Rooted… With Arz
10 Nov 2022
Journalist and Creative Director – Hiba Hassan
Photographer and Creative Director: Oliver Buckle
Production: Akeal Iqbal
Arz, London’s rapper on the rise has been slowly setting pace into music for as long as he can remember. Growing up with his mum and sister, he keeps the circle around him tight-knit with each person adding purpose to his journey. Reflecting on his latest EP, No Features, with Arz admittedly enjoying time spent alone, figuring it out for himself. With the last year or so being spent travelling to LA and around the UK, collaborating with producers from all walks of life…
In our first edition of Rooted, we took the 18-year-old artist back to his childhood turf of Highbury and Islington in North London, taking him back to all points that keep him grounded. It’s safe to say that Arz has captured the attention of listeners that appreciate the transparency of his emotions. Singles like Alone With You, which samples Billie Eilish’s Hostage, were the first viral moments for the rapper and his niche for emotive rap.
How was your morning?
It’s been alright, I’ve been chilling really, gonna get my hair done in a little bit. Like an hour, then I’ve got studio later on.
Who are you in the studio with?
I’m with Hope; it’s like a little writing camp, so there’s gonna be a couple of different producers there.
What do your mornings usually look like? Do you have a routine?
I actually don’t, you know, but people are always telling me to make sure that my morning routine is really important. But right now, I just wake up and I kind of see what I have to do for the day. I’ll check my group chats and whatnot for business. And I kind of just scope it out and make sure that I’ve got everything set for what I need to do for my day.
How did you find the shoot the other day?
It was good, man. It was good. It was sick. It went proper smooth. I thought it was going to be a lot longer and a lot more. So, when everyone was like that’s a wrap, I was like that’s sick we got everything we needed quite quickly. It was smooth. The pictures look really good as well.
Have you been back to this area or chilled around here since you left?
My closest boy still lives there. So, when I go check him, I go through there, or if there’s more of my boys, I’m checking from there, I’ll be there. But I’m not there too much. There’s not a lot there for me anymore other than a couple of my friends.
Even when we were shooting outside your old school, a few of the school kids stopped and they recognised you.
I think it’s quite nice that I’m being seen in that area. It’s mad. Yeah. It makes you feel like it’s definitely a good thing. And it’s like when these kids see me, it’s nice for them to think rah, this guy came from my school and he’s making music and he’s doing quite well. So, it makes them feel like they could have a chance at the same type of thing.
When did you start making music? Because you were in school, weren’t you?
Yeah, I started making music when I was like 13, I think I was in year eight or nine and I was just dropping freestyles, just recording myself rapping and I’m putting it out on the Gram. And then people were just messing with it. That’s when I really started. But ever since I was like young young, I’ve always loved listening to music and just taking it in. I loved it.
Was there a moment or a turning point in your life where you thought let me start taking this seriously?
There was a point in my life where I was like, always outside, this was probably like year eight. And I was just out all the time. I don’t know, I was just out wasting time and doing other things. I remember one day I was in my yard and I was like, Yo, if I put a lot of time into this, people are already saying I’m good at it so if I just put that little bit more effort and, have more confidence in myself. It could take me somewhere. And all my closest friends were on it. And some of them at the time were making music as well. So it was quite easy for me to just kind of like join in and try to do my own thing when I started it. And then it went quite well.
What are you listening to growing up?
Um, I don’t know, in the yard, it was bare slow jams, 90s music but as I got older, I’ve always listened to like a lot of different types of music like every genre. Whether it’s Soul, Rock, Trap, or Rap, I’m always dipping in and out of different genres. So I couldn’t say what music I had been listening to growing up, but I was just always listening to a lot of different things. A lot of different things and taking influence from a lot of different places.
How does the process of making music work for you now since starting?
Now, it’s more like I’m more up and about. I’m definitely everywhere now, I’ll go studio in north, east, south, and west. Like back then, I was just in my room getting beats off YouTube, I would just sit in my room and write. But now it’s more going for sessions in person, I’m linking up with different producers. So I don’t know. It’s more social, being around different people that bring out different music. And that’s one of the things that I enjoy just getting production from different people because your music will always sound a little bit different once you’re linking with the different producers.
What kind of kid were you in school?
I was calm. I wasn’t like, I don’t know. I think I was a little bit of a troublemaker, but I wasn’t like the worst kid in the class. I wasn’t. I wasn’t even a troublemaker. I was smart. I passed everything in the end. But I didn’t pass French. I was kind of to myself, I did get into a little bit of trouble here and there.
What, would you say you were cheeky?
A little bit, a little bit! Maybe a little back then, like, yeah, for sure. I was young, I didn’t really like school. I won’t lie, I was just like, get me out of this place. I really didn’t like it.
Now you’re out would you go back and speak to the students? And what would you say?
I would. I don’t know what I’d say to the students. But I’d love to just go back to the school, inside, and just talk to my teachers and see how they are and I don’t know definitely talk to some of the students. When I was in school, I was like yeah, I can’t wait to get out and now I’m out, I’m like, rah, maybe I should have cherished school a lot more. So, I’d probably just preach to them just to make the most of it. Don’t be wishing it to end so soon because it’s really like… as much as I didn’t like it at the time it was good, it was fun.
Every adult says that though, turning into our parents.
