Ikaz Boi Opens the Doors of his Cosmos
Rocking the West Coast rap scene, IKAZ BOI first took interest in music production at 15 years old, stimulated by the discovery of the eJay Groove software that he was introduced to by one of his friends in his hometown of La Roche-sur-Yon. "I was young, but I already had an ear for decoding sounds, sampling, cutting melodies ...," he reveals. "I already knew that I was going to spend a lot of years doing this because it came to me as a revelation." Ten years later, IKAZ BOI has become one of today's most watched French producers. Signed to Bromance Records in 2016 alongside his partner Myth Sizer, it is IKAZ BOI whom we owe our respects to for the sounds of the impressive "Vision" by Joke, and the entirety of Damso's, Ipséité. But his work can not be recognized solely for his contributions within France. Recently, the young artist also produced for the likes of Chance the Rapper, Derek Wise, as well as Leather Corduroy and Vic Mensa.
Despite the stress of preparing to release a new project and creating a new mixtape, IKAZ BOI took a moment to discuss his budding ascension in the music world, dreams for the future, and passion for R&B so that we could get a better understanding of his eclectic music style.
I would define my music as a music of instinct.
To better understand your music, I would like to take it back a few years. What were you listening to when you were young?
Around 12 years old, I listened to a lot of West Coast rap: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg ... The first album that comes to mind is Dr. Dre's 2001. Even today, I think it's a perfect album. A little later, I began to discover a lot of other American rap artists via RAP MAG magazine: Slum Village, Jay Dilla, MF Doom, 50 Cent ... all of these artists influenced me.
You have often been associated with the world of hip-hop, especially trap. But in your own terms, how would you define your music?
I would define my music as a music of instinct; it's not calculated to be in a specific box. What inspires me is life, people around me. It goes far beyond the music itself. I find it a shame to categorize it as "trap" because for me it's more connected to the larger genre of hip-hop. I think that you can automatically sense several influences, though, when listening to my music.
Who are the artists who inspire you at the moment?
I would like to name just one example, because he's a giant influence for me: Sampha. Apart from his music, which inspires me a lot, we also have a common point in life: we both lost a very dear one in our lives. Him, his mother. Me, my father in 2012. It was tough for me emotionally, which influenced my music.
Today, I think we are all a little depressed in our lost hours, and when I listened to his last album, Process, his words immediately touched me. His music is deep, and sincere. And for me, it's one of the most incredible bodies of music in the world. And then, when you take into account the details of his music, you realize that this guy is super talented. There is a lot of intricacy and emotions involved that really sets it apart.
I am glad that he is becoming more popularly known, that people recognize his talent, and that they encourage that style of music. Recently, he has released a mini-film with Kahlil Joseph presenting his album with remarkable imagery, all in tribute to his mother. His work really touches me, I'm one of his biggest fans! Well, maybe I could have mentioned R. Kelly as well...
— Sampha (@sampha) March 31, 2017
On your prod, there is always a very planing atmosphere, sometimes melancholic, even dark ... What do you think about when you produce?
When I produce, I'm somewhere else. It's the only time I get a taste of reality. It's indescribable but my brain is always one step ahead of what I plan to produce. It may sound strange, I know, but it seems that everything is pre-recorded in my head, that I only have to re-transcribe what my brain dictates to me.
Could you tell me about your meeting with Myth Syzer, whom we've seen you with a lot in the recent months?
We have been friends for about ten years now. We both grew up in the same small town, La Roche-sur-Yon, and were both part of the same friend group. We started music around the same time. As a result, we grew up helping each other and sometimes even competing with each other [laughs], but always with the aim of improving. We shared many things in life apart from music, and having a friend like that in this environment is worth gold!
When I produce, I am somewhere else.
Together, you first released the track, "Funeral," in 2014, then the EP, "Cerebral," nine months ago. What made you decide to work together on this project?
