We recently had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Mizaiah, rapper, singer, music video producer, certified cool guy. We originally met Mizaiah earlier this Spring in Manhattan when going around photographing people for 20XXFITS, and soon learned that he was a musician, and a great one at that. If you ever get the chance, you’ll definitely want to check out his work; amazing vocals and lyrics, CRISPY production and mixing, and really fun and cool visuals, Mizaiah is definitely someone to behold and keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond.
Read what he had to say about his inspirations, his style, and always striving to be comfortable with himself, and how that translates into his music.
20XX: I want to really talk to you about your work, who you are within that, and who you are because of that. I’m curious what feelings and thoughts your work brings out of you, and what the vision is that you are trying to put out for people to see and hear.
I’d love to know what your creative process is like: From idea conception, all the way through to when you’re ready to post something to Apple Music or Spotify and share it.
Mizaiah: It changes depending on the song or what I’m doing, but I have a problem where I tend to jump all the way to the end. Like, “When the movie for this song comes out…” So I usually have to reel myself back in as part of my process. Starting from “OK, finish the song first.”
When it comes to actually making the song, I write pretty quickly. I’m somebody where the first thing that comes out is what I go with, and depending on the song or the beat, I’m able to connect with it really quickly. And if I’m able to connect with it really quickly, those are the songs I stick with.
I usually play a beat and I can hear a melody or a flow immediately, and if I feel like it’s something where I’m not hearing that, I’ll go to something else. I like to do a voice memo of whatever melody I hear. Let’s say I hear a beat right now in the street or whatever. Obviously I can’t record right now, so I’ll record a little melody just on a voice memo, so that when I get a chance to write and record I can remember what I first heard when I first listened to the beat.
That usually works; that first flow, that first melody, and I’m able to build off that really quickly. The hardest part for me honestly is the recording process. I used to be very in my head about the process and how I sounded. I didn’t give myself that grace of, “You’re working it out. It’s the first time it’s like coming out your mouth…”
I try to stay with what I first hear; it just ends up sounding the best. I used to be really in my head about how I sounded and how notes would come out. Or just my voice, I feel like I have a very distinct voice. It’s not too deep, It’s not too high, just right in the middle, so I had to really get comfortable with that. And now that I allowed myself to do different voices and just have fun with making music, it’s gotten a lot better.
Then once I do that, once the song is actually done and everything I decide if I want to do a visual to it. And once I decide to do a visual, that’s a whole nother like, “alright, what are you trying to put out with this visual? What are you trying to say?” It has its own separate process, but with recording, I’ll just hear a beat or get a beat made or whatever the case might be. I’ll hear the melody and then that first melody that I come up with, that’s what I usually go with.
So the sound quality of your music is amazing. I remember the first time I heard one of your songs. We were putting your music in our newsletter, and we have a Spotify playlist we always do, and I was like “wow this is lit, I love the way this sounds!” So I wanted to know do you mix and master your songs yourself?
I don’t. I went on a hunt for a good engineer, because I had a lot of terrible engineers. And you know, part of it was also my fault because at the time when I was looking for engineers I had a terrible mic situation. I recorded at my house so I had a terrible mic situation at first. I was asking all these engineers to turn my terrible situation into something beautiful and they’d be like “bro, I can’t do that. This still sounds trash.”
This level of magic is too advanced.
Exactly. So I’m like “OK let me do my part.” So I got all the professional recording stuff. Then I had to look for engineers again, and now I know my part of it is done. Like “I did my part, now this sounds good on my end. Now y’all have to do your part,” and I was getting terrible, terrible, terrible mixes back over and over and over again. I’m like, OK, I’m going to do something kind of weird; I looked on Twitter and I was just typing in prices that I was willing to pay. I think at first I typed in ‘100’ and then I typed in ‘mixed and mastered’, and I’m just typing in different numbers and ‘mixed and mastered’. And now there’s all these tweets of people saying, “hey, I’m an engineer. I mix and master for…” whatever price I put in. So I found one that was a reasonable price all the way in Russia. That’s my homie, and he’s literally been mixing every song for me.
When I first first saw him, he wrote this angry ass tweet and it was like “don’t come to me for professional mixing, I’m not a professional mixer. I do what I feel,” and so that kind of pushed me away. But then I said, let me just see, and I saw what he did. And I’m like “This sounds really Good!” Webecame really cool, so when I’m done recording now all the time I send it to him and send him exactly how I want everything to sound. I give little notes saying things like, “I want this effect at 37 seconds” and I give references and shit and then he sends it back, I give my notes, and that’s how it goes.