Yeah facts, I didn’t believe it when they would tell us that. I was like allow it, I can’t wait to get out of here and go college. Went to college and college was even worse.
Shooting outside of your childhood home, how long did you live here?
That wasn’t even where I really grew up, I lived in that house from I think when I was like 10/11 years old, until about 15/16. So that was like, obviously my teenage years. And before that, I was in Hackney from like when I was born until about ten. And I don’t know, that house it was cool it was me, my sister and my mum, it was just us three. It was cool, I went to three different schools in that area. A lot of people knew me.
You know they say, a lot of the greatest guys are raised by a house full of women.
I heard that, I don’t know. It helped me, I’ve always preached that growing up with my mum and my sister, there are so many pros and so many benefits to it and it helped.
Do you think that growing up with just women helped with your music? Because a lot of your songs are aimed towards girls.
Yeah, I don’t know if it helped my music but it helped me understand more about women in that respect. How to respect them and just boundaries and how to kind of handle women and treat them.
How important are the people around you to you?
So important. So important. I don’t know, in my life, I’ve been through. I don’t know like people have come and gone. So the people that are still here it’s like, you can’t go. Because I’ve narrowed it down to where my circle is kind of just like my family. I like to keep it like that because I don’t know, I’m not just opening up to anybody. And I’m not good at trusting people. So I need to make sure that people that are there with me, I can trust them. And you know, they’re sturdy. So I’m always around the same faces. For sure.
And how did they inspire you to be the artist and musician you need to be?
My boys are always on me. My sister is my manager. So my sister is always, involved and she is always pushing me more than anyone. So my sister is definitely a big influence in pushing me. My boys are always telling me what to drop and they’re around me day to day, when I’m going to the studio they’re with me so that alone is just the kind of motivation I need from them. Just to be there with me and be supporting and believing it.
What do you take with you to the studio?
I don’t need anything, but I like having munchies, some bud maybe, some alcohol if that’s the vibe.
What’s your go-to drink?
Hennessy and apple juice?
Rahhhh, how do you know the mix like that? I love a Henny and apple juice.
Let’s talk about No Features, why was now the time to release that and the decision to do it on your own?
I’ve been making it for a little while, for a year and a bit, and travelled across the UK. I went to LA and recorded a couple of songs there. Miami recorded one or two songs there. And really, it’s just like, a snapshot of how I was living or like just No Features. That’s kind of like last year, this year, how I’ve been living. No features meaning, I’m kind of just by myself a lot. I’m not featuring people I don’t need features. I can kind of just do things by myself, there’s no need for me to be needing anybody else. So I was like, you know, this is kind of how I’m living my life. I’m alone a lot. And I’m making music by myself. I don’t see the need for anybody else to be on it.
What about these two songs; Peace Of Mind and Losing My Mind? Two contradicting titles in one EP…
I don’t know, they both give different messages. Losing My Mind is like, more I’m calling out for help. And that track is me just kind of putting out all my issues and my problems out there, vulnerably. And then Peace Of Mind is what I need, it’s more of an upbeat track. Losing My Mind, I’m getting into my problems and talking about them. And then Peace Of Mind is kind of like after that. Kind of like a new chapter, a new piece of mind.
What gives you peace of mind?
I love travelling. I love going away so much. Just being away by the sea. That gives me peace of mind to be by palm trees. Being around my family somewhere far away. Just to make sure people around me are cool. And then being away.
And how do you think this project has been taken?
It’s been really good. Like the feedback has been so so dope and thank you, by the way, thank you. The feedback has been sick. I’ve always liked dropping music because I know the music I make is good for my age and with what’s coming out right now I feel like my music is very different. And I don’t know, there’s something about it. I just want to get it out there, and the people that do appreciate it, what they say matters. And they loved it. So I just appreciate the feedback that comes from the people that actually care about it.
So what’s next now since you’ve dropped this project?
I just got to take it bigger man, I just want to drop more and try to get better, something I’m working on right now is just getting better. Working on my pen, making sure that my lyrics are always the best. And I’m not saying the same thing over and over again in my songs. So that’s one thing I’m working on right now. And just, I think for the next couple of months, I’m going to just try to learn. Learn about different things, and different aspects of life. So I have more things to talk about. And then going into the new year, hopefully, drop maybe another project or a mixtape or something, but all round just getting better.
What keeps you rooted?
Being around your friends, and your family, still doing
things that you were doing at the start, and not changing your patterns or not changing up anything for anybody. Just staying true to yourself. Not changing it up on anyone that’s been providing for you or supporting you. And that’s how you stay rooted.
I want to ask you about Size? Manchester festival and performing on the Mixtape Madness stage. How did you find it?
It was so sick. I loved it. A lot of people told me that they liked my set. It was sick like it was proper sick Manchester’s lit, the actual show was lit, and I enjoyed it. The crowd was super lit as well. Dope.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In five years, time, honestly, I see myself being one of the biggest young UK rappers. I see myself doing a lot of shows, hopefully, in 5-10 years, I could set up a Europe tour or World Tour, that would be dope. That’s always something I wanted to do. I think that’s something I’m gonna always work towards. And I don’t know, man, just being one of the few artists in the UK that are putting out great music. And that’s different, that people connect with. And also I want to keep making music that’s moving people.