"Don't be afraid to do what's different"
By Sam Liddicott
17:00 31st July, 2014.
The mixtape Science X Soul is released on 21st August, 2014.
RKZ's music is available to purchase at:
Renowned for his philanthropy, humanity (multi-talented abilities) and stunning music; RKZ is one of this country's busiest talents. Still Oceans is a tantalising glimpse into (the forthcoming) Science X Soul: a record that will distinguish the Bedfordshire-born Rikesh Nitin Chauhan as one of the most vibrant names on the scene. I ask the 24-year-old about his influences; how music helps vulnerable adults in society; what drives his process- plus any advice he would offer up-and-coming musicians.
IT is rare to meet anyone in music that has such an...
entrepreneurial and humanitarian approach. Aside from names like will.i.am- who seems to be financially-driven and technologically-focused- few modern-day musicians take the time to consider others- the focus is on their own worth and ambitions. I guess it is hard to balance that sort of work ethic: make sure your mind is committed to your passion; allowing some room for charity and unselfishness- whilst making sure you do not burn out. I am always impressed when someone comes along; able to negate the pitfalls (of this balancing act); ensuring they dedicate as much attention to others- as they do to their own craft. It is a well-heralded belief that musicians do not give enough to the public- too much attention is on commercialism and financial gain. This is true of a lot of mainstream acts: those who have their heart in the right place ensure rigid focus is placed on benevolence and community. Recently, I was introduced to a rather special and tremendous talent: the vibrant and compelling RKZ. Before I pay tribute to one of the U.K.'s most special artists, let me shed some biographical light:
"RKZ (pronounced ‘Ricks’) is a singer-songwriter, rapper and Spoken Word artist from Luton, England. He began his career in 2009 as a rapper before gradually developing his skills as a singer, Spoken Word poet and writer. His musical style is considered a fusion of alternative R&B, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop. Aged 24, RKZ has already released several singles, four mixtapes and three EPs to date with a fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, scheduled to release in 2014. He has been playlisted on radio stations including BBC (Radio 1, 1Xtra, 3 Counties, Radio 4, 6 Music and Asian Network), KISS and Bang Radio, and has performed nationwide - from acoustic venues such as The Water Rats and Hoxton Bar & Grill to festivals including T In The Park, Reading, Leeds and BBC London Mela. He is currently preparing the release of his fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, and debut LP, Wanderlust. In 2012, RKZ was announced as Ambassador for CALM. The charity aims to reduce the suicide rate with young men in the UK, particularly London. Suicide catalysed by depression and stress is the single biggest killer of young men aged 15 to 35 in the UK. RKZ is a prominent writer and regularly contributes to CALM's website and monthly CALMzine, where he touches on topics including depression, society and youth culture. He has self-published an online series called #MotivationalProse, which is dedicated to instilling a positive mentality and outlook in the youth of today. He also contributed to Hip-Hop blog, Sampleface, as a music reviewer before becoming the Head of UK Content in 2014. RKZ - who is slowly becoming a jack of all trades - has directed all of his music videos since 2011. He has gone on to direct music videos for artists including Cashtastic, Skott Summerz, Preeya Kalidas and more. He also produced video content for emerging arts talent platform, Be Discovered, which featured artists including Shakka, Little Simz, Tawiah, Chasing Grace, Jasmine Solano, MeLo-X, Little Nikki and more."
