[INTERVIEW] HANZ

Who is Hanz?

First and foremost, the son of two Haitian immigrants that moved here in the 90s that just wanted to try to find opportunity, and I champion that just because I feel like I carry that spirit with me, there’s a fearlessness that comes with that. We see America as a land where a lot of immigrants come to find their opportunity. We overlook the fearlessness in that, moving to a place where some people might feel like you don’t belong, where you don’t understand everything that’s going on, but you just try to go for what you want. So I’m just some Haitian American kid from the suburbs, that tries to just understand life in his own way. I grew up in a very religious household. So growing up, I had a lot of strict guidelines. There was a recluse from that I often find myself in now. I definitely feel like it was good for me since I was younger, so now I find comfort in it. Through that, it allowed me to be in my own head, go to my own thoughts, and kind of process the world in my own way. So growing up, I would say and people would say my parents are mad strict. But then I kind of see it now how it was a little blessing in disguise because I’m able to just be cool with walking on certain paths by myself.

How do your parents feel about your rap career?

Yeah they definitely don’t fuck with it, there was a lot of butting heads. Haitian parents, when you’re a first generation kid, kind of put all their apples in one basket. Like they’re betting on you, all the house money on you in order to achieve this thing that serves as this ideal life in this ideal way. Whether that’s being a doctor or engineer or just like going through the traditional route, they put all bets into that. When you do something that strays off from that linear sense of opportunity, you bring a sense of worry to them, a sense of fear. My parents raised me in a loving household, so I know it comes from more of a misunderstanding personally. I guess that’s the tricky thing with parenting, especially when there’s a culture clash and obviously a generational gap too. They want me to be this one thing. But as I have these recent conversations about parenting where one day, me and my group of friends will be parents and we talk about how we want to raise our kids. We realize you kinda just have to help guide your kid to where they want to be, as opposed to forcing them to be this one thing.

Tell me about your recording process?

Yeah so our crib that we have here, we have a studio downstairs, but the whole space serves as a creative incubator for us. It’s about ten people that live in one house, different floors, basement is the studio. Top floor is like a photo studio. So there’s a bunch of creatives in one crib. It varies from music artist, producers, graphic designers, 3D animators. We even have our boy Aziz who does woodworking stuff.  So it can get real random with what everybody does. But it’s kind of a representation of how we work here. There’s this spirit of art and creating in the fluidity of our lives. It’s something we work really hard on, but it never seems like we’re clocking in, like all the time. This space that we’ve created for ourselves allows us to be like, all right, let me go lay this idea down, this that and the third.  The circulation of all the influences, all the mediums in the crib, I see it as everyone speaks different languages. So we’re able to translate how I see music or how Flaire sees sound. Someone like our boy Kwabena who designs. They’re able to change that language into design. And they’re going to be like, all right, this is what’s going to make the most sense for this. And I think that’s how we build the most cohesion when it comes to our pieces as a whole crib.

Tell me about the lake (Lake Hiawatha) what it was like growing up there and how it shaped your sound?

Yeah, So the lake is a suburb. It’s diverse, but I always feel like there’s also a lack of celebration of that diversity, in a sense. Whether that’s influenced by the politics of the town or the politics of the demographic, I always felt that growing up. In my graduating class, I think I was only one of five or six black kids. My parents, the first place they moved to when they got here, was Newark, but they moved out of there when I was three. They moved to be in a safer neighborhood of sorts. But also I felt like it was this double edged sword where I lost out on a chance to grow up fully within my own culture. So being in the lake, it did put me around different cultures. There’s a high Indian population here, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin community. So I was able to kind of just take in different things from different communities. I think that allowed me to be more open just to like how I move throughout the world beyond the lake.

You know, as of recently, since 2017 the lake has served as a church for me in a sense. I hear God clearly when I’m there. I’m able to think through a lot of things, and especially at a time where physically I wasn’t really at church. I’ve been in church my whole life growing up. But around that time I felt very stagnant when it came to my spirituality. And I didn’t want to ruin the concept of God for myself. So I was like, let me just step away. In the midst of that time, the lake itself as a body of water, it definitely served as a Spiritual form of maintenance for myself. To quote one of my favorite books, Siddartha, he talks about the river and how it being a body of water, it’s the only thing that stays still but constantly moves. That’s how I feel about water and the lake when I look at it or when I’m around its presence. It’s very much something that I try to emulate in my own life, you know, staying still within my pillars as a person where there’s my principles or morals, but also being able to be fluid enough to move with what life brings me.

Do you draw any influence from lofi artists like Jpegmafia or Baby Keem?

As a crib, theres so many people in the house and it feels like we all gravitate to the same artists at the time, but also it’s because so many people are trying to expand their ears so much that they’re listening to different people. So like Baby Keem, Ryan put us all on to him and then JPEGMafia, our boy Aziz was really the one to put us on to that. Different artists are getting plugged into our daily rotation, just because people are listening to so many things. I think we’re able to learn, we’re able to be sponges without being direct carbon copies. Like we pick out these different elements and we’re like, I like this element from this person’s music or art. And we’re able to, put that into our own things. And then even on top of that is us having designers, stylists, 3D animators, photographers, they bring those mediums of art. And I’m like, OK, this visual makes me want to express that musically. And that’s where I feel like our reference points…our crib is just full of crazy amount of mood boards on the daily like we just keep adding to that. And that’s that’s how we’ve been able to create from there. So that’s awesome. Shouts out jpeg and Baby Keem. 