We didn't really plan it because most times when we meet up, we don't even make music. At the time "Funeral" was made, we were both in La Roche-sur-Yon for a family holiday making tracks. We thought the sound was unique, so we figured we'd put it on SoundCloud, and that was it really. For the EP, it became evident that we would be working together often following our respective signatures at Bromance in 2016. Since we already knew each other and we always said we were going to do a joint project, it was the ideal time. An team like that, a project between friends with beautiful visuals ... it spoke to us right away!
You have collaborated with many French-speaking rappers, including Hamza, Joke and Damso. What attracts you to these artists (who also have taken inspiration from the U.S. rap scene ...)?
Exactly, you said it all! They are artists I have a lot in common with. We all love American rap and it inspires us a lot. With that being said, I am particular with who I work with because I need a genuine feeling to create something memorable and that I can be proud of. The chemistry in a studio is productive when the artist you're working with is on the same page as you.
Damso and Hamza bring a new wave of freshness to French rap.
The Belgian rap game is currently booming. What do you think of this scene?
Indeed, Damso and Hamza bring back a new wave of freshness to French rap. I really think that these two artists can go so far, they really have their own style to them.
Your beat-making talents have also crossed the Atlantic. After having worked with Chance the Rapper and Derek Wise, you recently graced "Have U Eva" by Leather Corduroy and Vic Mensa, by producing alongside your sidekick, Myth Syzer. What does it mean for you to be able to touch a different culture (like the US rap scene), with which you grew up listening to?
It's like a dream come true! When you are younger, you think that it is so out of reach, but with hard work, perseverance and a lot of patience, it truly is possible! In 2012, I started producing for a Chicago collective called SAVEMONEY, who were also close to Chance. At the time, they were not well-known. They followed me on Twitter and vice versa, and I ended up doing a track with Vic Spencer and Vic Mensa. Subsequently, many American artists began to ask me for beats. I proposed a beat to Leather Corduroys that I co-produced with Myth Syzer and they added Vic Mensa as a feature. They played the track in 2015 at Coachella. It's really cool to hear popular U.S. rappers on your own beats!
Three years ago, I decided to go to Toronto because I really liked the music they were coming out with at the time. There, I met Derek Wise, a rapper I work with often. Having worked with him allowed me to access other artists like Wondagurl. She is a really cool and talented artist, and we naturally started to work together. Recently, whenever I visit Los Angeles, I make a trip to the studio to work with her, and each time has always been a great experience.
I feel that producers, who have long remained in the shadow of rappers, are (finally) being highlighted. Do you share this opinion?
I have the impression that in France, it is not yet the case ... You are constantly obliged to fight to make your name visible in the production credits on Youtube or other platforms. In the United States, I'm not so sure, but I think that as long as you aren't Metro Boomin, they will not automatically put you in the limelight. The only way to get ahead is to release projects or solo tracks, and that's what producers are doing more and more!
I would love to produce R&B
We talked a lot about rap, but I noticed that on your SoundCloud, you remixed several R&B songs from artists including Tinashe ("Days In The West"), and SPZRKT & Sango ("Loneliest Time"). 90's R&B is one of the themes of your mixtape for Unrtd.co. Can we see you producing R&B in the near future?
Honestly, I'm glad you asked this question because it would be even better for me than producing rap [laughs]. I would really like to produce R&B! I have developed a great passion for R&B melodies over the years, and it's what excited me most right now. It's definitely an idea. Maybe I'll be producing more of it in 2017!
Meanwhile, you are about to release a new solo project. Could you describe it in more detail?
It is still being finalized. I've already done a lot of tracks, but still working on a few more. What I can tell you is that it is a project that is very close to my heart with a particular story that is totally different from my previous projects.
When you aren't making music, what are you doing?
I travel and I love it! The feeling of freedom is crazy. Otherwise, I sometimes go to the cinema, but I am often at home, so I binge-watch T.V. series most of the time. I love art too, but I never have time to go to any exhibitions ... Other than that, I try to make the most of life.
What can we wish for in the future?
Just be happy!
Words: Naomi Clément
Photography: Capsulepix, Laurent & Laura Marciano