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Mazbou Q - MNZ Interview: Background Noise 007: Mazbou Q

01 Jun 2023 // An interview by Gaby Ivanov-Giraldo

This month, Muzic.net.nz had the opportunity to delve deep in conversation with Auckland’s sought-after artist; Mazbou Q. He provided sincere insight to the world of music within Hip Hop and Rap, explaining the significance of music theory to artists, and the implications of AI on our future. Q shared with us a snippet of his upcoming plans, and current artists he recommends. Take a moment in time away from your busy worlds – and have a read of the newest Mazbou Q interview below!

Firstly, a lot of your content recently delves into the world of Rap Science – the analysis and education of rap flow. This is a very interesting topic! What have you learnt specifically in the last year regarding Rap Science, and what have been some exciting trends and impacts you’ve noticed from your audiences?

When we understand that music theory as a concept is much more broad than traditional western music notation, we begin to see how omnipresent (and essential) it actually is within the contemporary music world - even in places like Hip Hop, where knowledge of music is considered mostly intuitive. At its heart, music theory is the expression of music as language. And any language of music will have its own vocabulary, syntax, grammar, conventions, slangs and cultural contexts. As people have watched my content, I’ve noticed a general excitement around me capturing and expressing the depth of skill and knowledge within Hip Hop. People who were once disillusioned with music education are becoming fired up at the prospect of learning music that they feel is relevant to them, and in a way they can understand. It’s humble to be a part of what could end up being quite a revolution in how (and which) music is taught. 

How much do you believe that music theory helps rap artists, and for budding rap artists, where would you recommend they start?

As I mentioned, music theory is the language of music. One is able to apprehend many of its precepts intuitively and create fantastic work without knowing any kind of theory, but will be severely limited when music creation becomes a collaborative enterprise and it comes time to communicate what’s in their heads to others. If one is working with producers, other rappers, singers etc, then without proper conceptualization and knowledge of things like key, BPM, time signature, rhythm, groove, melody and harmony, people involved are at the mercy of that lack of communication. I think rappers should start by learning basic rhythm theory (tempo, time signature, bars, beats, subdivisions) at least. There are plenty of resources online, but please also stay tuned for a course I’ll be releasing soon which will systematize that knowledge specifically for rappers. 

Content creation and self-promotion is becoming increasingly difficult for artists. What are some tips you’d give new artists when it comes to the world of social media, and self-advertising?

The main shift that needs to take place is from social-driven content to creator-driven content. Social media used to be ruled by Facebook and Instagram, which were used mainly for connecting with people we know. We would share personal news, post pics of what we ate for brunch that day, what our cat looked like that evening, etc. Now the roost is ruled by the TikTok model - short form video content that is algorithmically filtered to push engaging content and keep people on the platform.

This means that artists (and more broadly, creatives) need to move out of the mindset of “Here’s what I’ve been doing, here’s the stuff I’m making. Cool, ay?” to “Check this out, this will impress / entertain / challenge / educate / offend you. Let’s talk about it”. 

For a lot of us here with smaller and more familiar audience bases, we therefore need to escape the confines we put around ourselves in fear of what those who know us might think about our self-promotion. We can’t be afraid of being too big for our boots, nor can we afford to operate on the basis that people will get tired of us.

That means we should; figure out how to rework and revitalize and re-present our existing work, re-introduce ourselves in creative ways, and post regularly.

How do you feel about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its impact so far on music and creating? Do you have any personal predictions for the future of music, and production?

This has me somewhat divided. I have a degree in computer systems engineering and worked at an audio software research company for 6 years before I went full time as an artist and producer, so I’ve been deep in both worlds. I think it’s an exciting period of innovation that is potentially revolutionary for music (and art) creation, but I understand why folks are apprehensive as well.

My thoughts are that it will accentuate the divide between music for music’s sake, and music for commercial purposes. 

Right now, we are seeing AI make music for consumption. It’s extending and showcasing its evolving capabilities, and it’s all very new, weird and exciting. Like, wow, this thing is making Drake songs that are indistinguishable from Drake himself, to the point where the industry is having to scramble to implement laws and regulations around the likeness of one’s voice and how it can be used. There’s novelty in all of this, but it will very quickly and decisively wear off when we begin to remember that what drives most of our music consumption is human connection. Music impacts us, at least in part, because we’re aware that there’s a real person who has actually felt or experienced the things we hear them singing / rapping about. What sounds like vulnerability coming from a robot will eventually be considered at best vacuous, and at worst creepy as hell.

With all that said, AI will continue to flourish in spaces where music is part of any project where the music itself is not the focus. This is especially true in commercial advertising. In general, businesses know they need music for their ads, but don’t particularly care where they get it from or who made it - as long as it serves the ad. At the moment they use either library music (think ‘shutterstock’ of the music world, which can be very generic sounding), commissioned music or artists’ commercial releases. The latter two, although less generic, can be quite expensive. If AI can generate convincing, unique, highly individualised and specific genuine sounding music at a fraction of the cost (and hassle) of a real artist / producer, capitalism basically demands that this will be done. It’s also true of other forms of music synchronisation, and is likely to eventually become the standard route taken by film production companies and gaming companies alike, both large and small, when sourcing music for their products.  

What are some of your current music projects, and creations?

Metahuman - A cinematic Hip Hop EP in collaboration with xJ-Will, a Kansas City based producer and content creator who specializes in sync. This was released a few weeks ago

Nightwaves - An evolving body of laid back, jazzy ‘Café Hip Hop’ in collaboration with Jessie Booth (Ekko Park, She Loves You). We already have two tracks out, and will keep adding to this project over time.

The Sum of Unfinished Businesses - This is my own full length album that is getting a waterfall release. It has a variety of flavours of Hip Hop that reflect my differing tastes (Afrobeat, Cinematic / Trailer, Chill, Boom Bap, etc). The latest track released Friday 26th of May is called ‘Follow My Lead’ which features fellow Nigerian and Pidgin Rap legend ‘Magugu’ from Cardiff, Wales.  Many of the other tracks are complete, and feature some other awesome artists like King Green, Ruslan, Kevin Posey, Ch! Nonso, Phodiso, and more. 

Do you have any exciting gigs coming up soon? Also, is there anything new you're trying in your live sets?

Nothing is set in stone yet but I’m hoping to do a big one in the next couple of months. Slowly moving away from live tracks and toward it being fully live instruments, with a bigger band!

Who are you listening to most recently? Share a couple of artists with us before you go!

Tobe Nwigwe and Kojey Radical!


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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