How did you connect with producer Flaire?

The GOAT forreal. He literally lives in the studio. The bottom floor/ the basement is a studio. He has his own room in the back room. When I look at the crib and when I look at our movement as a vehicle, he’s the engine. A lot of things wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for him. Beyond just his skill set as a producer and engineer, but him as a person. Through a lot of conversations, he always talks about how he would rather be a producer of life than just music and being able to coach artists through finding themselves. That’s my bro. That’s the dude my mom never gave birth to, thats my brother.

We met freshman year of college. We lived on the same floor in our freshman dorm. And I remember the first day I was on campus, we were playing basketball around the same time on the outdoor courts. But then that whole first week, I’m like Yo why is this dude always in my building. It took me a while to realize he just lived there. Then we connected on conversations of music. First time that happened was when we all was in the same chem class, and we both didn’t want to be doing that shit. I remember while we were doing a group study, one of the girls in our study group saw that I had like lyrics up on my laptop. She kind of made me rap in front of everybody. Yeah. So then Drew linked up the following day. And after a while he was like yo, let’s just do this rap shit. It was a hobby that turned into a pure passion for us. It was the one constant thing that we always went back to in those four years being at school. So we decided, let’s just build this thing. We didn’t know what it was going to be. We couldn’t tell you that it would bring us to this interview.

What are you working on and looking forward to right now?

Right now, we’re touching up the surrounding pieces to the Vagabond project that’s set to come out this fall. Finishing up any last visual designs, we’re trying to make a fully encompassing world around this project, so we’re working on merch, we have a zine coming out that we’re putting together. Different photography and designs that we want to compile into a mini book. And yeah just beyond that, I already started to record the next project. I like working on projects more than just like spitting out singles because I’m able to process what’s going on in my head a little bit better, there’s things going on in my personal life and things going on in the world. I like connecting those pieces.

I like listening to what the world or what God is trying to tell me at that time and then putting it into this big project or album. I’m just working on that doing little things like gathering photography. Keeping myself informed on ideas that come to my head, how does this relate to history, combining articles and also studying different mediums of art, not for anything skill based, but just different artists like movie directors or people that do stage designs and their inspirations. I put all that together. We’re already working on the next project after that. As a label we’re trying to build everything up with other artists that are are coming up with their individual projects that they’re working on. Just trying to build the world as much as we can, continue to provide our own energy into rap and life.

What is a lakeside vagabond?

The lakeside vagabond is more of a personal moniker. What it means for me is, you know. I’ll preface everything saying that my deepest fear in life was like not being brave. And I think it stemmed from not really understanding what that meant. And you know, before that I thought you had to be fearless, but. Being brave literally means you can be scared, but you’re going to have to do a lot of shit scared and just getting it done. That just ties into around 2017, I felt very stuck with music. Everything I was recording at that time, I didn’t fuck with and even got to the point where I was contemplating putting rap aside and just figuring something else out. I just had a day at the lake where, it was the first time in a while that I heard God. Told me to just keep pushing with it. That’s when I decided to move out of my crib and move into the crib that we have here in Jersey City.

For the past, like two and a half years, I just been staying on the couch downstairs in the basement. What that turned into was us having a bunch of music right now. It turned into a group project. It turned into Vagabond, the bigger project and a bunch of loosies that came out on Praylude. And a lot of it was just stepping out of that comfort zone and not being scared to wander through the world, wander through life. Two and a half years on a couch, a lot of people I feel wouldn’t do that. I really love this art shit. I really love having the ability to not waste the gift I was given. Being able to do that, that’s where I align with the vagabond aspect. Don’t be afraid to wander for your answers, don’t be afraid to search for those things.

Any visuals coming out soon?

We just put out the Blame Me prelude visual today. YouTube was trying to hate, they took it down. But, you know, we got it back up. It was just issues with the nudity in it. We got more visuals lined up as we roll out Vagabond and we got visuals we’re trying to roll out until the top of next year. It’s the blessing being around all these different kind of artists in the crib. Like we’re able to put out visuals in different ways. The one we put out today is very interesting. It stems from an early 2000s computer UI kind of inspiration that Zahir designed.

Do you have any message for the world and your fans?

I would say because the music stems from who I am, I don’t think there’s one way to life. There’s a lot of people who failed at doing things that always worked. I think you just got to find your own thing, find your own texture. That’s literally it. It’s not just for artists or musicians. It’s literally for everyone. I don’t see artists as just people that put out music or designs or films or things like that. I think artistry is just in the way you move as a person, there’s a lot of different artists in different fields and different lanes in life. It just comes down to how you move and how you see the world. Like, I can just take this forward and shift it in my head however I want. That’s the essence of an artist and there’s different artist within everything, whether it’s like sports, the health field, philanthropy. People that just want to build something beyond themselves. And I think that’s what we all got to strive for. We’ve been given all these gifts, we can’t be selfish. We have a chance to really change whats out there.