That’s fire, all the way in Russia. That’s the coolest part about that. And I think that’s really a testament to one: just the age we’re living in, right? Where you can literally go on Twitter and find a sound engineer which is pretty convenient, right? And two: just, again, the age we’re living in, the power of the internet. Being able to connect with people from everywhere. Who would have thought; I’m sure you probably never would have thought that some dude In Russia will be doing all your engineering.
Of course not. Ideally, I wanted it to be somebody out here. But it would be either astronomical prices that make no sense, or mostly, it was terrible quality. So I’m like “alright Let me just try and see.” And yeah, that really works. Because there’s a time difference and he’s in school and everything, We’re not able to work as quickly as I would genuinely like to. But when I go to other people just to see, it’s still terrible. So I’m gonna just stay with my homie.
Yeah, you got something right. You got something working. I want to get more of an introspective into what it is you like to put out in your music. I want to know what influences your musical style the most. Would you say it’s visual inspiration? Maybe TV shows, movies, visual art even. Or Is it more sonic inspiration; music, things you’ve heard in conversation with people or maybe just sounds around the city? What would you say influences your music more, is it things you hear or things you see?
I would definitely say things I see.
OK, Elaborate on that.
Yeah, especially live performances. When I watch live performances, whether I’m at the concert or not, those moments… You can hear, they call it like an artist’s ear, when somebody is making a song and it’s being created for a live moment, and it’s the same thing when I’m creating music. I know when I’m making something for an audience to connect to, or sing along with me, to sing it back to me. Seeing those types of performances and being a part of those types of performances, they really do inspire my music. Especially the greats, the really really good people. You know, Kanye, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson. I wish I had seen Michael Jackson in person. I like seeing their live performances and they really do inspire my music.
Now in terms of a day to day when I’m actually writing what inspires me, I think it’s conversation. I think it’s what I hear and the things I say. Me and my friends have a lot of introspective conversations and we really dive in deep on a lot of different shit, whether it’s about me, or it’s about them, or it’s about the world. So I like to pull from those conversations and put that into my music.
That’s really interesting actually. When it comes to live performances, is it the set design? Maybe it’s the energy that the artist brings to a song that you like? What really stands out as “alright this is something that I want to work around and work with” for your own music?
I think for me, my favorite live performers are people that can, take their music, take their art that they already made and expand it however they see fit. So somebody like Beyoncé, she’s been performing Crazy In Love since it came out in 2003, but she’s performed it soooo many different ways; acapella, acoustic, with a marching band, with like, a million of her behind her. Just all these different ways and that’s the part of it that I love; ’cause when you make a piece of art and you really put enough effort into it, where you can strip it back and add to it so much that it becomes a new piece of art every time you perform it. So when I make my music, I don’t try to make bullshit, honestly. I try to make things that I can build off of and I can do different things to it and perform different ways and have people connect to it in different ways other than the first time they listened to it.
Who are your favorite musicians to listen to?
Such a hard question! It changes all the time, but I love Kanye. I love… I was about to say somebody, but I don’t know any no more; these last few Albums, I don’t know. I’ll say Kanye West. I’ll say James Blake. I’ll say Drake. I’ll say Nicki Minaj, I’ll say… Rihanna. Yeah, there’s definitely way more people, but…
But those are your standouts.
OK, alright. How often do you think that changes? Like maybe every week? Every day?
I used to be in a place of, say you asked me this question before, I would say it’s ‘this person, this person, this person.’ But I realized there are changes. I change and I might not be connected to the last three albums, or I might not be connected to this–
New vibe that they’ve got going on.
Exactly. But it doesn’t take away what I did love from them and how high in regard I hold them. Now I’ve gotten to a place where it’s like “alright right now, this is what I’m listening to and these are my favorites right now”. But I realize all these people are human. Nobody’s perfect, and I’m not gonna like every single song from everybody. But I’ll say it changes now like, daily. But it’s still the same people, some just kind of get shuffled in and out.
Yeah, of course. So, what’s your general style like? I mean when you step out of the house, what’s fit looking like?
