MZ Boom Bap: The Rawness

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Photo courtesy of Ca L Rodrigues

Photo courtesy of Ca L Rodrigues

MZ Boom Bap is a producer from Porto, Portugal. Part of his name (Boom Bap) is indicative of the style he brings forth in his music. MZ’s classic Hip-Hop sound has caught the ears of emcees throughout Europe and America. His music also caught the ears of Awon and Phoniks of Don’t Sleep Records.

MZ’s first official release comes courtesy of Don’t Sleep Records and is entitled “The Rawness EP.” The Rawness EP contains six tracks of Boom Bap’s production with vocal assistance from Awon & Phoniks, Curtis Roach, Philo, Ryler Smith, Nemesyzz Rigby, and MC Shinobi.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to MZ Boom Bap about the Portuguese Hip-Hop scene, why he prefers working with new artists over established artists, and about his new EP, The Rawness.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new EP, The Rawness.

MZ Boom Bap: I chose that title because I try to use old machines like the Akai s950, the Ensoniq EPS-16, and the MPC 2000 – old dirty stuff – 12 bit machines. I try to make it sound like it did in the early 90s. I chose that title because of that and also because I like my sound not clean. I like my sound dirty and I tried to put noise on this EP.

TRHH: Did you always use those old machines?

MZ Boom Bap: Yes, always. I never use software. I use only machines. I never liked software and computers. I’m not good at computers. I’m bad with computers and for me the process of creating is better with machines.

TRHH: What does the “MZ” in your name stand for?

MZ Boom Bap: It stands for “mistake” but with a Z. In my country my name is Jose [JO-ZAY], but people call me “Ze” [ZAY]. I put the Z in the middle. Many people think I’m a girl.

TRHH: I did. I thought you were a girl. I don’t know if it’s an American thing but here we’re used to seeing “Mz” as “Ms.”

MZ Boom Bap: That’s true. Many people before knowing me thought I was a woman and call me “sis” and all that. In my country we don’t have that meaning. In your country you’d call me “Ze” [ZEE].

TRHH: Right. In America and maybe in other places too your name would be pronounced Jose [HO-ZAY].

MZ Boom Bap: Yes, because you have that Spanish word. Portuguese and Spanish are very similar languages. Only talking you can feel the difference.

TRHH: I have a friend from Brazil who is in America now and she’s taught me some Portuguese words…

MZ Boom Bap: It’s the same language. We write the same way and all that because Portugal discovered Brazil. It’s an old colony.

TRHH: Yeah, I know. That’s a long story [laughs].

MZ Boom Bap: I don’t know if it’s true or not [laughs].

TRHH: No, no. It’s true. They definitely took it over. A lot of people think America was the biggest home of the slave trade but it was actually Brazil.

MZ Boom Bap: That’s true and I can tell you why, Portugal had a lot of colonies in Africa. The middle of Africa was from Portugal like Angola, Mozambique, Guinea, and Cape Verde. All those countries before ’75 were Portuguese colonies, that’s why the slaves go to Brazil because we put them there. We had many countries in the world. Many people don’t know that because we are very small, but we had a lot of colonies around the world. India was a Portuguese colony, and Macau, China, a lot of countries.

TRHH: How’d you link up with Awon and Phoniks of Don’t Sleep Records?

MZ Boom Bap: Look, Phoniks was following me a long time on Soundcloud. First he started to repost my music on his channel then later we met by internet. The guy that was more interested in my work was Awon. He contacted me because he knew that I was making this project and he asked if I could show him the project that I was making. I tried to make this project without spending any money. At the beginning this project was to be free on the internet. What I did was find some young dudes to make the rhymes – all youngsters. I have people on the tracks that are 16 years old. I did research on Soundcloud and I tried to work with the little dudes. I had an opportunity to work with known rappers in the underground scene in the U.S., but I preferred to work with young kids on this project.

TRHH: Why did you prefer to work with young kids?

MZ Boom Bap: Because I think it’s easier to talk with them because of egos. I think when we work with someone that is already known they look at us like, “Okay, you are a new guy, I’m going to do what I want with your music,” It won’t be easy for me to say, “I don’t like that rhyme,” or “I don’t like that verse.” I think with youngsters I have the opportunity to make the project together and say what I feel about the tracks they did.

TRHH: How long have you been making beats?

MZ Boom Bap: I’ve been making beats like ten years. I stopped at six years because I was a rapper in a big, big crew here in Portugal. I was only focused on that at that time. I decided to go out of it because in Portugal we don’t have a Hip-Hop market. It isn’t easy to make music here. I decided to start making beats and the music I like alone. I’m living now in a small, small city. I go out from the big cities to be only focused on my music.

TRHH: How did you get into Hip-Hop?

MZ Boom Bap: I started hearing French rap. It’s the first contact that I had with Hip-Hop because my family was immigrated in France since the 70s. I started hearing NTM, IAM, and all that old school. Then I started having the first contact with Portuguese rappers and then I started to rhyme first. At that time I don’t have microphone to rap and all that. I downloaded Fruity Loops and started making some beats. I liked it a lot and never stopped making beats.

TRHH: So you started with Fruity Loops and now you use all of these older machines?

MZ Boom Bap: Yes, many years with Fruity Loops. I think I was with Fruity Loops like six years.

TRHH: And you didn’t like it?

MZ Boom Bap: I like it but it was not the way I wanted to make music. Imagine here in Portugal we don’t have access to all those old machines. No one has it. I think I’m the only guy in Portugal that has the Akai S950. No one has the Ensoniq EPS-16 here. No one knows that machine. The first machine that I had was the MPC 1000. Then I started making beats and selling them and I bought all the machines that I have now – selling beats on Soundcloud. I made beats for people all around the world, Australia, Africa, America, Europe. It was very good to me because I’m having a lot of support from all those countries. When I sell a beat to someone I like to keep them as a friend. If you follow me on Facebook you can see all of the people that go to my page and comment I always reply.

