Music can be therapeutic, both for its listener and creator. As human beings we’ve all suffered from heartbreak and sought closure from being in emotional limbo. Chicago rap artist MZM puts all of his cards on the table with a release titled, “Excuse Me, Miss.”
Excuse Me, Miss is an open letter to MZM’s ex-girlfriend. The 8-track EP is produced by Cheff Premier, Custom Made, Nero and Rob Fury and features appearances by Wes Restless, Lynn Solar, and Emanny.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to MZM about his start in Hip-Hop, sharing his heartbreak with the world, the gentrification of Chicago, and his new EP, Excuse Me, Miss.
TRHH: What exactly inspired you to create Excuse Me, Miss?
MZM: It’s a conversation with my most recent ex. We had been through our ups and downs. At one point we were about to get married and the day of she decided not to show up. We ended up breaking up and three months later we got back together for another year. After that year that was pretty much it. It became toxic. There’s a bunch of stuff that happened during that entire time. I was holding it all inside of me and it was changing who I was as a person, which I wasn’t too big of a fan of. I decided to put it out there. That’s the inspiration behind it. It’s a conversation to her; it’s an open letter for anybody to hear. Everything is factual on there. It’s an open book. I had nothing to hide and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has gone through something similar. You know what they say, “Pain shared helps heal pain.” So if other people can hear it and find comfort in their own situation off it my job is done.
For me it’s kind of shutting the door and putting the final nail in the coffin like, “Yo, this is all I got to say to you. I got nothing else to say.” I made sure I was not disrespectful on there. Cursing was at a minimum. I didn’t call her any names or anything. I was like, “You know what, I’m going to be the bigger person here. Let me say what I gotta say, but I don’t need to berate you.” Some of the feedback – one person actually sent me a message that he was with his girl almost a decade. He was on the fence about cheating on her and having an affair. He heard it – track 5 specifically – and my shit stopped him from having an affair. That’s the inspiration behind it. My job is done; even if one person was impacted I did what I had to do.
TRHH: After she left you the first time what made you go back with her?
MZM: You know how there is one person? I mean, everybody falls in and out of love a bunch of times, but there’s one person who becomes their master key — that one person who no matter what somehow they have you under their control and it’s always that one person that just fucks your head – she was mine. There’s always that one person who somehow no matter what, you’ve moved on, it’s 15 years down the road, that person pops up and all of a sudden they bring up all the old emotion that you had and you end up reverting to what you were at that time. That type of person, that’s what she was.
TRHH: Do you know if she heard the album and if so what did she think of it?
MZM: Oh, I sent it to her. I made sure I sent it to her. Her reactions were varied. At first it was a message, “I don’t care about this. I’m not going to live in the past,” yadda, yadda, yadda. Twenty minutes later it was a phone call calling me names, yelling, and raising her voice. Two hours after another text message, “Your rapping is good on here.” Two days after, another message, “What are you doing?” Two days after that a series of mixed calls. That was her reaction.
TRHH: And you haven’t spoken to her since?
MZM: Nah. If I had to compare this project I would say this is Hip-Hop’s Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear.” As far as coming up with the titling and formatting of it I was inspired by that album.
TRHH: This is a drastically different thing for you, how was making this project different from making Downpour?
MZM: One, the subject matter is the same throughout it all and it’s talking about a personal experience. Each song on here has a significant meaning to it, so it’s not just a bunch of rhymes put together. Downpour wasn’t either. Downpour was talking different things from depression, to immigration, to politics. With this one from a verse standpoint it was all for her. Each conversation was for her. Sonically I went a different route. I wanted to try different sounds and also I wanted it to appeal to her. She’s not listening to Mobb Deep, KRS, and Nas and so forth. Trying to go with a more boom bap sound for her was not going to cut it. I didn’t want the message to get missing.
I chose a different soundscape and I’m not going against my own personal grain or selling out or anything, I’m a fan of all music. Some of the newer trap shit and some of the top 40 sounding stuff I’m a fan of. I always wanted to push my boundaries artistically and this was the perfect canvas for me to do it. And also certain rhyme patterns and things that I never did before. I got to experiment. Without ever doing it I think it came out great. It shows as an artist that I’m versatile. Also, the hooks – I never wrote R&B hooks before, this time I did. I got to try my hand at writing hooks and coming up with the harmony and so forth.
TRHH: You mentioned on Downpour that you spoke about immigration, what is your ethnic background? Where is your family originally from?
TRHH: And you were born in America?
MZM: I was born in Chicago.
TRHH: What’s your stance on immigration in general and the Trump administration…
MZM: You heard my stance. If you heard Downpour track number 8 with Ras Kass and Emilio Rojas, I said what I had to say to Trump on that one. That song is called “Politricks.” I’ll be simple, fuck 45. His mother should have swallowed him.
TRHH: [Laughs] Alright then. What inspired the song “Old Chicago”?
