Nowadays, taking it to the next level isn’t a very easy thing to do as an upcoming artist. We talked to Djazel, an aspiring hip-hop recording artist, singer/songwriter and model from Toronto, about her career, her projects and what needs to be done to make a name in the music business.
kms / How stacked is your schedule right now? Any upcoming projects?
Djazel / My schedule is extremely stacked right now and I know that as time goes on it’ll just keep stacking! I’m not complaining though, it’s a good busy.
I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. One of them is a remix version of The Checklist EP which I’m planning to release some time in October. Another project I’m working on is a weekly vlog. Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to go on these huge rants and apparently it’s pretty entertaining. I’ve had quite a few people be like “you should really start a vlog,” so.. I’m finally doing it. I’m a passionate person as well as a bit of a comedian; I enjoy making people laugh and while I do exercise those sides of me through some of my lyrics, I’ll really be able to take entertaining my fans and my audience to the next level with my vlog. When I plan to debut it is yet to be determined; I still have a few things to take care of before I can pick a date, but I’m getting close!
kms / Describe your writing process. From idea to ready lyrics. Any special obstacles? Any rituals for the writing?
Djazel / Honestly, I know it’s strange but I get my best ideas when I’m in the shower so the biggest obstacle for me right now is not being able to record a voice note on my phone or jot anything down until after I’ve gotten out of the shower. I literally have to repeat the hook or the melody out loud until I can record it or write it down just so that I won’t forget it.
I never really consciously thought of it until now to be honest. One of my rituals is smoking weed. I’ll either roll something up, or smoke my bong and vibe out to the music to get in the mood before I actually start writing. It just helps me to focus and connect with the music. If there’s a certain emotion I’m experiencing, it allows me to narrow in on that emotion. If I’m trying to clear my mind, it allows me to do that as well. I guess you could say it’s a form of meditation for me. Another ritual is having to us pen and paper to write. I have a book that I write all of my songs and ideas in but if I don’t have it on me for some reason, I’ll write on anything, napkins, paper bags, scrap paper, my hand, absolutely anything I can find, until I can transfer the lyrics or idea to my song book. I can’t do the whole writing on my phone thing, it drives me fucking nuts. I may jot down an idea in my phones “Notes” if I can’t physically write something down for whatever reason but I always end up going back and writing it in my song book. Even when I record my vocals, I put my handwritten lyrics on a sheet music stand instead of reading it off of a phone or tablet. It’s just easier for me to read and easier for my eyes to focus on.
My writing processes vary. I wouldn’t say I just have one. The writing process I tend to use the most is writing to an instrumental. Sometimes I already have a concept in mind, sometimes I don’t and I just write based on how the instrumental makes me feel at that time. I’ll sit there with the instrumental on repeat, writing section by section, starting with the hook and then the verses or bridges. I don’t usually write the ad libs or harmonies until I record the vocals. Sometimes I write lyrics without an instrumental and and look for a producer who can create the production that I envision for the song. For instance, I’ve written lyrics to a single drum line and I’ve written lyrics inspired by the melodies of classic songs as well as Top 40 songs. All of my ideas and concepts come from my life though, my lyrics always tell a story or have some sort of message.
kms / Are you into collaboration projects? Or are you signed exclusively?
Djazel / I’m an independent artist and while I’m into and open to collaboration projects, I’m also very careful as to who I collaborate with. If I choose to collaborate with someone it’s because the collaboration makes sense for both parties involved and I feel that the other artist(s) work at the same caliber as I do or they have a similar mindset with similar goals. I’m just not trying to waste my time or creative energy on projects that won’t see the light of day just because people can’t get their shit together. A lot of artists don’t do the things that they’re supposed to do to show that they’re as serious as they say they are. I feel like if you’re an artist who’s serious about your craft, you should at least know certain things about music and about the industry, and the artists that don’t know or aren’t even interested in taking the time to research and learn those things are exactly the kinds of “artists” I stay away from collaborating with.
kms / Describe your experience with the music scene today. Is it alive (enough) these days?
