Exclusives Interviews 27 February 2023

GRM Exclusive: BZ Explores His Ghanaian Roots, Authenticity & Creating Music That Makes You Feel Something

27 February 2023

The most powerful music is the music that makes you feel something, and for rising rapper BZ, this is the deep inspiration behind his art. From a very young age, he had his sights set on conquering the music industry, and with his hit 2022 single, “2 G’s” being featured on Top Boy and racking up millions of streams, alongside a range of impressive releases and freestyles, BZ is on the right path. It is not only his talent, but his authenticity that sets him apart: he is fiercely committed to staying true to who he is and telling his story. BZ was born in Camberwell and raised in Croydon, but this South London rhymer wears his Ghanaian heritage with pride, allowing his roots to shine through in the curation of his music. Fusing Afrobeats with UK urban sounds, he has found his lane in a way that represents the tapestry of his background. 

BZ has hit the ground running this year, with his first release of 2023, “Get Paid” delivering impactful lyrics and a cinematic video set in Ghana. The inspiration for “Get Paid” came to BZ after hearing the beat during a studio session. “The sample reminded me of those Western films, a bit like The Harder They Fall I was imagining the video, I always think about the imagery from the start, I usually picture what I want the end-product to look like.” BZ envisioned a Wild West themed music video as he composed lyrics based on that euphoric payday feeling. “I always feel a lot happier when there’s money in my bank account and I know a lot of other people do too. On payday, all of a sudden the rice and stew at home doesn’t taste as good… you want to go out to restaurants and celebrate and say, “drinks on me!” That’s the feeling I wanted to invoke.”

But on a deeper level, the lyrics and visuals speak to an even more meaningful aspiration that motivates him. The whole concept of ‘getting paid’ expands beyond that payday-feeling: BZ aspires to build his wealth so that he can fulfil his dreams of giving back to his Ghanaian community. “I thought that recreating a Western video in Ghana would allow it to really hit home and give me the opportunity to connect with the community. Everyone in the video, all of the actors and stuff, they’re all from the Ghanian community. That was important for me, in learning and understanding more about my culture.” With vivid scenes of BZ on horseback and walking the streets of the local village, the rapper plays the role of the “African Robin Hood”, a valiant outlaw returning home to give back to his people. 

“What we tried to portray with the visuals was me getting all of this money but feeding it back into the community where I’m from… It speaks to what I want to do with my music. I want to be able to get to a point where I can give back. I didn’t come from the best of means, growing up wasn’t easy, but eventually I want to give back for good reasons… My Dad is from a place called Dogo, Ada, which is by the river. It’s not the richest area but it’s rich in its beauty… And before she passed, my grandma had a school in Ghana – it was one of the first schools to give children free education in the area that she was from. Looking into things like that and tapping back into the community and the culture, that’s important to me.”

This deep appreciation for his family and heritage imbues “Get Paid” with added significance. BZ wants to show the world where he is from and hopes that his music can give people an insight into his identity. “You may not come from my walk of life, but I want you to at least understand me… I want you to be able to walk in my shoes for three minutes, or however long each song lasts.” He is keen to tell his story through his music and aspires to continue doing so in his upcoming project, which he plans to release later this year.  

“For me, I want the project to be a blend of my African roots with the urban UK sound… The delivery and production of my tracks is all African-influenced, and that’s based on the fact that my parents are African. They still bring a lot of the culture, the smells, the foods and the sounds into our home. For me personally, that’s why I gravitate towards African-influenced production… So as soon as [“Get Paid”] was done, I knew I wanted to shoot the video in Ghana. It allowed the project, the imagery, the vision and who I am to come together and make sense.”

And in the same way that he remains committed to sharing who he is, BZ hopes that his listeners are inspired to do the same when they engage with his art:

“I want them to think, “BZ has made it possible for me to be completely open and transparent about my upbringing and the sounds of my upbringing and to be pure in doing that”. Wherever you’re from, whatever you’re doing, you have a story and your story can be heard if you stick to your truth and don’t divert from it.”