MZM: You know what’s funny, on Downpour the first song right after the intro is called “Wrong Era.” I had a bar on there that goes, “I’m stubborn as a mule, bull headed, I’m a survivalist/I’m old Chicago, before they gentrified this bitch.” That was the inspiration for that song. I’m old Chicago. I moved out the city for a bit to a different state. When I came back to Chicago I didn’t recognize it no more. The Chicago that I knew was gone! I remember before you couldn’t walk through Wicker Park. Now it’s nothing but hipsters. You couldn’t go through Humboldt Park if you didn’t know anybody, now there’s Starbucks’ and it’s Humboldt Heights. I grew up in Rogers Park. I was born out west in Garfield Park but ended up moving up north to Albany Park and Rogers Park. That’s where I got to cut my teeth.
It’s different. Some of it’s for the good, some of it’s not. Some of it I’m just like, man, it’s fucking up people. Gentrification is pushing people out of their housing and so forth. I get it, it’s a pay day for the developers. But from what they could afford to now what they can’t afford they got nowhere to go now. Now you’re pushing them out further west or out of the city in general. I get that they’re after their pay day but there still has to be some moral responsibility. That’s what prompted “Old Chicago.” That’s who I am. It’s not a tribute song to the city. It’s who I am. I am old Chicago. All of the experiences on the song are just talking about me growing up. That’s pretty much from me as a shorty to like age 22-23. That’s what that song talks about – who I am growing up.
TRHH: How did you initially get into Hip-Hop?
MZM: Man, you know that’s a good question. Growing up on the west side of Chicago and moving up north I was always the odd ball. From a nationality standpoint I stood out like a sore thumb. It was kind of where it was nowhere for me to fit in. Where do I fit in? I’m trying to fit in here. That was a mistake I made because you shouldn’t have to fit in. If you’re born to standout then why try to fit in? That’s what I ended up doing and it seems as if I was trying to find my own acceptance growing up. I ended up experiencing racism, not just from white people, but from everybody! I experienced it from white people, black people, and Spanish people. It was a weird spot to be in. Out of it all it seems as if I embraced my culture I was getting mocked and mimicked, but the only culture that seemed to accept me was Hip-Hop. That’s’ what got me into it. I would say around 11 years old I started getting into it, but I didn’t know it was specifically called “Hip-Hop” until 13. At around 13 years old I found out what I’m into actually is a culture and has a name.
That’s what got me into it. I’ve tried my hand at stuff in the past – I tried writing graffiti, breaking, deejaying and I kind of sucked at it. I was able to say what I gotta say through pad and pen and that worked out for me. I’ve been on the indie scene in Chicago since the late 90s. I put out two projects before 2001. I went by a different emcee name. Then I ended up taking a hiatus in 05. I recorded an album in 05 and never put it out. I had personal things come up — life got in the way. All of a sudden you’re thrown into adulthood and shit changes. It’s not like we were getting famous or anything outside of the city. Things weren’t really taking off and bills have got to get paid. I took a break in what was supposed to be a year and that year turned into ten. Also just the scene and climate of music ended up changing. The sound and direction started to turn me off and I was like, “Man, I don’t feel like making no music.” As of recently I got the inspiration back and got the fire lit up under my ass. During that ten years I think I had enough shit happen where I had stuff to talk about.
TRHH: What was your original emcee name?
MZM: I went by Ebonics. I had to drop that name for a couple reasons. One, when I chose that name I thought of it from a different standpoint. Initially I was battle rapping. So I was battling heads, that’s what I was doing. I went with that name because we’re all talking slang so if I have that name and that’s who I am and you’re talking that means you’re talking me. How you gonna beat me if you’re talking to me? That was my perspective at that point as a battle emcee, and also it was pretty immature. When I started to think about I thought I shouldn’t have that name. One, I’m not black. For me to have that name it was odd for me to keep running with it. I didn’t want an emcee name, period. MZM is just the initial for my name.
TRHH: What’s next up for you? Do you still have that fire? Do you have something new coming out?
MZM: Yeah. Right now I’m working Excuse Me, Miss. That one does have potential to get radio, and that’s kind of what I’m doing with it right now. I’m going to start packaging it, getting it ready, and pushing it out to some stations to see if we can get some spins on that one. That one has more appeal to not just the hardcore Hip-Hop heads, but the casual listeners – women. I think it can reach a bigger demographic and anybody who has gone through heartbreak in that sense. After that I’ll maybe take a couple months off and then start going in the direction that I want to head in with the next project. Everybody’s on me with, “We know you can rap, we know you can out-bar people, we wanna hear you do something. We want you to bring it back to the gutter.” The next project, the best way I can describe it is either two things are going to happen. One, I’ll either wake people up or I’m going to make enemies.
TRHH: Can you give some insight into the subject matter?
MZM: I’m still going to keep things who I am, because one I’m not a street dude. I’m not going to talk about running the street with a whole bunch of guns. I’m not sipping on lean either. There are things that I still want to talk about. Some are social issues, some are things that are personal, and some are things that I haven’t really touched on, on Downpour or Excuse Me, Miss. After that I have some guest appearances in mind – people that I want to start working with and it’s going to be a bar fest. One song I have the beat for now and it’s some super trap shit. I think it’s a challenge for myself to do that one and I think I want to run with that as the first single. Not because I’m trying to appeal to a bigger crowd, but because I want to push the boundaries of what I can do. I don’t want to keep myself in a box.
Purchase: MZM – Excuse Me, Miss