TRHH: What’s your take on the current keyboard influenced sound in mainstream Hip-Hop?

MZ Boom Bap: I respect the mainstream a lot. My music is old school but I can understand that some artists need to make an evolution. You don’t need to do the same thing your whole career. I think it’s frustrating that for 10-20 years you’re doing the same music. I respect all kinds of music. I’m not that old school guy that doesn’t like anything. I don’t like trap music, but I respect it. I don’t have any problem with that. I think it’s wrong when people say, “Trap is shit,” I don’t think that. It’s an evolution. If you ask me if I like some dudes and the clothes they use, no, I don’t like. They look like girls. But I respect their music. I’m not that kind of guy. If they’re playing it in the club I won’t go home.

TRHH: What’s the Hip-Hop scene in Portugal like?

MZ Boom Bap: I can’t explain it very well because you live in a different reality. It’s a very small scene. You have a market for maybe 3 or 4 guys, but don’t expect to make millions. A concert for a big guy here is like 2000. We don’t sell CD’s, we don’t have vinyl — we don’t have nothing. People only earn money from live shows.

TRHH: It’s the same way in America [laughs].

MZ Boom Bap: Yeah, but in America you have big labels, we don’t have that here. No one pays for beats and all that here. I already produced for the big guys here and I don’t even mention that on my portfolio.

TRHH: Why not?

MZ Boom Bap: Because it’s not interesting to me. I don’t want to be in this market. People don’t like my music here. They don’t know nothing about Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop here is like the young kids brought in after 2000. They don’t understand the music I do. They say, “Oh you use the machines with floppy disks, why use that when you can make beats in the computer?” I can tell you with this record I’ve already sold like 60 vinyl’s for Portugal in the last two days. I’m happy with that.

TRHH: Would you ever consider leaving Portugal?

MZ Boom Bap: No. To be honest I think I can do my music here. The way I work I can work here and be worldwide. But, who knows? In the future, maybe. For now I don’t think that. I think I might move to a big city here like Lisbon.

TRHH: What’s your favorite song on The Rawness?

MZ Boom Bap: I like them all because they’re all so different. The track with MC Shinobi is the most different track on the album because that shit sounds like ’94. They’re all different tracks. I can’t say that I like one more. I think the track that people like most is the one with Curtis Roach – the kid who is 16 years old.

TRHH: How’d you find Curtis Roach?

MZ Boom Bap: I found him on Soundcloud. When I had that beat I said, “Man, I’d like to have a dude rhyming like Q-Tip on this,” and the kids had the same type of voice. It’s because he’s a kid. His voice is going to change in the future.

TRHH: You said you don’t want to work with any famous emcees….

MZ Boom Bap: It’s not that I don’t want. I want. I’m not making a big deal to work with big ones. I’m happy with what I’m doing now. I think I can keep working with kids and do a good job with them.

TRHH: If you had to pick one emcee to work with who would it be?

MZ Boom Bap: Maybe anyone from Onyx.

TRHH: Anybody from Onyx?

MZ Boom Bap: Yeah.

TRHH: Really?

MZ Boom Bap: I love Onyx, bro. Let me explain why I love Onyx, to me they are the real definition of gangsta rap. The first time I saw the DVD of Onyx’s tour I said, “This is crazy.” I thought that shit was unreal. I think they made a revolution in rap. They made the hard street part. Their faces are the definition of their music. They are scary, man. I was with them in Portugal last year, they are scary dudes.

TRHH: Well, they’re actors now.

MZ Boom Bap: They’re still scary [laughs]. Sticky is a big guy with a crazy face. I never saw that dude smiling.

TRHH: They get overlooked. There was a time when the west coast dominated rap and the east coast came back. When people talk about the east coast coming back they mention Biggie, Wu-Tang, Nas, and Mobb Deep, but they never mentioned Onyx. Onyx was the first big group that brought the east coast back.

MZ Boom Bap: I think that’s a mistake. I’ve never seen any group that does a live show like them in rap history. You talk about Mobb Deep, but I think their concert is very boring. On the CD you think it’s the real shit but you go to a show and they are so boring. It’s boring to see them on the stage. When you see Onyx, if you don’t move the dudes look to you like, “Hey man, if you are not moving go away.”

TRHH: Well they were tutored by Run-DMC who was amazing on stage. It’s a little bit of a different era between Onyx and Mobb Deep – maybe a year or two.

MZ Boom Bap: One day I will show you a group from France that doesn’t exist now called Saian Supa Crew. Their live shows were crazy. They had beat boxers, break dancers, all of that shit on stage. I like that. I like Onyx’s live show. I think the definition of gangsta rap is a little distorted. I think the real gangsta music is Onyx. In Europe they have a legion of fans. If you go to Poland or Russia and ask what group they love and they’re going to say Onyx. In those countries you have real hard people – crazy people. They are tough. They like to go out and fight. Onyx is the number one group there. I think they spend more time in Europe than the USA. They’re working with dudes from Germany called Snowgoons. I don’t like their music. It sounds to me like Jedi Mind Tricks. I don’t like that type of music.

TRHH: What’s next up for MZ Boom Bap?

MZ Boom Bap: I’m working on an album. I’m hoping to have it done in February and try to find a label to release it for the summer. I already have 7 tracks. I work 24 hours a day on this, bro. I need to work ten times more than people in America because I need to show that I’m working. I put videos on my page with beats and I’m making live beats and all that. That’s my method, you know?

Purchase: MZ Boom Bap – The Rawness EP

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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