XMPL Cover Story: Zach Zoya – No Days Off

Cover Photography by: Yan Di Fabio

It’s no secret that Montreal has been making noise when it comes to hip-hop. Serving as a creative hub, Montreal is known as one of the many Canadian cities where artists gather to bring their dreams to fruition. With many Québec-based Anglophone artists on the radar, fresh faces in the rap scene are making their mark, leaving the North with something to boast about. Among these artists is rapper Zach Zoya, who’s been making quite the commotion out in Québec’s capital.

The Rouyn-Noranda native moved to Montreal years ago to hone his skills and take the music to the next level, bars first. As Zoya’s undeniable lyricism took notice, he found himself releasing his collaborative EP ‘Misstape’ with producer High Klassified through Québécois label 7ième Ciel. Fast forwarding to pre-quarantine, the rapper takes to YouTube, launching his series ‘DAYZZ OFF’ – giving listeners a visual glimpse into the rapper’s life while delivering new music with each release. Working with hometown collaborators, director Guillaume Landry and producer Bougo – the trio brings his pen to life with a series that shows us the creative’s unfiltered perspective.

As quarantine continued to take over the country, Zach took no days off and remained laying it all out on his video series, later dropping his debut single ‘Slurpee’ from his highly anticipated forthcoming EP ‘Spectrum’ – his first project through Universal Music Canada – further expanding his sound throughout the rest of the North. Setting the stage for his upcoming EP, the Neo Maestro produced banger is paired with a high-energy music video included with dope special effects and raging choreography.

“I really want my introduction to showcase every little part of what I can do,” the rapper says. With ‘Spectrum’ being a while in the making – in addition to Zach’s track record of sophisticated bars with a versatile catalogue so far – we’re amped to see what exactly the Montreal rapper has in motion for this project. Zach Zoya lets know that there’s much to be pumped about and dives deep on the making of his single ‘Slurpee’ and music video.

Photo by: Drowster

XMPL: To someone who may not be familiar, how would you describe your music and what do you think listeners might take away?

Zach Zoya: I’d describe my music as pretty diverse. I try to cover a pretty large spectrum so people can definitely expect different vibes, ranging from very R&B-ish to very high energy, mosh pit type of song like the song I just dropped, ‘Slurpee.’ That’s pretty much what people can expect.

How would you describe the current music scene in Montreal?

It’s beautiful but it’s also kind of a double-edge sword, where we have this beautiful diversity – we have all the colours of French and all the colours of English so we basically cover the whole world in terms of the type of art that people do, cause people come from everywhere and can function in Montreal and its like a big cohesive melting pot of all of that. So that’s beautiful. But the down side to that is that at this point, there’s a clear separation between the English industry and the French one. Some that have to do with the protection of the French language. That makes it that the mainstream media is mostly dominated by French, which is a good thing for preserving the French language. But when you’re trying to make it as an Anglophone artist, it can make it a little harder, but I’m very lucky to be kind of part of both worlds, I get the best of both. I’m from the French part and I get to perform in English. I get love from both sides. I perform in English, but the French side knows me.

What finally made you decide to officially pursue music as a career?

I guess the feedback I got from my friends, honestly. I never really considered music until people around me started telling me “Yo you should definitely start doing that as a full-time thing. What are you doing? You should at least give it a shot.” Then I was like aight , just might give it a shot, and that’s literally what I did. I was in school, I told myself, I promised myself that I would go full-time for a year, drop out of school – try this out and if I get enough success out of it to keep going, I’ll keep going – otherwise I’ll go back to school. After a year, I guess I was in a good enough of a situation to keep going so here we are.

I know you released your collaborative EP with fellow Montreal artist, High Klassified – “Misstape” back in 2018. What was the environment like working on this project?

One good thing about HK is that he’s really a low-key guy, super down to Earth. It’s not no big deal. So literally this guy just one day hit me up, he just DM’ed, he was like “Yo do something on this” and sent me a beat. The next day, I was at the studio, did something on it – he fucked with it. Next thing you know like three days later, I pull up at his spot and its very organic cause we’re literally in his mom’s basement and he has a crazy studio over there and we just vibe. It’s super cool to get to be in a creative process of a producer. Cause as a singer/songwriter/rapper whatever, I usually don’t get to see that part because I get the beats sent to me and then I work on it on my own time. But it was my first real experience being with a super-pro in his creative environment and really getting to be like “oh this is fire” like I could guide it even before I had written anything on it so it’s a lot more cohesive, a lot more symbiotic.

Back in March, you launched your YouTube series “DAYZZ OFF” where we got to see more personal visuals over some dope tracks. We get to see you in your town, Montreal, some local scene, like the subway and also getting some behind the scene looks at the life of rapper. What made you want to take this series in that direction?

The point was really to show the “day in a life,” the day-to-day stuff. That’s literally why its “DAYZZ OFF” – it was DAYZZ OFF before the pandemic happened, which is like an ironic coincidence but the whole point was just to showcase the daily life, little things. I’m not really hyping myself up like that. It’s really my real life, with my real grocery store and my real living room, just doing my real thing, you know? We didn’t go on a full shopping spree to make sure we had all different swag for every video. I really wanted it to fell genuine and I just had my homie with me and we filmed those things in the streets of Montreal and I think for the most part we did a pretty good job at that.