Nowadays, I love being comfortable. I really love being comfortable. I’m really into the big pants and shit now. I hate shorts honestly. I hate wearing shorts so my medium in the summertime is being able to have these big pants so I can, you know, get some breeze, but not have to wear shorts. I love black. When I was a little bit younger, I used to be really focused on having designer shit. Now I’m more focused on being comfortable and also trying to be smart. I used to do a lot of things like buying something, wearing it one time and then it just goes to the back of my closet–like this is such an eccentric piece that I would only want to wear it one time and I’m like “I am not rich yet, that doesn’t make any sense.” I’ll have a bunch of shit that I never wanted to wear again, and my mom and Friends would say “bro this is stupid, you’re dumb.” And then I finally realized that in like 2020, and said alright let me stop.
When you were in the house and all you had to look at were your clothes.
Things that I don’t want to wear. Yeah, so I got to a place where I’ll buy shit that’s like… wearable. Because that’s what human beings do. Human beings that are regular middle class people.
Do you think that the energy that you bring with your fits carries over into your music? Or is that something that you want? Because I’ve looked at your album covers, and your covers will have you in a certain kind of fit. Usually for me when I see an album cover I go “alright, this is the vibe right?” Or this is some semblance of the vibe that I’m about to dive into right now. I remember the first time we met, I had to take a picture, right? I was like “yo let me take your picture” because this is a fly dude right here. So how do you think your expression of yourself, with the way you dress–do you carry that over into your music at all? And if so, how?
I think I carry it over in a way of like “I’m dressing so me right now”. I’m not looking at somebody like ‘I want This this this this This’ I’m literally like, “it’s getting hot, I need big pants. I want to be comfortable” and that’s where I’m at, right? And actually me being me, that’s how I am with my music as well. Now I’m just being myself, I’m just making exactly what I want. So I think it carries over in the sense that these are my principles of how I am as a person and yeah, it just carries over into everything that I do.
I like that a lot. Let’s say you were walking around or maybe you’re headed somewhere. If you were to stumble upon your music in the wild, where is it at? What’s the perfect place? What’s the vibe like? Who’s listening to it, why are they listening To it? What’s that like?
Perfect place, hmm. Well, my goal with my music is to be able to be played everywhere, and I mean that in the sense of– not to make a super commercial song that is played everywhere, just in the sense of, [in my music] I feel like there’s something for everybody. Like if you’re an introspective kid you can listen to it. If you’re somebody that wants to turn up you can listen to it. If you’re somebody that’s broke you can listen to it. If you’re someone who’s rich you can listen to it. That’s the goal. But for me, what would make me the happiest, is children, kids that are young, around like 10/11, because even though there’s cursing and things like that–The kids curse– But it would make me happy because I’m a rapper right? And then he sings, he’s wearing pink, he’s wearing women’s clothes, not that I’m wearing a dress and everything like that, but he’s doing things that are not, just, what you’re supposed to be like as a rapper.
Yeah the norm, the image that that is.
Yeah, exactly. And I didn’t have that much when I was looking at musicians and stuff. So it would make me happy because I feel like they should, and I feel like I should have had that, you know? I’m not over the top right now with it or anything like that, I’m really just being myself and doing what I see as comfortable. So I feel like it would make me happy to see kids listening to my music because they’re just listening to somebody being themselves and being comfortable and hopefully that will inspire them to be themselves and be comfortable with being on their own.
That’s amazing, that’s cool. I was expecting “it’s in the club, girls throwing mad ass” or something like that. But I actually like that answer a lot. Having your music live outside yourself and then seeing what it does for other people, I think is dope. That’s an amazing answer to a question like that.
Are there any local acts that you’d like to work with? Maybe perform with? Have you thought about that at all?
I definitely have. I am focused on getting more of my music out right now though. But, my best friend is Johnny based, I don’t know if you know him.
I have a friend who’s also really good friends with him as well!
We’re so a part of each other’s stuff, but just behind the scenes. I mean, he was in the the Girlfriend video as the other white chick.
Are you in any of his music videos?
I am, but they’re kind of like cameos. But at the same time, we’ll be on the phone for hours like “I’m gonna do this this this, what do you think about this?” We’re that close. We were just talking the other day and were like, we literally have not done anything together yet. We speak everyday but we haven’t done anything yet, but we’re kind of both letting each other build ourselves up so that when we do come together, it’s a big deal. That’s definitely somebody that I’d like to work with, yeah.
That’s really dope, small world. My last question for you: If you could say one thing to all of NYC right now, What would it be?
If I could say one thing to NYC, I would say: Pay close attention this summer ’cause Mizaiah is coming.