I’m open and honest… literally, bro.
In “Bliss”, you make a cool songwriting decision using the word “sister”, a word I don’t hear in a lot of hip-hop songs as of late…
I mean, I didn’t want to say something like bitch or my hoe or some derogatory word like that. I want to make it feel like family. Like, my homie. I’m treating you as if you’re one with me. It’s just like a bond.
Was it difficult choosing 19 tracks for this one album?
I’ve always preferred 16 or 14-track albums, so, yeah, I kind of like made a promise to myself I would never go above 17 but I had to because it was flowing so well and everything went together and it was the story I wanted to tell. At the end of the day, if it’s working and it’s cohesive, I was like fuck it, it needs to happen.
What was the process behind putting this video together?
So basically I love film. That’s my second passion. I love filmmaking. I don’t know, I get a feeling when I watch a good Scorcese movie. I know exactly what I want. I know how to direct. I know how to edit. It’s all about efficiency. I wanted to make a video called Delhi. I got my boys. I got my boy Aavrit who makes music videos and short films as well. We just went around the crib shooting beautiful aesthetic shots, the slow zoom, and the 4×3 aspect ratio. All of that shit matters a lot to me.
When I was scrolling down your Twitter, I saw you had a short film out years ago.
You dug deep.
Is that something you wanna do full-time in the future?
No, no, no. Music is definitely here to stay. My dream is to make a full-feature film, a tv show, and produce and stuff. I want a GRAMMY. I want an Oscar. I want to make art that will live on forever and be timeless.
Are you the type of artist that puts out an album with songs that were recorded as recently as possible?
I’ve been working on GHOST since 2019. It’s really not about how recent the song is. The music I make is intended to be timeless so it can work at any time. I’m not chasing any trends. I’ve been working on the debut studio album since 2018. It’s really not about what’s recent, it’s about what’s supposed to go where.
How many songs are in the vault right now?
I’m sitting on four albums right now, like my next four years of music.
Do you go to a studio?
I won’t go into the studio. I record it in my bedroom. I mix my own stuff. I record my own stuff. I write my own stuff. It’s a very DIY situation with the way the world is going right now, it’s all about self-sufficiency.
Have you moved back to India?
No, I’m coming back to LA this month.
In LA, do you also record at the crib?
Yes, yes, yes sir.
You and your collaborator 24kGolden met in LA, right?
I knew 24kGolden through USC because I studied filmmaking at USC. We hit the studio a couple of times. Mans took off though so the new phone who this kinda vibes. but respect, no hate, no shade, all love.
Did you graduate?
No, I’m set to graduate next year.
Your birthday’s July 2?
Do you have siblings?
Yeah, I have an older brother. He’s 24, he’s currently in New York doing his Master’s degree in Supply Chain business stuff.
What do you want to tell the Indian kids in the world that are creative?
Just do what your heart wants you to do. Don’t listen to anyone who tells your shit. Be weird. Be unique. Be the one who sits in the corner. Be the misfit. Those are the ones who do everything big in the world, you know. You don’t want to just fit in like a sheep.
Have you traveled a lot?
I have traveled a lot.
Where’s your favorite destination?
Kenya and Masai Mara. I did the safari. The migration. Waking up and seeing lions and zebra and stuff.
What’s your label situation?
I’m definitely entertaining some stuff. I’m down to stay independent. I’m waiting for the right deal to come.
Can we expect more music videos?
What was the first song you made for the album?
It was probably “Papi”. No, it was “Homesick”, actually. I recorded “Homesick” in 2019. “Homesick” wasn’t going to be on GHOST.
And the last?
“U No Body 2 Me”.
Are you looking for new artists yourself?
I’m always looking for new music and the top of the game.
Does that tie into how you found Bill?
Bill’s my friend’s homie. My homie’s homie from London. He introduced us. I was like, fuck, this guy’s good.
Last thing you ate?
I had Lindt chocolate and Dosa from south India.
What’s your favorite food?
My homemade chicken biryani. And crispy bhindi.
What’s your favorite drink?
I went through a very big tequila phase. I was only drinking casa Migos Reposado. I got too used to it. I wasn’t getting buzzed.
Are you into coffee?
I get anxious with coffee.
Are you into hookah?
No, not really. I don’t smoke. My vice is booze. A nice, social amount.
Who do you keep around you in your circle?
Coming back, it’s my boys. I’m not trying to switch up on my day ones. That Drake bar, “I rather give that ten percent to people I fuck with.”
When did you first meet Bill?
I met Bill for the first time in Mayfair, London this summer.
Have you met rappers?
I met Tyler, the Creator outside the GOLF store at 10 PM. I was like, what the fuck? I was fully fan-zoning. I asked him for a photo in 2018. I wasn’t recording like that. He said “Nah bro but I can give you a hug”. It was sick.
At Camp Flog Gnaw, Kanye walked past me with his orange hair. I said “I love you, Kanye”, and he took off his mask and said, “Thank you”.
I remember being at the club with Drake at Delilah but I couldn’t even get through. I tried to get his attention. I said “Hey Aubrey, what’s up, bro?” and he frowned at me.
Do you get recognized in public?
Every time I go out, kids come up to me. They take pics with me. It’s a full-circle moment in my life. Two nights ago, a kid came up to me and said “Bro, you got me through so much depression.” That shit really matters. If I’m doing that for one person, that’s good enough for me.
How do you feel about New York?
I spent a lot of time. I love New York.
How do you feel about Atlanta?
I’ve not been to Atlanta.
What’s your favorite movie?
“Taxi Driver” because of the score. The score is why I love that movie because of Bernard Herrmann. It’s literally insane.
What are your two cents on fashion?
The biggest icon in fashion is Steve Jobs. Top three humans dead or alive. He made it so he wore the same thing. If you see the turtleneck and glasses? That’s Steve Jobs. Or even Elvis or MJ wearing these iconic outfits over the span of a long time.
What else can we expect from you this year?
You’ll see. I’ve got a couple of big things coming up this year. I don’t wanna take away from my album. The fans have been asking me for it.
Stream it here.