Few other acts are as busy and driven as RKZ- it seems he is immune to fatigue and self-absorption. Committed to charitable avenues (and the importance of good mental health), he is the ambassador and figurehead of a new wave of musicians: those that take the time to help struggling and vulnerable. RKZ does not make music a catalyst for his charity work- or vice versa. The two work with each other but do not encroach- RKZ has as much passion and conviction for both disparate realms. As warm and caring as the young artist is, his music is among the most electric and potent in this country. Having been recording since the age of 17, he set up the record label DAS Records: he left the label is 2009, before embarking on the first of his series of mixtapes- a classic series that shows the full extent of his ambition and experimentation. Already having released four mixtapes- and a series of E.P.s- the Luton-born rapper has no sense of slowing or relenting- his album Wunderlust is released shortly; in addition to his mixtape Science X Soul. Following a prestigious spot at last year's Reading and Leeds Festival (on the BBC Introducing stage), the momentum has been building- this year, the assiduous artist has been as busy and creative as ever. In addition to his loyal charity work, RKZ cares about his fans and listeners: his official website is the most detailed and informative I have ever seen. Ensuring new eyes and ears do not miss out, RKZ has a distinct and unquestionable love for music- something that has compelled me to find out more. As the video for Still Oceans is released- Science X Soul and Wunderlust are imminent- I was keen to find out who influences the 24-year-old; what his plans for the future are- how important poetry and lyrics are (to the development of his music)...
You are renowned for your fusions of various genres - built around a Rap core. Do you think that cross-pollination is the key to a richer and more fascinating sound?
Art doesn't have boundaries, it continuously evolves. I've always lived trying to learn and experience new things - quite often that takes shape through different styles of music. I don't start creating with the intention of emulating a certain sound, I just do what I feel works best. What sounds good, and what feels good. For me the key to a richer and fascinating sound comes from being your truest self and losing all constraints.
What do you think of current music - in terms of quality and innovation?
There's so much scope for experimentation, for inspiration. A lot of things are happening in the world right now that have inspired people to raise their voices. The best art has always been the product of (usually) politicial-driven triggers. You begin to see a lot of rappers speak more consciously, producers are going back to their roots, writers and composers are able to bring attention to things we wouldn't necessarily be exposed to. And in similar vein, it's bringing out incredible records that preach positivity and make people want to get up and move. Music is great right now - it never stopped being great - it's just down to where you've been looking.
Are there particular artists - on the modern scene- that you are impressed by?
Of course. I'm always first to praise the likes of Jhené [Aiko] and Kendrick [Lamar]. They've been my favourite musicians for a minute. Their sound is so undeniably fresh, and that struck a nerve with me. I've also been listening to a lot of Jordan Rakei, Common, Ariana Grande, ScHoolBoy Q, and I'm getting into Snarky Puppy. In the UK artists like Daley, Ego Ella May, Little Simz, Shakka, Shawn Sanderson, Wretch, Tawiah, Eric Lau… the list is endless, man.
Your fifth mixtape - Science X Soul - is released shortly. For those new to your work: what can you tell us about its content?
It's an amalgamation of R&B, spoken word, rap, groove and a lot of awesomely subtle BVs! I've enlisted some incredibly talented producers and collaborators in the likes of Gifted The Great, Shawn Sanderson, Raxstar, TINYMAN, Kaly, Handbook and more! I keep my music conscious - everything needs to have a strong moral or purpose behind it. I love records with good groove and warmth so I always try to intertwine all of those elements where possible.
Still Oceans (RKZ's latest single) is gaining praise for its chilled and seductive sound - who are your main and most important influences?
The record was inspired by an acoustic version of In LOVE We Trust by Jhené Aiko. I've sampled her on my last two mixtapes (Stranger on 21 and Jhené's Song in Words of Adrenaline) so it was only right to keep that going. Generally - I'm influenced by the things I see around me and experiences people go through. I like to position myself in their shoes and write about how they feel, if it's something I've not personally been through. I'm told I'm quite good at doing that.
Your debut L.P. - Wanderlust - is forthcoming. What is that album going to offer; how will it differ from your mixtapes' sounds?
It’s not as raw as the mixtape. It’s very intricately arranged – vocal heavy as opposed to rap led - melancholic, sultry and honest. I love making music you can sit and chill to, something that takes the listeners away into their own world. With R&B and Soul the music alone can speak volumes, so having the entirety of the album produced in that way really allows me to be in my element.. creatively, lyrically.
Many modern artists overlook the importance of great lyrics and words. How important are lyrics and poetry in the development of your identity?
