NEZ: How the Producer Plans to Bring His Creative Edge from Hip-Hop to House Music
NEZ is no stranger to success, but how does one follow up a fruitful career in Hip-Hop and break into House? They make a splash.
The multi-talented artist caught up with MP3 MAG to discuss his past work with A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q, his Chicago roots, and how he plans to take his House career to even greater heights.
Growing up with a musical family, NEZ was put on at a young age to not just Hip-Hop, but all types of music – Gospel, Funk, Jazz, and of course, classic House music. His Chicago-family helped introduce him to OG House tunes and artists like Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard.
NEZ began to start beat producing in his free time, finding work with local acts such as Chance the Rapper, King Louie, and Vic Mensa. From there, he was able to build his profile enough to start working with artists who would tour through the city.
This is how he first met artists like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, which gave him the first insight that he was onto something special.
“For me, I take that as my start to breaking into the industry,” NEZ recalled to MP3 MAG. “That led to meeting A$SAP Rocky and so many others… one thing kind of led to the next, then I relocated to Los Angeles.”
With his work profile growing, the producer kept collaborating with true creatives that afforded him the insight and experience to elevate his idea of what it takes to be an artist. Amongst a wave of producers trying to get into Hip-Hop, NEZ was able to excel and stand out by doing things differently.
“The style of music I was making… It still had energy, but it was and is still different from what a lot of people are doing,” NEZ explained. “I think the artists that gravitated towards that are the ones looking for a different sound and take risks creatively.”
In 2014, NEZ was credited on Schoolboy Q’s smash, “Man of the Year,” followed up by production credits on A$AP Rocky’s “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” which peaked at no. 1 on Billboard in 2015.
As his success in the Hip-Hop world continued to gain traction, NEZ found himself falling back on the roots established for him back in Chicago.
As a kid, his age group was into Ghetto House, dubbed “G-House,” a fast subgenre of House music established in the early 90’s. Put on by acts like Cajmere, the genre often features minimal drum machines and provocative lyrics to accentuate those late night party vibes.
“My whole life I’ve listened to so many different things,” said NEZ. “That has had a big impact on the style of music I started to make. I always wanted to be an artist, but I had to find something different than what I was producing for everyone else.”
In 2019, he began to work on a track in the studio that harkened back to this style of G-House he grew up on, and held onto it a while before finally showing the song to Schoolboy Q.
Immediately, it made an impression and the rapper opted to drop a verse on it right then and there. That moment inspired NEZ, and gave him a peek into the future of his own creative lane. Not only was it catching, but blending Chicago House styles with Hip-Hop and R&B music “just felt right.”
Ultimately, this led to the track, “Wild Youngster,” which debuted in the early part of 2020. The initial response was great – represented in the track’s total of 4 million+ plays on Spotify today. The timing, however, could not have been worse for an aspiring artist looking to place his music in front of crowds.
“I put the song out a few weeks before the world shut down,” NEZ told MP3 MAG. “I’m making dance music, so obviously it needs to live in a party space. I’m thinking, ‘Why is this happening?’”
This time off ultimately served as a blessing in disguise. It gave NEZ a chance to reset, dig in, and experiment with his sound even more. His family roots gave him an understanding of the sound as a whole, but NEZ has pledged himself to relearn the industry’s current trends and artists.
“It changed so much. Now I have to pivot back and learn about all these people that are killing it now,” said NEZ. “There’s so many subgenres within the genre, so many different pockets within dance music. I’m still learning.”
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For those reasons, the time off paid many dividends for the producer, while lining up some of the biggest opportunities of his career.
This past Summer, NEZ went to Lollapalooza for the first time ever – as a featured artist on the lineup. His first time at the festival, and first show ever as NEZ, came at the biggest event in his hometown.
Furthermore, his project was featured in the Chicago Tribune, who wrote about NEZ’ Lolla appearance in early May. Making it on the lineup for his hometown’s biggest festival was a huge career milestone, but landing a placement in a local publication like the Tribune was equally as enthralling.
“Those are things your mother, your grandmother, and your family can be excited about. You’re in the newspaper!”
In this next stage, NEZ is focused on making the best music and is grateful for the opportunity to have a team around him taking his project to the next level. As a producer, he’s used to catering to the needs of other artists and their projects. This time around, the producer has the spotlight on him – and for now, he’s enjoying the moment.
“As a producer, you’re jumping into the world of another artist. I’m so used to servicing other people, so it’s kind of dope having people asking me what do you want to do, how do you want your photos to look… I’m taking it all in. I think it’s really important for artists to understand how sacred it is to have this opportunity to make music, give it to the world, and have all these people work day and night to help you do that.”