Every artist has a story to tell, and how they manifest what they’ve learned on the journey of life is how they’ll continue to be defined. Enter MaZhe, a young rapper originating from San Diego California, who would make the leap to Los Angeles to record his new album, What I Learned.
What I Learned begins with MaZhe recalling about life and a party, followed by smart lyrics that tell a story, accompanied by beautiful backing vocals from Elshaddai on a floaty and uplifting hook. “Trapped” foreshadows the consistently high level of emceeing and production that is to be heard on the rest of the ten track album.
With What I Learned, MaZhe presents the lessons he’s learned thus far into a consistently smooth and introspective project, full of depth and versatility. Recently, Emcee received the honor of interviewing MaZhe in preparation for the release of What I Learned.
Emcee: What has changed since your last project? What have you learned on a personal and a musical level?
MaZhe: “Well since the last project I graduated high school, moved to LA by myself and started really pursuing music. I got way better at music. Like way better. Structuring songs better and creating more of a concept of a project, as opposed to just a compilation of songs to put out. I got better at putting together a story. I was listening to my old music the other day and it’s trash to me (laughs).
Personally, I’ve learned more about myself in relationships, self-motivation, and mainly responsibility and hard work honestly. I’ve just been learning how to live as a young adult now. I’m doing alright with it I think (laughs).”
You clearly worked incredibly hard across the board on this album, but are there any songs that standout as special to you?
“Yeah man I did, thank you… I went through hell making this. A lot of all nighters in the studio. A lot. But my favorites are probably “MAD”, “MesmeriZed”, and “Oratory”, those are cool. “I Been That” is sick too. It makes me feel like Asap Rocky or somebody. A lot of people like “Wishful Thinking” though. I think that’s the best song on there.”
A lot can happen in a year, what’s a goal you’d like to accomplish in that time?
“I want a lot of money, a big house, and two white women (laughs). Nah, I’m playing. I want to be an established artist. Have supporters, and tours. I really want to go on tours. That’s going to be insane. And two white women. I’m playing.”
Talk about San Diego a little bit. What are the pros and the cons of your general surroundings?
“San Diego’s beautiful. It’s like any place though. You can get caught up in something crazy or you can decide to do other things. I’ve kind of been on both sides of the spectrum at times, so there’s definitely different shit you could get into if that’s what you’re looking for (laughs). But it’s all about choices. Pros are clean air, no traffic, FIRE TACO SHOPS and for the most part, nice people. Cons are parties, and people trying to fight all the time for no reason. It’s stupid. And the girls reject you. I love my city though.”
Anybody you want to shout out?
“Jay Z & Beyoncé. I love you guys. And Incubus.”
The nuances to be found in MaZhe’s music may be more apparent with our interview, but still, the music encourages you to listen deeper. What I Learned is an album that can be played on repeat, all day — and to discover MaZhe’s true character, you just might find yourself doing so.
What I Learned stays conscious throughout, and peels back the layers that make MaZhe human. MaZhe utilizes voicemails to add feature elements as well as interludes, as heard on the tracks “NANA” and “MOM”. On “MesmeriZed”, MaZhe lays down a clean hook with caring, heartfelt lyrics about love and relationships over ultra relaxing production, and we’re not at all surprised to learn this is one of MaZhe’s favorite tracks on the album.
“Wishful Thinking” goes even deeper than MaZhe’s typically already thoughtful lyrics, as MaZhe delivers scathing lyrics about race dynamics, and impressively switches between personal and historical perspectives, painting a bigger picture that feels as genuine as possible. “I Been That” features more impressive wordplay, with another smooth and synthy boom-bap beat under highly active ad libs. “Revolution” is equally introspective, and again includes an emotional edge, aided by lowkey horns and pianos, contrasted by a radical rock sample.
MaZhe takes this aggressive transition into the next track, “MAD”, where, with emphatic bars and an erratic, psycho hook, MaZhe supplies the most hyphy moments on the album. Following this, What I Learned brings back the smooth hooks and personal lyrics on the song “Fair”, followed by “Oratory”, which features singer Elshaddai and trumpet player of the band Voodoo, Oliver Taylor. This closing track consists of an easygoing Kaytranada-esque beat, and intelligent lyrics that help MaZhe put What I Learned to an excellent close — an album which, overall, doesn’t falter in quality for a single second.
San Diego born, Los Angeles residing rapper MaZhe (PRONOUNCED: MAH-ZHAY) has put in a lot of hard work in 2017, and capped off with the smooth, smart, and highly enjoyable album What I Learned, this will be an era to be remembered over the course of MaZhe’s career.
Stream What I Learned immediately and follow MaZhe and his excellent cast of features:
Oliver Taylor: @otterwaveking