Djazel / The music scene is definitely alive and well these days, especially with the internet and social media. There’s a real opportunity for artists to reach the masses globally, the tricky part is not only figuring out how to do that and how to stay relevant but also how to make a comfortable living doing it. People can argue that the music scene is dead, but in my experience it isn’t dead, it’s just changed and continues to evolve. The reality is that the “music scene” is primarily digital nowadays. People don’t really come out to your shows unless you have an impressive presence and following online. I feel like a lot of artists fail due to lack of originality and lack of a business mentality. They call it the music business for a reason and a lot of artists can’t even grasp that. The same people saying that the music scene is dead are the same people who don\’t like or accept change. They don’t understand it so it’s just easier for them to dismiss it as dead.
kms / What would you change if you had the power to influence the way things are run in the music scene?
Djazel / If I had the power to influence or change anything in the music industry, it would have to be royalties for digital streams. A lot of big artists such as Taylor Swift have spoken out on this issue and continue to fight for change. We don’t even get peanuts for digital streams as artists, okay? We get the thin shells that separate the peanut from the thicker outer shell. It’s so crazy. Pharrell’s “Happy” track was streamed 43 million times and he only made like $3,000. That really puts into perspective what the artists (who don’t even come close to millions of streams) make in royalties. It’s literally nothing. It’s definitely not enough to live off of which is why a lot of artists have to rely on other avenues of making income such as touring, merchandise, endorsements, sponsorships, advances, etc. It’s the biggest problem the music industry is facing right now and it’s something that should have been dealt with a long time ago through appropriate legislation.
kms / In what ways is Djazel different from the the real/private you?
Djazel / Djazel is the real me and I am the real Djazel. My name isn’t just a stage name, it’s actually my given birth name. The attitude and persona that you see isn’t an act, it’s me. It took me a lot of time to get to a point where I was confident and comfortable enough with myself to be able to not only do, think or say what I wanted or how I felt but also present that publicly without worrying about backlash and what people said or thought of me. I had to learn to fall in love with myself and let go of the insecurities or worries that held me back, basically emancipating myself from myself. I had to throw myself in unknown, scary, uncomfortable and intimidating situations just to grow not only as an artist but also as a human being. I’m not trying to put on an act and hide behind it, that’s the last thing I want to do.
kms / You’re also into modeling. How did that happen?
Djazel / Like I said in one of the earlier questions, it’s called the music business for a reason, and while you may think that music and modelling have nothing to do with each other, they actually do because both are under the bigger scope and umbrella of the entertainment industry. As someone who realizes, knows and understands all of this, I also realize, know and understand that to be successful in the music business, you have to be a multi-talent within the entertainment industry as a whole. You have to be able to offer more than one talent. You have to be a work horse making money otherwise you’re useless and easily replaceable. The competition is crazy so you always have to be one step ahead in some way just to stand out. You also always want to have your hands in more than one thing to ensure your security long-term. With all that said, I started seriously pursuing modelling as a way to promote myself as well as my music.
kms / Is there anything you’d like to do in the future that you haven’t already done?
Djazel / I want to go on tour in the future – provincially, nationally, and internationally. That’s the level I want to achieve. That’s the dream. That’s the goal. I’ve even planned and thought of stage design for future tours. I’d love to act, I think acting is so much fun. I took a few acting classes last summer and got a cute little acting certificate after I had completed my final assessment. I also have a few different ideas for novels and movie scripts that I’d like to write and pitch to production and publishing companies. There are honestly so many things that I want to do, so many things that I have planned for the future, but at the same time, I’ve also learned not say too much so you’ll just have to keep watching and listening.
kms / What do you recommend all the new unknown artists who struggle to get their music heard out there?
Djazel / Think long-term. Think business. Be prepared to invest in yourself and your craft. Promote yourself any chance you get and collaborate with other artists who are willing to promote you as well. Be choosey with who you create and keep professional relationships with. Don’t allow anyone to influence you, your art or your creativity – I don’t care if it’s your best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, mom, dad, sister, grandma, producer, bandmate, etc. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t be an artist and definitely don’t allow them to tell you how to be an artist. If this is what you really want to do, do it. Follow your dreams and your heart but take your brain with you. Be careful and cautious. Be guarded. Know your worth. Know your value. Be original and unique while still being real. Create your own lane. Prepare to fail repeatedly but also prepare to learn from those failures to create greatness and success. Most importantly, never give up!
Find out more about Djazel and her recent EP “The Checklist” using the following links:
To get in touch with Djazel, you can check her contact page.