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Mazbou Q - Interview with Mazbou Q

13 May 2020 // An interview by Gaby Ivanov-Giraldo

Mazbou Q is a phenomenal force to be reckoned with. His impressive new EP Afroternity has taken the NZ Hip-Hop scene by storm, with a unique and afrocentric sound that is easily recognisable as his own. Officially marking a new chapter in the journey of one of New Zealand's most unique artists, Afroternity is a captivating and evolutionary release, and definitely worth of the attention it is receiving. Gaby from Muzic.net.nz spoke to Hugh about his influences, name change and faith:

What inspired you or led you to do music full time?

The journey started when I was very young, having played music in various forms and in various capacities since I was very young. After I had graduated from college and gained some work experience, both my family and church community helped me to see that there wasn’t much to lose by taking the leap, and potentially everything to gain. My family especially connected me to the idea that it was my purpose.

Who were your biggest musical inspirations growing up, and why?

Probably Mumsdollar, As I Lay Dying and Haste The Day. Interestingly enough, radically different to kind of music I make now, but growing up the punk and metal communities are the ones I was immersed in. I remember going to venues like Ellen Melville, Orange County Hall and Grey Lynn Library Hall watching 5 bands for $5, almost every weekend, back when the only way you knew about bands was MySpace, and the only way you knew about local shows was by receiving an anonymous text message. I had always loved music, but this is the environment that inspired me to create it for myself.

What prompted the change from Unchained XL to Mazbou Q, and why?

My original name was just 'Unchained', which was a spur of a the moment decision. I never really loved it, but it stuck. I added 'XL' to the end for SEO purposes then proceeded to add meaning onto it retrospectively to justify keeping it to myself. But it just irked me more and more over the years. Come 2020, I was experiencing a bunch of life changes and so decided to take the plunge and figure out a moniker I was more happy with.

Do you feel more “free” releasing music as Mazbou Q? How does it feel to be making music as Mazbou Q?

Yes. As 'Unchained XL' I felt (rather ironically) a bit trapped into a particular sound and lyrical vibe that I had established for myself early on. It didn’t represent the full scope of music I wanted to create in order to express myself. As Mazbou Q, I feel a lot more ‘unchained’. I basically create anything that comes to mind, now. Bad Energy is a prime example of this - I would have never released something like this as Unchained XL.

In what ways has having a daughter influenced your take on music, the music world and the songs in this EP?

I had actually finished most of the EP prior to my daughter being a part of our lives, so her main influence on my music has come in the unreleased content that I have made since. She has granted me a lot of existential perspective and has become a motivation for pushing through hard times, which as you can imagine is something that would creep up in my music a lot. I want to make it more than ever, now that she’s here - so I can be an inspiration for her as she grows up.

Being a big music personality in NZ (hosting events like The Loft, collaborating, producing, teaming up with other musicians and the like), where do you see your journey in New Zealand heading after this EP? When are we likely to expect the Afroternity EP tour?

The EP was supposed to drop a bit earlier with a tour to follow soon after but plans had to be suspended due to the COVID-19 situation. I had some loose international plans also. But I hope to sort out some live shows as soon as possible, and then figure out how to sneak into overseas markets with my next lot of material.

The themes that run through your music as Mazbou Q are still true to your roots as a musician. However, there are differences in the lyrical content which seems to explore new avenues, what brought this on? And are there any new messages that come from being Mazbou Q?

As mentioned, the transition from Unchained XL to Mazbou Q has felt like it’s opened up some creative avenues for me. Making music that speaks on more personal issues is something I feel more free to do. I’m started to speak on the challenges I’ve faced on my music journey a lot.

Faith is a strong message in your music. Your single, To The Gates, has a very strong message behind it, do mind going into some detail of what inspired this story and music video?

This is perhaps one song I’d prefer not to divulge much detail about. I’ve kept it intentionally ambiguous so as people can draw what ever meaning they wish from it.

The music video on the hand, I’m happy to say something about. We (Swap and Corey from The Umbrella Collective) were inspired by the movie called The Ritual. In the movie, a group of friends are haunted by their friend’s murder in a convenience store. We imported and modified that concept because I felt that it captured the essence of the song.

Who else would you really like to collaborate with? Who do you believe would help really spread your message and your voice in music?

At the moment my dream collars are Tobe Nwigwe, M.anifest, D Smoke and Lecrae. In each of them, there’s enough overlap in our stories, identities and experiences for us to create something truly powerful. Out of all of them though, Tobe Nwigwe would be the one - both being men of faith, family oriented and first generation Igbo-Nigerian westerners.

What would give you the most joy as a musician to see happening and/or changing in the NZ music industry?

80-90% New Zealand music played on mainstream radio stations; more local venues opening up; local artists performing at those venues to full crowds regularly; more jam nights popping up; a higher demand for NZ artists overseas; a NZ equivalent to BBC1 Xtra; a more expansive set of genres occupying the “mainstream” space - and much more. Basically a flow on effect of NZ music being appreciated more than it is.


About Mazbou Q

Formerly known as Unchained XL, Mazbou Q is a British born Nigerian New Zealand Hip-Hop artist and producer with a unique, afrocentric sound that is easily recognizable as his own. His 2018 debut EP release entitled Foreign Legacy blends traditional afrobeat-inspired textures and rhythms with various styles of Hip-Hop, utilising a combination of live instruments and synths. April saw UXL’s reach expand globally, as he completed a tour of the UK with shows in London, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds and Cardiff, performing alongside artists such as Mungos HiFi, Afro Cluster and Mr Phormula.

With overarching themes of faith, identity, justice, virtue and cultural innovation, he draws both musical and lyrical inspiration from artists such as Fela Kuti, Jidenna, M.anifest and Lecrae. Supported by his live band, UXL delivers a highly energetic, and convicting performance that will leave you searching for more.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Mazbou Q


Year: 2023
Type: EP
The Future Was
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Year: 2020
Type: EP

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