But above all else, BZ aspires for his music to invoke feeling within his listeners. When asked about what message he wants to share through his music, he replies: “It’s less of a message and more of a feeling. For me, music is more of a spiritual thing. It’s a feeling, it’s a vibe.” This aspiration to inspire emotion within those who listen to his music can be traced back to his upbringing. Having grown up in the church, he became accustomed to being moved by music. “All the music I heard at church was spiritual and it made me feel things. I wanted to replicate that feeling. I wanted to be able to perform and deliver songs that made people feel things too.” And on the topic of his upbringing, when asked how it influences his music, he is clear on that: “My upbringing is my music. The way that I deliver things, and everything I say is all because of how I was brought up.”

BZ fondly remembers being an outgoing youngster in his primary school days (“I was very loud, I was the class clown”) but things changed when he moved into secondary school. “I transformed into having a bit more grit. It was about more than just being the loudest in the room… I started doing the wrong things instead of the right things, a typical South London story. But I always had that element of staying rooted. I was always true to my faith and my upbringing, and that helped to shape who I am.” BZ’s past experiences have culminated to mould his creative output. “The lyrics and my delivery, that grit, the content of what I’m saying, it’s all based on my experiences and where I’m from. It’s based on ways that I had to be, ways that I had to talk and carry myself because of where I grew up.”

And when it comes to his art, BZ’s childhood and adolescence were defined by his creative aspirations. He was surrounded by musicians from a young age and further channelled his artistic tendencies as he progressed through school. He always knew that he wanted to work in the music industry and was determined to cultivate his various talents until he saw results. 

“I was always trying to find my way to music… A lot of people in my family were around music. My cousin started a gospel band when I was really young. I remember seeing them and thinking, “I want to do something like this”. So in primary school, I joined the gospel choir even though I couldn’t sing. I joined because I just wanted to do something musical. I tried to learn instruments. And then I used to do spoken word and poetry – I was finding myself writing a lot, and I started performing it as spoken word. But in secondary school… poetry wasn’t cool, it didn’t make sense for my new aura and who I was becoming, so rap felt like the natural next step. Then I remember people making beats in the changing room and doing freestyle challenges with my school friends. And from there, people started saying, “you’re actually really hard, you’re really good at this”. So I thought, “let’s actually make this a thing”. And slowly but surely I got to where I am. See, I always knew I wanted to be in the music industry but I think finding my way there was the difficult part. But I got there in the end.”

And here he is, carving his place in the UK music scene with passion and intention. To reflect upon his journey thus far, we delved into what BZ describes to be the best and worst aspects of working in the music industry.

“The best thing is being able to express yourself, to have a form of authenticity. For me, music is like therapy. When I’m able to step into that zone and be real with myself, I love it… On the flip side, the industry can also try to box you in, in terms of “this is what sells, so we need you to be producing this or go down this avenue”. I think it can trick a lot of people into making music in a certain way, especially as a new artist. It’s something that I struggled with at first – trying to find my feet and find my sound because everything was constantly clouded by what people would want to buy and sell.”

But as time went on, BZ became more empowered to release himself from the external pressures affecting the integrity of his work. “I realised that ultimately, the best artists are the ones who stay true to themselves. In the short term, it may not bear the fruits that you want it to but in the long-term, people will be into it because, again, music is about feeling, and people feel authenticity. They can tell when you’re lying, they can tell when you’re putting something on.” 

And authenticity emanates from BZ’s music, as he continues to evolve. He speaks about music with a deep passion and thoughtful intelligence. His sound is inspired by artists he looks up to, including: Skepta, who inspires his rap delivery; Kendrick Lamar, BZ’s all-time favourite artist and a key influence in his quest to portray deep meaning through his art; Stormzy, who’s come-up story is truly motivational to BZ, especially since they are from the same area; and J Hus, who reflects the kind of sound BZ is trying to create. And when it comes to his dream collaboration, despite it constantly changing, there is one artist on BZ’s mind right now. “I’ve always wanted to work with Robert Glasper. His music makes you feel, automatically. Before an artist even says one lyric, it makes you feel something.”

It is clear that BZ’s artistic visions have been moulded by his great knowledge and love of music, allowing him to embody the role of both master and student of his craft. There is an intentionality in his work; he has a wisdom beyond his years and an unwavering vision that cannot be contained. His authenticity and insightful perspectives confirm that his art is a testament to his character, and his character is a testament to his art. With a mindset like his, BZ’s future will always remain bright.