How is like to work with director Guillaume Landry and producer Bougo on this series? I believe they’ve worked on every video so far.

Yeah they did. Both of them are my guys guys. Guillaume Landry is the guy I did my first ever music video with. He did ‘Superficial,’ the first video I released with my current label. It was fire. So, from then we just became friends. When I got to Montreal, we really just kicked it, like we played ball together. He was like “Yo, I believe in you. Let’s do something. Let’s work together.” It was really natural for me to go to him and like I said, the whole vibe was supposed to feel like home, so it was cool to be with people that you’re comfortable with – I could have a full conversation with, you don’t get camera shy or whatever cause that’s my guy. And Bougo is my producer, he’s my DJ, he’s always on stage with me. We’ve been working together for a good 4 years now. I meet him maybe 3 months after I moved to Montreal and ever since then we been working on stuff. There’s definitely a lot more coming with him. It was just natural for me to go with the homie, cause we could go to the studio and make beats – we could make millions of those. We took a few to showcase that collaboration. I wanted to show people the vibe we have together.

Do you see any your DAYZZ OFF work making it to streaming platforms?

To be determined. For now we have this next EP all planned out already, so that’s gonna have to wait but it’s definitely something to consider. The more I’m being asked for it, if people really want it – Imma put it out for sure. It was basically to establish my YouTube channel, so we wanted some good, genuine content on there to start off our thing.

On the set of ‘Slurpee’ music video. Photo by: Drowster

More recently, you dropped your single and music video ‘Slurpee’ – a banger, just in time for the summer. What inspired you to come up with the concept for the track?

I was in the studio with Neo – he’s in the space with Banx & Ranx. I was just at their studio. I pulled up and I really felt for a banger. I just wanted a banger. Something that I could go on stage and wild out. And I think it was before that summer too – shows are pretty lit in Quebec. You could go around Quebec and there’s always, like summer is just very lit here. There’s always shows. So, it was a good opportunity. I didn’t have that many bangers that I could really fucking go off on – on stage. That’s the energy I wanted. I want something that you could jump to. So, he just pulled this beat, and you could kind of tell the vibe is kind of like, not improvised but the point is for it to feel random. I just put a verse and two choruses on that, the structure’s a little weird, the song is still a little short but I wanted it to feel hectic. That’s what happened for the beat.

The video is really in your face and very detailed with random stuff. I’m assuming that’s the same vibe you were going with for the video?

Yes, for that I would clearly have to thank the whole team of Le CONSULANT and GED – who’s the one who thought the whole shit out. What I brought to the table is really the vibe. I know I wanted it to be hectic. I know I wanted that goofy component to it. Not taking yourself too seriously, that’s definitely a big part of it. And he had a vision too. I’m not super video-visual literate. I’m not good at that part, so it’s great to have super creative and super good people around you to help with the vision like that. I basically told him, “Yo, so I have this beat and I want it to be funky bro. It needs to be a little funny but still raw and needs to be a little raunchy.” And this guy pulled up with some ideas and then we kind of went back and forth from there. After two or three mood boards, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do.

“Basically, I try to represent every emotion on a spectrum of the state of mind. Sometimes you just wanna party, sometimes you’re in a bad mood, sometimes you’re in a lovey-dovey, vulnerable… sometimes you’re full of confidence – you know? All the in-between so that’s really what the whole idea behind the tape is.”

On the set of ‘Slurpee’ music video. Photo by: Drowster

You mentioned you had an EP coming – what can we expect from this project? Will ‘Slurpee’ be one of the singles?

Yes, it’ll be one of the singles. I called it Spectrum for a reason, I really want my introduction to showcase every little part of what I can do and show kind of all the colours of the rainbow type thing. So that’s where the Spectrum idea comes from. Basically, I try to represent every emotion on a spectrum of the state of mind. Sometimes you just wanna party, sometimes you’re in a bad mood, sometimes you’re in a lovey-dovey, vulnerable, sometimes you’re full of confidence – you know? All the in-between so that’s really what the whole idea behind the tape is. It’s to showcase everything I can do, because that’s what life is. I can’t really just do one thing, cause I feel like I’m leaving part of my personality and part of my story out of my music, my art. But I feel like I have to talk about that, even if it’s not something I talk about like “Yo last night I got cheated on” or something like that. You can put that emotion in the music, so that is what’s really important for me, for me to have like a window for every emotion so I can express every one of my emotions through my music. It’s kind of like therapy at this point. Very therapeutic take, that’s what its gonna be.

Do you know when ‘Spectrum’ will drop?

Still to be determined, of course with the current climate we can never predict what’s gonna happen. There could be a comet tomorrow, we don’t know. So, I’m keeping it on the low for now but its definitely coming soon. We’re dropping the singles because it’s coming.

Are there any collaborations on this project that we can expect?

Yeah, we got one or two if I’m not mistaken. We got a lot of collaborations with producers of course, but I got a couple features. I’ll reveal that in the upcoming weeks, that will be all on social media for sure.

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