I was first introduced to Alan Z randomly while surfing my SoundCloud feed two years ago. I can’t recall my initial reaction but I didn’t bother to keep up afterwards for whatever reason. I’m not even sure if I played any of this covers. It wasn’t until he popped up into my twitter circle a few months back that actually took the time to look into him further. I had the opportunity to interview the Fresh Prince of ATL. And here is what he had to say.
1) Introduce Yourself. And how did your name come about?
Alan Z: Sure. My name is Alan Z, that’s my first name and last initial. I’ve had my share of cringe-worthy stage names, so during my senior year in high school, I decided to go with my actual name. Not only to maintain authenticity, but because when I’m on stage, I want fans to scream my actual name, not some made-up nickname that I’m going to find corny by the time I have grandkids. And personally, I just like how “Alan Z” sounds.
2) Given the opportunity, how would you describe your sound to a new listener? And what do you feel sets you apart from your peers?
Alan Z: The best way to describe my sound is urban pop mixed with trap soul. Because I sing and rap, the music I make is Hip-hop, R&B, and Pop all in one. When I release my projects, you’ll see how free-flowing the songs will be sonically: I’ll give you the top 40, commercial-sounding pop singles, but I’ll hit you with the trap-influenced bangers and lyrical anthems to remind you that even though I’m a hitmaker, I am an MC by nature. My versatility sets me apart. Aside from Childish Gambino (and of course Lauryn Hill), there is no one out that can rap as well as they can sing like I can, I’ve mastered the art of both.
3) Who and/or what are some of your artistic influences?
Alan Z: Eminem, Michael Jackson, Usher, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Royce da 5’9”, DEAN, The Weeknd, Tonedeff, Big Pun, Big L, 2Pac, Nas, TI, Chino XL, Dumbfoundead…I could go on. Speaking of Dumbfoundead, I’m also very influenced by modern-day battle rap, and I’m really grateful that I’ve became friends with a lot of my heroes in battle rap: Ness Lee, Sonny Bamboo, Drect, just to name a few. While pop and R&B artists like Bruno Mars and Chris Brown taught me how to craft catchy hits, battle rappers sharpened my mind and turned me into a trained assassin on the microphone. My competitive nature comes from studying the greats who worked to attain their legendary status. And I’m coming for mine.
4) What’s your music making process like now? And how has it changed over time?
Alan Z: I usually let the beat dictate the direction that I’m going to take the song. I think of a theme and concept first, and once I find that, I work on the chorus. After I nail the hook and get something that I know will have people singing along, I go ham on the verses. This creative process remained pretty consistent throughout the years. I actually learned this from Eminem. He talked about how he came up with songs this way in his memoir “Angry Blonde”, and when I read that as a 10-year-old child, it stuck with me.
5) Taking your catalog into consideration, what do you feel is your best song to date? And why
Alan Z: I don’t think that’s up to me to decide; that’s going to be for the fans to pick once I release my original singles. It’s too early in my career for me to pick a favorite of mine. However, if I could talk about one of them, I’d say “Distance”, which is a single I will be releasing sometime before the end of the year. It’s an extremely personal song about toxic relationships and based on the true story of me and my ex. Not only that, but I sang as much as I rapped on the track, so I’m very proud of how it turned out. Oh, and the music video is cinematic AF.
6) Can you describe the time when you first realized music was what you wanted to pursue?
Alan Z: I think I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer. But the thought of seriously pursuing music happened when I was 12. That’s when I started rapping with a childhood friend of mine named Evan Prescott. I’ve always loved hip-hop, and I just loved the power that artists had when they hit the stage. Later on when I was 15, I started singing and then everything became full circle: I knew I could be a force to be reckoned with. I thought to myself, how cool would it be if I made a living off doing what I love, and be able to share my art with the masses?
7) What does “being creative” mean to you? What are you trying to communicate through your music?
Alan Z: Being creative means digging into the depths of my tortured soul and painting a vivid picture of my twisted thought process. It’s the ability to move people, to inspire people, and to shock people with artistic expression. Basically with my music, I want to take you into my world and show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I do it for the underdogs, the underappreciated, and the overlooked. My message to my listeners is you can achieve anything you want, no matter your race, class, or gender. If I can make it, so can you.
8) Are you a fan of nerd culture (anime, video games etc)? If so, does it influence your music at all?
Alan Z: Definitely a fan. I’m not sure how much these animes count, but I loved Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z. I say loved as if it’s past tense but I still love them haha. I’m not the biggest video gamer because quite honestly, I’m terrible at video games, other than RPGs and fighting games. My favorite games are Pokemon (I owned Yellow, Silver, and Ruby Red), Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Soul Caliber, Def Jam Vendetta: Fight for NY, NBA Ballers, and Digimon World 3. I definitely reference video games and anime in my lyrics, usually as a form of wordplay in my rap lyrics, so I’d say they’re a source of inspiration.
9) If you could be any character in any fictional platform. Who would it be and why?
Alan Z: Hmm. I’d say Quagmire, especially because he’s the main inspiration behind my musical alter-ego Q, a sex-crazed man-whore who was driven off women the same way Slim Shady was driven off drugs during Eminem’s early days. Before Family Guy started moving away from the Quagmire storyline, I thought he was the most hilarious and relatable character on TV. Everyone has a bit of Quagmire in their nature, but the fact he’s been personified was so cool to me. There has never been a fictional character as openly perverted as Quagmire, and I love it.
10) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Alan Z: There’s been so much great advice given to me throughout the years. But I’d say the best piece of advice I ever received would have to be from my friend Taaj Alon, who’s also my brother from another motherland. He told me, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is already within your grasp, you just have to go out and claim it. You don’t need to rely on anyone or wait for anyone to give you a handout. You’ve gotten this far by your own merit. Think about how much you’ll achieve when you realize your own potential that we already see in you.”
11) What’s next for Alan Z?
Alan Z: I’ll be releasing my music video for my upcoming single with DuJuan Elliott called “Let Me In” soon. It will be out on all digital outlets too for those that want to support and cop it. I also have my next single “Distance” coming up as well. Other than that, I’ll be active and putting in work on social media as always, and I got a few shows lined up for the fall. You can catch me on AfreecaTV for weekly live streams for further updates. The grind never stops. For now, I have videos on YouTube, including my latest music video with Seoulwave called 7 Psycho Cypher where I rap 7 verses on 7 beats with 7 different flows, with each verse alluding to a sin or virtue (depending on the listener’s interpretation)
How can our readers find you?
Alan Z: You can find me on (mostly) all social media platforms:
Savage Native Clothing: http://savagenative.bigcartel.com/
AfreecaTV (Live Stream): Afreeca.TV/AlanZ
Thanks again for the interview! Much love to everyone reading this.