I'm a writer, so they're THE essential element for myself and my art. I've never really been able to express myself as well as I do with music, poetry and spoken word. It's gives me a canvas to build a story on and allows me to paint a picture for everyone else to absorb. I don't necessarily think it's overlooked but it depends on the kind of artist you are. A lot of what we see in the mainstream is the product of a business. They create what's trending and make music that doesn't really provoke. This isn't to say that it's not a skill - making pop music is very, very difficult to do. Rather poets, writers, and musicians that want to share their collective thoughts, ideals and stories, favour lyrics as the primary and tie music AROUND that.
Do you think that social media - and the rise of the digital age - is helping or hindering new acts?
If it hinders you, you're not doing it right. Social Media is a fantastic tool that's revolutionised music promotion and the DIY attitude. Of course the flip side is you're exposed to a lot of 'spam artists' that send generic tweets to a million people, but no one pays attention to that shit. And yes, the digital revolution did change the face of the music industry but we need to accept that and find ways to utilise the situation at hand. Social Media is the first place I hear about new releases, videos, etc. Everything is moving over to digital - if you're not with it, you're falling behind.
In addition to music, you are an Ambassador for C.A.L.M. (a charity that aims to reduce suicide rates of young men in the U.K.) - how important and crucial is that work to you?
It's important to put good energy into the world. CALM is a fantastic cause that aims to help men tackle their demons and destroy the stigma surrounding depression. It's played a massive part in my development as an artist, a person, a human being. They've helped a lot of people through tough personal situations, and every other day I get someone new wanting to know more about them. It's so important to get people talking about their feelings and make people more aware about mental health.
Having worked with a lot of depressed and vulnerable young adults; how important a role does music play in their life? Is there a way the music industry can help those affected (by mental illness)?
It transcends beyond music. ART overall is such a massive part because it gives people that aren't great with their words an outlet. They can express through that, in surroundings that are more comfortable to them. CALM actively works through the arts across London to reach the younger audience from working with musicians like myself, to graffiti artists to maintaining presence at festivals, street parties and general events. Just check out their website and you'll know exactly what I mean.
In regards to the music industry, Soul Culture took a massive positive step forward with the launch of their blog focused on depression and mental health - OK Not To Be OK. It's a case of opening up and putting shit out on the table. When we talk, we're empowering ourselves, and that needs to happen more because I know there are some phenomenal stories out there. Slowly but surely we're making headway.
In terms of plans for the next year- what is forthcoming?
That very much depends on how this year pans out! I've got two singles following this mixtape, as well as the LP. Ask me in December and I'll be able to give you a better answer, ha.
What would be your advice for any young and eager musicians coming through?
Don't be afraid to do what's different.
It is clear that RKZ is a young artist with a great deal of heart. Committed to raising awareness- of vulnerable and mentally ill adults- his hard-working drive should inspire many other new musicians- enforce and compel a new way of thinking. In addition to continuing his role as a C.A.L.M. ambassador, Chauhan is making sure that his music reaches as many people as possible. It is clear that music has the power to lift and soothe the mind: people who suffer mental illness- such as myself- find redemption and inspiration in music- it gives the affected something to find comfort in. I have been listening back- at RKZ's body of work- and seeing the progress and development (he has made). Seemingly more fervent, hungry and striking- with each release- he is one of this country's most important and prominent musicians. His compelling blend of Rap, Spoken Word and Hip-Hop influences creates unique and wonderful music- draped around atmospheric and direct vocal deliveries. If you haven't heard of RKZ- and his majestic blends- then make sure you make it a top priority. Few understand the importance music plays in helping troubled minds- reaching out to the most susceptible and vulnerable. Ensure that you absorb the music and magic of RKZ and his fascinating back-story- where has come from- and just what is to come...
FEW other artists would appreciate it more.
Special thanks to Tracey Hills of Brick London Ltd.
RKZ's music is available to stream at:
Events and gig dates available via:
RKZ's video can be viewed here:
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