ZOKA THE AUTHOR
Zoka the Author speaks on his upcoming EP, his music influence and overcoming his struggles.
“I’ve always been quite ambitious; I want to reach a wider audience with my art. I want to touch more people and try make it slightly more rhythmic”.
Straight out of East London, emerging rapper and lyricist Zoka The Author is proving himself as a rising star and student in the music game. Starting out on the piano and listening to classical music at the age of 6 before getting hooked on West coast Rap as a teen, Zoka has spent most of his time perfecting his flow and the musicality of things.
Whilst studying for his degree, he quickly realised music was his calling and since graduating in 2019, he was granted his breakthrough, selling out his first headline show at the O2 Academy Islington followed by the release of his debut single, ‘The Mindset’ which was played on BBC Radio London and Norfolk and named Rellik Tha Don’s track of the week on Reprezent radio.
Currently preparing for the release of his two-part EP “Flower, Girl” in February, it is set to be about co-dependency in relationships and how its birthed. In his words, “A lot of the time we externalise and project a lot of stuff onto other people so it’s about exploring how co-dependency sets in and the results of that”. Leading to this, Zoka shows off his penmanship with a fusion of poetry and Hip Hop in his most recent release, “Net Like Kobe” a track about educating yourself through the system we’re living in.
Listen to 'Net Like Kobe' below
With no signs of slowing down, we caught up with Zoka to talk about his classical influence, the transition from poet to rapper and the meaning behind his latest release “Net Like Kobe”
Moses: So, Zoka, let’s get straight into it, how did you get that name?
Zoka: So basically, there’s two parts to it, the first part, Zoka, is my surname without the “U”, my surname is Uzoka. Then you have the “Author” part, I’ve always wanted to write books, that was my original love. I used to write as a kid and want to tell stories, so I proceeded into poetry and then became a rapper, still keeping that aspect of things. I still very much want to tell stories with my music and highlight my focus on penmanship.
Moses: How did you get into the music, what was your first rhyme?
Zoka: I remember trying to write something in secondary school. I knew then I wanted to be a rapper but didn’t have the confidence to do it just yet, so I just kept on with the poetry until I went to uni. I’ve always been quite ambitious; I want to reach a wider audience with my art. I want to touch more people and try make it slightly more rhythmic. I’d do a little exercise, find a beat on YouTube to keep me in time, start writing and that became I rap. From that point onwards everything clicked.
Moses: And after that, you’re working on your first single. How was it? getting in the booth, laying down the instrumental, laying down the verse? Especially hearing it yourself, hearing your poetry back to yourself?
Zoka: Initially I found it slightly uncomfortable because I really wasn’t used to hearing my own voice and one of the main things that always kept me from going into music was that I didn’t feel like I had a good voice for it. So, the first time, it was weird, I was really struggling to find the musicality in it. I’ve always been good with poetry and words but making music has a whole other side to it to learn. Getting the flows down, song writing technique, melodies and even the melody of your speaking voice. My first experience in the studio was really exciting but I could also tell in my heart things weren’t hitting the way they should. It was the little moments. I’ve always been my biggest critic.
Moses: I think everyone is.
Moses: So, when it comes to inspiration, growing up as a kid who would that be for you?
Zoka: I’ll take it all the way back, initially, the first type of music I used to listen to was classical music.
Moses: Oh wow, you look like someone who plays a classical instrument.
Zoka: I used to play the piano. I wish I kept it going because it would have been so useful now but anyways, I’ll pick it back up. As a child around 6years, I used to listen to classical music and add stories to it. Then I became more into RnB and funk because that is what my dad was listening to. I used to bang, Usher a lot, Michael Jackson, I was a super fan and its crazy how I know his discography like the back of my hand. It wasn’t until I got into early secondary school, that I started to get into rap. My first exposure to rap was Dr Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dog, Tupac, a lot of west coast rap. I was an angsty teen and was heavily into Eminem because of this. I started to get into J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and that was really where it started to properly set in. Kendrick Lamar was an eyeopener for me, like wow! Rap and poetry can be the same thing? Now that I make music with myself, I have gained inspiration from literally anywhere, I try to listen as widely as possible because I always want to combine genres, but I would say my main inspiration nowadays is probably, Kendrick.
Moses: What have been your struggles as an artist?
Zoka: A lot of different things. I’d say, my initial struggle was just learning the musicality aspect of it, and coming from poetry, if you read my lyrics, fantastic but learning to say and deliver them in a way that people would want to listen to it, making it catchy, the flow, is something I used to struggle with. I have an enduring confidence issue when it comes to my music and feel like my ability level isn’t where it should be a lot of the time. I’ve become more confident when performing and just as a student of the game, the more I perform, the more I’ve understood and learnt how to do things. I understand where I stand in relation to that and I know now, in terms of my lyricism, I’m up there with a lot of people’s favourites and better. My struggles are more about time pressure. I’m almost 25 years old, I still live at home with my mum who wants to move back to Italy so there is a sense of “I need to make this shit work!”. I don’t want to keep her here, so there is financial pressure right now to make this happen. You can work as hard as you want but when it happens isn’t really up to you.
Moses: Let’s talk about your latest single. How did that come about?
Zoka: The song is called ‘Net like Kobe’, it’s a tune that I wrote last year November, and the beat was made by my sound engineer. The word “Net” has lots of different meanings throughout the song, it stands for the system we are currently living which is meant to trap us. But I also used it in terms of the internet and basketball, you learn how to navigate these systems, then use them. If you educate yourself on how these systems work, you can use them to your benefit and win. The hook goes “I know about the net like Kobe”.
Moses: And after that you should be dropping your EP?
Zoka: Yes. It’s going to be a two-part EP.
Moses: Okay and what is the whole EP about? Talk to me about the journey
Zoka: It’s called ‘Flower, Girl’. Essentially, it’s about co-dependency in relationships and how its birthed. I’m using the metaphor of a flower, how someone looks after a flower, how a lot of the time we will try to fix or save our partner because it is easier to try to save someone else than to look inward and see what is going on with you. A lot of the time we externalise and project a lot of stuff onto other people so it’s about exploring how co-dependency sets in and the results of that.
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Moses: if you had to collaborate with one artist, right now who would that be?
Zoka: There are so many, that’s hard but Little Simz.
Moses: I actually get the vibe of why you said Little Simz. The way she flows, she’s very poetic. I don’t know if you’ve listened to her recent NPR, tiny desk, that was wow.
Zoka: For me it’s the artistic vision that I really appreciate. She does have poetry and lyricism but a lot of it is clear cut, like she says what she means and there isn’t too much behind it but it will be the ways she constructs that within the context of the song and like all her music has such a beautiful journey to it and she has a great eye for aesthetics as well so I think we’ll just be able to make a banger together and I’ll be able to offer something different.